Theory to Practice: Reflections of an Olympic Gold Medalist, Her Coach, and Her Sport Psychologist

Elizabeth Schoenfelt, Western Kentucky University, USA
Claire Donahue, Western Kentucky University, USA
Bruce Marchionda , Western Kentucky University, USA


Program ID: PANEL-1

Presentation: October 5, 2013 4:15 pm - 5:15 pm

Room: Napoleon


A 2012 gold medal Olympic swimmer, Claire Donahue, her coach, Bruce Marchionda, and her sport psychologist, Dr. Betsy Shoenfelt, will discuss how they worked together to prepare for and compete in the 2012 Olympics, as well as the methods and content of the consultation. Claire will address how she used mental skills to prepare for the Olympic Trials and for the 2012 Olympics, in which she earned a gold medal in the 4x100 medley relay and placed 7th in the 100m fly. Bruce will address, from a coaching perspective, including a sport psychology consultant on Claire’s prep team. Betsy will discuss the theoretical and applied nature of the consultation. The consultation focused on three areas. First was helping Claire remain motivated during the demanding practices required for preparing for the trials. Goal setting and feedback for key training areas (e.g., stroke maintenance, turns, underwaters) were use to maintain motivation. Goals helped focus attention; feedback provided in relation to the goals enabled the swimmer to track progress over time. Progress was gradual, but by tracking performance in relation to each goal, the great progress made over months of practice could be seen. The second focus was performance components of the swim. The content for this focus drew on research on training; the role of automaticity (performance that is completed without attention, and is more efficient and faster than performance that is consciously monitored) was especially important for preparing for stressful conditions such as the Olympic Trials and Games. The third focus was mental skills training, which included positive self-talk, focus and concentration skills, visualization, and problem solving skills. Claire will discuss which skills and techniques were most helpful as she trained and as she competed in the trials and games, and how she incorporated these skills into her training and competition performance. Coach Marchionda and Dr. Shoenfelt will discuss how these applications of psychological theory and practice were integrated to lead to Olympic success.

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