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Performing Under Pressure

30 September 2005

Performing Under Pressure

Otago sports psychology expert called on to help Winter Olympic Team
I
t’s not quite time to put away the winter woollies yet for University of Otago sport psychology lecturer and researcher Ken Hodge, following a call-up to the New Zealand Winter Olympic Games team.

Associate Professor Hodge has extensive experience with elite sport, having been the first person in his field to join a New Zealand Olympic team, travelling to Barcelona for the Summer Olympics in 1992, then working in a similar capacity at the 1994 Commonwealth Games.

At this stage the New Zealand Winter Olympic team hopes to have athletes competing in curling, snowboarding, skiing, speedskating, skeleton, and bobsled at the event in Turin, Italy, in February next year.

“Many of them train at the new Olympic-size ice rink here in Dunedin, at the new curling rink in Naseby, or on the Central Otago ski fields, so it is a great fit for me,” Associate Professor Hodge says.

“It’s the first time they have had someone in my role working with the Winter Olympic Team, so it’s great to have a new challenge and to work with sports I’ve not really had much to do with before.”

As a mental skills trainer, Associate Professor Hodge will be looking to provide that extra competitive edge to the athlete’s physical abilities and all the dedicated training they have done.

“I’ll be working with them on mental skills such as pre-event mental preparation, concentration, confidence and coping with pressure – and the Olympics have their own unique pressures,” he adds.

“It can be quite overwhelming for the athletes because it is such a big event involving so many different sports, as opposed to their typical international experiences at single-sport world championships. There is a lot more media pressure and the organizational and security procedures can be almost suffocating – all of which make it difficult to maintain a normal training and competition routine.”

Professor Keith Davids, Dean of the University’s School of Physical education, says Associate Professor Hodge is well-known in New Zealand and around the world for his work in performance psychology.

“This appointment is a clear recognition of his relevant skills, and Ken has been asked to start working with the athlete squads immediately,” he says.

“His contribution to and experiences with NZ's Winter Olympic Team will provide a valuable educational resource for the School of Physical Education students at the University of Otago.

“Applied sport psychology is also an enormously popular field of research in sport science across the world and it is expected that this invitation will lead to the development of many research opportunities and ideas for postgraduate research within the School of Physical Education.”

ENDS

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