Our involvement with the 2012 Paralympic Games
I was fortunate to be involved in the London 2012 Paralympic Games working as a Psychologist with Archery GB. The journey started back in 2010 when I become involved with the Paralympic Archery Squad. My remit first and foremost was to prepare and deliver robust and mentally strong archers to compete with success at international events. Additionally I had a role to play in preparing the squad as a whole and individual shooting teams within this. Additionally I was responsible for putting together a staff development programme to ensure the staff team (including coaches and support staff) were working together as effectively as possible.
Archery is a very mental sport and there are some key mental skills that are vital for success. Put simply these include the ability to focus, to stay in the moment and to be able to repeat the same action (shot routine) over and over again. However, as with all elite sport, this has to be done under pressure when it counts. Therefore, being able to perform under pressure, manage anxiety, access your ideal shooting state, block out distractions and believe in yourself are equally vital attributes for all archers. Work took place at an individual level with each archer to ensure these areas were addressed and honed.
The staff development programme looked at 5 key themes; Communication; Roles and Responsibilities; Stress Management; Conflict and Resolution and Rest and Recovery. These areas were addressed in a variety of ways including group workshops, one to one's and a weekend away.
From a team perspective (archers and staff) we used the personality profiling tool Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The purpose of this was to increase self-awareness and enable people to appreciate differences between team members as well as create a common language for discussing team dynamics. In addition to this other areas that were addressed were dealing with the media, managing friends and family, preparing for the Paralympic village environment, optimising downtime, managing your first games as a home games and embracing the home support.
When it came to the actual Paralympics I was fully accreditated which meant that I lived in the village with the archers and had full access to the competition venue and field of play. The Games fell into three phases – pre-competition (holding camp through to training at the actual venue prior to competition starting); competition (ranking rounds though to finals day) and post competition and the nature of support provided during these time varied in intensity. The experience of working at the Paralympics was incredible, but it was an emotional rollercoaster for all involved – but one that I wouldn't have missed for the world.
In the run up to the Paralmypic Games we had various international competitions including the World Championships in 2011 where the team came back with a whole host of medals and at the Paralympics themselves Dani Brown won a Gold Medal and Mel Clarke a Silver Medal whilst Kenny Allen set a new Paralympic Record in the Ranking Round.
Focus has now turned to the Road to Rio with both World and European Championships along the way.