In fact, writing about sport and mental health is a tough one.
We think of top sportsmen and women as being mentally tough and many of them are. But these Olympic Games are showing that some competitors are really suffering. At times you can see it etched on their faces.
Many years ago, I studied for a diploma in sports psychology and also a diploma in life coaching from Newcastle University and I have no idea whether these qualifications give me the right to make comments but here goes anyway.
Top sports people today do not compete within a bubble. They are now no longer alone. Whether they are individuals or part of a team there will be a veritable team of support around them looking at their fitness levels, their diet and their mental health through sports psychology. On the surface this is a good thing as it heightens awareness, improves fitness and hones performance. But is it really a good thing? Too much interference can, to my mind, be confusing and at times unwanted. It’s almost a legal drug or a performance enhancement.
The main thing I learnt from my diplomas was the power of positivity but continually being positive can bring its own stresses. It’s jolly difficult being positive all the time as anyone who has tried it will agree. It’s like being asked to smile for the camera when you are miserable inside. It gives a totally wrong impression.
But it is concerning when somebody like Simone Byles breaks down. She is without doubt the best gymnast in the world and possibly the best ever. It seems strange that she managed to go through all the preliminaries, all the isolation, all the preparation and then pulled out during a competition. Oh that she could have kept it together long enough to complete the games and then be in a position to sort out her health problems from a position of strength. She has proved beyond doubt that even the best can be hampered by the black dog of depression and mental health problems. Ultimately she couldn’t face being anything less than perfection. I wonder whether in 20 years’ time she will regret pulling out.
At the same time, I’m so glad that the Olympic Games have gone ahead as they have brought some considerable respite from our woes. I was gobsmacked a few days ago when the first three items on the national news were positive ones – led by coverage of that day’s successes for Team GB. The positivity knocked COVID down the list, but even that was positive as the cases continued to drop.
Personally, I always feel sad and suffer withdrawal symptoms when the Games are over but then we have the Paralympics. I wouldn’t want to say that in many ways my life is shaped by sport but in many ways my life is shaped by sport!
Been up in North Norfolk for much of this week. On one day we sat in the picnic area of Weybourne Station awaiting the arrival of the steam train on the North Norfolk Railway. It arrived in the station on its journey from Sheringham to Holt and proceeded to belch out steam at an alarming rate.
Of course, this is now seen as nostalgic, which it is. But it did make us muse on the days when steam trains criss-crossed the country with huge carbon footprints and smoke billowing into the atmosphere. No wonder King Coal produced all those smogs and what became known as peasoupers. I took some video footage of the trains which I will put on my You Tube channel for Norfolk and Suffolk as soon as I can.
Steam trains will always have a great fascination for those of us who could remember when they were in service and those wonderful individual carriages with the corridors outside.
Finally I’m afraid I need to end with a political comment. For our dear Government to thank NHS staff day after day after day until it became pretty meaningless and then sell them down the river with a 3% pay offer should meet with scorn. They deserve so much more.