Sports Psychology Conference in Daegu, South Korea

Have you ever been to Korea?

It is my first time here. The 8th ASPASP, a conference on sports psychology, is taking place in the city of Daegu. When I travel and tell people that I am from Marseille in France, most of them think about the mafia. When I hear “Daegu”, the first thing I think about is Usain Bolt’s disqualification for false start during the 2011 World Championship of track and Field. Sorry.

Here is the best of this conference whose theme was “Crossing borders and expanding new horizons for sport & exercise psychology”:

Thursday:

After a one-hour bus ride, I arrive on the campus of Keimyung University. I am supposed to go to the College of Physical Education. All the signs are in Korean and I don’t read Korean. This is when I decide to give up any manhood I have and ask people for directions. I get into what looks like the “Career Counselling department” and ask where the College of Physical Education is. A kind man shows me the way. I get to the College of Physical Education which in reality is the “Department of the gym where you go to exercise”! A young kind man tells me “Go to the 2nd floor! You will see a professor”. You know how the story goes on. There is of course, no professor on the 2nd floor and I start walking all around the campus for two hours. I tell myself, “OK, Greg, you’re a mindset coach, you cannot get frustrated over this. What is the right mindset?”

The first thing I do is take a deep breathe. The second is look at the sky and remind myself that “Damn it, I am in Korea!” and the third one is to stop a young man again and ask him my way. He told me, “I don’t know how to explain in English but I will take you there”.

The right mindset for me, in that situation, when I am lost, is to ask my way. I am still lost? Ask again. I am lost once again? Ask again. Are you lost physically or emotionally? Just ask.

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Friday:

The sports psychologist of the Olympic Sailing Team of Denmark asks us:

It’s 4 weeks before the Olympic Games. Some athletes officially tell you they will need you during the Olympics. Some athletes officially tell you they won’t need you, they prefer to be on their own. You arrive at the Olympics and realize after a few days of racing that some of the athletes who said they “wouldn’t need help” are actually stressed out. What do you do? Do you break the agreement and go ask them and take the risk of actually making the problem worse? Or do you respect the agreement and let them battle with whatever issue they have?

It is the same problem here. When you see someone lost, what do you do? Do you ask if you can help? Or do you stay silent and wait for the person who is lost to ask you for help?

I saw a very funny slide during a presentation. A doctor says to his patient, who is apparently unfit: “What fits your schedule the best? Exercising one hour a day? Or being dead 24 hours a day?”

Saturday:

There are two very trendy themes during this conference: the use of music and mindfulness in sports psychology. I have my own (powerful) ideas about music and I have my own (mitigated) ideas about meditation.

“Mitigated” because as a triathlete, I once meditated every morning for 30 minutes. After 3 days, I felt a lot less anxious but after 10 days, I was so relaxed that my muscles didn’t respond well. It’s as if I had become too soft. I stopped meditating and two days later, I was my own self again.

But this Professor claimed that 100% of his Olympic athletes (from Thailand) performed at a higher level after an 8-week mindfulness program.

This is when I learnt that mindfulness is not meditation. From the outside, yes, it looks like meditation. But on the inside, the purpose is different. You can meditate to relax. I believe that’s what I did back then and that’s why I was too soft after 10 days. But you can also meditate to practice focus, you can meditate to visualize, you can meditate to count your breathe, you can meditate to practice getting in the zone. This is a lot more interesting and probably more efficient than just relaxation.

Funny introduction by the same Thai speaker, this morning. He says he started meditating when he was 7 but that at that time, a child who meditates is not called a “monk”. He is called a “monkey”.

Sunday:

This is July 1st. It’s the first day of free agency in the NBA. My roommate is Chinese. He has an incredible collection of NBA jerseys. He spent the afternoon with the rest of the group, visiting the city while I stayed in the room to get some rest and finish a presentation on “Behaviours and mental keys for self-regulation during highly stressful events”. Around 10pm, he comes back to our dorm room, I tell him “Lebron is going to Boston!!!!!”

He starts saying “What!!!!!” and going crazy around the room, looking for his phone and probably for some Wi-Fi signal. After 10 seconds, I told him it wasn’t true. Maybe I should have waited longer.

Monday:

My roommate is happy! Lebron just agreed to sign with the Lakers.

I could easily be a public speaking coach to all the psychologists who presented their research this week. 1% is very good but 99% is too nervous, speaks too fast, with a small voice, etc.

If you have a presentation coming up soon or if you are invited to participate in a public event, here is one secret for you. When you speak in public, there are 3 kinds of audience:

There is the audience who will love you never mind what you do and there is the audience who will criticize you never mind what you do. Don’t pay any real attention to both of these audiences.

On the other hand, there is a third audience that genuinely wants to learn something from you. This is the audience you should focus on. Somewhere in the audience, there is one person who doesn’t know, who doesn’t understand, who needs information about the topic of your talk. It’s that person that you’re talking to. That person thinks you’re an expert, a teacher or at least someone interesting. That person wants to hear your story. Imagine that you’re explaining something to your child, how would you explain it? At what speed? How loud? What gestures would you do? Would you be stressed if your child was looking at you with big attentive eyes, trying his best to understand what you say?

The purpose of a presentation is not for the speaker to do it or to finish it. The purpose is to teach something to someone.

Tuesday:

“To face a challenge” is a losing mindset. “To be willing to encounter a challenge” is a winning mindset.

When you face, you’re passive. When you’re willing, you’re active. Different mindset. No, there was no presentation about this today but like most important life lessons, you learn them outside of school and outside of your comfort zone. I went downtown to get myself a coffee. It was raining. I don’t like the rain. The rain is a challenge for me, you could say. I don’t like wearing rain gear. I don’t like carrying an umbrella around me, etc. Moreover, the umbrella I do carry is partially broken. Let me repeat it. I don’t like the rain.

As I was walking by a variety of shops, I stopped into a convenience store and bought the first umbrella I saw. I went back outside and opened it. It was so perfect, easy to use, solid, etc. It was still raining but suddenly I didn’t care about the rain. Suddenly, I was looking forward to the rain so that I could use my new bionic umbrella.

When a challenge shows up, don’t sit back and face it. Ask yourself “What tool do I need to be willing to encounter that challenge?”. Ask yourself “What tool do I need so that I can’t wait for this challenge to show up again?”

If you’re a young boy getting bullied at school, what tool do you need to be willing to encounter that challenge again? Probably two male adults, tall and bulky, to protect you, right? If they’re by your side, you probably can’t wait for your bully to show up.

If I have my super umbrella, I can’t wait to see the rain through my bedroom window.

Suddenly, thanks to your new tool, you don’t have a challenge anymore. It’s the opposite. It’s your ex-challenge that has a new challenge.

Wednesday:

Flying back to Tokyo, let’s conclude with probably the best quote I’ve read during this week’s 200 presentations:

“Talents hit a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see”

Arthur Schopenhauer, German Philosopher.

Lastly, do you remember the rule? If this post made you feel something positive, energizing or inspiring, you have no other choice but to go to the top of the sidebar and subscribe!

Thank you.

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