Welcome to the newest member of our team! SPINw is proud to announce a new member of our team - Brian Baxter, MA Sport Psychology. Brian obtained his Master's in Sport Psych from JFKU in June 2004, and started his consulting practice at that time. Check out this interview with Brian, and get to know him a little better! SPINw: How did you become involved sport psychology? Brian: During college I majored in psychology and after college I started coaching soccer. I guess these two passions combined and led me into this field. As a coach I was really fascinated by the mental side of the game: motivating players to make sure they play up to their potential both as individuals and as a team.Â In 1998, when I was getting my USSF C license, I learned that the field of sport psychology existed at a presentation by Darren Treasure. What he said really resonated with me, and I decided to veer off the coaching track and go more into sport psychology.Â 2 years later I moved across the county and enrolled in the sport psychology program at John F Kennedy University in California. SPINw: Do you still coach soccer? Brian: I stopped coaching competitive soccer about 2 years ago to focus more on my sport psychology consulting. However, I do coach my son's rec league, and I put on my own soccer camps and clinics. SPINw: Tell us about your experiences in sport psychology since getting your master's degree. Brian: One thing that I really like about the field of sport psychology is that there are so many ways to deliver the service. Through individual and team consulting, coaching and parenting education workshops, as [...]
Substance Abuse Re-Visited Surely, we're all familiar with the most recent story in the Michael Phelps saga: alleged marijuana smoking followed by the South Carolina Sheriff's release that charges may be filed against him. SPINW has previously discussed alcohol abuse among NFL professionals (see November 30 '08), but what are the rates and implications of substance abuse among other levels of athletics? Some sport psychology research indicates some troubling trends, particularly among college athletes. For example, research by the College Student Journal demonstrated that college athletes drank earlier in life, drank more overall, binge drank more frequently, and encountered more alcohol-related problems than non-athletes. In regards to marijuana, 27.1% of college athletes reported smoking marijuana, as documented by Central Connecticut. Those that did use marijuana said they did so for social reasons, or to feel good. Why may athletes demonstrate higher use rates than non-athletes? Some reasons may include: -Stress. Athletes, especially at high school and collegiate levels, are under more stress today than ever before, juggling practice, games, recruiting, academics, and leisure. Easily available substances, such as alcohol and marijuana, may serve as a release. -Social pressures. Many institutions, especially college campuses, may have an established culture of drinking partying, which can increase rates of substance use and abuse.
Alcohol use in the NFL High profile alcohol-related incidents involving NFL players seem to be becoming more and more common; just ask Cedric Benson, Odell Thurman, and Adam Jones. But, given the substantial body of negative health and professional effects alcohol abuse poses, why would such high profile professional athletes engage in such behavior? The Center for Science in the Public Interest has proposed one possible source contributing to the problem - the advertising and alcohol policies of the NFL teams themselves. Judge John Burlew recently summarized the problem in a hearing related to linebacker Odell Thurman's alcohol related arrest: "The allegations are that you had a legal substance-alcohol-in your body, a substance which they advertise and get money from, millions of dollars a year from." In summary, the CPSI proposes that the NFL hypocritically punishes its players severely for alcohol related incidents while simultaneously profiting from beer advertising and sales in the stadiums. They propose a complete ban of alcohol related sales and advertising at NFL games. The root of the CPSI's concern is that young sport viewers could possibly view athletics and alcohol as inherently related, and be more likely to develop alcohol problems. But why could alcohol abuse be more common among professional athletes? Is it more common at all among pros than other populations? Some reasons for alcohol abuse among high profile athletes can include: Stress - athletics can impart extreme physical and psychological stress, and alcohol could be used as a form of "escape" Social situations - any new athletes who enter into an established culture of drinking are likely to engage in the same behavior Modeling - young athletes may be more likely to abuse alcohol if it becomes [...]
Parent behavior in youth sport - nightmare vs. reality Media coverage in recent years would make us think that violence and aggression among parents in youth sports is the norm, not the extreme. A simple google search for violence in youth sports will return hundreds of stories detailing such incidents. Certainly, such violent behavior among parents and family members is out of line and not the normal baseline for spectator behavior. But what does parent behavior and comments actually look like? Athletic Insight, online sport psychology journal, has published a new study detailing the actual content of parent comments during youth athletic events. Their research, reviewing over 2,000 comments by over 100 parents, showed that 52% of observed comments were positive, while 32% were negative and 16% were neutral. Comments which were viewed as negative were those which were scolding, sarcastic, and instructional/correcting in nature.Some examples of these comments include "let's see some hustle out there," "Suck it up," or "throw it to first". The study gives us an outline of the frequency and content of negative comments and behaviors - so what are some positive behaviors parents of young athletes can use? SPINW has compiled a list of positive traits for parents and coaches of young athletes below. -Encourage, but don't force - encourage children to play sports, but don't force them if they really don't want to. -Set limits on participation - base participation of children on their physical and emotional readiness. Doing too much can lead to injury or burnout. -Set goals - help children set realistic goals for performance. -Winning isn't everything - keep your child's focus on having fun and giving their best effort, not winning at all cost. -Let [...]
Anxiety and its Consequences All athletes, performing at all levels of competition, are familiar with feelings of anxiety and arousal. Whether it's a small child with a dry mouth before their first basketball game or Greg Oden's first step onto the court for an NBA game that actually matters, everyone experiences some degree of anxiety relating to competition. How can anxiety influence us during competition? Several theories have come out of sport psychology research over the decades. One theory of particular note was pioneered by British psychologist Graham Jones. His theory was simple: That our perception of how our own ability to control our anxiety, and our ability to control outselves and our surroundings, determines the anxiety's effect. If an athlete feels they are in control, and that anxiety is manageable, than this level of arousal will likely lead to superior performance. However, the opposite can have negative consequences. Another theory which has been well demonstrated in research is Yuri Hanin's Individualized Zones of Optimal Functioning (IZOF). In a nutshell, Hanin posits that every athlete will have a different amount of anxiety or arousal which can lead to their ultimate performance. For example, one athlete may compete well at relatively low levels of arousal but not when extremely anxious or "pumped up"; alternatively, another athlete may perform poorly when unaroused but very well in high anxiety or tension situations. So now that we know about anxiety, what can we do about it to maximize our performance? Check outPeak Performance's guide to controlling and managing our anxiety. They have five key points for maximizing effectiveness: 1. Establish your 'winning feeling' 2. Centering 3. The five breath technique 4. Thought stopping 5. Letting go
Archery Psychology British paralypians, in search of Beijing gold, worked with sport psychologists for the duration of their stay in the Paralympic Village. The British paralympic archery team has trained with sport psychologist Katherine Bond for the last three years. She draws from her experience in rugby, golf, and soccer to hone the skills of the archers. Bond says of her stance on sport psychology: "It's about making that one per cent difference, and leaving absolutely no stone unturned in the quest for excellence. Sport psychology has the potential to contribute to helping athletes get the very best out of themselves."
The Knee Shot Heard Round the World Tom Brady is out for the season with a torn ACL and MCL. Enter backup QB Matt Cassel, who until Sunday hadn't started a game since high school. What could be the mindset of the Patriots and their new QB, and how can it be improved? We turn to an interview with Boston University sport psychologist Leonard Zaichkowsky, in BU Today, for some answers. On advice for Matt Cassel: "If I had to make a recommendation, I'd say you've got to be yourself and keep it simple. As you get more and more repetitions, you can go beyond simplicity." On how to handle Brady with the team, now that he's hurt: "I think the single most difficult thing he's going to have to adjust to is that it's difficult for coaches to include injured players in all of the team activities and preparation. I don't know the culture of the Patriots, but one of the things I recommend to all teams is to try and work injured players in, so they're actively involved. That's the hardest part."
Does the color of our jerseys really matter? Yes, it does, according to recent German research. Their research demonstrated that referees in tae kwondo judge matches in favor of competitors wearing red uniforms. Furthermore, the differences in scoring were not negligible - athletes wearing red were awarded 13% more points than those wearing blue. The researchers also speculated on the impact of their research on other sports. For example, wearing red may be a disadvantage in soccer, where red cards are a negative penalty. Conversely, wearing red in martial sports such as tae kwondo may be advantageous for a competitor, as red is a color commonly associated with aggression. However, Andrew Elliot, University of Rochester psychologist, has a different opinion on the matter. It's not that referees judge in favor of athletes wearing red, but that the color red may trigger subconscious impressions in other competitors and lower their performance. In summary, their is no favor given to red wearers - the opponents of those wearing red may simply perform worse. What do you think? If you are an athlete, have you noticed an effect on the level of competition due to the color of your jersey or the opponents? Any fan of mainstream refereed sports knows conspiracy theories holding that home teams and star players receive preferential treatment. Comment below with your own experiences!
Not Your Typical Team What comes to mind when we think of sports teams? Of sports where teams have specific plays they run? Obviously, football, basketball, hockey...teams where athletes working together as a group under the guidance of a coach perform towards a certain goal. What doesn't come to mind is NASCAR. NASCAR? And not the cars or drivers either - the pit crew. When a car comes into the pit, timing is everything. The car must be prepped correctly and quickly. Greg Miller, Red Bull Racing's pit coach, trains his teams minds and bodies to be ready for the pressure and intensity of a race. Their concentration and team-building exercises include football, cycling, juggling, yoga, tai-chi, and canoeing. Just like other athletes, they watch tape of previous game performances. Miller even mixes in motivational films like Rudy and documentaries on John Wooden. And remember all the plays that pro sports teams run? Miller's team has over 60 of them detailing different pit scenarios.
Positive Behaviors Sport Psychologist H. A. Dorfman has a simply theory - behavior shapes thought. Athletes who can shape their behavior can shape their thoughts and discipline their minds. What does a well disciplined mind look like? It is free of doubt, fear, and anxiety. Dorfman has worked the most with pitchers in baseball. How does a pitcher who trains his mind through his behavior operate? He pitches aggressively, aiming for strikes whether the count is 0-2 or 3-1. He walks confidently, head held high, whether he's just struck out the side or given up a three-run homer. If the body demonstrates an attitude long enough, the mind will begin to adopt it. By acting fearless and in command, the mind will begin to think that way too. Six Steps for Power Performance If you're looking for some easy, simple steps you can use to improve your mental game, you've come to the right spot! Men's Health Magazine online has generated a list, compiled by sport psychologists and researchers, of six simple tools anyone can use to strengthen their mental game. They are: Sponge Up The Pain During workouts, instead of blocking pain and discomfort, be aware of it instead - that way, you'll have no physical surprises during performance. Dream The Feeling Daydream about the way performance feels, whether it's hitting a baseball or mile 20 of a marathon. Imagining the proper form helps us build neural connections between mind and body. Do Not "Do Not" Telling ourselves what "not to do" only conjures a mental image of it, and can produce the very result we fear. Instead, focus on what you want to do through visualization and positive self-talk. Feel Your Form During [...]