A West Virginia University professor and Olympic Gold Medalist who helps athletes learn the art of mindfulness was inducted into the U.S. International Shooting Hall of Fame this past August in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
WVU’s Ed Etzel received the award, alongside three other American sharpshooters. A licensed psychologist, Etzel is a professor in the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences. His research interests focus on performance psychology and its influence on athletes’ mental health.
Etzel won the Gold Medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles in the Men’s English Match Rifle event. While at WVU, Etzel coached the Rifle Team from 1976-1989, establishing a 101-3 career record. He coached more than 30 WVU All-Americans, and his teams earned four NCAA National Championships during the 1980s.
According to Etzel, medals are won in training.
“You pick them up at the event,” Etzel said. “We have learned from the athletes that they need to spend more time in preparation. Those older, more experienced athletes who train more, learn what to do if things are not going well. They learn the art of mindfulness, being focused on a task and living life in the moment.”
Etzel said some sport programs have embraced mindfulness as part of performance related issues, incorporating recovery, and helping athletes to prepare and to be ready to perform in the next competition.”
Sport psychology experts can impact the quality of sport training and competition. Etzel said that professionals in the field often establish relationships with coaches and players. They tend to help athletes be aware of details, such as mindfulness, and encourage understanding performance related issues.
“What they learn in training and competitive environments, can carry over into establishing good overall life skills, at whatever level,” he explained.
Etzel said that performance psychology is used in numerous fields, including performing arts, where the professionals are known as mental performance consultants.
“The Military is the number one employer of performance psychologists,” he said. “Graduates with sport and exercise psychology degrees work with trainees to strengthen readiness and resilience skills in the face of adversity, or success.”
Etzel’s other honors include winning the Gold Medal in the 1978 World Championships and 1979 Pan American Games while earning National Champion 11 times and establishing multiple national rifle records as a member of the U.S. Shooting Team.
In addition to Etzel, the 2017 U.S. Shooting Hall of Fame inductees include David Kimes, Martin Gunnarsson and Don Haldeman, all who served in the U.S. Army and shot with the USAMU.