Offensive And Defensive Mental Skills


“Offensive skills let an athlete dominate a competition. Offensive physical skills might include the terrific top-end speed of 400-meter runner Michael Johnson or the high VO2 Max of Lance Armstrong that allows him to pass other cyclists in the Alps. Unusual strength and quickness are offensive physical skills in a majority of Olympic sports. When these offensive skills are well developed in an athlete, other athletes know that athlete is a contender. Offensive skills are absolutely necessary to be a truly exceptional athlete.”

But what are defensive skills – and why would we use them?

“Defensive skills help athletes succeed consistently and in all conditions. Defensive physical skills might include Nordic skier Bjorn Dahlie’s ability to handle tremendous training loads, Speed skater Eric Heiden’s ability to quickly recover from the effort of the last race, Olympic champion Haile Gebrselasie’s capacity to adapt and respond to surges in the race by other runners, and Edwin Moses’ tremendous technique that stood up to the test of a decade-long winning streak. When athletes’ defensive skills are strong they are consistent performers, winning big events as well as small. They are resilient and easily adapt to changes in their environment.

If offensive mental skills are necessary for excellence, athletes need defensive skills to maintain excellence, handle adversity and allow them to be at their best at the big events like the Olympic Games. Defensive mental skills also help athletes be resilient and consistent in any conditions.”

From an article by Sean McCann, Ph.D., USOC Coaching and Sport Sciences department, which appeared in the Mind Games section of of the US Olympic Team newsletter. Here’s a link to the full article. A very good read.

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