“Anybody can become angry — that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power, and is not easy.” —Aristotle An essential element of sport psychology is dealing with the emotions that come with competitive athletics. Whether you are an athlete, a coach, a referee, a parent, or a fan, the higher the level of competition, the higher the emotional level can become. And the higher the emotional level, the more important it becomes to control and manage those emotions. One exercise I lead my athletes through is to identify which emotions help their performance and which emotions hurt their performance. For a vast majority of my clients, there are more emotions that negatively affect how they play than positively affect. This awareness is key to developing strategies to handle the negative emotions, and even use them for your benefit. There are some emotions that athletes identify that sometimes help and sometimes hurt their performance. Among them: aggressiveness, caution, stubbornness, and surprise. But by far, the most common is anger. Athletes describe it this way: “Sometimes I get angry and it makes me focus and play better. Sometimes I get angry and it makes me play erratic and out of control.” That is important information to know, and to come up with a plan to make sure you harness your anger for positive, instead of letting the anger control you and your actions. If we take Aristotle’s quote above, let’s examine these questions: Who Are You Angry With? This is a big factor in whether anger is [...]
SPINw Consultant Eric Bergreen was a national champion shot putter at UCLA. We recently asked him to comment on this article discussing Michelle Carter's mental training. Here's what he had to say: As a former shot putter I was thrilled to see Chris Chavez of Sports Illustrated interview Michelle Carter to discuss her success after the 2016 Olympic gold win. The shot put might not be glamorous to many but it is far from “playing fetch with yourself.” To be the best you have to have great technical talent and the ability to manage high pressure situations. I think you might agree that the Olympics is about as high pressure as it gets for an athlete. Michelle Carter, daughter of Michael Carter, not only has tremendous physicality in her genes, but understands the type of physical and mental training required to be her best. In the interview she discusses utilizing a sport psychiatrist to help her learn how to max out her mental strength. She uses techniques such as Imagery and self -talk to control the chatter in her head that often leads to ineffective thoughts. She visualized her competition and normalized the experience stating “I throw against these girls all the time. She visualized the setting she would be in, the feeling of the stadium and the intensity of the crowd. She visualized being in a calm energetically balanced state of being. This type of mental rehearsal can train the mind to experience upcoming events as if you have done it a thousand times before. That leads to amazing confidence. Michelle has a fantastic ability to keep her mind on the controllable factors and stop thinking about the problems she may face with her [...]
DID YOU KNOW ONE OF THE NATION’S TOP WATER SKIERS LIVES IN HILLSBORO… AND HE’S IN HIS 60’s? Tom Carey credits SPINw book with helping him become a top 10 slalom water skier in the US January 22, 2016, Portland, OR . . . It’s not often that a $20 book can transform your life, career and propel you to the top of national rankings in a sport. But for champion water skier and Oregonian Tom Carey, that’s exactly what reading “The Sports Mindset Gameplan” did for him. An athlete since the age of five, Carey had competed in various sports, and at age 60, he decided to take a different tack for competing at the 2014 U.S. National Water Ski Championships. Although he was always ambitious, he had never gotten the results he wanted while competing at the annual championships. This year, he committed to doing more than showing up. The winter before the competition, a few copies of “The Sports Mindset Gameplan” showed up at his Beaverton facility Bio Force Youth Fitness. He grabbed on and went through it in meticulous detail, page by page, using it as his workbook. By the end, his goal was set to place in the top 10. And so, at the age of 60, when most people are seriously settling in to the thought of retirement, Carey competed and emerged in 6th place in the men’s slalom event. “The Sports Mindset Gameplan,” written by Portland sports psychology consultant and SPINw director Brian Baxter, MA. It’s an interactive workbook designed for all athletes, from beginning to recreational to elite, and puts the mental focus back into physical training and performance. “This is exactly what we had hoped the [...]
Come join us at Evolution Healthcare and Fitness in SE Portland on February 28th at 5pm for a mental game workshop. (Click here to register) How many times have you heard someone tell you what a huge component the mental game is in your particular sport? Well, they were right! You spend hours each week training your body to perform at it's highest level. But how do you prepare your mind? The mental game often separates the good athletes from the great ones, and the great ones from the elite. This workshop will address confidence, mental toughness, focus, and more, to help you perform up to your potential when the pressure is on. As the Director of SPINw here in Portland, Brian works with athletes and teams of all ages and skills levels on the mental game. He is excited to bring these sport psychology techniques to the athletes at Evolution! Copies of his workbook for athletes, The Sports Mindset Gameplan, will be available at a discounted rate to participants. (Click here to register)
I do a regular interview with Michael Austin from Basketball Coach Weekly. Coaches often ask me about team motivation techniques, and what sport psychology skills they can use with their athletes. In this most recent interview, (which I particularly enjoyed) I address the answer to those questions in terms of how coaches can spot and help correct a player who is in a slump. Check it out!
Coaches are teachers, motivators, amateur sport psychologists, and parental figures. A great coach can teach life lessons that go on well beyond the playing field, while a bad coach can make a young athlete hate sports and quit playing altogether. I was like many young athletes, figuring that the leap from a high school level to the collegiate level would mean not only higher competition, but better coaching, and wow, was I wrong about that. A recent Sports Illustrated article details some disturbing stats about how collegiate athletes are treated by their coaches. (This podcast echos the article and is worth the listen). In one study cited in the article: "39% of women’s basketball players strongly agreed that “my head coach can be trusted.” 61% of these athletes do not trust the person who is suposed to be their biggest ally and advocate? The article also goes on to say: "Even more alarming, athletes have never been more psychologically vulnerable, reflecting a trend among all college students. The ACHA assessment found that 41% of athletes had “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” and 52% had “felt overwhelming anxiety,” with the figures for women jumping to 45% and 59%, respectively. Further, 14% of athletes said they had “seriously considered suicide,” with 6% having attempted it." A similar article was written 5 years ago, but it doesn't seem like much has changed, despite the assertion that: "That shift has forced coaches to adjust. Abuse simply won't be tolerated." But it still happens. Within those 5 years we've seen Illinois football coach fired, video of Rutgers basketball coach throwing balls at a player while berating him, Florida football coach Jim McElwain curse out a player on [...]
Recently I was interviewed by ex-NFL player Isaac Byrd on his Unlocking the Minds of Athletes podcast. Isaac does great job interviewing professionals in the field, and I was honored to be a part of it. Check it out here. Quote: Henry Ford…Anything being possible 2 things to listen for: 1st, Brian talks about the importance of having awareness that a strong mentality is just as important as a strong body and 2nd, he mentions 3 key components to be aware of that will immediately help your mental-game. Scenario: He details certain techniques athletes can use to keep a strong and positive mindset when dealing with a major injury. Training Round: He talks about a technique he teaches his athletes called ‘Filtered Listening’ and he goes into great detail about what that is and how you can use it in any sport.
Last week's issue covered the fact that: #1 - Sport Psychology is not “psychology” Not only is sport psychology not psychology, it is also not just a measure of last resort. There can be a tendency to think of sport psychology only as a reactive measure - when the athlete is struggling mightily with performance. But working on the mental game is valuable as a proactive tool too. Let’s look at the Mental Game on this spectrum: In our experience at SPINw, the majority of our athletes are on the lower end of this spectrum. They are usually trending toward the Struggling mode or worse. But we do serve as a proactive measure as well. For young athletes, as they grow physically, become more skilled technically, and learn their sport tactically, the psychological aspect of sports can't be ignored. The older a player gets, the more pressure, the higher the stakes become, they must have the tools to handle. For older athletes, a strong mental game is needed to keep consistency in performance. A Proactive Success Story I once worked with a high school quarterback who was up toward the higher end of the spectrum and told me the reason he came in was because he “heard sport psychology could help make me a better player.” Simple. He was a confident kid, but this was his first year to potentially be a starter. He was in a preseason battle to win the starting job and wanted to do everything he could to give him a competitive edge. We worked together on setting goals for the season to sharpen his focus. He worked on improving his leadership skills to communicate better and get the most out [...]
by Brian Baxter, MA Sport Psychology 2014 marks Sport Psychology Institute Northwest's 15th year providing mental game services for teams, athletes, coaches and parents. The consultants of SPINw were asked: How has the field of sport psychology changed in the past 15 years? Interestingly enough, I’d say it’s grown by leaps and bounds, but at the same time, it still faces some of the same challenges now as it did back then. For my own personal journey, I will go back to 1991 (okay, so that's *gulp* 23 years ago), the first time I ever heard the term “sport psychology” or someone working with a “sport psychologist.” It was about my favorite pitcher on my favorite team, John Smoltz from the Atlanta Braves. Being a collegiate athlete and psychology major, this was huge! I was all in! Except I wasn’t, because nothing seemed to ever come of it, at least for me. I continued to play soccer, improving my technical and tactical knowledge of the sport, but without improving the mental part. Fast forward to 1997, when I first had contact with a sport psychologist. I was pretty dedicated to coaching soccer and taking my USSF C license course, when renowned sport psychologist Darren Treasure presented on the topic of Psychology of Coaching. My interest was immediately piqued (again) and I hung out afterward and bent Dr Treasure’s ear for a while, soaking up what information I could gain, finally deciding, this is what I want to do. In 1999 (15 years ago), I applied to and was accepted to John F Kennedy University sport psychology graduate program, and the next year packed up the U-Haul and my wife and dog and I head from [...]
*This article was recently published in the Portland Triathlon Club Newsletter* For endurance athletes, the mental game is as important, if not more so, than the physical game for competition. A strong mental game gives the athlete the best chance to succeed before the race starts, and during the race itself. Sports psychology includes having a good pre-race routine, implementing strategies for how to handle the ups and downs of a race - the pain, and the rigors of competition, and strategies for winning the battle in the athlete's mind - the battle between all the reasons to quit, versus all the reasons to keep going. But there can also be a potential post-race psychological competent too. Known most commonly as "post-race depression", it is less frequent of an issue as the pre-race or during race issues, but no less difficult to deal with. Post-race depression is a build up of focus, concentration, sacrifice, hard-work, and anticipation that has a very abrupt end. It can be mentally and emotionally draining. Physical changes include hormone and chemistry changes. All of this can make an athlete wonder "what is going on?!" It's important to know that post race depression is pretty normal! We sometimes experience let downs after big events, and it can be part of the process. While the experience of these emotions are normal, that doesn't make it any less comfortable. Here are some sport psychology techniques that can help soften the blow: Goal Setting - Goal setting, when done correctly, is a continuous process. It does not end with the A-race, or the end of a season. There is a logical next step to focus on when done. After a big race, athletes can [...]