With the 2016 Rio Olympic Games about to close, it is interesting to consider the other benefits to participation besides medals.
Of course, the win and the medal is the goal of competition, rightly so. Team Ireland athletes securing medals in Rio is an incredible achievement and one that will inspire further ambition to win more; it is what the competition is about. However, there are other very valuable gains from participation in this Olympic Games, and it is important to acknowledge and appreciate these gains so that we do not miss out on other hugely important wins. The great thing about these benefits is that, on a different scale, they apply to all sports participation - there are so many other values along with medals.
Top 10 finish
Electric Ireland sponsored the Irish Olympic team for the Rio Olympics, and in the lead-up they carried out research about Olympic participation. One of the facts highlighted by this research is that of the approximately 7.4 billion world’s population, only just over 11,200 athletes would qualify to represent their country at the Rio games. This gives a ratio of 0.0001% of the population making it as Olympians. So, to secure a place as an Olympic athlete is in itself a huge achievement, given that only a fraction of the world’s population will ever reach this goal in their lifetime.
Team Ireland athletes produced an extraordinary number of top 10 finishes at this Olympic games, meaning that Irish athletes pushed even further and delivered world class performances that landed them into the elite group within the elite group; the people who put themselves into medal contention. The value of this is that it tells these athletes that what they are doing is working and that they are in the top echelons of the world in terms of performance. This then spurs them on to continue to reach for that podium finish. As a result, confidence, motivation, ambition, satisfaction and pride are all heightened. Reaching our own big goals in life can give us all the same sense of confidence, motivation and satisfaction.
Olympic finalists
Team Ireland also produced a significant number of Olympic Finalists in Rio. To progress through initial rounds to secure a place in an Olympic Final is quite something. Along with requiring excellence in physical output, it means smashing through any psychological barriers – athletes had to believe that it was possible for them to be an Olympic Finalist in order to produce the performances that got them there. This was even more incredible given that so many of the Irish Olympic Finalists achieved this at their very first Olympic Games. So, to be able to call themselves an Olympic Finalist will forever remind them of the fact that in life we can face our demons and fears and work to be whoever we want to be.
Personal bests
With a slew of personal bests at the Rio Olympics, Team Ireland athletes pushed past their previous top performances in sport to exceed what life had shown them was their best and the value of this is immense. It shows that there is always more in us, that when we keep going we can make progress, that even under challenging situations we can deliver to the top end of our range of abilities.
On the sports field we often cheered on one Team Ireland athlete wearing the green jersey, with the tricolour displayed. However, behind that one athlete was a team of people who had contributed to get them there. The family of the athlete are the people who have supported on a daily basis, whether it be putting dinners on the table, keeping the household running whilst the athlete is focusing on competition, or being there to listen to worries and concerns along the way. Also, part of the team behind the team are the managers, coaches, physiotherapists, doctors, psychologists who have prepared the athlete for optimum performance. The value of teamwork is the knowledge that working together we can achieve great things as everyone contributes something different.
Community spirit
There were times during this Olympic Games that we all cheered and whooped at outstanding performances by Irish athletes. There were also times when we just wanted to hug the athlete for whom things had not gone to plan. It was amazing to see the outpouring of support, encouragement, compassion and respect for these athletes. We saw it online, in print and on radio, when people took the chance to express their continued respect and admiration for members of Team Ireland. This is especially significant when we live in a world where criticising, trolling and bullying are words that we sadly so often hear. Yet, athletes for whom the Rio Olympics did not work out well were shown a lot of love and support by their own communities and by the wider community that makes up this country. People saw their genuine efforts, their authenticity, the integrity in their attempts and these are all qualities to admire.
There is huge benefit to having a community feel around a sports performance – the athlete feels supported and the community gets an opportunity to come together and stand behind the athlete and let them know that they are respected and supported no matter what. In life if we take this community spirit with us it will help to foster those feelings of support, respect, encouragement and pride in our own area.
Final Thought:
“Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it” ~ George Halas
Performance and Life Coach