The 4th - 6th December 2019 saw British Shooting immerse themselves in strategic planning for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. I had the pleasure of being invited to Sport Sheffield to help carve out what the games will look like for the shooting sports, alongside senior leadership, athlete reps and sports practitioners.
One question that is instrumental to Team GB as a whole rather than solely British Shooting is ‘how are we going to show up?’. As a sport, which qualities do we want to be observed to have? What action do we want to be perceived to be taking? It’s important that we act as one team, as a sport but also Team GB as a whole.
A significant amount of time was taken to discuss preparation for travel and the impact that it will have on both athletes in regards to performance and staff in terms of decision making. Leading practitioners from the English Institute of Sport orchestrated sessions to educate attendees about what to expect from jet lag and humidity as well as how they can affect performance.
What is jet lag?
Whilst EIS explained the intrinsic details, a more brief description is that jet lag is the disruption of the body’s physiological rhythm (otherwise known as our body clocks!). They advised that the generic rule is that for every hour a traveller gained or lost, it takes a day to adjust accordingly. However, there are both internal and external factors that can have an impact. The age, travel experience and chronotype all affect the individual’s internal body clock, whereas the number of time zones travelled and the direction of travel are external influences that disturb physiological rhythms.
How might jet lag affect our athlete’s performance?
Body clock disruption and travel fatigue can affect our athletes in many ways, through tiredness and mood, disrupting sleep patterns and also illness – all of which can have an impact on shooting performance. By managing training schedules and travel itineraries, the team can ensure that athletes are fit, healthy and well rested before they step foot on the range.
How can our athletes get over jet lag?
EIS explained numerous ways that athletes can manage their jet lag, with key points covering well planned travel times, maximising light exposure and following social time ques such as eating in sync with local meal times. By eating little and often athletes can help themselves recover more quickly from the effects of jet lag.
Tokyo set to be the hottest Olympic Games on record
With temperatures estimated to be around in excess of 30 degrees alongside 80% humidity, Japan in July 2020 is predicted to ‘feel like’ 45-50 degrees. Our optimal body temperature is 37 degrees, and we use 2 process in order to thermoregulate, by sweating and our behaviours, for example through drinking water or finding shade. Internal risk factors for athletes include their level of hydration, their level of aerobic fitness and their body mass/size which can all impact how an athlete responds to heat stress. Internal risks are more controllable, meaning our athletes are more able to prepare themselves for this. The time of day and the location of the event (for Olympic Trap, this would refer to the range being covered or not covered, Olympic Skeet do not have covered ranges) are both uncontrollable and are external factors.
How might the heat and humidity affect athlete’s performance?
Heat can affect our shooters in many ways, it can inhibit cognitive performance which can cause stress, exhaustion and confusion. Physiological impacts can also be detrimental by way of sweating (this can lessen your grip on the gun) and increase in heart rate (this can make your movements more erratic) as well as many other things.
What coping mechanisms can our athletes use?
One way that athletes can prepare for heat and humidity is through acclimatisation, however, Tokyo can see dramatic temperature changes and could make acclimatising difficult. Other ways of dealing with the heat include staying in the shade, staying hydrated and wearing loose fitted clothes.
Another area that British Shooting was keen to include in the strategy was culture and etiquette. Respect is incredibly important to the Japanese and so it’s essential for athletes to have an understanding of how that might look whilst at the Games. There are a few stand out rules when travelling to Tokyo. Firstly, time keeping – being late is not an option. So much so, that the average delay of a late train is 18 seconds and on the rare occasion that it does run late, the ticket office write letters to state that the train was in fact late, so employees can hand them in as evidence when they get to work. Another key rule is that rules do not get broken, they are there for a reason and the Japanese will not bend them. Finally, I’ll mention communication. Japanese people are extremely polite, so will not question something if they do not fully understand, they will smile and nod as to not appear rude.
Profiling and personalities
In order for athletes, coaches and practitioners to work together effectively as a team, it’s vital to understand how each other operate. Over the few days the team spent together, head psychologist Paul Hughes talked through how various personalities show up in different people and how that can help others in different ways. This session was very insightful, as it demonstrated how powerful it can be to understand how personality types can deal with situations. It made clear that some might be better suited to helping with certain issues more than others and how the team can use that to their advantage.