One of the consistent themes from our elite rider mentor sessions over the winter was the importance of mind power and the growth mindset for performance of athletes. Back in October Connor Mason joined the team to add to the support The Cycling Academy provides for our athletes. Connor's degree in Applied Psychology was followed with a stint as Athlete Ambassador with Nike in the Netherlands, working with young people across range of sports. Now back in the UK Connor is studying for his MSc in Performance Psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He joined up with the The Cycling Academy at our camps in November and January, and is helping us develop mechanisms for our athletes to assist their approach to all aspects of the sport. He's pretty handy at handing bottles out of the team car window too.
"Sport is evolving. Not only are we witnessing records being broken on a regular basis but better resources and advancements in sports science are helping athletes push the boundaries of human potential. Whilst this is great it also means that the margin between winning and losing is shrinking. More or more sports teams are turning to psychology in search of that cutting edge.
So how can psychology help you win? Well in a lot of ways. Examples include improving the environment the team operates in, improving the dynamic of the team (team culture) and developing so called psychological characteristics of excellence (otherwise known as psychological skills). These are the kinds of things that Jimmy, Peter, and Mark at The Cycling Academy have enlisted me to help with.
In the six months that I’ve worked with the team, it has become obvious to me, as someone who doesn’t come from a cycling background, that this is an incredibly complex sport. Is it an individual sport? It a team sport? How do you get the balance of the team right? How do you deal with big egos? How do you cope with stressors that may arise in what is a dynamic racing environment? These are just some of the questions that have been spinning around in my head since I started working with the team. One thing that is clear is that no matter how good you are physically on the bike, you need to have the right psychological skills to cope in an environment like this in order to reach an elite level.
My aim with the team over the course of the racing season is to start introducing the riders to some of these psychological skills with the goal improving results on the bike, improving the overall culture in the team, and ultimately creating more rounded bike riders.
The season has gotten off to a flyer with some pretty impressive results and I’m looking forward to working with the rest of management team to make sure we keep improving throughout the course of the season. I’m confident that we will."