In February, thousands of athletes from around the world will descend on PyeongChang, South Korea, with dreams of stepping onto a podium. Among them will be members of the U.S. speed skating team, who have received support from the Under Armour Performance Team.
Dan McDonogh, 2012 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and UA senior manager of performance training, knows what it’s like to ready the athletes for competition:
“Whether it’s helping analyze and/or giving second opinions on collected data, providing an extra set of hands for training, or connecting the team with one of our technology partners, we are a resource for the team,” he explains.
McDonogh says that one of the biggest challenges coaches face at this stage in training is determining each athlete’s level of readiness. While technology plays a significant role in producing helpful physical data, it often falls short on mental and emotional measures.
“There are situations where the data might be saying an athlete is physically ‘ready,’ but the athlete’s mental readiness might be [lacking], or vice versa. Most teams have several coaches (skills coach, strength and conditioning coach, sports physiologist, etc.), and the most successful teams are the ones that have open communication with all the coaches.”
One simple way coaches approach potential mental shortcomings is by reminding athletes that they are primed and experienced competitors.
“The reality is that the Olympics are just another competition,” he says. “The athletes have competed in their particular event hundreds of times; it’s not their first rodeo, so to speak. But the spectacle of the Olympics seems to apply more pressure on them. In my opinion, a lot of it comes down to athletes’ ability to filter out the self-doubt and pressure and be able to tell themselves, ‘I have been here before. I have put in the work, and I am ready. It’s just another race.’”
McDonogh has every confidence that the speed skating team will perform well this year.
“Last year was a great year for the team in terms of medals in the World Cup races, and this year [will prove] to be no different.”
The 2018 Winter Olympics take place February 9–25.