Sports Psychology

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Sport Psychology is about Fun

Continuing our 5 Things You Need to Know About Sport Psychology... #1 - Sport Psychology is not “psychology” #2 - Sport Psychology is as much proactive measure as it is a reactive one we now bring you #3 - Sport Psychology is about Fun The reason that people play sports, coach sports, watch sports, and get their kids involved in sports boils down to one thing:  having fun.  Sure, there are other very valuable reasons - to be active, to meet new people, to be part of something bigger than yourself, to compete, to learn - but what is the common denominator for all these reasons?  Because it's fun. Whether you are a young athlete, a professional athlete, a coach, or a sports parent, keeping this in mind is crucial to the athlete's performance and success. Young Athletes In study after study, survey after survey, fun is one of the top reason kids give for participating in youth sports is fun. But what is fun?  According to a George Washington University study: "The 11 fun factors lie within the fundamental tenets and include Being a good sport, Trying hard, Positive coaching, Learning and improving, Game time support, Games, Practices, Team friendships, Mental bonuses, Team rituals, and Swag." Professional Athletes But is sports supposed to be 'fun' for the pros?  Isn't it their job? Sometimes hard work isn't fun, right?  Well, let's let a couple of professional athletes have to say about their participation in sports. Derek Jeter:  "The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would be time to move forward." Lionel Messi: "Football is a game. I'm trying to have fun on [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:02-07:00 March 19th, 2015|Confidence, General, Positive Thinking, Sports Psychology|0 Comments

Sport Psychology is Proactive too

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 [...]

Sport Psychology is not “psychology”

*This is Part 1 of the 5 Things You Need to Know About Sport Psychology Series* Last year, I wrote an article asking if 2014 was the Year of Sport Psychology.  While sport psychology has enjoyed great gains lately, the field is still somewhat of a mystery to most.  I suspect if you’re reading this, you have the basic understanding of the importance of the mental game, but here are 5 things you need to know to have a deeper understanding of how sport psychology can help improve your mental game and overall performance. #1 - Sport Psychology is not “psychology” psychology This is typically the biggest misconception is about the field as a whole.  According to, here is the definition: psychology  [sahy-kol-uh-jee] 1.  the science of the mind or of mental states and processes. 2.  the science of human and animal behavior. 3.  the sum or characteristics of the mental states and processes of a person or class of persons, or of the mental states and processes involved in a field of activity:  the psychology of a soldier; the psychology of politics. 4.  mental ploys or strategy:   He used psychology on his parents to get a larger allowance. While all of these definitions are good descriptions of how sport psychology works, it's important to make the distinction.  The field of psychology is pretty diverse - there are psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and counselors.   Many practitioners in psychology diagnose and treat mental disorders, usually according the DSM-5. In sport psychology, professionals are more closely related to coaches than these other titles. Mental Skills Coach, Mental Toughness Coach, or Mental Conditioning Coach might be a better way to define our work. We work with athletes [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:02-07:00 February 23rd, 2015|General, Sports Psychology|3 Comments

Keeping your New Year’s Resolution alive

by Jimmy Yoo, MA Sport Psychology As I enter the weight room at my local fitness center, I start my regular routine of scanning the room.  My first objective is to find the first available treadmill.  If they are all taken, I go to plan “b,” see if an exercise bike or elliptical machine is available.  The beginning of January, when dreams of ‘New Year's Resolutions’ abound and are plenty, not one fitness machine is available.  The room is filled with energy and expectations of a healthier me.  But today, I notice that only ¼ of the exercise machines are occupied.  I then take a quick look at my watch to see that it is now almost the end of February.  Resolution season is coming to an end and many of my fellow gym rats that started the season with me, have more than likely succumb to old habits or have found a new reason why they don’t have time to include exercise as part of their daily or weekly routine. Why is it so difficult to get our ‘new years resolutions’ to stick? One reason that comes to mind is that we tend to think big, like dreams of losing that beer gut or wanting to look like a supermodel for summer.   A dream without a road map to get you there tends to be a fleeting thought. How are people able to create a ‘New Year's Resolution’ that is successful?   So many times, our ‘new years resolution’ tends to be a lofty dream rather than an attainable goal.  It is good to dream big, but you also need to create a plan that makes your goal a reality.  Instead of setting an [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:02-07:00 February 18th, 2015|Sports Psychology|0 Comments

Sport Psychology and Transitions

-by Jimmy Yoo, MA Sport Psychology With the start of the winter sports season, I am reminded of the multi-sport athletes who are transitioning from their fall to winter sport. Some high school athletes will rely heavily on their coaches to make this transition for them, hoping that the conditioning and training sessions are enough to successfully prepare them for each sport season. Others may have started cross-training midway through their fall season so that they feel prepared to start their winter sport. While many of these athletes are able to successfully make the transition from one sport to the next, it is important to set personal expectations to help you to successfully transition from one sport season to the next. For example, a high school athlete who plays football in the fall and wrestles in the winter has to transition from a football weight to wrestling weight (e.g., 225 pound football weight to 190 pound wrestling weight). While the prior sport focuses on the healthy weight gain, the latter sport focuses on healthy weight loss. Since it is not realistic for an athlete to start cutting weight during the football season, the athlete must make a plan or set tangible expectations to accomplish this goal. This could include figuring out a healthy nutritional plan and setting an expected amount of time in which he could manageably drop the weight. The classic stereotype is of a wrestler exercising in a plastic sweat suit to shed as much water weight as possible while also starving himself or herself to make the required weight the day of competition. You will even hear stories of how wrestlers make it a regular habit of gaining and losing 10-15 pounds [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:02-07:00 November 26th, 2014|Sports Psychology|0 Comments

Is there a ‘sixth sense’ in sports?

No, not a sixth sense of being able to see dead people like in the movie... but more like this definition: sixth sense - noun:  a power of perception beyond the five senses; intuition: "His sixth sense warned him to be cautious." As an athlete or a coach, do you ever have a feeling that you know what's going to happen next?  Or after something has happened, thinking "I knew that was going to happen!"  Do you ever make decisions based on a "gut feeling?"  That's the kind of sixth sense I am talking about. It's more about seeing things before they happen. Here's another way to look at "sense."  If something "makes sense," we are talking about this definition: a sane and realistic attitude to situations and problems; a reasonable or comprehensible rationale. But sometimes sports makes no sense. How else to explain upsets, chokes, and record-breaking performances?  Those "wow!" moments like Kirk Gibson's homerun, David Tyree's "helmet catch," or Tim Tebow winning an NFL playoff game (kidding, I'm a big Gator fan, so I can go there)? So what exactly is the sixth sense of sports?  Belief, Confidence, Anticipation, Intuition, Trust, Faith? A combination of these?  And can it be developed? We think so. Let's take a look at some other "Senses" - Sense of humor, sense of balance, sense of fairness Like these, the sixth sense in sports, well, makes no "sense."  Sense of humor is just that - a sense of what's funny. It's not all the same for all people and there is definitely no formula to it.  Jerry Seinfeld has a certain sense of humor, and so does Adam Carolla.  Both are very funny, but in different senses. [...]

What factors lead to team success?

by Glen Coblens, MA SPINw consultant There are many factors leading to team success in sports. In addition to factors impacting individual sports performance such as confidence, emotional control and focus, three factors can positively or negatively influence team performance. Roles Teamwork Always keep your head in the game Roles Clearly identified roles helps create team harmony and reduces confusion. Athletes who know, understand and accept their role on the team are more satisfied and enjoy their sport experience. Coaches should communicate to each athlete and confirm roles have been identified.  Continued open communication that is consistent with practice settings leads to a greater understanding of roles and less distractions in competition. Coaches can enhance player satisfaction and maximize performance by demonstrating each athlete is a valuable team member. Teamwork Also known as team chemistry, teamwork is vital to team success. Each athlete must put the team’s needs above their own and play to their collective strengths. Teamwork is essential as teams work together to reach a common goal. Teamwork is also a transferable skill teaching life lessons such as taking responsibility for actions and cooperation. Always keep your head in the game There is a saying that coaches like to use… “When you are in the game, you are in the game and when you are out of the game, you are in the game”. This means when you are not physically playing, you should be focusing on what is going on in the game so when the coach inserts you into competition, you are ready. This is particularly important in sports with multiple substitutions like basketball and hockey. Sport Psychology helps athletes control the controllables and maintaining your focus when you are on [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:02-07:00 November 11th, 2014|Sports Psychology|0 Comments

Evolution of Sport Psychology

Evolution of Sports Psychology by Glen Coblens, MS Coleman Griffith, sport psychologist Most athletes, coaches and parents would agree your mental state has a lot to do with your success. If physical talents and abilities are equal, mental strength can give athletes an edge. When Coleman R. Girffith founded Sports Psychology in the 1920’s, he thought “the more mind is made use of in athletic competition, the greater will be the skill of our athletes” (Benjamin & Baker, 2004). Although Griffith worked with colleges and some professional teams, he struggled to convince athletes and team managers/coaches of the value of developing strong mental skills. Later, the ideas he pioneered were later developed by others, and now are a standard practice in professional and collegiate sports. His original research focused on: Relation between physical exercise and learning Nature of sleep in athletes Measurement of physical fitness Effects of emotion on learning of habits Muscular coordination Persistence of errors Effects of fatigue on performance Mental variables associated with excellent athletic performance. Today, sport psychologists work in a variety of roles including private practices, consulting services, help professional and collegiate athletes/sports teams and conduct research. The popularity and growth of athletics has provided opportunities for many individuals and organizations. Here are just a few areas where Sports Psychology can help: Enhance Performance Emotional Control Enjoyment and satisfaction Focus and re-focus How to effectively handle the pressures of competition Learning a new skill Recovering from injuries Motivation   SPINw’s mission is to continue the evolution of sports psychology. We offer a full slate of programs for athletes, teams, coaches and parents. Our consultants are coaches and parents with expertise in one-on-one or team consultation, small group workshops [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:02-07:00 October 7th, 2014|Sports Psychology|0 Comments

How Sport Psychology has changed in 15 years

Happy Birthday SPINw!  I can’t believe it has been 15 years!! -by Jimmy Yoo, SPINw Consultant As I reflect on the past 15 years I realize that a lot has changed in sport, particularly in the United States.  In terms of athletes, I am reminded of Kevin Garnett (drafted in 1995) and Kobe Bryant (drafted in 1996).  Both were basketball players who were drafted right out of high school to play professional basketball.  While they weren’t the first athletes to be drafted out of high school to play a professional sport, their immediate success had a ripple effect on the sport of basketball and with sports in the United States.  Before Kobe and Kevin Garnett, basketball players were encouraged to play four years of college basketball before entering the NBA, now players are either recruited straight out of high school or at most, play one maybe two years of college basketball before going pro. This trend in drafting younger athletes has lead college coaches to recruit athlete at a younger age.  Instead of evaluating the potential and recruiting athletes their junior year of high school, it is now an accepted practice that college coaches seek out verbal commitments from athletes as early as their freshman year of high school.  Since college coaches no longer have four years to develop their players and build a team identity, they are now forced to find talented basketball players who can make an immediate impact on their teams as freshmen.  As a result, coaches at all levels (youth, high school, and college) are stressing the need for athletes to specialize (play only one sport) at an even younger age.   It wasn’t long ago when it was acceptable for an [...]

By | 2018-09-04T15:26:18-07:00 October 7th, 2014|Sports Psychology|0 Comments

15 years of SPINw – so, what’s changed?

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 [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:02-07:00 October 7th, 2014|Mental Game Training, Sports Psychology|0 Comments