Sports Psychology

How to prevent hazing in your organization

A recent google search for “hazing” in the news turned up 128,000 hits this morning. I’ve been asked a few times about hazing and it’s impact:  Is it happening more now than ever? Is there a difference between physically, mentally and emotionally abusive hazing? What can coaches and organizations do about the problem?  It’s got me thinking about the subject and doing a little research.

From my own experience, as a freshman in college back in the early ’90s I was hazed. Both as a member of the soccer team and a fraternity. And I also doled it out as an upperclassman.  I suspect I am like millions of people for whom hazing did not have much of a lasting negative effect. So little effect that I never really considered that I was “hazed” until I started writing this article.  However, it is safe to say that there are countless others for whom hazing has had a seriously negative impact.
My situation is not unique. In one study, 47% of high school athletes reported being hazed, but only 8% identified the behaviors as “hazing.” While hazing did not have a negative impact on me, it definitely has the propensity to get out of control and have severe negative effects, such as emotional trauma, physical injury and in rare cases, death.  As athletic directors, coaches, and parents, we need to make sure that this doesn’t happen.
Before we discuss how to stop the overblown types of hazing and it’s negative effects, and replace with positive team building rituals, we have to understand why it happens in the first place. What is hazing? Why is hazing even a thing in the first place? What do athletes get out of it? What need is […]

By |September 29th, 2016|Sports Psychology|0 Comments

Sports, Peers and Injury

Hello all!

The next couple blog posts I really want to dive into the idea that sports culture and teams work the same way as any cultural group. I want to talk about what psychological aspects of human nature lead to various sports phenomenon and how we can use this information to deconstruct the way we compete.

-Jake Sivinski

Sports, Peers and Injury

My background in competitive skiing has meant that the threat of serious injury has never been far. This is a reality that strikes many different athletes as they progress in their sport and push to perform at higher and higher levels. But why does this have to be so? Why does the threat have to progress as our game does? What sort of psychological processes lead to this increase?

One possible answer takes us to the field of social psychology and various facets of social identity theory. In short, social identity theory states that we define who we are by looking to the people around us and the groups we belong to. For example, I identify myself as American because that is where I live and most people I interact with are also American. This theory not only describes our identities as social constructions, but also as being fluid and subject to change. This means that over time the extent to which we identify as one thing or another can wax and wane and change based on the environment in which we exist. In the context of athletes social identity theory would predict that the more time you spend playing a sport and the better you get at it, the more valuable it becomes to your identity.

So how does this relate to increased likelihood of injury? […]

By |September 27th, 2016|Sports Psychology|0 Comments

Meet Jake Sivinski – SPINw’s fall intern

 Hello world! My name is Jake Sivinski and I am a new intern here at SPINw! I’m super excited to announce that I will be updating the SPINw blog every week. My background as an athlete lies primarily in the winter sports world. I was a competitive freeskier for  7 years competing internationally all over the continent. My background in athletics and my passion for psychology has led me to SPINw, and for that I am grateful. For my first post I would like to tell the story about how I came to know about the field of Sports Psychology and the profound positive impact it has had on my life. Hope you enjoy!


There’s something pretty weird about skiing in July. Every time I do it I feel like I am cheating nature, like stealing a cookie from winter’s proverbial cookie jar. But when the opportunity to ski in one of country’s national parks pops up, sometimes you just have to take it. The date was July 1, 2009 and I was 15 years old. I was young and excited and coming off one of my best winters to date: a dangerous trio. To make matters even more dangerous I was with a large group of other 15 year olds who felt the exact same way. We had just built a nice big jump and were all attempting to learn new tricks in the soft summer slush on Chinook Pass in Rainier National Park.  The trick of the day was a frontflip and nobody wanted to be the first to try it. Finally, I decided to go first, and well, it didn’t go very well. In fact, it ended in a fracture of both my tibia […]

By |September 15th, 2016|Confidence, Positive Thinking, Sports Psychology, Visualization|0 Comments

This is Your Brain on Sports – book review

“We’ve spent the preceding chapters trying to make the case that there are rational underpinnings for all the supposed craziness and unusual behavior that sports seem to trigger. That is, that “your brain on sports” is really just your regular brain acting as it does in other contexts.”
Sound interesting?  This is how Wertheim and Sommers sum up their latest book, This is Your Brain on Sports. From a sport psychology perspective, it’s a great book in the same vein as classics like “Freakonomics” or “Outliers.”   The authors take common ideas and phenomena in sports and put them under the sociological and psychological research microscope to explain certain peculiar behaviors and that are common not only in sports, but in life in general.

Each chapter explores a unique idea from sports, examines the research, and relates it to real life.  Beginning by promising answers to Why questions: “Why Hockey Goons Would Rather Fight at Home” to “Why We Need Rivals” to “Why Our Moral Compass is More Flexible than an Olympic Gymnast” these chapters offer excellent insights into how the mind works, how people relate to each other through the prism of sports, and uncovers why things that seem bizarre are actually quite common..  The conclusion is that sports isn’t so much different than life.  Although, they do go on to explain:  “…sports and athletic competition are fertile ground for scientists across disciplines to test their hypotheses about basic aspects of human nature.”

There’s a lot in here to relate to sport psychology and the mental game.  For instance, popular theory says that sport psychology was founded in 1898 by Norman Triplett, who noticed that he rode his bicycle faster when he was with other people.  In the chapter “Why We Need Rivals,” the authors explain how Triplett […]

By |May 24th, 2016|Coaching, General, Goal Setting, Sports Psychology|0 Comments

Goal Setting in Munchable Chunks

   By Jimmy Yoo, MA Sport Psychology

 “Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started.  It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.”  -Steve Prefontaine

This is one of my favorite quotes!  While winning and success are a part of sports and competition, it isn’t the main reason why athletes compete or why they love their sport.  Joy, fun, and personal passion are the motivation!  As I write this, there are probably athletes wondering, “So how do I do this?” 
During one of my recent workshops with a swim club, we discussed the importance of doing things in MUNCHABLE CHUNKS.  The question I posed to the group was, “If I asked you to eat a large pizza in one bite, could you do it?”  Answers included: “no, that’s impossible,” “it would get messy,” and “huh, I’m not even sure how I would do that.” 
The art to eating a pizza is similar to an athlete’s approach to sport.  If I only focus on the end result, I can get caught up thinking things like, “this is impossible, so why bother trying,” “if I try this and fail, what will others think of me,” or “there’s so much I need to accomplish, I don’t know where to start.”  While it is good to have the end result in mind, to accomplish the task at hand (be it practice or competition) athletes need to focus on the small things that help them in the moment. 
Taking things in munchable chunks allows an athlete to focus on the task at hand.  For example, a swimmer who focuses on the little things (that are relevant to performance) will take […]

By |May 23rd, 2016|Sports Psychology|0 Comments

What does US Soccer’s new mandates mean for you?

The implementation of US Soccer’s 2015 Player Development initiatives is right around the corner.  There has been lots of discussion on the topic, but few concrete answers, which is leaving many involved in youth soccer a bit confused and unsettled about what these changes will mean for players.  These initiatives are changing the youth soccer landscape completely, so there are a lot of unknowns for parents, coaches and players alike. The bottom line is, what’s best for the kids? Do these mandates help or hurt?

Here in Oregon, youth tryouts for club soccer are taking place May 9-14.  In this article we will take a closer look at the changes coming up, give our take on them, and what they will mean for the youth soccer community.
{SPINw is hosting Tryout Prep Mental Game Workshops to help players go into tryouts focused & confident}  -Click on the link below for more information and to register-

First off, why all the changes?  Why now?

Click here for a video explanation from US Soccer

According to US Soccer, here’s the reasoning behind the changes:

Despite the increased popularity of soccer and the success of our national teams, the youth soccer landscape at the entry level needs to be improved.
Our soccer culture at the youth level focuses on winning and results rather than focusing on developing the skills of individual players.
The concept of a team outweighs the importance of players having fun and developing to the best of their abilities.
As a country, we need coaches and parents to spend less time caring about wins and loses, and more time devoted to teaching individual skills.
Part of this initiative is to educate and empower coaches and parents to change the way we look at the sport.
One example of this […]

By |April 13th, 2016|Coaching, Preparation, Sports Parenting, Sports Psychology|2 Comments

Developing Young Athletes

Stages of Athletic and Social Development: Perspective on Developing a Young Athlete
By Jimmy Yoo, MA Sport Psychology

We are currently in an era where children are pressured to specialize in a sport as early as 10 years of age.  These young athletes are heavily recruited by youth travel or club teams, where the majority of their time is spent competing versus training and just enjoying sports.  Travel teams, select teams, and/or competitive club programs are promising parents that their children increase their chances of a college scholarship and the potential to become professional athlete, IF they commit to year around single sport specialization and travel to competitive tournaments where college recruiters and professional scouts evaluate them.  Parents whose children are on these teams will recruit as well by telling prospective parents that if their child does not commit to playing on a club/travel/select team at the youth level, they won’t have a chance of making the varsity team for their local high school.
It is good to have dreams and aspirations for our children, but it is vitally important to make sure that our kids are having fun, that we (as parents) are allowing them to participate in as many sports and physical activities as possible, and that we are allowing our children to develop at their own pace.  Like all things in life, sports and being physically active is a process.  For athletes, developing physical strength and agility, acquiring technical skills, learning tactical skills, and honing psychological skills (like mental toughness and anxiety reduction) are keys to their success.  With that in mind, children need the necessary time to develop each of these skills.  For example, before an athlete enters high school, the majority of their […]

By |March 8th, 2016|Sports Psychology|0 Comments

Handling the Pressure of the Playoffs

How are the playoffs different from the regular season mentally and emotionally?  What sport psychology techniques can athletes and coaches use to best prepare for the rise in intensity, anxiety and nerves that happens in the postseason?   Check out Brian’s interview on KUIK radio 1360 am.


By |March 8th, 2016|Sports Psychology|0 Comments

It’s 90% Mental! Workshop on February 28, 2016

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)

A New Year’s Resolution – lay off the refs!

I’ve got a New Year’s Resolution for us all – Lay off the referees, enough already!   I’ve heard all the excuses, and I’m sure you have too:  “We didn’t win because of that one bad call!”   “They are always biased against our team.” After a while, I all I hear is “Blah blah (excuses) blah blah (not my fault) blah blah (must blame someone other than myself) blah blah.”

I have coached soccer in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, California, and Oregon. Guess which state has the worst refs? It depends where you live!  Because those living in each state will claim it their referees are the worst.  How about some perspective?

Read any message board comments section about a controversial call or a “bad game” by the officials – the fans rarely ever agree on good calls/bad calls, and that’s with the benefit of slow motion replays from numerous angles!  Even with the advent of instant replay in the NFL, there are still arguments.  How about some perspective?

In sport psychology, we teach and train athletes on mental toughness – how to build and maintain confidence, and how to re-build confidence over the course of training and competition. To do that, athletes must be focused on things that they can control over things they cannot.  And the referee is a big factor that is out of your control (others include the weather, field conditions, opponents, etc.).  Athletes need to know this, coaches need to know this, and sports parents need to know this. And we all need to act accordingly.

Do referees make bad calls? Of course they do.  Is it okay to be upset about it?  Yes it is.  How long is it okay to be upset about it? […]

By |December 30th, 2015|Sports Psychology|0 Comments