Who decided to label the athlete who hesitates under pressure not wanting to let down their team, family or community a choker while indifference can be labelled as mentally tough?  As the Olympics approach we need a timely reminder of the value of compassion. 

Is it any wonder that our athletes may feel exposed and vulnerable when spectators are encouraged to download gambling apps to bet on their success?  When they are asked to engage in social media to promote their sport, generate interest and secure sponsorship dollars?  For athletes to perform well they have to focus on the process and execution of their performance not the outcome, but this is becoming increasingly challenging when the rest of society is so heavily invested in the outcome. 

Advances in social media may make for better viewing of the Rio Olympics, but spare a thought for the cost it may pose to the athlete. 

Imagine standing before the world with no-more than a thin covering of lycra, where everyone can comment on your physical appearance, your emotional stability, physical prowess and “Likability”.

 Is it any wonder some may wobble under the pressure of the load they are carrying?

If you are an enthusiastic spectator it is time to think about reframing the language used to comment on less than hoped for athletic performances.   I invite you to have a compassionate view.  For most part athletes have a high level of emotional intelligence, the ability to read the emotional state of others, to anticipate body language, facial expression and movement for quick and decisive action.  These skills are highly valued in the sporting context, but emotional intelligence comes at a cost.  This increased sensitivity towards others can trigger unwanted anxiety especially if they feel they are disappointing others.

As a Psychologist to many of the World’s very elite athletes, I know they do not back away from the physical pain or challenge that comes with competing at the very top of their profession.  Perhaps that hesitation or rushed play that cost them the ideal outcome isn’t choking, rather they are only guilty of caring?  For some, that slip in thought or concentration will be them for years, berating themselves for a momentary lapse in emotional control.  So before you go to social media to post your disappointment in the performance of any of our athlete’s during these Olympic Games pause a moment and ask yourself “Where would the world be without caring.”