Glasgow 2014: How athletes stay focused for success

Psychological preparations of the Commonwealth Games athletes are a key element in when preparing to battle for a medal spot

With the Commonwealth Games less than seven weeks away, top Scottish athletes are entering the final phase of their training. And with a home crowd and high hopes for medals the pressure is stacking up.

That is why many of those competing at elite level, are focusing on mental preparations for the Games.

Jak Scott is training hard, combining training in the pool at Stirling University with work on his mind.

Lap after lap, turn after turn, the 23-year-old spends 30 hours a week training in the pool, but when it comes to the Commonwealth Games, he will have less than two minutes to get everything right if he is going to win a medal.

Jak was part of the 4x200m relay team that won silver at the 2010 Games in Dehli, this year he will have a home crowd to perform in front of.

In the world of elite sport, it is small margins that make a difference, hence the importance of sport psychology at the top level.

Before competition Jak gets so nervous, he is sometimes sick.

He says: "I get really nervous. There's a lot of apprehension and worry when it comes to racing. What could happen? What's the overall performance going to be like? And disappointing people is a massive factor in that."

Many of the Scottish athletes taking part in this year's Commonwealth Games will regularly meet with psychologists to help them work on techniques to stay calm on race day.

Swimming lanes The swimming competitions at this year's Commonwealth Games will take place over a six day period

Misha Botting is a sport psychologist based at the Sportscotland institute of sport. He works with the swimming team, and was with the Scottish curlers who took part in this year's Winter Olympics.

He said: "Technical preparation is fundamentally important, however, without the clear mind, the calm and the focused mindset, all these elements can potentially fall apart."

The mind games begin in what is called the call room. It is where the competitors gather from the changing rooms just ahead of the race.

Jak says: "In the call room, there's a lot of pressure. There's a lot of people anxiously looking at people but I like to put my music in and try to block it all out and not really think about the race until I absolutely have to, behind the blocks and there's no turning back then."

At the University of Stirling, Prof Robert Eklund has published the world's first Encyclopaedia of Sport and Exercise Psychology.

He says: "Elite performers all have grand capabilities and are all really talented so it all comes down to how much they have their head together on any given day and so the psychological component becomes very important."

Back in the pool and Jak and his team-mates will soon be reducing the intensity of their training ahead of the Games but when it comes to winning or losing a medal in front of a home crowd, the pressure is now on.

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