No… No… and No again… I am not going to write about the absolutely crazy depiction of a hypnotist and NLP trained individual on last nights BBC1 programme ‘New Tricks’ — lots of my peers thought it was harmful, I just thought it was idiculous nd verging on hilarious… Instead, I am going for gold.

Yes indeed, I am focusing on the Olympics.

Yesterday our 14 year old starlet in the diving arena, Tom Daly, who is from the south coast near me, came last in the diving pairs 10m dive. His partner blamed him. They were not synchronised enough, they had a bad day and heck, they can be forgiven.

The lad is 14 years old. He goes in his single event soon with the weight of expectation and I really feel for him… We have so few medal chances that the pressure is piled on to these youngsters!

By all accounts, it is not nearly as much as the Chinese athletes who are having all kinds of remedies given to them to stop the pressure exploding…

Let me quote this article from the LA Times:

Air rifle athlete Du Li was considered a shoo-in to win China’s first gold medal in the Beijing Olympics on Saturday. Buckling under the pressure of 1.3 billion expectant Chinese, she choked.

The mostly Chinese crowd gasped after Du failed to get near the bull’s-eye in the first shot of the final round. After her fifth-place finish, Du fled through a crowd of reporters, tears streaming from her eyes.

 “I wasn’t fully prepared for the pressure of competing at home,” she said.

Determined to squeeze every last gold medal out of the Beijing Olympics in hopes of knocking the U.S. off the top shelf, China has ramped up spending on sports psychology. (The exact figure is a state secret.) But psychologists say the Games are so integrally linked with national glory and pride that athletes can feel overwhelmed.

Later Saturday, shooting coach Wang Yifu told Chinese reporters that team leaders wanted an emergency meeting of athletes to help ease the psychological pressure, before adding that it was also to “improve results and get more gold medals for the nation.”

In recent months, China’s elite sports system has set up counseling websites, introduced online therapy and promoted computer-aided relaxation techniques. The Communist state is promoting yoga and offering special music, meditation, hypnosis, uplifting stories and films deemed psychologically soothing, including “Forrest Gump.”

Yes indeed, you noticed what was snuck in there, don’t you? Hypnosis!

Hypnosis can be a performance enhancement as well as helping to ease the pressure. I certainly think that if someone is going to professionally train and make it their full-time raison d’etre, then why on earth is the subject of dealing with pressure, not one that has been dealt with in great detail before?

We all see footballers, paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a week to kick a ball around better than others, who then miss the goal entirely when asked to kick a penalty to decide the result of a big competition… It is baffling.

Yet the Chinese athletics team seem to have other ideas about how to cope with such, they are opting for tough love… The stick over the carrot… Standing up and taking it like a man… As the article continues:

Coaching in China has traditionally been rough, tough and, some critics say, borderline abusive with an emphasis on relentless martial training.

Slogans on the walls of training camps tell the story: “The Motherland Is Above Everything; Strike for Gold in the Olympics,” reads one for the shooting team, according to the blog “> . “Pressure each other. Pressure yourself,” reads another for the gymnastics team. “There will be no champion if one does not go through the ultimate pressure.”

“The coaches can be very dictatorial, issuing orders to athletes without explaining why,” said Chu Yuede, a professor of sports psychology at the Beijing Sports University who is working with the shooting team. “Some also get angry with us and say we’re meddling, that athletes should just follow their orders.”

Some of their colleagues share the blame, psychologists concede, by focusing on the athletes and not the coaches in their eagerness to work with the sports celebrities.

One of the biggest challenges for psychologists this year has been pre-competition anxiety. The phrase, “You’ll disappoint 1.3 billion people,” has been commonly heard in the lead-up to the Games. And some athletes view even a silver medal as a failure.

We often get some stick here in the UK for the lack of winning spirit we seem to embody… Yet you can bet we’ll be cheering on our silver medal achievers, don’t we? Tim Henman was a national treasure who rarely even came second… We like it if they ‘do their best’ and so I wonder if Tom Daly and co are under less pressure to win things or if the pressure is something the athletes place on themselves as much as from external sources?

The article goes on to touch upon this notion…

Changing that attitude means grappling with a system that often has plucked talented athletes from their families at a young age, sacrificed their academic development and inculcated a belief that they must win top honors to pay back the state for its generosity.

“Western athletes enjoy it more,” said Shi Yan, deputy dean of Shanxi University’s sports college. “The Chinese are too serious. They think the sky will collapse if they lose.”

Although duty and moderate stress are important motivators in China and much of East Asia, psychologists say, too much pressure is counterproductive, and their job is often to dial it back.

“My training was very bitter,” said Zhang Guozheng, a weightlifter who won gold in Athens. “I always missed my family. But my coach brought me up and we were closer than he was with his own children.”

Because many young athletes don’t have much opportunity to develop educationally and emotionally, given the extreme training schedules, they often have nothing but sports.

“They don’t have a life,” said Jin Wang, a psychology professor at Georgia-based Kennesaw State University who is advising several Chinese teams. Wang said some of the athletes he has worked with can’t read beyond a fourth-grade level. “We need to do more, to consider them an overall human being,” he said.

Psychologists say they also are trying to encourage coaches to praise athletes and listen more in a culture in which mothers often chide their children when they get “only” 99% right on a math test.

Hmmm… Someone in my members area was asking if these large competitive games were valid any more… I think this kind of culture shows how they are considered elsewhere… Is it that we have an innate desire to compete? An innate desire to be the best? Why is it not enough for people to be doing the best of their abilities… Or is that just me being too darn English?

I am going to be watching Tom Daly competing… I’ll be cheering him on… And I won’t be complaining if he does not get gold… And Tom, if you’re reading, come see me for some hypnosis and we’ll get the gold in 2012… Because the pressure is really going to be on then! 😉