Waterpolo AIS elite athletes at Timeout in Moruya, Basil Sellers House 2003
Two weekends ago, The AFL team Sydney Swans were in blistering form and Geelong were humiliated. Last weekend these two teams met in a preliminary final. Geelong punished the Sydney Swans in a bewildering performance. Why such performance anomalies.
I recall as a long and triple jumper, indeed winning titles, with the same enthusiasm and training and the rest of it, one day everything would come together and the next week, it was a schmoozle.
It may not surprise any of us that there is a huge amount of research on this, but no real answers.
Much of the research says it appears it all has something to do with mental attitudes - somehow or other, because all other physical factors are the same (especially when it is the same athlete as in individualistic sports, like Swimming and Track & Field).
The first two links below are "common-language" articles, there is the summary of one of them quoted exactly.
AIS sports scientists at Timeout in Moruya, Basil Sellers House, 2003
Ideas behind this conundrum
This is a quote from Margot Fonteyn, the ballerina (or words to this effect), which indicate the biology of muscles and muscle-memory needs constant updating by regular training - and yes, the biology indicates this. Muscles to start to atrophy within 3 days.
This also indicates mental acuity – there may be some truth to this - if you think you are on top of the game and are on a high due to recent success, your head may not let you train quite so well before the next match.
If I don't practice for a day, I notice.
If I don't practice for 2 days, my partner notices.
If I don't practice for 3 days, the audience notices.
Defining what makes a champion (or champion team) is no easy feat, but the personality traits and characteristics considered here can be easily spotted in many of the sporting greats.
Although there will always be differences amongst elite performers, it’s clear that there are a few stand-out personality characteristics that can determine success. Yes, superior skills and training hard are vital, but amongst the elite it’s the mind that is the winner."
This paper may be of some use available in the Open Library -
Sydney 2000: The Interplay between Emotions, Coping, and the Performance of Olympic-Level Athletes.
Gymnast AIS young elite athletes at Timeout in Moruya, Basil Sellers House 2001
These have become part of our collective "knowledge".
The talk by the coach at half-time has been known to turn a game around, many many times.
We talk about the "fire in the belly" of the underdog, often meaning they have more incentive and win - or at least improve.
An observation - why did Usain Bolt announce his imminent retirement, and then try to win another race? Only conclusion many of us Track and Field tragic's can come to is that, mentally, he had already retired.
Perhaps like, it's said, the old head master who is very lax and slack in his final year at the school.
As stated at the head of this article, there is a huge amount of research on this, but no real answers.
Softball Coaches AIS at their coaching camp with Dr Mark Tronson 2008
Christians missionaries down the centuries have something on an answer for such anomalies when one week many of their hearers respond to the Gospel message and on another occasion, the response minimal.
The same with great movements of the Holy Spirit when thousands upon thousands came to follow Jesus Christ – the great revivals – then it stops.
In sport, this is not quite the same, there may well be Christians in both camps (as in team sports). I'm following this research with interest as it happens week after week in all forms of sporting activity, including performers, entertainers and the like.
(Mark Tronson is filling in for Josh Hinds our regular sport writer in Week 1 of each Cycle. Josh is on mission in the north west outback of Qld)
Basketball AIS elite athletes at Timeout in Moruya, Basil Sellers House 2004
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at
Dr Mark Tronson - a 4 min video
Chairman – Well-Being Australia
Baptist Minister 44 years
- 1984 - Australian cricket team chaplain 17 years (Ret)
- 2001 - Life After Cricket (18 years Ret)
- 2009 - Olympic Ministry Medal – presented by Carl Lewis
- 2019 - The Gutenberg - (ARPA Christian Media premier award)
Gutenberg video - 2min 14sec
Married to Delma for 44 years with 4 children and 5 grand children