Professor Can Help Olympic Athletes Get Psyched for Competition



Lebanon, Ill. — When Team USA skiers, skaters or snowboarders need to put mind over matter during the 2010 Winter Olympics, a McKendree University professor is on call to help them get “psyched.”

Tami Eggleston, Ph.D., associate dean, psychology professor and certified sports psychology consultant was selected for the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Sport Psychology Registry before the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

She is an authority on how athletes focus to prepare themselves, manage stress, cope with anxiety or adversity, and other issues relevant to competitive team and individual sports. She is available to counsel U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes via phone or e-mail throughout the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

While mental preparedness is no substitute for physical conditioning or skill, it can mean the difference between success and failure. Visualization, goal setting, pre-performance routines and rituals, positive thoughts and concentration are proven to help athletes perform more consistently, execute better under pressure, and recover their composure after a mistake or distraction.

“After I work with an athlete on various mental skills they are often surprised how much improvement they can see in their performance,” Eggleston said.

The advice and techniques she would offer Olympians are the same she uses to help McKendree Bearcat student athletes build confidence, stay focused and deal with the “head games” of competition.

Non-athletes can benefit from her coaching, too. Try the following tips:

- Visualize being successful.
- Tape positive messages to your mirror, refrigerator or bulletin board ("I am getting stronger every day").
- Write any negative thoughts on one set of colored index cards, make these thoughts positive on another set of cards, and then tear up the negative cards. For example, instead of thinking "I feel tired" replace that with "I will have more energy after I exercise."
- Maintain your perspective by imagining the worst case scenario and compare that to something truly terrifying. Eggleston tells McKendree ballplayers that while striking out with the game on the line is humiliating and frustrating, it's not an angry grizzly bear charging at them from the pitcher's mound. If nothing else, this often makes the players laugh, relax and then play better, she said.
- Reward yourself for accomplishing a goal with a special treat or even a toy medal or trophy as a symbol of your achievement.