The EIS provides vital support services to sports organisations in the UK, including psychological support for athletes.
Performance decompression is about embracing and making sense of what you’ve gone through at an important competition, and then moving on.
It can often take a long time to move past intense experiences like the Olympic Games, which is why it’s vital to take time to process your emotions.
What is performance decompression?
You might have heard the term “post-Olympic blues” or something similar to describe the emotional drop that happens after the Olympic Games or another big competition. This feeling occurs when you haven’t had the opportunity to fully process your experiences. That’s where performance decompression comes in.
Performance decompression is essentially about making sense of the whole cycle you’ve been through and moving on. This process can be accomplished by following a number of steps.
Firstly, you should have a hot debrief (a dialogue that takes place immediately or very shortly after the event), where you discuss your immediate reaction to your experience at the Games with your entourage.
Next is what we call “Time Zero”, which is when you and your fellow athletes take some time away from sport. This stage is about restorative care, focusing on allowing you to live in the moment and connect with your loved ones. During this time you should try to ride the wave of emotions and know that it’s okay to feel however you feel.
This is followed by a return to the workplace (your sporting arena) and your engagement in a conversation to process the emotions that surround performance. During this time, you will explore what happened during the competition: the facts, the emotions and the thoughts that are linked to it. During this stage, it’s important to name your emotions and be willing to experience them. This process will also highlight the strengths and skills you used to meet the challenges you experienced. As you finish this stage, set one or two clear goals in terms of what you’re going to achieve next, using the meaning you’ve taken from your recent competition.
Finally, it’s time for the performance review. By this stage, you will have engaged with the emotions you felt at the time so that they don’t interfere with your analysis of your performance.
Performance decompression is essentially about making sense of the whole cycle you’ve been through and moving on.
We are emotionally driven beings, and emotions guide how we think, which in turn is why it is so important that we are willing to process them.
Why is performance decompression important?
The Olympic and Paralympic Games are big, intense life experiences, and it can take athletes and staff up to a year to get over these events. We are emotionally driven beings, and emotions guide how we think, which in turn is why it is so important that we are willing to process them. If not, these emotions may re-emerge at times when we don’t want them to.
There are just three years until Paris 2024, so it’s imperative that you make sense of the experiences you had in Tokyo, to avoid any after-effects or carryover from one Games edition to the next.
Sarah Cecil has been with the EIS since 2005, and in that time has worked with athletes and staff from several organisations across Olympic and Paralympic sport, such as the British Olympic Association, the LTA, UK Athletics and the Invictus Games.
Part of what the EIS does is to provide support services to the athletes and staff within these sports organisations. During the post-Games period, the EIS has a particular focus on what is often called performance decompression.