In team sports, the mental coach still has to find his place

The Blues in silver during their recent Euro and the Blue in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, Thursday, September 29 in Australia? If the French teams are rather good in their basketball, it may have something to do with it: before the Tokyo Games, Richard Ouvrard had accompanied the coaches of the two national basketball teams, who had completed their fortnight silver (men) and bronze (women).

Since then, the “mental coach” has started working with the players, still in its infancy but already paying off. “A global psychosocial approach, with very rich interpersonal processes, because I have relationships with everyone: the national technical director of the French federation, the technical and medical management of the teams, the groups of playershe explains. It is a systemic work that we must continue until the meeting of Paris 2024. “

Trainer Sensitivity

Richard Ouvrard is not his first experience with tricolor collectives. He muscled the mind of the Blue handball before the Rio Games and until the triumph of those in Tokyo. A more obvious success than his fifteen months of collaboration with the Bleues du football for the 2019 World Cup, without a future for lack of osmosis between the expert and the coach Corinne Deacon. And this is the limit of the intervention of a mental trainer within a collective: “It still really depends on the sensitivity of the coach. It is often he who is convinced or not of the interest of integrating a specialist or not, “ underlines Christian Penigaud, former European champion of beach volleyball (in 1993) then federal technician converted into mental coaching, called for three years alongside the French women’s volleyball team.

Do the 2024 Games in Paris push the federations to better arm themselves? “The awareness of France’s delay in this area is real, but acquiring this tool is not yet systematictestifies Laurent Chambertin, 350 selections with the Blues of volleyball between 1986 and 2001, today mental coach integrated into the high performance cell of Insep. There are still resistances: to call on an expert is to recognize a weakness. So no: it’s just wanting to improve performance. »

This difficulty, Christian Penigaud observes in the training he delivers to coaches within his federation: “There is still a lot of misunderstanding about our work, and when coaches experience a collaboration, they often tell me either it went wrong or they didn’t know what was really going on. the mental trainer. » The place of the expert within the collective is in fact a key issue. “Integrating a community with its rites and its language is not easy and you have to work upstreamsays Richard Ouvrard. Because the main thing is to be able to regulate information and emotions to make human relations more fluid. »

The performance-personality tandem

What is at stake is not always obvious, to the point that the concept of “invisible training” is sometimes evoked. “I try to work concretely on things that can be seen and measuredloose Christian Penigaud, rather reserved. It’s about improving performance, something quantifiable. » Laurent Chambertin insists on the performance-personality tandem, “without splitting the two, and insisting on sustainability so that the athletes take ownership of the work and are autonomous behind it, to promote the turnover of the workforce, for example”. However, the intervention of the mental trainer should not necessarily be too long, “to avoid habituation and a guru phenomenon”, warns the specialist.

The field is vast, and no doubt 2024 is not the ultimate deadline. “We can also talk about heritage in this areaconcludes Laurent Chambertin. Train our young people by giving them time to understand and acquire good practices, and give them a head start for Los Angeles 2028.”


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