"Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist oughta have
their head examined."
This classic joke underscores the unfortunate, still-alive social
stigma that people who seek mental help must either be inept, inherently
mentally weak or just plain crazy. Athletes who see sports psychologists
are sometimes ridiculed and are thought to lack the proper innate
mental capabilities -- the "right stuff". In some sports, athletes
who use sports psychologists are actually ostracized.
This negative, critical approach is incredibly sad. It's also incorrect
It shows an amazing lack of knowledge about the wide-ranging extent
sports psychologists are embraced by many, many athletes -- from
beginners to champions -- in almost every sport in the world. It
also maintains age-old destructive myths and misunderstandings about
the value and workings of the sports psychology field.
This article's purpose is to help athletes, parents and coaches
understand and come to terms with their reluctance to utilize the
services of sports psychologists. It dispels many of the myths that
surround what happens in a sports psychology coaching session and
explains the benefits of working with a sports psychologist.
Let's first look at the wide array of sports that use sports psychologists
as trusted and valued members of their coaching staffs.
Who Uses Sports Psychologists?
Sports psychology is no longer a well-kept secret.
It seems everyone in sports uses this mind coach, at the very minimum,
to not fall behind their competitors. Indeed, working with a sports
psychologist can give you the winning edge. Virtually every college,
university, national team, Olympic team, and pro team has a sports
psychologist on staff. Look at the representation of sports psychologists
being utilized across the entire range of sport:
- Major league professional sports teams.
- Minor league professional sports teams.
- Individual professional athletes in every sport.
- Olympic teams in every sport.
- National coaching associations.
- National teams in every sport.
- University and college athletic departments.
- University and college athletic teams.
- Individual college athletes in every sport.
- Coaches in every sport.
- Parents in every sport.
- Individual recreational athletes in every sport.
High Profile Championship Teams Who Use Sports
The top teams in sport regularly use sports psychologists
to maintain the sharp edge of focus, determination and a winning
mind set. Here are five well-known superstar teams that have sports
psychologists on their coaching staffs:
- Baseball World Series Champions New York Yankees
- Basketball NBA World Champions San Antonio Spurs
- NFL Football Superbowl Champions Dallas Cowboys
- NCAA National Football Champions University of Nebraska
- Baseball College World Series Champions Stanford University
There is one man who is probably the biggest
devotee of mind training in all of sports. Superstar pro basketball
coach Phil Jackson is a Zen master extraordinaire. During his tenure
as head Coach for both the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers
he brought home the goods -- two NBA world championship trophies.
Jackson is a firm believer of sports psychology, with a Zen twist.
He meditates regularly and tells his players, "players can be stars,
but only teams win". Jackson is considered one of the smartest coaches
in basketball history and he uses sports psychology to get the winning
Which Sports Most Often Use Sports Psychologists?
This is difficult to determine exactly, but based
on the sports psychology literature, and other evidence, it is probably
safe to say that golf is #1 and tennis is #2. There are no other
sports that come close to these two in the volume of books and articles
that are written on the mental game each year. Indeed, top pro golf
stars like Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, Mark O'Meara,
Greg Norman, David Duval, Vijay Singh and Jack Nicklaus all have
used, or are currently using sports psychologists on their coaching
Look at the big names in pro golf who have used sports psychology
consultants. It's estimated that well over 300 of the pro game's
players regularly use sports psychologists:
Steve Elkington, Denis Watson, Kirk Triplett, Dave Stockton, Lee
Janzen, Cameron Beckman, Brandie Burton, Stephen Ames, Chip Beck,
Davis Love III, Nick Price, Brad Faxon, John Daly, Brian Barnes,
Christian Cevaer, Hollis Stacy, Beth Daniel, Woody Austin, Retief
Goosen, Padraig Harrington, Michael Campbell, Frank Lickliter II,
Fred Funk, E.J. Pfister, Kirk Triplett, Scott McCarron, Payne Stewart,
Corey Pavin, Ben Crenshaw, Bob Estes, Donna Andrews, Justin Leonard,
Hank Kuehne, Michelle McCann, Brandi Burton, Mark McCumber, Rachael
Teske, Ju-Yun Kim, Nancy Scranton, Bill Glasson, Brian Gay, Charles
Howell III, Ty Tryon, Luke Donald, Jim Carter, Frank Nobilo, David
Morland IV, John Cook, David Frost, Mike Grob, David Ogrin, Matt
Weibring, Gary Nicklaus, Billy Andrade and Stewart Cink.
Do these 65 golf pros convince you that sports psychology is a must
to get the mental edge? They play golf for a living and want every
edge possible. They are already strong mentally, but want to continue
to improve and so seek the services of a sports psychologist. Why
Are There Any Sports That Don't Use Sports Psychologists?
It's difficult to think of a sport that does
not use sports psychologists. These are just a few that use mental
training as part of their regular practice regimens: National and
international teams in rugby, soccer/football, yachting, Formula
One racing, martial arts, hockey, gymnastics, cheerleading, rowing,
swimming and diving, track and field, distance running, triathlon,
weight and power lifting, badminton, racquetball, ice skating, dance,
lacrosse and field hockey.
Even the so-called "minor sports" such as darts, bowling, rifle
and handgun shooting, archery and billiards have an extensive sports
psychology literature. We at mentalgamecoach.com can help athletes,
parents and coaches in any sport maximize their performances with
our extensive collection of articles on peak performance.
Why Do Some Athletes Resist Seeing A Sports Psychologist?
Even knowing about the huge number of top college
teams, pro teams, Olympic teams and individuals that utilize sports
psychology services, how is it that some athletes, coaches and parents
are still quite reluctant to hire a sports psychologist?
First, many people are very hesitant to see a counselor, psychologist,
psychiatrist and psychotherapist for non-sport issues, so it should
be no surprise that they are also leery of seeking the services
of a sports psychologist. Their concerns and fears are so strong,
that many people who would definitely benefit from these psychological
services never receive them. We each know people who should go to
their family physicians, but who avoid medical care due to a fear
of hearing bad news, being asked to make lifestyle changes, fear
of being asked to undergo surgery, the inconvenience or dislike
of having to take medication, and a number of other factors. The
lifelong smoker who fears hearing the inevitable when the cough
won't leave them and the over-eater who does not want to be told
they must cut back come to mind. They both know what they will hear,
and at the same time, they fear it.
People typically do not go to a physician unless it is their annual
checkup or they have a medical problem. In contrast, people do not
go to a clinical psychologist for an annual checkup, but only when
they have a problem. This accounts, in large part, for the negative
public image of sports psychologists. The public views athletes
who go to sports psychologists as "having mental problems", rather
than wanting educational assistance with their mental game. The
public would be well advised to consult their physicians, clinical
psychologists and other professionals on an annual or semi-annual
basis, or more frequently, for routine maintenance checkups. Athletes
are equally advised to have regular tune-ups for their mental game.
It's unfortunate that people do not avail themselves of health,
medical and other services that can greatly benefit them, but that's
human nature. Athletes are human too, and they naturally become
afraid when confronted with their own frailties and shortcomings,
even though these may not be life-threatening. This reluctance to
seek help is termed resistance in the professional literature.
Historical Antecedents Of Clinical Resistance
Resistance is a long studied clinical phenomenon
in the counseling and psychotherapy fields. It address why clients
are reluctant to come to therapy in the first place, why they miss
appointments, why they tend to want to cut therapy short, why they
are not compliant with therapist-indicated modalities, and why they
tend to be obstructionist with regard to discussing difficult psychological
material in sessions.
Fear is the operable word here.
The phenomenon of clinical resistance has been written about using
a variety of terms. It has been referred to as "precontemplation"
(Prochaska, Di Clemente and Norcross, 1992), "amenability" (Palmer,
1994), "resistance" (Rothschild, 1995), "denial" (Rothschild, 1995),
"reluctance" (Cullari, 1996) and "responsibility" (Serin and Kennedy,
Resistance exists in all helping professions. Sports is no different.
Ask any group of athletes and coaches this question. "Who here would
say that the mental game is very important?" Probably most all hands
would go up. Ask them, "At the higher levels of sports, is it fair
to say that the mental game makes the difference in playing well
and in winning?" ALL hands would go up. Then ask them, "How many
of you here practice the mental game on a regular basis?" Very few
hands will rise.
Why this paradoxical discrepancy? Here is at least one answer.
In the October 2003 issue of the journal Athletic Insight
Thomas Ferraro, Ph.D. and Shannon Rush, M.A. published their study,
named Why Athletes Resist Sport Psychology. In it they make
the argument related in the question and answer scenario related
above, that there is a disconnect between the desire athletes and
coaches have to succeed, and their discomfort with using sports
psychologists. Ferraro and Rush state:
"The question that emerges from this is as follows. If so many
athletes need psychological support and are aware that they have
this need why don't they seek treatment more often? Further if they
do come to our office, why do more than 50% drop out within four
sessions, well before they are ready?"
Indeed, Ferraro and Rush point out that many athletes suffer from
drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and other psychological
maladies, including some even more serious disorders. Clearly, many
athletes suffer in silence, not knowing that help is only a phone
call away. They relate that it has been postulated that narcissism
is prevalent in sports, and athletes who have this affliction are
particularly reluctant to work with a sports psychologist because
of their fear of becoming dependent on others.
In a 2003 study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology
(Vol. 50, No. 3) by Iowa State University assistant psychology professor
David Vogel, PhD, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee assistant
educational psychology professor Stephen Wester, PhD, it was suggested
that mental health professionals need to better anticipate the reluctance
potential patients have about the counseling process. They stated
that "only one-third of people who could likely benefit from
psychological treatment seek help." The authors suggest that
engaging in therapy is a risky endeavor for most people, and that
mental health professionals should help people manage this risk.
We can now begin to see the reasons athletes tend to be reluctant
to see sports psychologists. Before we delve into the 72 resistances,
here's a snapshot of who the mental game helpers are. Sports professionals
who assist athletes, coaches and parents in maximizing their mental
sports performances are known by a variety of names and titles:
- Sports Psychologist
- Sport Psychology Consultant
- Mental Training Coach
- Mental Game Coach
- Mind Coach
- Sports Performance Counselor
- Performance Enhancement Consultant
- Sports Psychiatrist
For a deeper understanding of the mental training
process and the various types of practitioners who offer these services,
please see our article, What's
a Mental Game Coach?
We now shall consider the very real concept of resistance that exists
in sports psychology, and for simplicity, consistency and clarity,
for the rest of this article, will frame this concept using the
terms "sports psychology", "sports psychologists" and "sports psychology
The Top Fears Athletes Have About Seeing A Sports
Athletes have a cluster of fears that hold them
back from seeking sports psychology services. At the heart of this
is the fear of the unknown, the fear of change, feelings of vulnerability
and the fear of the psychological. Specifically, athletes tend to
have major trepidations about undertaking sports psychology coaching
around these seven major issues:
- A fear that they will be asked to change, or be made to change.
Change itself can be intimidating.
- A fear that talking about their mental processes will cause
them to lose their natural mind-body powers and automaticity.
Many don't want to tempt fate. As the legendary tennis coach Vic
Braden says, "Pros don't do as they say, or say as they do." They
often don't know why or how they do what they do. They simply
want to be able to continue doing it. They fear that sports psychology
coaching may tamper with this innate gift.
- A fear of being asked potentially embarrassing, personal or
"nosy" questions. This can be off-putting to anyone. Personal
disclosure, especially about so-called "mental weaknesses" is
not something that is highly valued in the sport world.
- A fear of being called "mental" or a basket case. Athletes
are looked down upon if they regularly publicly complain about
or obsess about the details of their mental game. Players who
do this are labeled fuss-budgets, whiny or sadly, "psychos".
- A fear of becoming dependent on the sports psychologist.
- A fear of loss of confidentiality. A fear that what they say
will leak out to their team, parents, coaching staff or others.
In any type of counseling and consulting, this is a major concern.
- A lack of comfort with talking about feelings and psychological
issues. Athletes are creatures of comfort. Their comfort zone
is action, physicality and results, not talking about feelings,
process or results.
72 Reasons Athletes Are Sometimes Reluctant To
See A Sports Psychologist
Let's now examine the many reasons athletes,
parents and coaches give for being reluctant to engage the services
of a sports psychologist. Each reason is followed by comments that
explain why the concern should not be an issue that would prevent
an athlete from seeing a sports psychologist.
- I Don't Have A Psychology Background, So How Can They Help
Me? Anyone can benefit from sports psychology training, even
with no psychology background. The sports psychologist will guide
you step by step, making the concepts easy to understand and implement.
- I Don't Want To Be Interrogated Or Pumped For Information.
You will be respected and made to feel comfortable, and will never
have to answer any question you don't want to answer.
- I Don't Know What To Expect, And That Makes Me Uncomfortable.
After reading this article you will have a very good idea what
to expect in your session. A sports psychology session should
be fun, interesting and educational.
- If Certain Information About Abuse Is Uncovered, Will The
Sports Psychologist "Turn Me In" To The Medical Authorities?
Unless the sports psychologist is also a licensed mental health
professional or states they are a "mandated reporter" at the outset,
this will not happen. Some licensed mental health professionals
also provide sports psychology services, but do not disclose that
they are mandated reporters. This is a tricky ethical area, one
that you should be absolutely clear about before you begin sessions.
- If I Have Some Legal Difficulties, Will The Sports Psychologist
Turn Me In To The Law? You are correct in knowing that licensed
mental health professionals are mandated by law to notify law
enforcement and other governmental agencies if they believe you
intend to harm yourself or others (including issues about physical
abuse or suspicion of sexual abuse to a minor or elder), but sports
psychologists are usually not licensed mental health professionals,
in most cases, and are not bound by these mandates. You should
discuss this with your sports psychologist at the outset of coaching
to determine the sports psychologist's licensure status.
- I Don't Like Being Asked Questions I Don't Know The Answers
To. You won't be pressured or intimidated. The session is
a collegial exchange of information.
- I Don't Want To Look Incompetent In The Eyes Of A Total
Stranger. The sports psychologist is there to help you. They
don't see you as being weak, but as being brave for taking the
risk to do the work.
- If My Coach Learns I Am Seeing A Sports Psychologist, He/She
May Be Insulted. Smart coaches know their limits. They also
know that two heads are better than one when it comes to coaching.
Most coaches are happy to either bring in an expert in the mind
game or have you consult one. In an extreme case, your coach does
not even need to know what you do away from practice.
- I Have A Fear Of Becoming Dependent On The Sports Psychologist.
While there is a small chance of this happening short-term, the
goal is to make you independent and excellent at self-coaching.
Long term, this should not happen.
- I Don't Want To Be Analyzed Or Have My Weaknesses Exposed.
While a major benefit of sports psychology work is the assessment
and analysis of your mental skills, your confidentiality is guaranteed.
- Talking About My Mental Issues Will Make Me Too Self-Conscious
About Them, And Only Make Them Worse. Initially, this sometimes
briefly happens, but quickly, your over-analysis will go away
and be replaced by solid, automatic mental systems that will help
you perform well under pressure.
- Is It Possible I May Be Secretly Hypnotized? This will
not happen without your knowledge or authorization.
- Sports Psychology Coaching May Take My Killer Instinct Away.
On the contrary, your will to win and your mental toughness will
- Will I Be Tricked Into Doing Or Saying Something I Don't
Want To Say Or Do? There are no tricks, no unethical moves.
The sports psychologist is dedicated to your safety, well-being
- Will I Be Asked To Use My Mind In Ways I Can't Succeed?
You will be challenged, and amazed at your new mental powers,
but you won't be asked to do anything at which you can't succeed.
- Will I Be Blamed, Shamed And Labeled A Loser Because I Am
Admitting Mental Weakness? Sports psychologists don't consider
your asking for help a mental weakness. They view it as an intelligent
request for help and give you a lot of credit and respect for
doing so. There is no blaming, just support and encouragement.
- Sports Psychology Concepts And Approaches Are Too Complex
And Difficult To Understand. Sports psychologists make the
content you learn easily digestible, practical and straightforward.
Countless athletes of all ages and skills have learned sports
psychology concepts and integrated them into their sports performances.
- Being Mentally Tough And Being A Winner Are Inborn Qualities,
So Seeing A Sports Psychologist Simply Won't Make A Difference
In These Arenas. Anyone, with the proper desire, can become
mentally tough and win more than they ever dreamed possible.
- I'm Afraid I'll Be Asked To Change My Entire Sports Training
Program To Add Endless Hours Of Mental Training And Homework.
You may be able to efficiently adjust your current training regimen,
or add some time to your schedule, but it will be very manageable.
You will see the value of the mental training and will gladly
make time for it.
- My Mental Issues Are Unique, So I Probably Won't Be Helped
By A Sports Psychologist. Experienced sports psychologists
have helped many athletes with all sorts of issues in many sports.
Even though your situation is new to you, they have the experience
to help you.
- Sports Psychology Won't Help An Athlete Of My Skill Level.
Any skill level can improve through mental training.
- Will I Be Asked To Take Any Medications? It would be
highly unlikely. Only physicians prescribe and dispense medications.
For athletes needing help beyond traditional educational sports
psychology training, there are sports psychiatrists, MD's who
are licensed to diagnose and dispense medications. The vast majority
of sports psychologists do not prescribe or dispense medication.
- Will My Neuroses Be Discussed? This is a term generally
found in psychoanalysis. You can find sports psychologists using
this orientation, but typically, most practitioners are cognitive-behaviorally
based. Your mental obstacles will be discussed. and a plan will
be advanced to handle them.
- Can't I Just Avoid Talking About Emotions And Mental Stuff
And Just Get A Pep Talk? Some sessions may seem like a pep
talk, but if that's all you needed, your coach and friends could
do that for you. Most sports psychology sessions discuss a combination
of easy to use techniques and deeper, more interior-focused interventions
looking at your motivations, attitudes and beliefs.
- I Think I May Be Depressed As Well. Is Sports Psychology
A Good Fit For Me? It depends on the extent and type of your
depression. That is something that only a licensed mental health
professional or medical doctor should diagnose. You may be able
to continue sports participation and working with the sports psychologist
if your depression is correctly diagnosed and the proper treatment
regimen is directed.
- I've Had Performance Problems A Long, Long Time. Can I Be
Helped In A Couple Of Quick Sessions? Typically, long-standing
problems take time to resolve. If they are deeper, this requires
substantial time. Your sports psychologist should be able to estimate
the length of work in the first session.
- I Don't Like To Spend Much Time Reading And Writing, And
I Hear They Make You Do A Lot Of Both Of These In Mental Training.
You can customize mental training to your preferences, but to
gain maximum benefit, some writing in a journal and some reading
is quite helpful.
- I Hear Sports Psychology Uses Zen And Far Eastern Mystical
Voodoo Techniques, And I Don't Want Any Of That. Though many
sports psychology approaches and techniques have come out of Eastern
philosophies like Zen Buddhism, you do not need to be an adherent
of these disciplines or believe in them to use them to full effect.
- Will I Have To Change My Personality Or Temperament To Do
Mental Training? Sports Psychology does not ask you to change
how you are as a person, including your personality, temperament
and taste for vanilla ice cream.
- Will I Be Hooked Up To A Biofeedback Machine? Biofeedback
is a potent tool in performance enhancement and stress management.
This is something you could utilize if you want.
- It's Easier To Stay Out Of Something Than To Get Out Of
Something. I Don't Want To Be Pressured Into Signing Up For A
Series Of Sessions That I May Not Want. An ethical sports
psychologist should not pressure you to do anything, including
signing on for a long contract.
- Going To A Shrink Shows You Can't Handle Your Own Problems,
That You Are Weak. I suppose we could say that about anyone
going to any professional or expert for help, but we don't believe
that to be true. Clearly, people in the helping professions are
there to do just that--help you overcome obstacles you can't yet
handle on your own. They want to teach you how to be your own
- I Tried Counseling Before And It Didn't Work, So Why Should
Sports Psychology Work? Sports psychology is not counseling,
although some of the elements are similar. While the thrust of
counseling is therapeutic, the purpose of sports psychology is
an educational one.
- Is Sports Psychology Compatible With The Medications I Take?
It depends on what you are taking, and, except for extreme medication
cases, a sports psychologist should be able to work with your
medications and still help you.
- I Have Some Secrets I Don't Want Anyone To Know About. Is
There A Chance The Sports Psychologist Would Try To Get Them Out
Of Me? Your secrets can stay with you as long as you like.
No one will attempt to make you say anything you don't want to
- I Might Begin Talking About Some Very Emotional Issues,
Possibly Lose Emotional Control And Even Begin To Cry, And That
Would Be Embarrassing. Sports psychology coaching is a safe
place where you can express all sorts of thoughts and feelings,
so you shouldn't feel self-conscious about any emotions you display.
- They May Make Me Take Some Psychological Test. You only
take the tests and assessments you want to take. You may find
though, that some tests give you a very quick and accurate insight
into yourself as a person and a performer.
- Will They Tape Record The Sessions? I Want Privacy.
Sessions are recorded only if you agree to that. Sometimes you
may want to be videotaped so you and your sports psychologist
can analyze your performance and make recommendations.
- Who Else Will Be There? Anyone you want can be in your
sessions, whether its in person or on the phone. Often people
bring in their parents, coaches and team mates to gain additional
insight into their performances.
- Will The Sports Psychologist Contact Anyone Else I Know
And Ask Them Questions About Me? Not without your permission.
You may consider this though, as an adjunct for the sports psychologist
to gain additional helpful perspectives beyond yours.
- Will The Therapist Try To Drag My Other Family Members Into
Sessions? Only the people you approve come into your sessions.
Your family in particular know you well and could provide insightful
information that could help you improve your situation.
- My Friend Had A Bad Experience With A Sports Psychologist
Once And I Don't Want That To Happen To Me. You have to evaluate
every experience from your own perspective, and perhaps you will
have more success than your friend did.
- I Hear That Sports Psychologists Just Give You A Pep Talk
And Tell You To Think Positive. Sports psychologists definitely
help you think positive and maintain healthy, winning attitudes
and beliefs, and they sometimes give you a pep talk, but they
go far beyond that to give you assessment, structure, guidance,
advice, perspective, confidence and proper mental performance
- I Don't Want Anyone Tinkering With My Physical Technique
To Improve My Mental Game. For the most part, sports psychologists
do not focus on your physical technique or your physical conditioning,
but they first seek to rule out that your performance deficits
are from non-mental causes.
- Sports Psychology Sounds Negative Because All You Do Is
Talk About Problems. All counseling and therapy systems focus
on discovering your problems and concerns and then ameliorating
them. Sports psychology also focuses on removing the obstacles
that stand in your way of sports success. That's a positive process
to get rid of the negativity that holds you back.
- No One Could Possibly Help Me With The Problems I Have.
It may seem like your problems are extreme and insurmountable,
but there is hope. Many athletes have come to sports psychologists
and have been delighted when they learned that there is help for
virtually any kind of sports difficulty.
- I Heard They Make You Talk About Your Parents, And I Don't
Want To Get Into That. It is fairly rare for sports psychologists
to get into your parental issues unless there are some deeper
obstacles holding you back. You talk only about the things you
want to discuss.
- I Hear Sports Psychologists Make You Talk About Your Childhood,
And I Don't Want To Do That. This is not a standard topic
you would be asked to discuss unless you have long-standing, deeper
issues that are blocking you, and you and the sports psychologist
thought that looking at some of your childhood issues were relevant.
- I Went To A Psychotherapist Once And I Don't Want Any More
Therapy. Sports psychologists do not deliver therapeutic services.
They do use some of the modalities, approaches and tools of counseling
and therapy, but their focus is on performance enhancement, not
- I Read A Book On Sports Psychology That Didn't Help Me,
So How Can A Sports Psychologist Help Me? Reading psychology
books can be helpful for some people, but nothing can take the
place of a sports psychologist who will help you with your specific
performance issues in a timely, accurate and personalized manner.
- I'm Afraid The Sports Psychologist Will Ask Me To Make A
Commitment To A Series Of Sessions, And I Don't Like Being Sold
And Pressured. No one should pressure you to purchase something
you don't want, but being asked to make a commitment is quite
reasonable, especially if your problems have been long-standing
or your goals are high.
- Going To A Sports Psychologist May Conflict With My Religious
Beliefs. The approaches and modalities used by sports psychologists
are not connected with any religion, church or belief system.
The techniques they use require no religious affiliation or practice
- Having To Seek Sports Psychology Help Shows My Faith In
God Is Weak. Many athletes make religion and their faith in
God part of their sports experience, but asking for help from
a sports psychologist does not mean you have a lack of faith.
- My Image Of A Sports Psychologist Is Them Sitting There
Stone-Silent, Making You Do All The Talking. This is a popular
image taken from countless movies and cartoons of the old-style
Freudian therapist sitting silently while the patient free associates
from the couch. We don't do that in sports psychology, but we
do ask that you talk so we can help you figure out what is happening
- I Don't Want To Have To Lie Down On A Couch And Be "Psychoanalyzed".
You will not be asked to get on a couch. And Freudian psychology
is not the favorite approach used by most sports psychologists.
- I Don't Know Anyone Who Was Helped By Sports Psychology.
Please refer to the lists of the thousands of athletes, teams
and coaches who have used and who currently use sports psychologists
at the national, international and professional levels, posted
at the top of this article.
- How Would I Tell The Sports Psychologist I Want To Stop
Sessions Without Making Them Feel Rejected? You can do this
at any time, and you don't have to take care of them emotionally
or worry about their reaction to this. They understand that sometimes
you need a break or a different sports psychologist.
- I Don't Want To Be Rejected Or Disliked By A Someone I Don't
Know. It does seem like a scary proposition, talking about
personal matters with someone you don't know all that well, but
you have to start somewhere. They won't reject you or dislike
you. They want you to succeed.
- Talking To A Sports Psychologist Is Admitting That Deep
Down Inside, You Are A Very Flawed Person. Seeing a sports
psychologist is an act of courage that shows you are intelligently
seeking assistance in an area in which you are not an expert.
If you believe you are flawed, that is an area that will greatly
affect your sports performances as well as your life, and is one
that you should discuss.
- What If They Can't Help Me? You have to find the right
person who you can really connect with and who can genuinely assist
you in your specific situation. Be patient and find the right
person who can help.
- What If They Label Me Mentally Ill? That won't happen.
sports psychologists don't use those terms or see people in those
ways. They view people as having great potential, and as simply
having difficulties in their sports performances.
- I Don't Want To Be Placed Into A Little Box Where They "Diagnose
You" And Name Your "Mental Disorder". Sports psychologists
don't do this. Counselors, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists
must submit an "official diagnosis" to insurance companies, but
we in the sport world assess you without "labeling or diagnosing"
- I Don't Want To Deal With Lots Of Details And Minutiae.
Details are what success is all about. They are important details,
or the sports psychologist would not bring them up. Just as a
physician is precise and specific in laying out a treatment plan
for you, the sports psychologist is very careful about helping
you create a success plan, that of necessity, has details about
nuanced adjustments you will be making in your thinking, emotions
- They May Pressure Me To Make Changes I Don't Want To Make.
No one will pressure you to do anything, particularly changes
you prefer not to make. You are in the driver's seat every step
of the way.
- I Don't Like Strangers Telling Me What To Do. Your sports
psychologist will give you some advice and counsel, but the decisions
you make are up to you.
- My Parents Said Don't Talk To Strangers, And Now They Want
Me To Open Up To A Stranger? It does seem odd to be telling
personal things to someone you don't yet know very well, but sports
psychologists are professionals, trained to make you feel comfortable
and able to share important details that they can then use to
help you maximize your performance.
- Will They Make Me Stop My Superstitions Or Habits That Make
Me Play Well? Many athletes have superstitions or rituals
that make them play better. You can keep these if they help you.
- I Don't Want Anyone Judging Me. Experienced sports psychologists
will never pass judgment on you or blame you. They are there to
help you and make you feel comfortable so you can move ahead in
your sport performance.
- I Don't Want Someone I Don't Know Telling Me How To Live
My Life. You won't be directed or controlled, and further,
you can have a dialogue about how you can improve your sports
performances, but you make the final decisions.
- If I Act Crazy Or I Am Diagnosed A Certain Way, Can They
Hospitalize Me Against My Will? No, this will not happen.
Sports psychologists don't do those things. They don't call anyone
crazy and they don't diagnose, using the medical taxonomies and
protocols that clinical psychologists and psychiatrists use.
- My Parents/Spouse/Coach Is "Making Me"Go To The Sports Psychologist
And I Resent That. It is common that someone strongly encourages
you to go a sports psychologist, but you should have the final
say in the matter. Starting coaching under duress doesn't make
much sense, or go very well.
- I Am Concerned That The Advice I Get From The Sports Psychologist
Will Conflict With What My Sports Coaches Tells Me. This is
a very common concern, and it is easily overcome by working with
your coaches and anyone else who helps you, or by asking you what
they are teaching you. The sports psychologist will balance and
manage his or her advice and interventions around the approaches
your other coaches are using with you. There should be no conflicts.
So there you have it, 72 common concerns athletes
have that make them reluctant to see a sports psychologist. Perhaps
you found some of your concerns in this list, and you are now more
open to seeing a sports psychologist.
What Happens In A Sports Psychology Session?
Sports psychology coaching is a process, a learning
experience. It's an opportunity to grow as an athlete and as a person.
It's an enlightening growth process, and a very interesting one.
You will learn more about yourself as an athlete, and as a person.
It's a special time that is all yours, for you to use any way that
you see fit. It's your own personal mental training class and consulting
session. It's a chance to receive personalized teaching from an
expert in the mental game. It's a custom coaching class that focuses
on your mind.
Here is what takes place during a sports psychology coaching session.
This list demystifies the sports psychology coaching process and
gives you confidence that your sports psychologist has your best
interests and well-being in mind at all times. In the sports psychology
coaching session you will be able to:
- Discuss any performance issues that trouble you or concern
- Talk about any emotional obstacles holding you back.
- Explore any technical issues that affect your mental game.
- Engage in creative exploration of how to resolve these issues.
- Understand the mind-body connection and how to make it work
- Gain additional perspectives on your sport experiences and
- Feel deeply listened to and respected as you discuss your problems.
- Assess your mental strengths and weaknesses.
- Devise a mental training plan to help you overcome mental weaknesses.
- Discover learning experiences and exercises to help you become
- Share the kind of things and ask the kind of questions you
would normally not be able to share with your friends, parents
- Grow from being assigned mental training homework.
- Be assessed on a variety of mental measures to increase your
- Receive assistance in making better decisions about your issues.
- Benefit from a viewpoint other than your own.
- Make action plans to bring your goals to reality.
- Learn a wide variety of mental skills.
- See charts and illustrations to help you understand key concepts.
- Learn self-regulation skills for emotional, mental and physical
- Ask any questions you may have about your sports experiences.
- Discuss sensitive issues in a safe, confidential environment.
- Gain the perspective from someone who has been a successful
athlete, coach and mental trainer.
- Set up weekly and monthly structures that help you stay accountable
to your goals and dreams.
- Replace negative thought patterns with positive ones.
- Help you realize higher levels of confidence.
- Set goals that help you learn faster, perform better and enjoy
- Familiarize yourself with the zone and be able to enter it
- Navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of change.
- Experience high quality communication skills.
- Rehearse mental skills.
- Have a dialogue that helps you think and solve your own problems.
- Hear advice, suggestions and counsel.
- Receive ongoing support and feedback.
Your Next Steps In Mental Mastery
In essence, sports psychology coaching is a valuable,
specialized educational experience, one that will benefit you far
beyond your sport experiences. It's a lifetime investment in yourself
as a person. The insights you learn and the skills you build will
carry over to many important varied applications for school, business
and life itself.
Sports psychologists exist for one reason only -- to help you maximize
your sport experiences. They want you to succeed. They want to help
you grow as an athlete and as a person. I hope this article has
helped put aside some of your fears and concerns about sports psychology
and deepened your understanding of this fascinating field. I encourage
you to avail yourself of the wisdom and expertise of sports psychologists
so you can reach more of your sporting and human potential.
To learn about sports psychology coaching services offered by Bill
Cole, MS, MA, the Mental Game Coach™, visit www.SportsPsychologyCoaching.com.
Copyright © 2005-2008 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.
Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on sports psychology, peak performance,
mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William
B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps sports teams and individuals
achieve more success. He is also the Founder and President of the International
Mental Game Coaching Association, an organization dedicated to advancing
the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching
worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school
alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published author of books and articles,
and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports and big-time
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