Beach Volleyball -- Focus
Misty May and Kerry Walsh won another gold medal, but their string of victories in individual sets was broken when they lost the first set in their match against Austria.
The NBC coverage showed the Americans fooling around on the volleyball pit with the U.S. men's basketball team before the match. According to commentary, Misty was OK with the diversion, but Kerry didn't want to do anything that would interfere with their focus on winning the gold medal. Misty prevailed, they had their fun, and they lost the next set that they played -- the first time they lost a set in three Olympics.
What do you think is the best strategy for an athlete? Focus, focus, focus, or lighten up between events?
I think it depends, and you can only reason backwards from the results. Remember in 1998 when Michelle Kwan cut herself off from mixing with the athletes and just practiced, while Tara was seen out and about and enjoyed every minute of the Olympic experience? People said that Tara's looser approach helped her stay loose and easy on the ice, while Michelle tightened up and "held back." Who knows?
I imagine there are times when complete focus creates too much tension, and others where a break in focus off the field creates a break in focus in the competition. But I don't know if there's a rule of thumb about particular sports or particular temperaments.
Wicked Yankee Girl
I think individuals respond to pressure differently, and so one strategy will not fit all for individual performers.
The more interesting question for me, is statistically, what's the best choice, a question whose answer would possibly work best for large teams, like the football/soccer teams. But even there, I think there is a place for investigation...is it better to have the quarterback in football or maybe the goalie in hockey relaxed and focussed than to go with what works best for the majority of the team?
I suppose this is why coaches make big bucks, but it should be something that could be dealt with statistically.