How yoga helps Olympic referees

Not many people talk about Olympic referees. In fact, the Olympic athletes are not the only ones that have to face the stress and the Olympic pressure – with all the expectations related to them.

Pristovakin, Olympic referees

Despite the Olympic referees are often seen as the enemies of the athletes, they’re not evil people. They are meant to check on the athletes and make sure that all the rules are respected, that’s it.

In modern sport, the referee’s role is becoming more and more important, due to the number of challenges requested by the team in many sports (es tennis, volley etc), and the extreme fast and powerful actions that someone has to oversee and check. On top of that, we have to add the many TV cameras that are always ready to “tell the referees off”, and the fact that either teams managers, athletes and the audience feel free to complain every single referee’s decision.

It goes without saying that today, if you chose to be a referee, you haven’t picked an easy, serene life.

To avoid the risk of referees going burned out, the International Volley Federation got its referees ready to face complicated and critical situations that may happened during a match.

This decision follows the idea that the professional experience is not always enough to allow referees to manage complicated situations in an easy way. Olympic referees have to be able of coping with their emotions and the athletes/audience’s. To achieve that, referees have to be mentally trained.

The Federation has hired a Swiss sport mental coach, Mattia Piffaretti, who have trained the volley and beach volley Olympic referees with the help of five disciplines: yoga, meditation, role games, breathing exercises and visualisation techniques.

After every match, the Olympic referees gather in a hotel near Copacabana to talk about the mistakes that might have made, doing yoga, breathing routines, and walking on a rope.

“The referees are showing a large dose of calm”

Said Fernando Lima,  General Secretary of the Volleyball Federation.

This does not mean that the referees are going to be infallible, while doing that.

“We are human, and we can make mistakes”

Stated Pristovakin Roman, a 38 year-old Russian referee. Pristovakin brilliantly managed to deal with a blatant challenge by the Brazilian star Alison Cerutti, during the Olympic opening beach volleyball match. Pristovakin successfully went through this ‘crisis’ by mastering breathing techniques. Pristovakin explained these moments:

“The most important thing is breathing, to find the calm. I always try to appear calm, but inside of me I’m not. It is a good way to handle difficult situations”

In a nutshell, the next time you see a referee in trouble, think of the psychological preparation that they may have gathered to deal with the stress overload.

Photo credits: FIVB

Lo Yoga in aiuto degli arbitri olimpici

Pochi (o nessuno) parlano degli arbitri olimpici. Gli atleti non sono gli unici a soffrire l’atmosfera olimpica, carica di stress, di attese e di attenzioni nei loro confronti da parte del pubblico.

arbitri olimpici, yoga, preparazione psicologica

Spesso visti come nemici o controllori degli atleti, gli arbitri – olimpici e non – stanno dall’altra parte della barricata, durante le manifestazioni sportive.

Nello sport moderno, il loro ruolo è ancora più importante rispetto al passato: velocità aumentate, moviole in campo, telecamere sparse in ogni angolo durante le gare, atleti e pubblico che continuamente protestano in campo e fischiano le loro decisioni: il ruolo dell’arbitro è quanto mai delicato.

L’esempio della Federazione di Volley e i suoi arbitri olimpici

Per questo motivo, la Federazione Internazionale di Pallavolo ha deciso di preparare i suoi arbitri ad affrontare le complicate situazioni che si possono verificare nel campo di gioco.

Alla base di questa scelta, vi è il pensiero che non basti l’esperienza, per gestire simili situazioni: è necessario, per essere un (bravo) arbitro moderno, essere mentalmente solidi.

La Federazione ha, quindi, conferito l’incarico ad uno psicologo sportivo elvetico, Mattia Piffaretti, il quale ha preparato gli arbitri seguendo un metodo formato da 5 aspetti essenziali: yoga, meditazione, giochi di ruolo, respirazione e tecniche di visualizzazione.

Dopo ogni partita, gli arbitri olimpici si riuniscono in un hotel poco distante da Copacabana, per discutere sugli eventuali errori commessi durante l’arbitraggio, fare esercizi di yoga e di respirazione e camminare su un filo con le mani unite.

“Gli arbitri stanno mostrando una grande dose di tranquillità”

Ha affermato Fernando Lima, segretario generale della Federazione di Pallavolo.

Ciò non significa di certo che gli arbitri, così facendo, diventeranno infallibili.

“Siamo umani, e possiamo sbagliare”
Afferma Roman Pristovakin, 38enne arbitro russo che, durante il match inaugurale di beach volley ha gestito, mediante tecniche di respirazione, una plateale contestazione da parte della star brasiliana Alison Cerutti.

“La cosa più importante è respirare per trovare la calma: cerco sempre di apparire calmo, anche se dentro di me non lo sono, è un buon metodo per gestire le situazioni difficili”

Chiosa Pristovakin. Insomma, la prossima volta che vedrete un arbitro in difficoltà, pensate alla preparazione psicologica che possono avere dietro per affrontare quel carico di stress.

Photo credits: Wall Street Journal

 

 

 

Sport injuries: the athletes’ different pain perception

People who practice sports know that sport injuries are part of the game. Olympic athletes know that better than anyone else, as they’ve got a different pain perception.

Kerry Strug, sports injuries

It’s not easy sometimes to pinpoint an athlete in pain, if you’re among the audience. Athletes are quite skilled in hiding their pain and sport injuries, especially when they’re performing during a competition.

It doesn’t matter if these sport injuries and the pain related to them affect the athletes’ performance – if an athlete get injured while competing, they will never let you know.

Studies have shown that living with a physical pain is mostly a matter of mentality. Professional athletes are mentally trained to embrace the pain when they stumble upon minor sport injuries.

One of the aspects that experts are trying to figure out is how the pain perception changes when the athlete gets injured during a competition versus sport injuries gotten whilst training.

When an athlete is in agonist trance, their mental focus on their effort can be so huge that it could rise up the pain tolerance. In fact, during a match this pain perception could be much higher than during the ‘regular’ training days.

We shouldn’t be surprised, then, if an athlete – in particular an Olympic athlete – gets sport injuries whilst competing, but they eventually find the mental strength to continue it until the end, despite the pain.

An unforgettable example of this is Kerry Strug’s story. Kerry was the US gymnast who, during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, led her team to the gold medal in vaulting, despite she damaged her ankle ligaments during her previous vault.

“At first, I hadn’t realised the seriousness of my injury. I understood that only later. The sound I heard were the ligaments getting damaged.”

These are Strug’s words after se won the gold medal.

A study of the University of Heidelberg (Germany) showed that many athletes have a higher tolerance to pain compared to ‘normal’ people. Strug’s story, like many other athletes’ stories on sport injuries, are a perfect corollary.

At Rio 2016 Olympic Games there’s an athlete in particular who stood out in this painful (and touching) aspect. French sailor Bouvet was brought to his boat in wheelchair. Bouvet was unable to walk due to a terrible sciatica, nevertheless he decided to honour the race at any cost. Chapeau to Bouvet and to all the athletes who every day face sport injuries to finish their competitions!

 

Photo Credits: Sport Illustrated

I dolori del giovane atleta olimpico

Chi pratica sport sa che infortuni e traumi facciano parte del gioco. Un atleta olimpico lo sa più di tutti gli altri.

atleta olimpico, athletes in pain, dolori

Questi dolori, molto spesso, non traspaiono durante la gara, anche se influenzano la prestazione sportiva dell’atleta.

É ormai risaputo che convivere con il dolore (fisico, in questo caso) sia una questione mentale.

Uno degli aspetti che gli esperti stanno cercando di studiare è come cambia la percezione del dolore, nel caso in cui l’infortunio avvenga durante la gara o meno.

Infatti, la concentrazione mentale dell’atleta durante la prestazione sportiva può far si che la tolleranza al dolore durante un match sia più alta rispetto alle normali giornate di allenamento.

Non dovremmo, quindi, stupirci se un atleta – e in particolare un atleta olimpico – si infortuni durante una gara, ma trovi la forza mentale per proseguirla fino al termine.

Indimenticabile, a questo proposito, la storia di Kerry Strug, ginnasta statunitense che, durante le Olimpiadi di Atlanta 1996, portò la sua squadra a vincere la medaglia d’oro nel volteggio, dopo essersi lesionata i legamenti della caviglia nel salto precedente.

“In un primo momento, non mi ero resa conto della gravità del mio infortunio. Solo successivamente ho capito che il suono che avevo sentito erano i legamenti che si erano lesionati”

Queste le parole della Strug dopo la sua prova.

Uno studio dell’Università di Heidelberg (Germania) ha rilevato come gli atleti abbiano una più alta soglia di tolleranza al dolore: le storie di molti atleti ne sono un perfetto corollario.

In queste Olimpiadi di Rio 2016, un atleta olimpico in particolare si è distinto in questo doloroso (e commovente) aspetto dell’avventura a cinque cerchi. Il velista francese Bouvet è stato accompagnato alla sua imbarcazione in sedia rotelle. Non riuscendo a camminare a causa di un terribile attacco di sciatalgia, ha comunque deciso di onorare la gara in ogni caso, costasse quello che costasse.

Photo Credits: Club of Athlete

The Olympics downunder, a Kiwi ex-pat perspective

I asked a fellow Kiwi writer and best-seller author, Grant Leisham, to leave his perspective of this Rio 2016 Olympics, as a Kiwi ex-pat living abroad.

olympics new zealand, kiwi rowers 1972, Kiwi ex-pat

You know I have a soft sport for the New Zealand. I simply love this country. If you know that, you may also know that I have a lot of kiwi friends.

I asked one of them, best-seller author Grant Leisham, to tell me about how he lives the Olympic as a Kiwi ex-pat living in Thailand, a country that’s not really into the Olympics. Something that’s unusual for a Kiwi. Grant is an excellent writer, so you’re going to enjoy his story. Here it is!

Well, the Rio 2016, Summer Olympics are happening and I’m truly into the spirit of it all.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an absolutely committed Olympiophile (Don’t you just love it when I invent new words). I’ve loved the Olympics for years, ever since I fondly remember watching coverage of our New Zealand Rowing Eight winning Gold at Munich in 1972.

Prior to that and television coverage, we pretty had to make do with live radio broadcasts, which were exciting enough in their own right, but couldn’t convey the action in quite the same way as the new medium (for us anyway), television could.

Remembering the Olympics in New Zealand

I well recall watching those proud, young men in Black, the epitome of Kiwi manhood and staunchness, standing atop the podium, the New Zealand flag fluttering on the pole and the tears pouring down their cheeks. It was at that point I think I fully grasped the enormity of what the New Zealand Rowing Eight had achieved that day.

You see, Kiwi men in the 1970’s simply didn’t cry and certainly not on worldwide television. For that to have happened, my thirteen-year-old mind suddenly realised I must have been watching something very special unfold, that day.

I’ve religiously followed every Olympics since, winter games included and seen my fair share of joys, triumphs, disappointments and failures, but I doubt I’ve ever felt the immense surge of pride those victorious rowers gave an impressionable, young adolescent in 1972.

Watching the Olympics as a Kiwi ex-pat in Thailand

So onto Rio 2016 and funnily enough, as a Kiwi, albeit an expatriate Kiwi these days, it is the rowers again who will dominate the hopes and dreams of Olympic glory among fanatical, New Zealand Olympic fans.

The resurgence in New Zealand rowing has been phenomenal over the past ten years. We are back to and passing the glory days of rowing in New Zealand, the 70’s & the 80’s. New Zealander’s will look hopefully toward the waters of Rio for more Olympic glory this time around – and with good reason.

Domiciled now, in a country that has no real Olympic tradition, who’s Olympic team is probably no bigger than ten athletes and who’s free-to-air television coverage of the Olympics, is limited, to say the least, I will struggle to follow these games, as I did to follow the London Games in 2012 and Sochi in 2014.

Still, thank God for the internet! For us true Olympiophile’s there is always a way to get your fix and I will be getting mine every day for the next two weeks. Roll on the rowing finals and roll on Kiwi Gold!