Why Performing Mind?

by Clinton Gahwiler

Practicing sport psychology in South Africa can be both rewarding and frustrating. Working with some of our best sportsmen and women, I am constantly aware of what a privilege it is to be involved with such talented and driven individuals. With very few exceptions, they have impressed me with their openness to learning, and contributed immensely to both my own on-going development, and enjoyment of my work.

The one frustration along the way however, has been the lack of follow-through of sport psychology programmes, by sporting associations. The typical pattern is that a psychologist is called in as a last resort in times of crisis, and then shelved again either as soon as the crisis is over, or if it isn’t immediately resolved. Often, when the next crisis arrives, a new consultant will be called in, with the result that there is very little continuity, let alone an opportunity for the development of a good working relationship and trust.

There have been a few exceptions to this, including the time which I had to work with NOCSA’s Operation Excellence athletes in the build-up to the 2004 Athens Olympics, Kirsten van Heerden's involvement with SA Polo Crosse, and Henning Gericke’s tenure with the Springboks under Jake White.

But on the whole, few South African sportsmen and women have access to a comprehensive mental preparation programme through their team or association. Individually this is not an issue, as those athletes who are serious about their mental preparation come to see me or another psychologist of their own accord, and do whatever needs to be done over whatever period of time, with a programme specifically tailored to their needs.

During such work, I find that certain themes and concepts come up repeatedly, regardless of the sport. These are basic principles and techniques which I believe every serious sportsman or woman should integrate into their preparations and competitions. For a while now, I have felt the urge to document these in the form of a complete mental preparation programme which athletes can do in their own time, in the privacy of their own homes, without being subject to outside pressures or stigmas.

So, besides obviously also being a commercial venture, I have been motivated to develop this programme in order to (i) document all the information and experience which I have gathered over the years* and make it available as a complete package, and (ii) to stimulate my own search for new knowledge.

* Approaches to helping athletes achieve peak performance are continually evolving. What we believe to be the best approach today, will hopefully be improved upon tomorrow. The PerformingMind programme is the culmination of my studies, books I have read, input from colleagues, and most importantly what I have learnt from the athletes and coaches themselves. It is a collection of those things which my clients and I have found to be the most practical and useful in their striving for peak performance. The programme is continually up-dated, to ensure that participants are kept abreast of new developments and discoveries.