In less than one month, the Summer Olympics will begin in Rio de Janerio, spanning from August 5 to August 21. We at McKendree University are excited not only to cheer on our nation’s athletes as they compete, but also because we have our own tie to the Olympics – Dr. Tami Eggleston.
Dr. Eggleston teaches psychology classes on-campus and online at McKendree University, and she is also the Associate Dean for Institutional Effectiveness. Additionally, she is a certified sport psychology consultant and is on the United States Olympic Committee registry of consultants. While she regularly works with athletes at McKendree University and external sport psychology consultants, she may be called upon by Olympic athletes for some assistance for the summer games as well.
“I agreed to work with any Olympic or Olympic-hopeful athlete if they contact the United States Olympic Committee,” she said. “In past years, I have had various athletes who were Olympic hopefuls contact me for some mental training.”
What does psychology have to do with the Olympics? Quite a lot, actually! “Psychology or mental training is important for athletes, but as the competition gets more challenging, the mental training becomes even more important,” said Dr. Eggleston. “It would be hard to imagine a competition more emotionally challenging than the Olympics. People train their whole lives for these events and travel to unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Being prepared mentally is essential for success.”
For those Olympic athletes or would-be athletes who call upon Dr. Eggleston for help, they will gain an incredible edge over their competitors. “Athletes can learn a variety of skills related to focus, stress management, self-talk, and handling the emotional highs and lows of competition,” Dr. Eggleston noted. “Any sports that take place in a very short amount of time, give you only one chance to do it right, and provide very little room for error have the most psychological influence. Therefore, sports psychology could have a very large influence on sports such as archery, diving, and gymnastics. I would be helping athletes work through their stress, anxiety, burnout, expectations, and self-confidence, to name a few.”
So how can an Olympic athlete get in contact with Dr. Eggleston? It’s easier than you might think. Through Dr. Eggleston’s website, http://www.thinktuff.com, an athlete will learn what she can offer and how the process will occur. “If someone contacts me, I try to meet them as soon as we can find a good time,” Dr. Eggleston explained. “Then we do a quick assessment to see where they are, and then we jump in and try to work on one or two small mental challenges. It’s always up to the athlete if they want to continue to work with me or not. I have worked with some athletes many times for many years; other athletes may only contact me once per year or every few months when they need a ‘mental tune-up.’ Working with athletes of all ages and skill levels is a very rewarding experience.”
While Dr. Eggleston spends most of her time working with teams or individuals, she has also been known to work with coaches. “Most of the best coaches have a good understanding of sport psychology and understand how to motivate people,” she said. “I am very fortunate that I have good relationships with many McKendree University coaches. I learn from them, and they trust me with their most valuable resource – the minds of their athletes.”
Dr. Eggleston credits her father for instilling a passion for sports in her childhood. “My dad drag raced cars when I was a young girl, so I have been a pit crew all of my life,” she said. “I also played volleyball and was a cheerleader in high school, so I have always enjoyed sports, especially the mental aspects of a game. When I was in graduate school studying social psychology, it was easy to see how psychology could help people in sports. Once I arrived at McKendree University and started teaching so many athletes, I became even more interested. During my sabbatical at McKendree, I took additional classes, attended required meetings, and started the process to become a certified sport psychology consultant.”
Does Dr. Eggleston have a favorite sport to watch or work with in particular? Truth be told, she likes them all! “When I watch the Olympics, I end up enjoying all of the sports,” she said. “I find it very inspirational to learn about the stories of the athletes. I can’t help being in awe of their physical and mental abilities. I usually get ‘Olympic fever’ and just enjoy watching all sports, even sports I know very little about. I also become overwhelmingly patriotic and feel so much pride when our USA athletes compete well. At McKendree, I have worked with almost every team or an individual from all sports. I have particularly enjoyed working with the bowling teams, the women’s basketball team, softball, soccer, and volleyball; however, I enjoy working with any athlete who truly wants to be the best they can be. My husband drag races, so my favorite sport is auto racing, but they don’t have that in the Olympics – yet!”
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