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All in the mind for Olympic trialists

Monday, 12 March 2012


Dr Craig Harms is busily preparing for the 2012 Australian Olympic swimming trials – even though he won’t be getting anywhere near the pool.

The ECU Psychology and Social Science Lecturer will be helping to prepare the swimmers based at the West Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS) when they compete in the trials this March.

The squad will utilise Dr Harms background in the psychology of sport to help overcome the rigorous mental pressures and distractions associated with swimming at an Olympic level. 

The trials are a stepping stone to reach the pinnacle of four years of training for swimmers – the top two finishers in each race will head to London in July, while the rest will have to wait four more years for a another crack at Olympic glory.

Dr Harms said he works with the athletes to overcome their nerves and fight through the mental barriers they might experience on race day, acting as both their advisor and confidant.

His role will vary depending on the athlete and their mental and physical preparation, he said.

“Some swimmers will want to have a chat the night before the event, some will want to run through everything in the morning and some will speak to me afterwards,” Dr Harms said.

“I speak about a number of different things with them, including how to prepare mentally and overcome their nerves. We also talk about dealing with what will happen if they don’t make the Olympic team.”

Dr Harms has worked in sports psychology since the mid-90’s. With a background as a physical education teacher, he also has a Masters in Human Movement and a PhD in Psychology from ECU. 

He has worked with a number of elite athletes in a variety of sports, from AFL stars to 10-pin bowlers.

When asked about the pressure cooker that is the Olympics, Dr Harms said it was important to stay calm and focus on the task at hand. 

“For athletes it’s trying to remain incredibly normal in an unbelievably abnormal situation. Those who master that are already halfway to success.”

The Olympic trials for swimming run from 15-25 March at the South Australian Aquatic and Leisure Centre.


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