Campus Life

Here's a thought - Vancouver Gold

Canada's Olympic athletes work tirelessly to create strong bodies but what can't be overlooked is how mental strength can make the difference in reaching the medal podium in Vancouver. That's where University of Lethbridge alumnus Derek Robinson (BA '00, MEd '03) makes his contribution to the Olympic effort.

Robinson, a mental training consultant at the Canadian Sport Centre in Calgary, works primarily with Canada's national long track speed skating team. It is one of Canada's strongest groups and presents a variety of medal hopes, but to optimize performance, the athletes need to be in a perfect frame of mind. Robinson's role is to help each of them find a mental balance that will allow for success.

"I try to really personalize the mental training for the individual so it is more effective, so that on a personal

Alumnus Derek Robinson.
level, as human beings, they are able to be at their absolute best," says Robinson. "That's where my background in counselling education really comes in. Athletes have to know themselves extremely well so they can make the right choices in many of the situations they encounter."

Robinson, a former U of L Pronghorn men's hockey player (1995-2000), knows of what he speaks, having been an athlete before he was a psychologist. In fact, his athletic past almost prevented him from pursuing his interest in psychology.

"I was always an analytical player and had a huge interest in the mental aspect of performance," he says. "I wanted to be a psychologist and obviously loved sports, but I was a hockey player, I swore in the dressing room, drank beer in the pub and never really thought I had the right material to be a psychologist."

Now, that common bond he shares with his athletes is a huge benefit.

"My background in sports has really helped me communicate with the athletes because we're on the same page; we speak the same language," he says.

And when an athlete stands proudly on the podium, Robinson shares in the thrill of that moment.

"There's a lot of satisfaction in seeing them succeed," Robinson says. "The reality is that it's the athlete who ultimately has to perform, but it's a team effort. The coaches and support team at this level are phenomenal, and we're all working together to help athletes achieve their absolute best."