Australian athletes as young as eight are taking help from sports psychologists to get an extra edge over opponents in their unrelenting pursuit of success in their particular sport.
Experts from the sporting industry are of the opinion that today's would-be champions have to cope with heavier training regimes than athletes of yesteryear, and have the added pressures of rankings, selections, media attention and sponsorships along with balancing school activities.
While every sport necessitates a different technique, these experts teach kids how to deal with anxiety, settle pre-game nerves, build mental toughness and undertake pre-game rituals.
Sports psychologist Paul Penna, who works with Swimming Australia and the Wests Tigers NRL club, said junior athletes make up 40 per cent of his focus performance psychology practice at the Sydney Sports Medicine Centre.
"I think there's a couple of reasons for it. They are certainly realizing that to get through to that elite level is harder than ever before. And for parents, it's a way to give your kids the best chance possible," The Courier Mail quoted Penna, as saying.
In gymnastics, where possible champions are recognized as young as three or four, Gymnastics Australia's high performance manager Adam Sachs said psychologists helped pre-teen athletes learn 'potentially scary skills'.
Sachs said: "A lot of the work the psyche has is overcoming the boundaries the athletes set themselves."