Precocious Sporting Talents

David Barracosa, Senior Performance Psychologist from Condor Performance, speaks to Fiona Wyllie (ABC) about ‘precocious sporting talents’.

Radio Interview:

Full Transcription:

Fiona:                                        Good afternoon this is Statewide Drive, 24 to 5:00 now and if you are earning the really high wages elite sports people earn, do you have a responsibility to entertain as well? Or if you know you’re about to lose why not get out of the ballpark as soon as you can? Nick Curious says Don Fraze’s comments about him tanking at Wimbledon are racist. Did you hear them on the Today show?

Dawn Frazer:                        I think it’s absolute disgusting. I just am so shocked to think that he went out there to play and he tanked, he did all that tanking. That’s terrible. That’s not a good Australian sports person and I do believe that Tennis Australia have done the right thing by saying that they’re not allowed to play in the David Cup. They’re two of the best players that we’ve had for a long while and sure, you might get upset but now tennis has changed so much. I think they’re getting so much money, Carl, and I just think that they’re a disgrace for Australian sports and women.

Speaker 3:                              Is it a case of these stars have got so much money and so much fame so early Dawn, that things like humility and striving to achieve is something that’s just kind of disappeared from the way they think they should be presented to the public?

Dawn Frazer:                        I agree with you Lisa, I think that’s the whole thing that brought too much money at a very early age. They’re being ill-advised by their management and they should be setting a better example for the younger generation of this country, the great country of ours. If they don’t like it go back to where their fathers or their parents came from. We don’t need them here in this country they’re acting like that. We’ve gotta set a very good example for the younger children that playing all these sports. And I can’t see them wanting to be recognized when they get to my age. People won’t wanna talk to them.

Fiona:                                        Dawn Frazer talking on the Today show and her words certainly making some headlines around our country this afternoon. My number is 1-300 double six double two seven nine or send a text on zero four six seven, nine double two six eight four. Let’s talk about elite athletes and what’s going through their mind when they’re on sanded court or one of the important courts in the sporting world around the world. David Barracosa is at Condor Performance, a performance psychologist. David hello.

David Barracosa:              Hi Fiona, how are you?

Fiona:                                        I’m very well thanks. Now along the way, are manners anything to do with how we train our sports people?

David Barracosa:              I think it’s quite interesting because when you’re looking at athlete development and things like that often the technical side of things, the physical side of things are given a lot of attention. The mental side of things I think tend at times to be underdone for people which were manners would come into it, etiquette, humility, those type of things but also just helping younger athletes learn what’s important to focus on, what’s important to I suppose keep their mind occupied with rather than some of these distractions and variables that you see elicit really strong emotions and the behaviours that you’re talking about on your radio station today.

Fiona:                                        In the end it is a sport. They’re playing a game. Do we take it all far too seriously? Or do they to get the kind of results they do and be it that sort of standard have to take it very very seriously?

David Barracosa:              I think it is a bit important to take it seriously but I think it’s even, a lot of people are talking about results and scores and what they’re achieving whereas I think for some of these younger athletes I think part of it is about being in the process of actually just playing tennis. It’s about the effort that they need to execute to play this sport well and I think the results come with that but I think sometimes we put the wagon in front of the horse and we get a bit carried away with what are they achieving whereas they are, it is a sport, it is something that is provided entertainment for many moons in the past and I think it’s about how do we help athletes?

David Barracosa:              And sometimes even coaches, how do we help coaches help their athletes to kind of bring it back to those basic elements that allow them to play at such a high level rather than just focusing on what they’re scoring at the end.

Fiona:                                        Because there is a great deal of entertainment in someone trying their best even if they don’t win. We love that don’t we? As sports enthusiasts?

David Barracosa:              Yeah definitely. I think at the end of the day we do kind of get hooked on these sports and we do love watching these entertainers of the game. Some of them very different in their styles. And I think that’s something important to consider. I don’t think everyone’s gonna have the same style in which they approach their sport. People are gonna be much more sort of outgoing and flamboyant about the way they do things, other people are gonna be much more grounded in the way that they do it. But I think it is about especially from what I’ve heard throughout the media today, I think a key element is are we seeing the effort from athletes? Are athletes giving the upmost effort that they can be, no matter what their style is or how their level of play is. Are they fighting to the very end?

David Barracosa:              And I think that’s I suppose a big consideration from a sport and performance psychology perspective is around are they able to do that.

Fiona:                                        Okay, if one of your clients was throwing rackets around what would you be saying to them about the energy expended on that?

David Barracosa:              Yeah I think if one of our clients at Condor Performance, if they were to go about doing that, I think we’d first wanna sit down and talk to them about what is going through your mind that’s leading to that? What’s creating such a frustration and emotion? And usually what we find is the thing behind it all, it’s usually things outside of their control. It’s things like umpires, it’s things like the last point, the other opponent hitting a fantastic win. I remember the crowd saying something et cetera. But what we wanna bring their attention back to is them. Because often it’s what they want to do and what they are willing to put into it that helps manage that emotion, but it’s so easy and I think we do it in all walks of life but especially in sports.

David Barracosa:              We get kind of really hooked up on those external factors that I suppose make it hard for us to play consistently and play with that mental consistency that I think’s so important and that’s something that were trying to constantly instil in our athletes is that mental consistency so you don’t see the lapses where people are taking it out on a piece of equipment or their racket because they’re unable to focus on the things that are really important.

Fiona:                                        Or the crowd, or the umpire as you said. And wasting that energy that could be used for getting an ace.

David Barracosa:              Yes. And I think not only wasting the energy but I think you watch the opponent last night, you watch Richard Gaska in the way that he responded, I think you can sometimes instil more confidence in your opponent. So not only are you losing energy you’re kind of taking the focus away from what you’re trying to do. You’re in a way giving energy to the opponent who’s seeing that and wants to take full advantage of that. On the flip side that’s what we’re telling our athletes is how do you keep your consistency going and not get caught up in that and I think that’s a mental skill in of itself as well.

Fiona:                                        So if you were smiling and looking like you’re not gonna get me, that is a method of getting one up against your opponent rather than losing it.

David Barracosa:              Well I think confidence, and I think confidence is something that’s so clearly visible in someone’s body language. The way someone carries themselves, the way someone even some of the self-talk that you hear the athletes doing like the come on’s of [inaudible 00:08:00] in the past and things like that. It does send a very strong message. And we don’t want people to be too focused on their opponent ’cause once again that’s an external variable that is gonna take you away from your game, but as a player if you can carry yourself with confidence and you can maintain that for long periods of time I think it does wonders not only for you and what your mindset is doing at that point in time but just your condition in that match as well. I think it does do a lot for your vibe that you’re sending out as well as I suppose the ebb and flows of the match itself.

Fiona:                                        David if you’ve got a couple of minutes to hear from our callers?

David Barracosa:              Yeah definitely.

Fiona:                                        Oh great. Patrick, hello.

Patrick:                                    Hi Fiona, how you going?

Fiona:                                        I’m well. You’ve got a story from your sporting days.

Patrick:                                    No not from my sporting days but in regard to defenders of Nick saying he was under a lot of stress. A few days ago I played a [inaudible 00:08:54] rugby player and writer told a story about the great cricketing man from the ’50s Case Miller, who’d been a battle of Britain Parlor I should say. And in a particularly tight test match a journalist asked him how much stress he was under. And he said stress, this isn’t stress. When you’ve got a [inaudible 00:09:17] up your rear end at 20,000 feet, that’s stress.

Fiona:                                        Putting it in perspective Patrick, thank you very much.

Patrick:                                    Thank you.

Fiona:                                        Buh bye. John’s in Port McCory, hello.

John:                                          Hello, how you going?

Fiona:                                        I’m well. You think that Dawn Frazer has said some things that she shouldn’t of?

John:                                          I think so. I think you can’t say that somebody should go back to their own country and that we’ve gotta better stand the behavior here or not. We’re all humans, we’re all fallible. I think that was just a bit [inaudible 00:09:52] really.

Fiona:                                        Okay.

John:                                          I think we’re all cut with the same brush and I think Paul only curious, Paul’s a young black. Come on. Give him a bit of a break and a lot of [inaudible 00:10:07] mistakes in life.

Fiona:                                        John thanks for calling. Greg from [inaudible 00:10:12] says most of what Dawn said made sense but she just blew it with a stupid comment about going back to where their parents came from. And Greg goes on to say I bet she’s regretting it now.

John:                                          Yeah I’d agree with that I think, yeah.

Fiona:                                        Thanks John. Someone else saying they think that Curious and Tomack are okay. Jack says the behavior of some of these young male tennis players is appalling, makes me feel ashamed to be Australian. From Dominic, arrogance and impatience are a downfall of many coupled with money and success and you have a recipe for disaster. Limit the payment to youngsters with increments applying, the remainder they get on retirement coupled with behavior training. Well that’s what we’re talking about with you isn’t it David?

David Barracosa:              I’d say that’s spot on.

Fiona:                                        Is the money thing a big part of it do you think?

David Barracosa:              I think the money thing, I think it really does depend on the person. I think there’s so many factors that are needed to be considered when it comes to money. I think that it’s spoken about a lot in the states with young college athletes and stepping to the pros. A lot of these like tennis and golf or a lot of youngsters can kind of make a lot of money very quickly, I think money does put pressure on people and it can change a person but I think if you’re able to have a certain character, if you’re able to have the right support people in place around you, I think you can kind of manage those sort of changes to your lifestyle and changes to I suppose the circumstances you find yourself in.

Fiona:                                        What about the power of ego? Because Judy from Round Mountain says Tomak and Curious will never be champions. Their egos will stop them from achieving what they are capable of.

David Barracosa:              Yeah and I think that’s quite an interesting one because I think it’s where, it’s that kind of line between someone having really strong confidence and self-belief and then that line where it steps into being kind of egotistical and things like that. I think for the athletes you want to see them where they have that I suppose self-awareness and self-acknowledgement, self-confidence but you don’t want it to be that it becomes I just rest on that. You wanna see people constantly applying themselves and I think that’s sometimes where some young athletes, and even some old athletes to tell you the truth, fold down when it comes to the ego. It keeps them from being champions because they don’t put the work in, they don’t put the effort in to I suppose achieve the next level and achieve the next kind of step up in their sport which only hard work and dedication can get you at the end of the day.

Fiona:                                        David good to talk to you, thank you very much for joining us.

David Barracosa:              Terrific thank you for having me.

Fiona:                                        David Barracosa who’s from Condor Performance and is a performance psychologist talking about one of our young tennis stars. It is 11:05, you’re with Fiona Wiley on Statewide Drive.

Speaker 7:                              On the next Conversations …

Speaker 8:                              Garth Calendar was a junior officer with the Australian Army in Iraq. One morning his crew was targeted in a roadside bomb attack and Garth became Australia’s first serious casualty in the war. He recovered, returned to Iraq, and then volunteered for Afghanistan to prevent the kind of bomb attacks that had nearly killed him.

Speaker 7:                              Join Sara Konosky for Conversations, tomorrow morning from 11:00 on ABC New South Wales.

Fiona:                                        Good afternoon, you’re with Statewide Drive and we’ve been talking about tennis players. Pete is in Nambucca Heads, hello Peter.

Speaker 9:                              Yeah, hi Fiona.

Fiona:                                        You wanna talk about tennis officials.

Speaker 9:                              Well just the game itself, the way the game is run. The chap that you just had on speaking.

Fiona:                                        He’s a psychologist.

Speaker 9:                              Yeah yeah the psychologist chap, yeah. He was talking about the fact that youngsters make a lot of money early in their lives out of tennis and golf. But the world of golf runs the game way differently than tennis because if you behaved in any slight manner that these young men are behaving in you would be rubbed out for five to 10 years or life.

Fiona:                                        Would you? I’ve seen them throwing their golf sticks around.

Speaker 9:                              No they don’t. No they don’t because they’re taught from the very beginning that you are not bigger than the game, you are just an individual and you can make a good living here so behave yourself or we will chuck you out.

Fiona:                                        Okay. I’m sure I’ve seen, my dad spends hours watching sport and I’m sure I’ve seen them throwing their golf sticks. I don’t watch a lot so I can’t be sure.

Speaker 9:                              No they never do.

Fiona:                                        Never do?

Speaker 9:                              No it is not allowed at all. You throw a golf club or you abuse an official, you’re out.

Fiona:                                        Okay.

Speaker 9:                              And tennis is gutless.

Fiona:                                        Okay Peter good to hear from you.

Speaker 9:                              See you Fi.

Fiona:                                        Thank you. From Peter Port McCory, McEnroe was a tennis brat ’til his late years. Nick Curious is starting early with bad behavior, he needs a long holiday. Dawn’s comments are correct says Peter. Re the ill-tempered sports people, the various sports codes need to simply not accept bad behavior as we heard from Peter in Nambucca Heads about the golf. And have the person leave the court or the field. This is the same principle as domestic violence. As long as the victim remains the behavior is being accepted and inadvertently condoned. Cease to accept the behavior and you will teach better behavior much quicker. This behavior is unacceptable on a court or field or anywhere in society. No work place would accept it and this is the sports person’s workplace. Liz in Winona, thank you very much for joining in the discussion this afternoon here on ABC News South Wales.

Author: David Barracosa

David Barracosa is one of the most sought after Performance Psychologists in Australia. Based in Sydney (New South Wales) he works with sporting clients from around the world via Skype and FaceTime video.