‘Exposure Therapy’ As Aussies Are Without Psychologist In Tokyo


  • Thursday, August 9th – Sunday, August 12th
  • Tatsumi International Swim Center, Tokyo, Japan
  • LCM
  • Meet Central
  • Psych Sheets

In a move to simplify its operations at major competitions, Swimming Australia has decided to leave its sports psychologist at home for the 2018 Pan Pacific c=Championships. Per a report in The Gold Coast Bulletin, swimmers will still have access to the psychologist remotely, but the idea is to create strength and adaptability in its athletes while in the midst of intense competition.

“The psychologist has a very important role,” Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren said, per The Gold Coast Bulletin. “But the strength and conditioning coach also has that but we don’t make them travel into competition because that part of work is done.

“We need to be prepared because the leadership (during a meet) goes through the coaches. We don’t want to change that approach.”

Verhaeren continued, “There’s no psychologist in the world, that halfway through a meet can turn a team around. It’s really the work of the coaches and the athletes to come prepared.”

Swimming Australia is still shaking off its underwhelming performance at the 2016 Summer Olympics where the nation of Australia suffered its worst Summer Olympic outing since claiming just 27 medals in Barcelona back in 1992. Specific to swimming, despite bringing 2015 double World Champions Mitch Larkin, Emily Seebohm and Bronte Campbell into Rio, along with newly-minted textile world record holder Cameron McEvoy, these favorites all fell short of placing on top of the Olympic podium in their respective individual events. At the time, Verhaeren at least partially attributed the non-medals to stage fright.

However, with the Pan Pacs just days away, Swimming Australia is building resilience in its athletes simply by exposure to the high-stress racket of competing.

Chief Strategist, High Performance Alex Baumann states, “When you get out there (in a major meet) you have to stand on your own two feet and deal with it.

“But it is trying to create that resilience, so they’re bulletproof when they get to that higher pressure environment.” (Gold Coast Bulletin)

Verhaeren reiterated, “If you’re in competition, there’s basically nothing a psychologist can do for you anymore.

“In preparation, there’s quite a bit. But what we’re promoting at the moment and off the back of Rio is a lot more intense guidance during the season – because it is like strength training, you do it all year round or you don’t do it at all.”

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 years ago

Does USA swimming have a full time psychologist?

2 years ago

Given that I’d understood some of the Australian team’s underperformance issues in the past to be psychological, this does sound like an odd decision. I understand that the work should have been done at this stage, but I’m not sure removing this support during a major international event seems that sensible?

Ex Quaker
Reply to  Swimmer
2 years ago

The line of thinking seems to be that having a safety net is counterproductive, and in order to manage their own mentality and expectations, athletes need to take their mental performance into their own hands. While it obviously depends on the individual, there is a body of psychological research that somewhat corroborates this line of thinking.

Ex Quaker
Reply to  Swimmer
2 years ago

In any case, though, I guess we’ll have to watch the meet to know for sure. The results will be telling.

Reply to  Swimmer
2 years ago

I can understand leaning either way with this example. They’ve struggled a lot in major meets lately, with their stars not performing as expected. Maybe they’re trying to figure out a strategy that works. I hope they figure it out though, because the more countries do well, the better it is for the sport as a whole.

2 years ago

Wow. Can’t say I agree with this assumption that the mental aspect is set before the meet even begins and should be given the same consideration as weight training. The right words can create the right thoughts in minutes and it’s what is in your head and heart when you step up onto the blocks that will matter most, not what you were thinking yesterday or a month ago.

Reply to  Fluidg
2 years ago

I guess this is the meet to find out if they’re right. There’s an asymmetrical importance on Pan Pacs for American swimmers/fans…the rest of the field has much less riding on the results.

Justine Schluntz
Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

In that case, will they actually get much out of trying this out at Pan Pacs? The Aussies in particular have a history of performing fine at competitions that don’t mean much to them…

About Retta Race

Retta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

Read More »