Frankie Jones in action in Delhi in 2014.
When Welsh athletes step out in Glasgow next month, it’s not just the body that has been put through its paces in preparation for competition time.
To get that vital edge, sports psychology is playing an increasingly vital part in keeping the mind on track with the physical rigours of top-level sport.
With three Sport Psychologists in place at Sport Wales’ Sport Science and Medicine Team, more than ever the mantra is that nothing can be left to chance.
And while we won’t see the tabloid mind games of a Premier League title race, it is the individual approach to athletes and sports that Sport Wales hopes will help the push for medals in Scotland.
“We have more hours of psychology with our Welsh athletes than we’ve ever had,” says Sport Wales Sport Psychologist Louise Jones. “And that’s not counting the support our athletes get when they are in British squads.
“The athletes we work with will all tackle situations differently and we look at the individual, how their sport works, how much time they have to think and prepare. The issues for a weightlifter are quite different from a swimmer for example.
“Much of the work we do will be focused on competition and trying to think through and replicate some of the pressures and challenges and how to deal with them.”
In rhythmic gymnastics the presentation is an increasingly key part of the athlete performance.
Stealing the eye of the judges and gaining the extra few marks that could mean a place or two on the leader board is part of the essence of the small margins seen in modern elite sport.
For the first time, a dance and performing arts tutor has been working with the squad in an attempt to give the sporting technique some extra show time sparkle.
“It’s been such an interesting exercise,” says Pontypridd-based dance and performing arts tutor Bridie Smith.
“When the public watch rhythmic gymnastics they won’t get the full picture of how technical it is. We worked together on hiding the thinking face and making the performance as seamless as possible.
“They are such a good group as well, it’s important we can bring their character out and show the judges how much they are enjoying the performance that they’ve trained so hard for.
“I was blown away by the work and attention to detail from the athletes and coaches.”
Brian Davies is Team Wales Chef de Mission for Glasgow but also the Sport Wales Manager overseeing the Institute services on a daily basis. He said:
“Getting the necessary sport science and medicine support services in place to make sure our athletes are able to compete at their best is incredibly important.
“We are lucky that many of Sport Wales’ practitioners have been working with a great deal of the Welsh Commonwealth Games athletes for some time now and are aware of their various demands and needs.
“To improve the process, our practitioners work together as a team across the various science and medicine disciplines and deliver an integrated, well planned service to the athletes.”
At the Games, three psychologists will provide round-the-clock support to the huge Team Wales contingent. Particular targets will be athletes in finals or at key points of competition.
“We are clear that we want to help our athletes achieve the very best they can,” adds Jones.
“The majority of the work is done now but sports know we can support them in Glasgow when needed.
“The main thing we want athletes to do is prepare as they would usually do. They have the skills and passion to push themselves to achieve their optimum performance and we’ve prepared as best we can for how to deal with a multi-sport event, as we know it’s different to usual competition.
“All the focus now is on the shared aims we’ve been working towards.”