Former Olympian speaks at Laurier

Penny Werthner, a former Olympian and sports psychologist from the University of Ottawa, was the speaker for this year’s Fred Binding Memorial Lecture, which was held Monday evening at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Werthner provided a fascinating lecture, discussing her experience as a sports psychologist. She has worked with many Olympians, including diver Emilie Heymans, freestyle skier Warren Shouldice, and canoe/kayak gold medalist Adam van Koeverden.

She stated that sports psychology is “a [psychological] process of figuring out what works for each athlete, and it is [her] job to discover that”.

In her lecture, Werthner discussed the many skills that are necessary for psychological preparation in athletes, including staying focused, managing emotions, finding the right level of intensity and the ability to recover from mental fatigue.

Many of Werthner’s points throughout the lecture could be related to academic students as well as athletes.

Her views on focus were particularly interesting for students. Werthner suggested that as an athlete, it is necessary to know what to focus on. She stated that focus is, “Easy to talk about, not so easy to do.”

Focus is a learning process that takes time to master, but according to Werthner, it is possible: the most successful athletes do it in every competition they are in.

In the lecture, Werthner also outlined the significance of expectations.
“Whenever [an athlete] says ‘I should’, ‘I must’, ‘I ought’, ‘I need to’; [they] are in big trouble,” she said.

Although positive expectations are necessary, they should not cloud one’s mind, distracting them from their present situation and ultimately creating an outcome that was not expected.

She stated that athletes must learn how to “recover from devastation,” claiming that “psychological effects affect us physiologically.”

Werthner discussed the impact long-term stress has on individuals, and the negative ways it can affect their physical health and well-being, highlighting the importance of relaxation.

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