There’s more to high performance sport than being in top physical condition and training for months at a time. There’s also mental conditioning.
Abbotsford sports psychologist Roger Friesen is currently at the Pan Am Games, supporting and cheering on several cyclists he works with, including the men’s and women’s team sprint racers, both of which sped to gold medals last week.
Friesen combines his teaching duties as an associate professor in the Kinesiology program at the University of the Fraser Valley with a thriving consultancy in sports psychology, helping athletes hone their mental game.
He has been working with members of the Canadian cycling team for years, helping them strive for peak performances.
“There are at least five components of performance: technical, physiological, team, mental, and emotional,” Friesen says. “My job is to help athletes maximize their performance by focusing on the mental and emotional realm.”
Friesen has been a sports psychology consultant for more than 20 years, working with athletes from a variety of sports.
“The psychological development of athletes has always fascinated me,” he says. “Why is an athlete brilliant one week and like a completely different person the next? Often it is a result of emotional stress or a lapse in mental toughness. If you can’t hold it together mentally, your talents can be wasted.”
Friesen has been working with road, track, and BMX athletes from the national cycling team for past three years as they prep for the Pan Am Games and the Olympic games in Rio next summer.
The focus of the psychological preparation depends on the individual athlete, their sport, and their priorities.
“The biggest hurdle facing the BMX riders is fear. It’s a very intense competition and there is very real risk of crashing and injury, so the athletes have to learn to handle that fear.”
With track cycling, the challenge is living up to expectations.
“The women’s pursuit team is expected to win, so they have some big expectations to deal with.”
He joined UFV’s new Kinesiology and Physical Education program in 1995 after earning his master’s degree.
As part of his community service at UFV he works with members of the Cascade athletic teams, locating his office in the athletic department.
“My door is always open to our student athletes as individuals, and I also present seminars to them as teams and groups.”