A psychological approach to the Rio Olympic Games

A psychological approach to Rio 2016

We are all aware of the years of physical and intense training involved in the lead up to a major event such as the Olympics.

However, we forget the mental preparation involved during an Olympic Games. There are slim margins of victory, which an athlete can take advantage of.

Richard Collins, Sport Psychologist at the English Institute of Sport (EIS), is working with the GB badminton team.

Here he offers you some useful tips on what to look out at the Rio Olympic Games and how this can be applied to your own game.  

The service routine

Backhand Flick ServeThe service routine is a critical element as it sets the tone of the point.

The top players will consistently practice technically sound serves in training.

However, the pre-serve routine can help us control anxiety and focus on what we need to do.

Whether this is counting to five before hitting the shuttle or a particular service call/gesture with your partner; a solid and consistent routine is key.

You will see the world’s best players, such as China’s Lin Dan always appear to be calm and composed with the same service routine, regardless of the situation.

Keeping calm, approaching the line and consistency is key to the perfect service routine. 

In the Games then, try and make a quick note of what a player does during their serve. See if they do the same thing every time.

Or, note if something changes and see if that impacts the game. Often, if a player is not performing well then they try and implement all sorts of changes which more often than not, backfire!


In Rio, you will see different momentum changes, such as a player on a quick run of points.

A top player will manage the speed of the game. But how can you control the speed in this situation?

Give yourself time and pace yourself. If you are losing points in quick succession slow the game down, attack less often, consider the good parts of your performance so far and focus on them.

Controlling the game at your pace is key, don’t feel rushed. Quite often you will see players even ask for the court to be mopped or a quick towel down and drink to halt the other person’s momentum after a point.

This can disrupt the flow of your opponent, but don’t overdo this! This one will be easy to see at the Rio Games, so keep an eye out for any tactical breaks!


Effective communication in sports is an absolute trait that a player must have to be successful.

Whether it is singles or doubles, communication between the coach and doubles partner needs to be delivered consistently.

What communication should you look out for on and off court at the Rio Olympic Games? Look out for consistent non verbal communication such as hand signals when serving, positive ‘high fives’ after winning points, eye contact with your partner and coach.

Due to the format of badminton coaches can only verbally communicate when the 11 points are reached by the first player(s). This 60 second break is vitally important for coach led advice and applying it in the game.

The key thing to look for here is a good mix of the communication direction (i.e coach to athlete and athlete to coach).

When you see this happening it is likely to show that they player(s) is thinking about the game, making notes on what is working well and what is not.

Keep an eye out for the communications styles of the coaches who come on during the breaks and see if it matches the subsequent performance