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Learning from sport burnout and overtraining
Learning from sport burnout and overtraining

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2.3 Pendleton and the psychiatrist: a decade later

An athlete’s motivational environment has a huge influence on their well-being, and the coach–athlete relationship is a key factor in developing a positive motivational climate (Reinboth and Duda, 2006).

In 2014, two Olympic gold medals later and now in retirement, Pendleton reflected on her first meeting in Switzerland with Peters, her psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is someone who is trained as a doctor but who has specialised with further training in mental health. Peters took a more unusual route into working in sport than most people, and he and Pendleton enjoyed a fruitful professional relationship.

Listen to their thoughts in the next activity.

Activity 3 Reflecting on Switzerland and the mental side of training

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Listen to this conversation between Pendleton and Peters, which was part of a BBC broadcast. What surprises you about this conversation and what did you learn from it?

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It was striking how much rapport there was between them; they obviously know each other very well. It was surprising that the self-harm was not mentioned but perhaps being on public radio influenced this.

In terms of what you may have learned: you may have noticed the confidence, possibly with hindsight bias, with which Peters could identify a ‘gritty determination’ and ‘will to succeed’ in Pendleton at the time. He suggests that she probably would have been successful in another field such was her drive. He also commented on Pendleton’s ‘need to prove herself to herself’ and that this internal focus was claimed to be more prevalent in females. Some may dispute this.

Victoria Pendleton, by her own admission, had perfectionistic personality traits. Perfectionists have a much higher risk of experiencing burnout and overtraining. This is why you will turn your attention to understanding perfectionism in more detail in the following section.