After much planning and anticipation I set off on the 15th June for Morocco to attend the 12th World Congress of Sport Psychology. After many flights and hours of waiting in airports I arrived in the beautiful (but extremely hot – one day was 49 degrees) city of Marrakech where the conference was to be held from the 17th-21st June.
The conference attracted people from all over the world and many leading researchers and applied sports psychologists were in attendance; this was evidenced by the fact that Terri Orlick, one of the world’s most prominent sports psychologists, was the key note speaker at the welcome function on the first night.
The seminars, workshops and oral presentations covered many topics, including motivation, career transitions for athletes, mental skills, elements of excellence, cognitive science, and neuro and bio feedback to name a few.
But of special inertest to me were the presentations on the psychological preparation of athletes for the Beijing Olympic Games. One of the best of these was a key note address by Li-wei Zhang, the sports psychologists charged with heading up the team of professionals that were to mentally prepare Chinese athletes for the Games. Now knowing and understanding the psychological support these athletes had for the 4 years leading up to the Games and at the Games themselves, it is no surprise that China was first in the medal standings at Beijing.
Of course there was also time for some fun; there was a days’ excursion around Marrakech – to the beautiful palace with amazing mosaics and intricate stucco carvings; to the bustling, maze like media (the old city) with its souks (markets) where you can buy anything from mint tea to colourful carpets (all purchases requiring some hard bargaining of course – it’s the Moroccan way!).
In the end I came away having encountered many new and interesting ideas and people, and am excited about the direction and future of Sport Psychology and what it can offer not only our elite coaches and athletes, but also the impact it can have in all communities across South Africa. Sport and the lessons it teaches are not only applicable to the competition area, but are rather life skills relevant to all life’s different arenas.
By Kirsten van Heerden