Once you’re physically capable of winning a gold medal, the rest is 90 percent mental. ~ Patti Johnson
Sport Psychology is a relatively new field that results from a new paradigm in modern psychology: positive psychology. Although psychologists and psychiatrists in the past have developed a reputation for focusing on “fixing” an individual and returning them to a “normal, functional” state, positive psychology is the practice of building individuals’ strengths so that they can become exceptional. While some sport psychologists and psychiatrists still specialize in helping individuals overcome sport-related mental health issues, others focus exclusively on performance enhancement techniques. That is, they aim to take someone’s current strengths and give him or her even more strategies to use to become mentally stronger. This idea of developing mental strength may seem new, but athletes have been referencing the value of this mental edge for decades.
Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course – the distance between your ears. ~ Bobby Jones, former professional golfer.
It’s amazing how much of this is mental. Everybody’s in good shape. Everybody knows how to ski. Everybody has good equipment. When it really boils down to it, it’s who wants it the most and whos the most confident. ~ Reggie Crist, 1992 olympic skiier, pioneer and 2x winner of Ski Cross X Games.
Football is 80 percent mental and 40 percent physical. ~ Steve Emtman, former NFL star.
The mind is everything. What you think you become. ~ Buddha
IS SPORT PSYCHOLOGY FOR ME?
Yes! Sport psychology involves the study of mental factors that influence participation and performance in contexts ranging from physical activity and athletic competition to the workplace and performing arts.
For years, athletes did not take advantage of mental skills training, instead relying on strength and conditioning training, and physical practice. Still, the best athletes likely had a good grasp on the skills and techniques used by sport psychologists today. As Reggie Crist said above, everyone is in shape and physically capable. What sets you apart is the mental side: attitude, confidence, mental toughness, and more. Although a lot of what athletes do is physical, mental skills are still enormously important to develop in order to excel in competition. Knowing what we now do about the effectiveness of mental skills training, everyone can practice mental skills just like they practice physical skills. And it doesn’t stop with sports. Think of how much an individual could gain from using mental skills when the goal requires almost no physical training. Imagine a business person about to give a big presentation or a student preparing to take the SATs. The challenge they are about to experience is hardly physical, meaning mental skills training is at least AS important to them as it is to an athlete, if not more! The idea that sport psychology is only for athletes is fading, as the many uses for performance psychology are showing up in the medical field, performing arts, and any other context in which a person or team wants to perform their best.
WHAT SPORT PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSIONALS DO:
A sport or performance practitioner uses evidence-based techniques to help you:
Improve performance using a variety of performance enhancement techniques including goal setting, imagery, focus/attention strategies, stress management, and much more!
Educate coaches and leaders about effective coaching practices to optimize the experience of athletes in terms of their satisfaction and their sport/personal development.
Cope with changes in your performance environment. Injuries can negatively affect an athlete’s attitude. A person who identifies with their ability to be physically active may need assistance with the mental rehabilitation required to make a full recovery. Other athletes may need help coping with the pressures of competition and demands placed on them (e.g. a student-athlete balancing school and practice, a professional athlete afraid of letting down her team, a parent balancing work, life, and training).
Develop workshops and programs to help cultivate team cohesion within a workplace, to encourage weight loss, to motivate exercise adherence, or to train a group of surgeons to deal with the mental challenges in their profession.
While many sport psychology professionals work in academic institutions and conduct research on these factors, others specializing in taking what we already know from research and applying it to help individuals better themselves. At Carolina Performance, we acknowledge the breadth of situations that demand optimal performance and mental health, so you will find a variety of practitioners and experts to help people like you.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Just as athletes practice their physical skills regularly, mental skills require practice too. This is so important to understand prior to meeting with a sport psychologist for any reason. Of course, the techniques given to you may not come naturally; if they did, you would probably be an expert already. Nonetheless, they will help if given time and attention, just like learning a new yoga pose, a new golf shot, or a new dance move.
WHO IS A SPORT PSYCHOLOGIST / WHO IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
It is imperative that you seek guidance from those who are properly educated to use evidence-based practice. That means your practitioner has sought out information from journals, conferences, and research studies about what has been shown to work and not work. Sport, exercise, and performance psychology practitioners can come from a variety of backgrounds, including Counseling, Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry, Kinesiology (Sport & Exercise Science), and Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology! These people should have at least a master's degree, if not a doctoral degree.
If you have mental health needs (or are not sure!) you should first and foremost see either a licensed counselor, licensed psychologist, or licensed psychiatrist. A licensed psychologist who "has experience applying psychological principles in sports settings" may also be APA Division 47 affiliated. These individuals are the only ones termed "Sport Psychologists."
If you are simply looking for a mental skills coach or sport psychology consultant, start with the USOC Sport Psychology Registry, which lists qualified professionals by geographic area. These people should all be certified consultants by the Association for the Advancement of Sport Psychology (AASP), signified by CC-AASP.
WHO WE ARE
At Carolina Performance, we have experts who are capable of helping anyone with a range of desires. We have psychiatrists, psychologists, and coaches who specialize in children & adolescents, couples, groups, military personnel, athletes, and individuals going through life transitions.
The experienced and skilled professionals work to help their clients with performance enhancement, stress management, life coaching, business coaching, mediation, team building, and addiction.
No matter what you’re looking for, Carolina Performance is here to help! Contact one of our wonderful providers today: http://www.carolinaperformance.net/providers/
Not sure who you’re interested in working with? Contact us through: http://www.carolinaperformance.net/contact/
If you're looking for more detail on the qualifications needed to become a sport psychology professional, keep an eye out for an upcoming post that describes the differences in detail!
Carolina Performance Intern
Master’s Student in Kinesiology at UNC-Greensboro
Correspondence can be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org