Sports Psychology

/Sports Psychology

Post Race Blues

*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 [...]

So you want to play in college

College sports - it’s a big goal for many young athletes, and a worthy one at that. While it’s true that a very small percentage of high school athletes go on to play in college, there are some clear benefits both while in school and after school. So keep those goals high! At SPINw we have worked with athletes on all sides of the collegiate equation: from aspiring young players with the dream, to the high school juniors and seniors in the middle of the recruiting process, to those who are currently competing at that level, and those who have been through it and now play professionally. The mental game, for the most part, is the same for all of these groups: be confident, stay positive, control your emotions, and perform under pressure. But there are some specific issues to be addressed. Here’s are the issues we’ve seen, and some of the strategies we recommend for athletes to build and maintain a strong and positive mindset. The Young Athlete   The Big Issues: Winning vs development - In today’s youth sports culture, the reasons for participating have been turned on their head in many cases. The reasons young people play are to have fun, learn new things, make new friends, and be part of something greater than themselves. However, the emphasis can change over time to focusing on building a winning program. As parents, check out John O’Sullivan’s Changing the Game Project for ways to best support your young athletes to that they self-motivate, learn to compete, and most importantly, enjoy playing sports. Building the mental skills to match the physical - As a coach, I was taught there are 4 “pillars” to coaching: Technical, [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:03-07:00 July 30th, 2014|Sports Psychology|0 Comments

What would you do? Sport Parent edition

Most of us have seen the ABC show What Would You Do?  For those who haven’t, it’s a hidden camera show where actors act out pretty inappropriate conversations and actions in public.  Then the show captures the reactions of normal everyday people to see how they handle these super uncomfortable situations.  Host John Quinones then comes out of hiding to interview the unsuspecting citizens. Sometimes, as a soccer parent, I’m left wondering where the cameras are hidden because I can’t believe I am watching adults act the way they are acting.  Of course, most of the games go on as they should - with supportive parents and family members cheering on their sons and daughters as they compete.  But there are others where the parents berate 14 year old referees, 10 year old players from the opposing team, and each other.  Those times when things just get way out of hand. As a sports parent, most of us behave ourselves.  Maybe occasionally we’ll let a “come on ref!” slip out, but for the most part we keep it together, keep it respectful, and display positive sportsmanship.  But do we stand up when the bad apples act up?  Have we ever left a game thinking “I really should have said or done something!” when another parent got out of control?  It can be a really tricky situation, talking to a stranger, or even someone we know, about their behavior.  It can be uncomfortable! So my question is, What would you do?   Here are a couple situations I've witnessed or heard about.  I'm sure you have witnessed or heard about stories like this to.   Did you have success with it?  Share your "what would you do" moment [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:03-07:00 May 19th, 2014|Preparation, Sports Parenting, Sports Psychology|0 Comments

Sports Parenting – how to be a fan

Check out SPINw Director Brian Baxter's interview with the Oregonian regarding parent's roles in being a sports fan. Use sports viewing for sportsmanship, values, and family bonding!

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:03-07:00 May 12th, 2014|Sports Psychology|0 Comments

2014 – the year of Sport Psychology?

2014 is shaping up to be the year of sport psychology.  Most coaches and athletes recognize the importance of the mental game, but don’t spend the necessary time to train mentally.  It’s a field that is growing, but sport psychology still struggles to achieve a tremendous amount of mainstream acceptance.  Whether it's visualization, focus, team building, or leadership training, using a mental conditioning coach to supplement the technical, tactical, and physical elements of athletics can be another key to success.  So why don't more athletes, teams and organizations use it? So far in 2014, there tangible evidence that training your mind, as well as your body, can be the difference between good and great. As of today, here are some of the bigger name athletes and programs who have a sport psychologist or mental conditioning coach on staff: Florida State Seminoles - 2014 NCAA football Champions (Jimbo Fisher, head coach) "We are going to put as big of an emphasis on mental conditioning as we do physical in our program because you don't need to be sick to get better," Jimbo Fisher UConn Huskies - 2014 NCAA men’s basketball Champions (Kevin Ollie, head coach) "Initially, Connecticut’s players were skeptical of what was perceived as another formulaic team chemistry exercise. Boatright said that none of the Huskies wanted to attend the sessions or even talk at first, but that now Carr “is a part of this team,” and “after we had that meeting, our chemistry was unbelievable.” Doug McDermott, Creighton University - 2014 Naismith Trophy for best men’s college basketball player “Stark has McDermott lie on a training table and talks him into a deep-relaxation phase. Stark counts backward from five to one. McDermott arrives at a [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:03-07:00 April 23rd, 2014|Sports Psychology|3 Comments

Be a Student of Parenting

by Brian Baxter I had been talking to my new friend Thomas for about 5 minutes at a Christmas party before the conversation turned to our kids. We found that we shared an interest in coaching as well as being a good parent. After exchanging stories, we decided that you know what? Parenting is hard! He summed it up nicely: “The more I do this, the more I realize I am just a student of parenting.” The notion of being a “student of parenting” struck a resonant chord with me. I played sports all my life, coached for 20 years and refereed for a couple years. And most recently, a sports parent for 6 years.  In my early days, I know what advice I gave people on sports parenting, and could easily tell them what to do. But, as with most things in life, it didn't hit me until I experienced it for myself: “This is harder than it looks!” That's what my new friend learned, too. He'd been through a rough upbringing and work in a social worker environment where parenting was downright awful. He is determined to be the best dad he can be. Our paths had been different, but we had arrived in the same place: no, we're not perfect, but we're aware. Aware that we want the best for our kids, aware that we are not always doing what's best for our kids, and aware that we can continue to adjust, learn, and grow. STUDENT -  noun           1.  a person formally engaged in learning, especially one enrolled in a school or college; pupil           2. any person who studies, investigates, or examines thoughtfully Students learn and improve over time, and [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:03-07:00 April 1st, 2014|Sports Parenting, Sports Psychology|1 Comment

Resolution Season

Making The Holiday Season Your Resolution Season by Jimmy Yoo, SPINw Consultant Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to get together, and it is the start of the holiday season. For most people, the holidays also include enjoying a lot of food (like turkey, pie, and cookies) and drink (like pumpkin spiced lattes, hot cocoa with extra marshmallows, and winter ales). For many, late November and the month of December equate to binge eating, followed by January 1, the time to make a New Years Resolution. For many, the first thing that comes to mind is losing that extra weight we gained since Thanksgiving! An article by Leo Widrich, “The science of New Year’s Resolutions: Why 88% fail and how to make them work” ( discusses the difference between creating new habits versus creating a New Year’s Resolution. Widrich identifies that when people create a New Years Resolution they tend to pick an abstract goal, “The problem is clear, any abstract goal you have, that is not tied to a specific behavior is near impossible for your brain to focus on. Making it “instinctual”, which is the crucial aspect, that will help you achieve any new habits, is missing in 90% of all New Year’s Resolutions, which makes them so likely to fail.” Widrich sites that the key to a successful resolution is: to make a goal a habit first and most importantly, make it a tiny one (goal). Here is a list of examples on how Widrich translates four of the most common New Year’s Resolutions to tiny goals: Resolution: Quit smoking vs. Habit: Only stop smoking that 1 cigarette you have every morning after breakfast Resolution: Eat healthy food vs. Habit: [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:03-07:00 December 2nd, 2013|Positive Thinking, Sports Psychology|0 Comments

How to be a good sports parent

Brian was interviewed for this KGW piece on sports parenting. by Cathy Marshall, KGW Staff Posted on October 25, 2013 at 1:48 PM Updated Friday, Oct 25 at 5:38 PM PORTLAND -- University of Portland basketball player Bryce Pressley said he has seen some out of control sports parents over the years. “One time a parent ran onto the court and almost tried to hit his kid, but the ref caught him," Pressley said. "It was over the top.” Pilots soccer player Erin Dees said she's been the target of frustrated parents. “I’ve had parents yelling things at me that college students wouldn’t even say,” she said. But both Dees and Pressley said their parents found the perfect words when the competition got tough. “They would tell me to forget about it and move on to the next game,” Pressley remembered. "Once I slipped on a goal kick. I looked like a Bozo but my dad told me not to worry about it because no one saw it," Dees said. "A sense of humor is good.” At Sports Psychology Institute Northwest, Brian Baxter offers seminars about how to parent successful athletes. “The biggest mistake parents make is coaching from the sidelines,” he said. “Often times they’re telling their kids to do something contrary to what the coach is saying, so the child doesn’t know who to please.” Baxter recommends parents focus on the three things within an athlete’s control: attitude, effort, and preparing for the game. He said those are starting points for effective conversations, and a positive pre-game message is also important. “Work hard and have fun. That’s all I say to my kids,” Baxter said. Once the game is over, he said young [...]

By | 2014-04-03T14:47:32-07:00 October 28th, 2013|Golf, Sports Parenting, Sports Psychology|0 Comments

Congrats THUSC Onyx – national champions

SPINw is proud to say congratulations to Tualatin Hills United Soccer Club's U15 girls Onyx, who won the US Club Soccer National Championship this summer. KPTV - FOX 12 KPTV - FOX 12 SPINw's Brian Baxter has been working with this team since age 11, teaching them sport psychology techniques such as goal setting, focus and concentration, visualization, positive self-talk, team building, and leadership.

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:03-07:00 October 15th, 2013|Sports Psychology|0 Comments