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Glasgow 2014: Stress management for Scots athletes

Scottish athletes are targeting their biggest medal haul in front of a home crowd. Picture: Getty

Scottish athletes are targeting their biggest medal haul in front of a home crowd. Picture: Getty

SCOTTISH athletes are being trained to “manage anxiety” in order to achieve a best-ever medal haul in front of a home crowd.

Team Scotland won 33 medals the last time the Commonwealth Games were held in the country - in Edinburgh in 1986 - and coaches have set a target of at least 34 medals across the 17 sports at Glasgow 2014.

Athletes are finalising their preparations in the build-up to the Games and as well as physical training, there are sports psychology sessions available to help the 310-strong team handle the pressure of performing in front of expectant crowds.

Experts at the sportscotland institute of sport in Stirling have been working with Team Scotland on everything from nutrition, physiology and performance analysis to psychology.

The funded programme aims to make the most of scientific data to gain any advantage in competition.

Sportscotland performance director Mike Whittingham said: “In Glasgow we need to concentrate on the ‘controllables’ - to make sure we add value in every single area and to help every single athlete perform on the world stage, because it is going to go to the wire in some of the events.

“It is going to be fiercely competitive - medals are going to be won and lost with the slightest of margins and so that extra little bit of help will make all the difference.

“The key area where we have seen a change is in science. The world of science captures data and information and we have a very sophisticated data management system that we have really built over the last three years with the Games in mind.

“It has been a catalyst to make sure we can record every bit of information that is appropriate for an athlete in one place, so if a doctor’s trying to diagnose or prognose the condition of an athlete, they can see the whole picture. It is all linked through data being in one place.”

Mr Whittingham, himself a former 800m and 400m athlete and coach, believes Glasgow 2014 offers unique challenges for the home team but is confident the athletes can thrive.

“One area we are focusing on is managing anxiety - a while back, we recognised that home soil games bring challenges - sometimes that is really good, home soil athletes can step up and raise their game, but sometimes it creates pressure,” he said.

“So over the last few years we have looked at best practice around the world and where appropriate, we have brought in very knowledgeable people to train and work with our staff so that we learn more and so that we can then help our athletes cope better.

“That world is where science meets intuitive experience - what I mean is that we can measure brain activity, we can highlight where we don’t want the athlete to dwell, but on the other hand, we need practical, simple tools to help the athlete cope when they are under pressure.

“A best ever result, more than 33 medals - is what we are pushing for. And I believe there is a feel-good factor behind us, the whole of Scotland will support its athletes and we need to capture that, put it in a bottle and roll it out for the next 20 years.”

 

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