Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is Yao Broken?

Earlier, I wrote about "The Psychological Weight of a Nation" and the intense strategies China uses to become competitive. Now that the Olympics are complete, do there exist post-game resources for competitors? Are measures being implemented to support the athletes who trained for years, even their entire lives, for the spectacle in Beijing?

I particularly wonder about the athletes who "failed" in their country's opinion. When one works so hard, especially because of external pressures, and then does not succeed, he or she is bound to internalize and even exaggerate or distort the thoughts and feelings that accompany the outcome. Every comment or emotion can become magnified, and if there is not a support system in place, the result may be detrimental to one's psyche.

Yao Ming spoke of his disappointment and despondency:

“After (the) Lithuania game, I come back to my room and I feel my energy just go away,” Yao said. “My body is empty. I have a couple minutes lying on the bed when I cannot even move. Not because I’m tired, but because mentally I feel really, really sad. These games I’ve prepared for almost my whole life and now they’re over.”

Have you ever experienced so much stimulation from an event that you find yourself "crashing" after it ended? Yao seems to be in a similar situation, only multiplied by numbers beyond most of our conceptions. Only his peers can relate. He was molded and groomed for his sport, the most monumental of unwritten promises to his homeland. And now the air is deflated from the once tireless tires, despair drifting through the consummate model of strength and courage. Yao assimilated the words and dreams of a billion and now has to digest and deal with the consequences.

Is it conceivable that all of the counselors, psychologists, and trainers who were hired to prepare the athletes for competition are now concentrated on the "cool down" segment? Are professional helpers working with individuals who struggled in the arenas and on the fields so they don't struggle for the rest of their lives? For many who did not succeed as they hoped, including Yao, it's time to resurrect the foundation and harness the resiliency that is ever so important in not only athletics, but life.

Nobody wants to see a drooping giant. Especially in Houston.


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