Despite being a relatively small island, in recent decades Mallorca has generated a group of elite athletes who delight fans with their victories. Mallorcan athletes have monopolised pages in the press, at a local and international level.
Mentality in Sports
This would be led, without question, by Rafa Nadal, the winner of multiple titles. Other names include cyclist Joan Janeras, recognised for being an athlete with the most Olympic medals in Spain. In a similar victory, Jordi Calafat was the first Olympic medallist in the Balearic Islands. Guillem Timoner has also been consecrated as the best Mallorcan athlete of the mid-twentieth century.
Elena Gómez has also been a Spanish pioneer, winning a world championship in artistic gymnastics. Another of the figures has endowed the island with pride is the wizard of basketball, Rudy Fernández, where there are many more who have made their vocation a way of life.
Mens sana in corpore sano
For Mallorcan athletes their achievements, popularity and recognition from the media go hand in hand. It is therefore becoming increasingly aware that the key to good performance is based on psychological control, almost above physicality. The Latin expression ‘mens sana in corpore sana’, is a phrase that was part of a prayer to the gods, which emphasised the need to pray to enjoy a balanced spirit in an equally balanced body.
“For me, having a well placed mind is essential. It does not help you to have a good body, although the physical and innate flexibility aids, without a mental balance” assures Laura Macías, one of the most recognised dance instructors in Mallorca, whose school has the largest attendance of dancers that triumph outside of the island. For a teacher, mental discipline is strengthened as much as technical training.
“When a young woman starts dance at an early age, she learns the rhythm, placement, postures and guidelines to follow. At the same time, physical education internalises mentally”.
Laura Macías, Dance Teacher in Mallorca
Such is the importance of psychological factors, that a pessimistic person will not achieve the same results in the same sport, being unable to believe that they can reach a certain goal than as someone with enough self-confidence to keep the same maximum physical requirement.
Discussing his mental strength, Rafa Nadal assured the El País newspaper of his determination. “In my head there are doubts. I am not a determined person and I have never bragged about that. It is very difficult for me to make decisions… but when I play, in the important moments, I have the determination to do something”. When it comes to pressure he explains that this has “allowed me to play the way I thought I had to. My mind has not prevented me from doing what I thought I had to do: that is what happens when you have nerves, when the situation overcomes you”.
In recent decades, sports psychology has taken a radical leap to have an almost spectator role in all disciplines, relying on an increasingly efficient technology and a deeper scientific knowledge. Sports can also be used to maximise the positive effects as a way of leisure and promoting healthy living.
Habits an obvious way to externalise mind control for athletes. When placing his water bottles, Nadal checks that they are in perfect line with his energy drink, positioning them at the right distance before going on the court. Its purpose is none other than to focus his rather than to be distracted.
Finally, to avoid or alleviate crisis, athletes are hiring sports psychologists, being aware of the benefits it brings in different aspects of competition, training or interpersonal relationships. Injuries or eating disorders are the most common problems suffered in the world of dance, explains Laura, who also ensures the importance of requesting help from specialists at this time.
Written by Fatima Yráyzoz