British Curling’s athlete centred approach has helped to ensure sports psychology is embedded into the day-to-day business of its performance culture, providing athletes, coaches and the wider team with appropriate support throughout the demands of an Olympic or Paralympic cycle.
In addition to their physical skill, talent, dedication to training and ongoing development, successful high performance curlers are required to manage and master a range of psychological skills in order to perform at their best within challenging competition environments.
To compete at the highest level our curlers need to manage focus, minimise distractions and maintain attention when executing tasks, whilst also communicating effectively and supporting their teammates.
Whilst every player has the same challenges and aspirations, our sports psychologists from sportscotland provide a holistic approach catering to the varying needs of the individuals as well as the teams on the programme, helping them to develop the performance behaviours to be robust and resilient so that they can perform when it counts. Our value driven culture helps to create both a positive and inspirational environment that also optimises performance by recognising the importance of the wellbeing of the athlete.
Sportscotland’s Misha Botting and Will McConn Palfreyman are experts in their field and work with the Olympic and Paralympic programmes respectively, and like all of our services, harness a collaborative approach when and where required. This is particularly helpful when working closely with practitioners from other services, or in specific scenarios such as rehabilitation from illness or injury and return to the competition environment, helping to create a positive mindset and boost competitive confidence.
Learning to adopt performance behaviours, coping mechanisms and to control emotions are all part of the work the sports psychologists will help with, to ensure athletes maximise their potential. In addition, Botting has specialised in Mindfulness, a resource which can be utilised by our athletes, helping them to stay in the moment at key junctures, in order to underpin their purpose from theory to practice in a constructive way.
UK Sport’s Medals and More Strategy, which considers the whole and not just the performance goal of an athlete, seeks to ensure the wellbeing of every individual on a supported performance pathway and mental health is a central consideration. The high performance sports psychologists’ network across the UK supports this strategy in their day-to-day work and they actively engage with other specialists in this field to provide appropriate support when required. Whilst providing a confidential service, our practitioners and specialists within the UK Sport network encourage open discussions on mental health to ensure any level of help is as accessible as possible.
The global pandemic and consequent lockdown meant the 2020-21 season presented heightened challenges and required constant re-evaluation during an ongoing period of change management. As a result, our psychologists were at the heart of our team of specialists, continuing to work collaboratively, albeit often this was not possible face to face- but adaptations to approach ensured a consistency in support and continual communication, while ensuring there was a daily schedule to provide a routine.
In addition to a range of support through our medical and psychology network, UK Sport had previously implemented access to the Big White Wall, a new digital mental health and wellbeing resource which is available to all within the high performance system. Providing another link in a range of mental health support that is available, the Big White Wall is a valuable asset than can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provides an anonymous and safe online forum supervised by clinicians.