I COMMEND the national men’s hockey coach A. Arul Selvaraj for setting a gold medal target for his team at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. This will secure the team’s qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympics. The message is clear and his Speedy Tigers team understand what is expected in terms of performance.

However, the same cannot be said for the Malaysian contingent, which is sending 289 athletes to compete. These athletes will be competing in 22 out of 40 sports, involving 142 events, yet are only vying for 27 medals, without any target set for the gold medal.

During the 2018, Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, Malaysia sent 417 athletes but secured only seven gold, 13 silver and 16 bronze medals. Generally, national sports associations should encourage athletes to surpass their previous performances.

The 289 athletes must receive motivation and support from their coaches, sports psychologists and officials. Maintaining a reserved mindset can hinder athletes’ performances as it may discourage them from giving their best in pursuit of a gold medal.

The psychological aspect of sports is just as important as the physical aspect. Studies indicate that setting clear goals and targets is one of the most effective strategies for giving athletes a psychological edge.

Setting performance goals, especially when aiming for gold, is an important technique for enhancing the performances of athletes who have dedicated months to preparing for an international tournament.

Coaches and the National Sports Council have a crucial role in assisting athletes to maintain focus on their objectives.

Athletes need continuous motivation, and goal-setting gives them a clear sense of direction, especially in the face of intense competition, in the short and long term. It is important to provide athletes with coaching and counselling to help them improve over time.

World-renowned American Olympics swimmer Michael Phelps, who clinched 23 gold, three silver and two bronze medals and holds a record for the highest number of Olympic medals, adopted a goal-setting strategy that involved establishing smaller goals for individual events. He meticulously set target times for the early, middle and final stages of the event.

His long-time coach Bob Bowman once described Phelps as potentially the most goal-driven individual on Earth.

Our athletes need clear objectives and a determined mindset to attain their highest potential. Setting specific goal targets constitutes a significant component of mental resilience that will motivate athletes to deliver their utmost performance.

The ultimate reward is witnessing our national flag, the Jalur Gemilang, raised high and our national anthem resonating worldwide while the athlete proudly wears the gold medal around his neck.

C. Sathasivam Sitheravellu


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