Developing a Mental Game Plan: Mental Periodization for Achieving a “Flow” State for the Track and Field Throws Athlete

### Abstract

Athletes participating in all levels of sport experience extraordinarily high levels of stress, expectations, and physical challenges. The throws event athlete in track and field should strive to achieve an optimal state of arousal and concentration during specific competitions. A strong body of research evaluating the qualities of the flow state in athletics and psychological skills training is present in sport psychology. A practical guide for coaches to apply psychological skills training in a periodized training plan is missing. The purpose of this article is to: 1) describe a periodized annual plan for mental skills training and 2) suggest a method to interject those skills into the competition day routine to achieve flow for the track and field thrower.

**Key words:** flow, mental toughness, mental periodization, track and field, throws

### Introduction

Achieving an optimal arousal and focus state is beneficial for successful throwers. The optimal state for a thrower can be referred to as a “flow” state (6). Whereas most throws coaches are quite adept in training the necessary physiological systems, many coaches lack a proper framework for addressing psychological components. What is absent in the literature is a system of psychological preparation that is thorough enough to match the physical preparation and help the athlete to achieve “flow.”

Mental Periodization has emerged as the latest tool to help coaches prepare athletes (11). Mental periodization is a systematic mental conditioning program designed for peak performance for specific competitions. Recognition of the need of a theoretical framework for the periodization of psychological skills is easily accepted intellectually – however, the practicalities of putting this framework together for coaches have not yet been fully realized. Thus, coaches and sport psychology consultants must work together to properly implement mental periodization plans. This paper attempts to bridge the gap in building a mental periodization plan for helping track and field throws athletes achieve “flow.”

#### Flow State in Athletics

The idyllic mindset enables the body to function automatically with little conscious effort. In this optimal state, complex tasks appear to be effortlessly accomplished and time is even perceptually transcended. Coaches and sport psychology consultants often refer to this optimal mindset as a flow state or “the zone.” For some athletes, performance in the zone is achieved only a few times in their careers; however, with systematic training using mental periodization the opportunities for achieving flow state are increased. Where does this concept of a flow state fit into athletics? The body of research exploring the relationship between flow states and sport supports the notion that a flow state also acts as a peak performance state in athletics.

A flow state or “the zone” is an experience athletes get wherein everything they do seems effortless. Within the state of flow is a delicate balance between skill level and challenge (13). If the demands of an activity are greater than one’s skills, then a state of anxiety is a result. If skill level exceeds the situational challenges, boredom will result. A flow state includes the achievement of a positive state void of either of these conditions (6). The participants allow themselves to be athletes and surrender their subconscious minds to “auto pilot”. In this state, athletes produce their best performances. When an athlete is properly physically trained, the body is conditioned, and skills are well-practiced or “programmed” so that when an athlete peaks for a championship, they are in their best physical shape for the best possible performance. Flow is a transient state and it must be viewed as a process rather than an overall state to achieve (23). Trying to anticipate when flow will occur or getting into flow is not very likely because there is no direct route and often thoughts about flow distract from actually achieving a flow state (6). However, the more often athletes can create similar processes especially in practice; the more likely they are to experience this state. For instance, flow can occur by accident, but common themes are associated with optimal experience.

Csikszentmihayi lays out essential steps for producing flow based on the use of physical skills: a) set an overall goal, b) find ways to measure progress, c) concentrate on what one is doing and make distinctions in the challenges, d) develop skills necessary to interact with opportunities available, and e) raise the stakes if the activity becomes boring (6).

![Figure 1. Mental Periodization](/files/volume-13-number-4/6/figure-1.jpg “Figure 1. Mental Periodization”)

Similarly, Jackson (12) researched 16 national champion figure skaters with at least 13 years of skating experience. Results revealed four important dimensions for allowing flow states to occur. 1) Positive mental attitude: inclusion of positive thoughts, feelings of confidence, and motivation to do well; 2) Positive precompetitive & competitive affect: including feelings of being relaxed and having fun; 3) Maintaining appropriate focus: staying in the present moment; 4) Physical readiness: being well-trained.

In order to construct the optimal performance model for the thrower, a training program must be developed that systematically and progressively builds the proper physiological abilities, necessary fundamental skills, and psychological tools that will lead to the achievement of peak performance for targeted competitions (17). Coaches may get impatient with athletes because they cannot perform at full capacity during the championship season and coaches fail to realize the true cause of an athlete’s technical difficulties: the training plan. Training programs often lack carefully planned long-term goals agreed upon by both coach and athlete program through mental periodization. Sound planning is essential to elite sport performance and mental skills must be developed at the same rate as physical skills. Proper sequencing of the training effects function further contributes to sport form and peak performance (3).

#### Mental Periodization Training for Flow

Mental Periodization is intended to maximize effects of psychological and physical training. Similarly to physical periodization concepts, the goal of such programs is to focus on specific competitions, which allow the athlete to “peak” (11). Thus, mental periodization programs are centered on varying specific themes, timing, sequence, and interaction of the training stimuli to allow optimum adaptive response in pursuit of specific competitive goals (11). Each training phase addresses and reinforces specific mental skill components to enhance the opportunity for flow states to occur.

For the track and field throws athlete, mental periodization training is broken up into two macrocycles (long-term training cycles) for the indoor and outdoor season. These are further broken into mesocycles (shorter-term cycles), each lasting three to four weeks (which is the summation of training effects from various stimuli). These phases have specific themes and are designed to blend smoothly, unfolding in an evolutionary process (3).

#### Preparation Phase (General and Specific) Microcycles 1-12:

The goals of the preparation phase are two-fold; first, to develop and nourish one’s motivation; second, to help the athlete merge awareness and action of performance. During this period, the first mental skill addressed is motivation. Developing and enriching one’s motivation requires a balance of merging appropriate challenges and skills. An accurate balance puts one in a desired flow state as opposed to feelings of anxiety or boredom. For instance, if one’s skill level is (or is perceived to be) advanced for the task at hand, then boredom will result. On the other hand, if the challenge is too high, then anxiety will result. If a throw athlete and coach can effectively manage merging the challenge and enhancing the skill level on a consistent basis, then the opportunity arises for flow to occur.

Performers and coaches alike often set goals, but are often solely outcome oriented rather than performance or process based. Examples of outcome goals are frequently indicative of beating an opponent or record. However, outcome goals can often cause anxiety for performers due to the high challenge and relatively uncontrollable nature of competition. Contrarily, performance and process goals are more effective because they are based on aspects within the performers’ control. Process goals allow athletes to accept challenges more easily while not becoming burdened by feelings of anxiety. Alas, the acceptance of a process goal can also engender boredom from not having effective challenges.

An effective process goal could be to execute a certain skill three efforts in a row, or to complete a certain skill by the end of the week. Process goals should encompass every facet of training including physical and mental goals, and practice and weight training goals. Research has labeled this effective merging of challenge and skill “intrinsic motivation.” Intrinsically motivated athletes strive to master the task at hand, seek challenges, enjoy competition, and focus on the fun of the sport (26).

Feedback regarding one’s goals and challenges must be effectively monitored by both coach and athlete. For instance, Czisentmihayi (6) stated that feedback of execution must be present in order for flow to occur. Thus, allowing athletes to experience progress and results (no matter how small) presents the best opportunity for successful skill execution and optimal functioning. During the preparation phase, different types of competition can be a means of evaluating progress. For instance, throwing performance tests provide feedback, yet instead of contesting the competition implement, one might challenge athletes with a different weight implement, such as a heavy shot put. Full technique tests may be performed with overweight implements like the 5k shot put instead of the 4k shot put for women. Testing technical parts of the throw or warm-up drills, such as the standing throw, can be utilized for performance feedback. Throws may also be performed into a net to best provide appropriate “technical” or kinesthetic feedback.

Within the paradigm of flow states, merging awareness of self and action is a key component. In addition, Jackson (12) points out that physical readiness for competition is an important pre-requisite for flow states to occur. Being physically ready for competition requires an awareness of one’s ideal arousal levels. The Individual Zones of Optimal (IZOF) hypothesis of arousal proclaims that for every situation, an athlete has an optimal arousal level (10). Coaches must help athletes discover their best recipe for achieving optimal states of flow. The initial process is recognizing one’s optimal arousal level through identifying past peak experiences and past poor performances. For instance, Orlick (18) designed a competitive reflections assessment that asks the athlete to assess arousal level, cognitions, and awareness during both best and worse competitive experiences. This exercise is intended for athletes (and coaches) to begin to recognize their optimal states before and during competition. Within the twelve weeks of the preparation phase, this worksheet can be utilized every few weeks as a progress check. As the athlete reflects on more recent experiences during the start of training, he/she can begin to identify key components to successful practices.

#### Precompetitive Phase Microcycles 13-17:

The pre-competitive stage is intended to reinforce one’s capacity to concentrate effectively and create a positive effect before and during competition (12). In order to augment these skills, phase I should accomplish setting process goals, evaluating such progress, and merging one’s arousal level during competitive states. Only by thoroughly reflecting on one’s optimal arousal level can he/she recognize such barriers. For instance, perhaps outside distractions, worry about past performances, or future events cause the throw athlete to worry or to be distracted during competition. Thus, being totally absorbed in the task at hand is a requisite skill necessary for the process of flow (6).

The establishment and maintenance of a pre-competitive routine is paramount for flow to occur. Research has shown the establishment of a routine is effective for performance and the most effective means for athletes to focus on the task at hand and control arousal levels (2,10). A few components have been noted for a routine to appropriately focus one’s attention.

First, breathing and being focused on a cleansing breath prior to a throw appears to be the easiest and most effective means of a consistent routine. The acquisition of diaphragmatic breathing consists of slow, controlled breathing patterns that originate in the abdomen as opposed to the chest cavity. These types of breathing patterns are designed to reduce muscle tension, and shift one’s focus to internal stimuli of controlled respirations (20). Within the realm of competition and the pre-throw routine, the onset of the routine is an ideal opportunity to utilize a deep, controlled, diaphragmatic breath. Variations of a cleansing breath are abundant, but a common theme appears to be counting both the inhalation and exhalation to a specific count, such as four seconds each.

A second main component of a routine is to utilize proper self-talk during execution (22). Individuals possess a limited attentional capacity (24) and the attentional demands are even lower for well-learned tasks. Due to our limited attentional capacity, research has suggested that a cue word, either instructional or motivational in nature, might have a positive effective on performance (5). The majority of research has supported that an effective cue word prevents lapses in concentration due to unwarranted or noxious thoughts. Since research varies regarding whether motivational or instructional cue words are best, implementing the use of different types to discover the most individually effective is warranted. Practices can vary in which an athlete can utilize a motivational cue word such as “power,” or “release,” and other practices the athlete can focus on a technical cue such as “turn” or “tight.”

Another contribution to routines includes the practice of allowing athletes to choose pre-competitive music. Research has suggested the use of music in a variety of capacities including within pre-competition routines to help regulate arousal and concentration (14). Music has also been shown to help athletes directly with flow states (19). Recent results from Mesagano et al. (15) revealed that the inclusion of music helped facilitate performance in free-throw shooting by decreasing public self-awareness and distracting thoughts. With the availability of portable music, athletes can chose any type that pleases them, without the worry of distracting others. The implementation of a set “play-list” is an important aspect of building confidence and alleviating anxiety. In a track and field competition music can be utilized during the general warm-up but headsets cannot be brought on to the field of play; because of this rule, it is important that athletes do not become too reliant on headphones at practice.

#### Competitive Phase Microcycles 18-27:

Up to this point in training, specific processes have been implemented that increase one’s chances for flow to occur. It is important to reinforce the previous examples of process goals, awareness of optimal arousal levels, providing situations for feedback, and establishing pre-throw routines. Within the last phase of periodization, additional components as pointed out by Jackson (12), and Reardon and Gordin(23), are to reinforce the positive mental affect through confidence. Additionally, Csiksentmihayi (6) suggests developing skills necessary to interact with available opportunities.

Nearer to specific competitions, it is important to create both a physical and mental taper for the championship competitions. As mentioned previously, confidence and control are interwoven constructs. The main goal is for athletes to have confidence in aspects that he/she can control. Csiksentmihayi (6) suggests that “it is not the sense of being in control, but the sense of exercising control in difficult situations” (p.61). Within the sporting realm, the outcome is out of one’s control; however, nearer to competition the focus naturally becomes more result based, which often raises arousal levels and adds irrelevant thoughts. One avenue is for athletes to accept more responsibility and control over their pre-competitive states. One strategy may be for coaches and athletes to collaborate on practices for the day. For instance, athletes can exercise control over their preparation and coaches can reinforce confidence by helping choose components focused on athletes’ strengths.

Coaches can have a direct impact on an athlete’s confidence during this stage. Bandura (1) suggested four main sources of self-confidence including past performances (I’ve done it before) and vicarious experiences (modeling). It is important to recognize past accomplishments and goals achieved earlier in the training phases. The mere identification of progress and past performances can elevate one’s confidence.

One avenue for exploring both of these sources is to create a highlight film of successful past accomplishments. These videos can serve as compilations of specific skills, competition, and personal bests and can include music of the athletes’ choice. Templin and Vernacchia (25) created highlight films of specific basketball players’ performances and set the videos to inspirational music. Players watched themselves throughout the season and although causal relationships were not established, performance increased for most players involved in the study. The video is played often enough to provide the athlete an avenue to visualize their own success before and during competition when video is not readily available.

Mental periodization training can then involve watching the mentioned highlight performance video and utilizing the images from the video as a template for imagery. Athletes should bring all of the senses into play to recreate the video in their own minds. The effective amalgamation of senses is termed synaesthesis (17). Athletes should rehearse the sequences of their event or sport as if looking through their own eyes, noticing all the shapes, colors, and textures. Competitors should immerse themselves in the smells, sounds, and general feel of their competitive environment. After the athlete has become proficient with imagery, coaches can later implement a series of “what if” scenarios: unplanned competition situations that may include unforeseen obstacles. Athletes should be taught to use imagery to help cope with late starts, poor conditions, tough opponents, and minor mishaps during the pre-competitive phase so they are prepared for the “uncontrollables” during the competition phase. Preparing mentally for any adversity before it happens ensures that athletes will not be impacted in competition when such situations arise.

Lastly, an athlete’s self-talk during this phase is also important for the process of flow. Effectively monitoring self-talk requires a focus on the positive aspects of performance, which in turn reaffirms positive self-talk (22). Developing statements that remain positive and focused on the task at hand is important for reinforcing positive self-talk. As Gill (9) points out, one strategy is for athletes to develop pre-planned statements to help produce positive thoughts and images. Athletes can develop and experiment with various statements in practice such as “I am mentally tough,” “It’s no big deal,” and “stay relaxed.” Self instructions, or instructional self-talk, can likewise be used during practice sessions to build a technical habit or immediately before a performance to serve as a technical cue (8).

#### Preparing for Competition Day: Getting into the Flow

Coaches without the school-hired asset of a sport psychology consultant can take the initiative themselves and implement mental periodization training for flow on the day of competition. But keep in mind that competition day skills need to be introduced early in the training program and developed as the training program unfolds. Utilizing techniques that have not been properly rehearsed may be more detrimental than beneficial to the athlete’s overall performance.

Imagery and instructional self-talk can be utilized on the day of competition. Positive imagery in sports involves imagining oneself doing the needed athletic performance. Imagery can be utilized as practice between throws in a competition (8), or immediately before a competition as a cue and to increase self-efficacy (8,16). Self-instructions (sometimes called instructional self-talk), such as a shot putter saying to himself, “eyes on the spot when you throw,” can likewise be used during practice sessions to build a habit or immediately before a performance to serve as a cue. Again, due to our limited attentional capacity, having a cue word either instructional or motivational in nature may have a positive effect on performance (5). In a sport like track and field, the coach may not be within earshot of the athlete on certain competition days and may have to use hand signals, further emphasizing the need for easy and direct cue words.

The application of psychological skills for competitive situations requires the execution of the pre-competition routine (Table 2), a sound pre-performance routine, and a sound recovery/refocusing routine for use in the heat of competition (7,21). All of these routines need to be developed, utilized, and applied in a practice situation in order to be able to effectively implement them in a competitive situation. Elements of a competition day mental plan include:

– Energy Management Skills
– Checklist For Competition Day
– Mental Plan Chronology

Table 2. Sample Pre-Competition Routine for a Shot Putter

<td >

4 Hours Prior 2 Hours Prior 1 Hour Prior 30 Min. Prior 20 Min. Prior Competition Post-Competition
Video review Arrive at the competition site and set up camp Execute a series of planned walks, jogs, and skips to increase body temperature Execute a specific warm up drills to set up the technique Execute a predetermined number of warm-up throws Counts breaths in between throws to re-focus for next throw Review competitive strategy
Visualize proper technique Walk over and examine throwing venue Begin to achieve physical arousal Feel the desired body positions during the drills Count breaths in between throws to re-focus for the next throw
Review technical cues worked on in the previous week of practice Count breaths if one loses focus until concentration is once again reached Positive self-talk: no negative thoughts about or during throwing warm-up Positive self-talk: no negative thoughts about or during throwing warm-up
Positive self-talk: review all reasons why athlete should do well that meet
Count breaths if one loses focus until concentration is once again reached

A pre-competition routine may include a planned warm up, positive self-talk, a focus on performance goals, a relaxation strategy, controlling the type and amount of interaction with others, an imagery session followed by a nap earlier in the day, and monitoring fluid and food intake. Ultimately, athletes need to experiment with the pre-competition routine in practice with the guidance of the coach keeping the three skill areas of flow in mind to help the athlete evaluate the strategy.

Coaches must include relaxation strategies in two ways: on a regular basis as part of the mental periodization program and as part of a pre-performance routine. When performed regularly, relaxation techniques can reduce the physiological response to stress, prevent the cumulative effect of stress, improve memory and concentration, increase energy levels, and reduce muscle tension (4). Remember, the power of flow is a feeling that makes a difficult task fun, and daunting tasks feel manageable. The power of flow is present when your athletes have the confidence to accept their situations, when they enjoy the process, and when they have the enthusiasm needed to accomplish specific results.

### Conclusions

This manuscript represents only a modest beginning point of mental periodization training for flow (see 11 for a further discourse on the topic). Competing at a high level requires a well-planned program of physical training and technical preparation. Psychological preparation for any athletic endeavor is a complex process that involves acquiring, practicing, and applying many different specific psychological skills. Many athletes and coaches utilize training programs that concentrate too heavily on physical training. Inadequate mental preparation can easily overcome and undermine an excellent physical technical preparation. Flow, or what many experts in the field term “being in the zone”, is the goal of athletes and coaches alike. Introducing a plan to train the psychological skills along with the physical skills will take the guesswork out of performing to the best of an athlete’s ability when it counts in big meet situations. Preparing mentally for any adversity ensures that athletes will not be stifled in competition when unexpected stressful circumstances arise.

### Applications in Sport

This manuscript has several important implications for athletes and coaches. Dedicated and driven coaches seeking success cannot stop their knowledge base at just understanding the physical aspect of training. Sport psychology has emerged as the latest tool for helping coaches prepare athletes to edge out other competitors; however, few coaches take full advantage of psychological skills preparation. Psychological training for any athletic undertaking is a complex process that involves acquiring, practicing, and applying numerous psychological skills. Psychological training must be part of the periodized plan and must be programmed as such.

Although this paper has focused specifically upon mental periodization for the throwing events in track and field, the basic psychological concepts and practices noted have applications in numerous other sports. Other sports can benefit from development of a psychological training plan that is sequenced and unfolds in harmony with the physical training plan. That gap between the science used to develop the training program on paper and the art of maximizing the performance on the playing and practice field separates good coaches from great coaches. All coaches strive for the ability to have their athletes perform in an uninhibited, relaxed, skillful manner. Various personalities, team chemistries, motivations, and attitudes coalesce to create a series of variables to juggle. With the session plan in hand, the coach steps onto the field and begins practice. Implementing and successfully executing the plan may very well be the biggest challenge. It does not matter what is on paper if the coach cannot relate to the athletes. Understanding each individual athlete and knowing what motivates him or her is the crucial step to a great performance. Inadequate mental preparation can easily overcome and undermine an excellent physical technical preparation. Flow, or as many experts in the field term it, “being in the zone,” is the goal of athletes and coaches alike. Introducing a plan to train the psychological skills along with the physical skills throughout the year will take the guesswork out of performing to the best of an athlete’s ability when it counts in big competitions.

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### Corresponding Author
Dr. Larry Judge
Ball State University
School of P.E., Sport, and Exercise Science
HP 213
Muncie, IN 47304, USA
(765) 285-4211
<LWJudge@bsu.edu>

### Author Bios

Lawrence W. Judge, PhD, is an associate professor and coordinator of the graduate coaching education program in the School of Physical Education, Sport, and Exercise Science at Ball State University. Prior to arriving at Ball State, he was an NCAA Division I track and field coach for the 18 years and coached 100 All Americans and 8 Olympians. Dr. Judge is currently the president of the National Council for the Accreditation of Coaching Education (NCACE).

Robert J. Bell, PhD., CC-AASP, is an assistant professor of the Sport & Exercise Psychology program in the School of Physical Education, Sport, and Exercise Science at Ball State University. He consults with high-school, collegiate and professional athletes. He specializes with the sports of baseball and golf, and with players on the PGA/Nationwide Tour.

David Bellar, PhD, is an assistant professor in the department of Kinesiology at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. He research interests include cognition, fitness and aging as well as human performance. Dr. Bellar also serves as the throws coach for the Cajun track and field team.

Elizabeth Wanless, BA., is a currently a graduate student at Ball State University. Liz was an alternate on the 2008 United States Olympic team in the shot put and participated in the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland. She finished 6th in the 2008 World Athletics final and finished the 2008 season ranked 20th in the world.

International Olympic Academy Master’s Degree Program Specifications

Introducing an Olympic Movement innovation, in collaboration with the Department of Sports Organization and Management of the University of Peloponnese (UOP), Sparta, the International Olympic Academy (IOA) now offers a Master’s Degree Scholarship Program for the Academic year of 2010-2011. The course title is, “Olympic Studies, Olympic Education, Organization and Management of Olympic Events.”

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Closing Address

Dear participants and friends, with the conclusion of the works of the 10th Joint International Session for Presidents or Directors of National Olympic Academies and Officials of National Olympic Committees, I would like to express my gratitude for your presence in the International Olympic Academy and my conviction regarding our future cooperation for the propagation of the Olympic Education and the management of crisis and challenges in the sports world and the Olympic Movement.

The National Olympic Academies and the National Olympic Committees constitute the two pillars for the cultivation and the dissemination of the Olympic Ideal in cooperation with the International Olympic Academy and the International Olympic Committee. As Henry Tandau aptly mentioned in this room, you are “the key players in the development and spread of Olympic Education,” and we must have a common perception and try to reinforce the communication for the realization of Olympic Educational and Training Programs all around the world.

We all have to realize that, in order to achieve this goal, the broader Olympic Family has to be constantly prepared. The role of the National Olympic Committees is significant for the work of the National Olympic Academies. The differences in their structures and operations should not affect, but, on the contrary, they should strengthen the common goals mentioned before.

Dear friends, I believe that the sacredness of Ancient Olympia where we are and the humanistic ideas of the Olympic Movement are the elements that will reinforce the coherence for the future course of the National Olympic Academies and the National Olympic Committees. In an era dominated by individualism and cruel economic and social competition, one could say that the topics that we discussed in this Session could probably be considered by some as utopian.

However, your presence here, the interest you all showed through your presentations, and the conclusions of the discussion groups prove the opposite. Due to my necessary absence, I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the presentations of the 26 National Olympic Academies. Nevertheless, my colleagues inform me that there is a constant and unceasing effort of continuous activities by the Olympic Academies that prove that there is will, intention, and vision.

The contemporary societies desperately need ideas and people with vision. Let us keep a vivid memory of the beauty of the landscape and of the ideas of Ancient Olympia, and let’s join our forces for the achievement of the common goals. Where there is no track, let’s trace it together as we walk. Because otherwise, “it is not only for what we do that we are held responsible, but also for what we do not do,” according to the famous words of the French dramatist, Moliere.

Dear friends, I would like to thank you all personally, both the exceptional lecturers as well as the participants, for your contributions to this session. I wish you all a safe trip back home, and I reassure you that, as IOA President, I will always unconditionally support your work.


### The Olympic Anthem

Immortal spirit of antiquity, Father of the true, beautiful, and good,
Descend, appear, shed over us they light, upon this ground and under this sky
Which has first witnessed thy unperishable fame.
Give life and animation to those noble games!
Throw wreaths of fadeless flowers to the victors in the race and in the strife!
Create in our breasts, hearts of steel!
In thy light, plains, mountains, and seas, shine in a roseate hue and form a vast temple
To which all nations throng to adore thee, oh, immortal spirit of antiquity!

Introduction to the International Olympic Academy

Olympia, Greece

International Olympic Academy in Olympia, Greece

### IOA Today

The International Olympic Academy (IOA) established in Olympia, Greece, serves a multi-national community as an International Academic Centre for Olympic Studies. It is an outstanding academic resource for students and researchers around the globe. Run by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Greek government, the IOA makes available a broad spectrum of educational programs and studies aimed at disseminating the vision of Olympism.

In February 2010, in collaboration with the Department of Sports Organization and Management of the University of Peloponnese (UOP) in Sparta, the IOA announced their new Master’s Degree Program titled, Olympic Studies, Olympic Education, Organization, and Management of Olympic Events. The program is constructed on the three pillars of Olympism, Education, Sports, and Culture. Prospective students can access information on the programs through the National Olympic Academy (NOA) of their home country. Students may also contact the Secretary of the IOA Master Program by telephone at 30-210-6878952, or by email at ioa-ms@uop.gr. Applications may be sent directly to the following address: Dr. K. Georgiadis, Program Director; Postgraduate Studies Program U.O.P. 52; Dimitrios Vikelas Avenue 152 33 Halandri; Athens, Greece.

Participants

Participants in the 10th Joint International Session for Presidents or Directors of National Olympic Academies and Officials of National Olympic Committees gather in front of the International Olympic Academy.

International conferences on topics related to Olympism are often held on the idyllic grounds at Ancient Olympia. The Olympic Solidarity organization in Lausanne, Switzerland, offers a variety of scholarship funds for many IOA studies and projects. The new Master’s Degree Program, limited to 30 students, is privately funded by the John S. Latsis Foundation, and no costs are charged to the students for its course fees and accommodations. The duration of the program is three semesters, two of which take place in Greece at the International Olympic Academy. Participants in IOA seminars must be fluent in at least one of the three official languages, Greek, French, and English.

Based on Olympic ideals, IOA educational programs not only benefit individual students, but also have the potential to help raise the standards of global interaction among countries for years to come. In May 2010, at the 10th Joint International Session, the presenters basked in the historic power of Ancient Olympia and added their words and hopes to the distinguished voices of the ages. You are invited to share the information and join the international dialogue on the spread of Olympism through education. Authorized by the IOC, the presentations are offered for public study in this unique edition of _The Sport Journal_.

### IOA History

Officially inaugurated on 14 June 1961, the IOA initially limited its function to organizing the International Session for Young Participants. In 1967, an IOC commission was created to coordinate relations among the IOA, the Olympic Movement, and Olympic Solidarity. This same year, the first permanent premises for the IOA were constructed at the site of Ancient Olympia.

Temple of Hera

The Temple of Hera is one of the oldest monumental temples in Ancient Greece. The modern day Olympic torch is lit just as it was in ancient times, at the Temple of Hera.

By 1970, the educational programs of the IOA had expanded to cover all aspects of the Olympic Movement. Special sessions for institutions involved with Olympism were established, including National Olympic Committees (NOC), National Olympic Academies (NOA), International Sport Federations (FIEP), Sport Medical Societies, Unions of Coaches, Sports Administrators, and Teachers.

Growing out of ancient Greek civilization, Olympism is a philosophy of life that blends sport, culture, and education to produce a balanced character strong in body, mind, and will. Convening at Ancient Olympia infused with this dramatic lineage is important to the spirit of the conferences, and the campus exerts a profound effect on all who visit and study there.

> “We are in a haven of peace and balance, where centuries remain engraved on the stones… the beauty of the vegetation, and the serenity which pervades this unique place, Olympia, where sport started on its most glorious and finest course.”
> Juan Antonio Samaranch, Former Honorary President of the IOC and IOA; International Olympic Academy, 2009; p. 52

Many of these ancient traditions continue today. Two of the most powerful ceremonies are the laying of wreaths at the monument where Pierre de Coubertin’s heart is buried to honor the man who revived the Ancient Games, and the Lighting of the Olympic Flame to inaugurate the official Olympic Games.

In Ancient Greece, a person needed well-rounded training to be considered cultured. Sport was part of man’s education that aimed at cultivating harmonious intellectual, mental, and physical faculties. Young students were taught art, philosophy, and music, as well as sports, based on the spirit of fair competition and high ethics.

Ceremonial Priestess

An actress dressed as a ceremonial priestess, in the robes of the ancient Greeks, lights the Olympic torch via the same technique used in the original Games.

Held every four years, the Ancient Olympic Games were an integral part of the balanced way of life. With its origins in the mists of Greek mythological tales of gods and goddesses, the honor of victory at the Olympic Games carried sacred blessings and immense prestige. The Olympic Games went through many reversals of fortune due to political changes over the long history. From circa 400 AD to the late 1800s, no organized Olympic Games existed. Then in 1896, Pierre de Coubertin succeeded in reviving the tradition, and the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens.

In 1927, Coubertin originated the idea for adding an international Olympic academy in his efforts to spread Olympic values. In the IOA, the realization of his vision continues to grow as a result of the dedicated contributions of many people over decades. Now overseen by the IOC, the International Olympic Movement (IOM) has been formed to functionally implement Olympic ideals through a conglomeration of organizations and individuals. Recognizing education as the backbone of the Olympic Movement, the IOC supports the IOA and other institutions devoted to Olympic education.

The current IOA houses many priceless resources, such as an archeological museum, a modern Olympic Games museum, a research library, the Coubertin Grove, and the excavated ruins of Ancient Olympia’s temples, gymnasium, and Sanctuary constructed by Alexander the Great in 338 B.C. These exalted settings, sacred to the Greek god, Zeus, offer a cornucopia of contemporary sports media conferences, research studies, special sessions for dignitaries, gatherings of Olympic medalists, the Olympic Studies Master’s Degree Program, and other courses for international students of the IOA.

> “The Olympic Games are… the only competition in the world… transcending cultural, religious, and political differences, an Image of fraternity and universality.”
> Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC; International Olympic Academy, 2009; p. 68

Olympic Experts

From left: Professor Konstantino Georgiadis, IOA Honorary Dean; Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich, United States Sports Academy President; Mr. Isidoros Kouvelos, IOA President; and Professor Dionyssis Gangas, IOA Director, were among the many Olympic experts who attended the 10th Joint International Session for Presidents or Directors of National Olympic Academies and Officials of National Olympic Committees.

How to Spread and Develop Joint International Programs about Olympic Education: Cultural and Communication Problems

### Introduction

From its inception, the Modern Olympic Movement has fused education with sport and culture to improve both the body and mind. Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the Modern Olympic Games, crafted a vision of universal education through Olympism, spreading such ideals as discipline, focus, vision, commitment, and persistence.

The Olympic Charter (OC) is the codification of the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, Rules and Bye-Laws adopted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It governs the organisation, action, and operation of the Olympic Movement and sets forth the conditions for the celebration of the Olympic Games. In essence, the Olympic Charter serves three main purposes (IOC, 2007).

* The Olympic Charter, as a basic instrument of a constitutional nature, sets forth and recalls the fundamental principles and essential values of Olympism.
* The Olympic Charter also serves as statutes for the International Olympic Committee.
* In addition, the Olympic Charter defines the main reciprocal rights and obligations of the three main constituents of the Olympic Movement, namely the International Olympic Committee, the International Federations, and the National Olympic Committees, as well as the Organising Committees for the Olympic Games, all of which are required to comply with the Olympic Charter (IOC, 2007).

Fundamental to the understanding of Olympism is its emphasis on an educational mandate. In fact, the “Olympic idea cannot be understood without an understanding of its educational mission” (Gessman, 1992:33). This educational mandate is outlined in several of the Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter (Binder, 2005).

The Olympic Charter (2007) states simply the relationship among Olympic philosophy, ethics, and education:

Fundamental Principle 1 and 2 (p11):

1. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will, and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.
2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.

This is a values education mandate. Some of the specific, positive values referred to in these principles include a respect for balance in the human character between aspects of mind, body, and spirit, an understanding of the joy found in effort, an emphasis on peaceful behaviour, and respect for others (here described as preservation of human dignity). The principles, while somewhat awkward in their English wording, also include direction for an Olympic pedagogy. That is, the fundamental principles seem to suggest components of a possible teaching and learning strategy. Note the references to such strategies as, “blending sport with culture and education,” setting “good examples,” and encouraging participation in sport as an educational situation in which these values can be developed (Binder, 2005).

### National Olympic Committees

Chapter 4 of the Olympic Charter deals with National Olympic Committees, stating very clearly important duties of NOCs with regard to Olympic education (IOC, 2007, p. 61).

Mission and Role of the NOCs:

1. The mission of the NOCs is to develop, promote, and protect the Olympic Movement in their respective countries, in accordance with the Olympic Charter (IOC, 2007).
2. The NOCs’ role is:

1. to promote the fundamental principles and values of Olympism in their countries, in particular, in the fields of sport and education, by promoting Olympic educational programmes in all levels of schools, sports and physical education institutions and Universities, as well as by encouraging the creation of institutions dedicated to Olympic education, such as National Olympic Academies, Olympic Museums, and other programmes, including cultural, related to the Olympic Movement (IOC, 2007);
2. to ensure the observance of the Olympic Charter in their countries (IOC, 2007).

### National Olympic Academies

National Olympic Academies are an integral part of the International Olympic Academy and the Olympic Movement (Georgiadis, 2008). Georgiadis further elaborates that, once the IOA had begun its activities, a number of important and substantial issues related to its operation and linked to the attainment of its goals came to light. It became obvious that IOA needed support of other organizations in order to respond to the educational requirements of the Olympic Movement.

> Attending lectures during the IOA’s sessions was not considered sufficient to make participants aware of the academy’s mission and their own contribution to it.
>
> The selection of the participants, their preliminary training, their stay at the International Olympic Academy, and the need to draw upon their knowledge and experience, led to the creation of national centres for Olympic studies in other countries.

Georgiadis goes on to explain that participants in the IOA sessions and seminars now had a point of reference in their own respective countries around which they could rally in order to develop their Olympic education activities in cooperation with IOA.

Georgiadis notes that, in the discussion groups at the IOA’s sessions, the idea of a “National Olympic Academy” is considered as a popular topic. In the same observation, Georgiadis further recounts that, as many Olympic Committees do not comply with their educational obligations in a consistent manner, participants at the sessions have demanded the creation of National Olympic Academies (NOAs) to allow those who attend the sessions of the IOA once they return to their country to become involved in their core activities and operate as the ambassadors of Olympism in their homelands.

Today, 32 years after the establishment of the first National Olympic Academies, the aim of each Olympic Academy is, through Olympic Education programs, to cultivate and disseminate the Olympic Ideal, study and apply the universal education and social principles of the Olympic Movement, in conformity with the Olympic Charter, within the national and cultural boundaries of each National Olympic Committee, in cooperation with the IOA and the IOC.

These aims are achieved by NOAs by the means of programs which they develop themselves in collaboration with the NOC and other sports and educational entities in their country. National Olympic Academies are the IOA’s extensions and operate as transmitters and receivers for the promotion of the Olympic Charter’s ideals through the national Olympic education programs. Each national Olympic Academy must also encourage the practice of sport among all social and age groups and promote the idea of sport as a fundamental human right.

Georgiadis elaborates that “National Olympic Academies operate within the framework of their respective National Olympic Committees and their aims are in harmony with those of the NOCs.” The NOAs are the educational institutions of the NOCs. Even when there are differences in their structures and modes of operation, they must always be placed under the patronage of the NOC within the framework of a single Olympic Movement. It would be very difficult today to define a single system for the operation of NOAs, as there are huge administrative, cultural, and political differences from country to country.

The goal of education – of Olympism – may is summarized in a quote from 2000 by then IOC President, Juan Antonio Samaranch: “Every act of support for the Olympic Movement promotes peace, friendship, and solidarity throughout the world.”

The field of Olympic education has been studied in-depth by numerous international scholars. They have endeavoured to analyze the core of Olympic education so as to avoid the concept of Olympic education being regarded merely as a pool of all highly social and moral values. It is more or less commonly agreed that the idea of Olympic education first and foremost encompasses the long-ranging striving for individual achievement with due respect for the principles of fair play and an increase in a better transnational mutual understanding by supporting processes of intercultural learning.

In the course of the last decades, some scholars have successfully endeavoured to spread the main ideas of Olympic education. The main target groups have been students and pupils. At the International Olympic Academy in Olympia, as well as at conferences organized by various National Olympic Committees, Olympic Academies, and institutes of learning, students are offered the possibility of examining basic ideas of Olympic education.

Frequently the students bring their experience and knowledge back to their home universities in order to integrate them into classes or tutorials. Without doubt, this is a fruitful way to disseminate the central values of Olympic education.

According to Binder, Olympic education in its broadest sense encompasses the workshops and leadership training of Olympic Solidarity, the research and scholarly study of sport historians and sociologists, the public relations efforts of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), its sponsors and its affiliates, as well as the school curricula, handbooks and projects of Olympic Games organizing committees, National Olympic Committees (NOCs), and National Olympic Academies (NOAs). It also encompasses a large variety of initiatives for children and youth (Binder D., 1995).

### International Olympic Academy

The International Olympic Academy functions as a multicultural interdisciplinary centre that aims at studying, enriching, and promoting Olympism. The foundation of such an institution was inspired by the ancient Gymnasium, which shaped the Olympic Ideal by harmoniously cultivating body, will, and mind. On the eve of the 21st century, the centennial anniversary of the revival of the Olympic Games coincides with the global scale changes that are affecting every aspect of human thought and activity.

We, our cultures, and our civilisations have already entered a greater transitional period in which the images of the world that we were used to taking for granted are being altered. The interrelated scientific, technological, economic, political, and social developments that characterise the course of humanity towards the third millennium are influencing each and every idea, norm, and institution of our international community.

This dynamic wave is also opening up new forms of dialogue for the future of Olympism. Moreover, as can be seen through the study of its age-long history, the Olympic Ideal has always been conceived and formed according to the wider conditions prevailing during different periods in time.

The birth, the prosperity, the decline, and the revival of the Olympic Games have all been the reflection of the wider cultural conditions that shaped each era.

The speculations and potentials still evolving out of the Olympic Movement are naturally arising in the realisation process of such an Ideal.

“Olympism,” in the words of Pierre de Coubertin, “is not a system; it is a state of mind. It can permeate a wide variety of modes of expression, and no single race or era can claim to have the monopoly of it.”

The International Olympic Academy provides a unique opportunity for students, academics, athletes, artists, and officials from all over the world to exchange ideas and share this “state of mind” in Ancient Olympia.

The wide variety of educational sessions, academic programmes, and in depth research studies that are offered all aim towards serving the vision of the International Olympic Academy for the new century: to explore and enhance the contribution of Olympism to humanity.

The mission of the IOA is:

1. to function as an International Academic Centre for Olympic Studies, Education, and Research;
2. to act as an International Forum for free expression and exchange of ideas among the Olympic Family, intellectuals, scientists, athletes, sport administrators, educators, artists, and the youth of the world;
3. to bring together people from all over the world, in a spirit of friendship and cooperation;
4. to motivate people to use the experiences and knowledge gained in the IOA productively, in promoting the Olympic Ideals in their respective countries;
5. to serve and promote the Ideals and principles of the Olympic Movement;
6. to cooperate with and assist the National Olympic Academies and any other institutions devoted to Olympic Education;
7. to further explore and enhance the contribution of Olympism to humanity.

### Educational Programmes of the International Olympic Academy

* International Session for Young Participants
* International Post Graduate Seminar on Olympic Studies
* Joint International Session for Directors of NOAs, Members, and Staff of NOCs and IFs
* Joint International Session for Educationists and Staff of Higher Institutes of Physical Education
* International Session for Sports Journalists
* Special Sessions for institutions related with Olympism: National Olympic Committees, National Olympic Academies, International Sport Federations, Sport Medical Societies, Unions of Coaches, Referees, Sports Administrators, etc.
* Special Sessions for Institutions indirectly related with Olympism (C.I.S.M., Teachers, etc.) aiming to promote the Olympic Ideal
* Educational visits of groups from various institutions (universities, graduate schools, schools, sports clubs)
* Visits of Researchers of Olympic subjects
* Conferences on Sports

All the IOA Sessions are held in Ancient Olympia, and participants are accommodated in the guestrooms located on the Academy grounds.

The IOA has three official languages, English, French and Greek, and participants must be fluent in at least one in order to participate in the educational programmes. The Joint Session for Presidents or Directors of NOAs and Officials of NOCs, is perhaps the most important of all the sessions for the success of almost all the other sessions. This biannual Session aims to bring together Senior Administrators from organizations engaged in creating Olympic Education programmes and involved in educational and social activities aiming to promote the Olympic Movement.

The IOA’s role is to coordinate and assist the NOAs in their work, and this Session provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and educational programmes and the presentation of the activities of the NOAs and NOCs in different countries. Communication and the working culture of the NOCs and NOAs is of paramount importance in the success of these sessions. The choice of participants, preparation, and commitment of the participants is key to the realization of the intended objective.

This year’s session is the tenth in the series. As such, there is need to reflect on the organization and management of these joint sessions so as to improve the quality of the sessions and to realise the intended goal, that of developing and spreading Olympic Education. Communication is an important factor in the success of any humankind undertaking. Several factors contribute either positively or negatively on communication, such as timeliness, language, clarity, accuracy, medium, feedback or response, and ability to follow instruction, the working culture or policy of an organization in relation to communication issues.

This paper sets out to present the problems encountered in the quest of organizing such sessions, specifically focusing on cultural and communication problems.

### Methodology

The literature review method was the primary method used in developing this paper. Published and unpublished sources have been used. Correspondence between IOA, and NOAs, and NOCs, past session presentations and Conclusions were also reviewed. Personal experience from attending a number of sessions of IOA and discussions with IOA Masters students (2009 / 2010), have all been taken into consideration.

### Findings and discussion

* Often times there has been confusion between delegates of NOAs and NOCs to the extent that the IOA has had to request NOAs and NOCs to clearly state whether or not a delegate is a member of NOA or NOC. Sometimes delegates have been sent who are not involved in the Education functions of the NOAs or NOCs.
* Quite a number of delegates are sent to Olympia without prior preparation as to what to expect and what is expected of them. With some countries, there is a turn-over every year, where the policy is to award the trip to members of the NOC in turns. As such, there is no continuity; this has forced the IOA to insist that the President / Director of NOAs must attend the Directors and the joint sessions.
* Non adherence to Final Enrolment date: “We have noticed in the past that many NOAs or NOCs do not submit their application forms in due time. We hereby would like to bring to your attention that no application submitted after the expiry date will be considered.”
* Language: Participants must have an excellent knowledge of either English or French, since they are expected to take active part in the discussion groups which follow the lectures. This is the quintessence of the IOA’s activities, i.e., to get people from all over the world to know and contact one another. It has been repeatedly noticed in the past that quite a few participants cannot understand or speak either English or French and consequently, they are unable to participate fully in the discussion groups. Therefore, all NOCs and NOAs are kindly requested to avoid sending over delegates who do not speak fluently at least one of the above two languages.
* Working relationship between NOAs and NOCs is another challenge that features prominently in the conclusions of the group discussions of the sessions, especially as relates to accessibility to information and financial support. This problem is more pronounced in countries which rely solely on Olympic Solidarity funding. Rarely are any Olympic Education activities undertaken for want of funding. In most other NOCs, NOAs exist only on paper, and no activities take place apart from attending the sessions here in Olympia.
* In the conclusions of English Speaking Group 5, during the 9th International Session For Directors of National Olympic Academies (1- 8 June 2007), Ibrahim Abazid, et, al., considered the challenges, difficulties, and solutions to implementing Olympic Education Program and concluded that there are three key challenges that needed to be addressed. They named these as: relationship between NOA and NOC, communication, and financial difficulties.

### Conclusion

We observe from the above that there are communication problems within the key players involved in the development and dissemination of International Joint Sessions on Olympic Education, namely, the IOC (through OS), the IOA, the NOCs, and NOAs. The gap is more pronounced between NOCs and NOAs. This communication problem is both in terms of availability and timeliness, as well as response or feedback.

This is a result of poor working relationship between NOCs and NOAs; the main cause has been attributed to non-information sharing by the NOCs, even in instances where NOAs are directly under the NOC. NOAs are hardly ever made aware of the funding opportunities from Olympic Solidarity. Even the funds provided to NOCs under “Other Activities” are hardly ever communicated to NOAs; and the quadrennial plans which offer a number of opportunities are unknown to most NOA officials.

It is also noted that in some cases, the NOAs are only on paper, or spring up when it is time for a trip to Olympia; no initiatives are done to organize and spread Olympic education in the respective countries. The young participants who are sent to Olympia are not chosen on merit since there are no Olympic Education activities, in some countries.

Officials not involved in Olympic Education have been sent to these sessions, while being fully aware that they will not involve themselves in the dissemination of Olympic Education when they go back to their countries. NOCs should work together with NOAs to select the best candidates based on merit to attend such sessions. A system should be developed to ensure that those who attend these sessions have the knowledge, motivation, and commitment to embark on creation and spreading of Olympic Education.

A working guideline should be developed to ensure a smooth working relationships among the key players in the development and spread of Olympic Education, namely: the IOC (through Olympic Solidarity), the IOA, the NOCs, and the NOAs. This document should be made available to all and be posted on the IOC and IOA websites.

### References

Binder, D.L. (2005). Challenges and Models for successful Olympic Education Initiatives at Grassroots Level. Paper presented during Forum organized by the Centre for Olympic Studies – Olympic Perspectives.

Binder, D. L. (2007).Teaching Values: An Olympic Education Toolkit. International Olympic Committee, 2007.

Binder, D. L. (2005). Teaching Olympism in Schools: Olympic Education as a focus on Values Education. University of Barcelona – Olympic Studies Centre.

Georgiadis, K. (2008). National Olympic Academies. International Olympic Academy. 9th Joint International Session for Presidents or Directors of National Olympic Academies and Officials of National Olympic Committees 12 – 19 May 2008; Conclusions.

International Olympic Academy – circular Ref. No.: 1376 / KG /st Athens, 8th December 2009.

International Olympic Academy. 8th International Session for Directors of National Olympic Academies 18th – 25th April 2005; Conclusions.

International Olympic Academy. 8th Joint International Session for Presidents or Directors of National Olympic Academies and Officials of National Olympic Committees 23 – 30 May 2006; Conclusions.

International Olympic Academy. 9th International Session for Directors of National Olympic Academies 1 – 8 June 2007; Conclusions.

International Olympic Academy. 9th Joint International Session for Presidents or Directors of National Olympic Academies and Officials of National Olympic Committees 12 – 19 May 2008; Conclusions.

IOA Website. www.ioa.org.gr

IOC. (2007). Olympic Charter. Lausanne, Switzerland.