ufc fighter myes jury with sports psychologist john boesky

Myles Jury Prepares for UFC Fight with Sports Pyschology Consultant John Boesky

Image taken from fightnetwork.com

Image taken from fightnetwork.com

As a Sports Performance Coach, Master NLP Practitioner, and Certified Dharma Life Coach, I’ve had the privilege of working on a weekly basis with UFC Mixed Martial Artist, Myles Jury, for several years now.

I first met Myles when I was invited down to the Alliance MMA gym by the brilliant head coach there, Eric Del Fierro, three or four years ago to talk to about 25 of his top fighters about how Sports Psychology can give elite athletes in any sport the mental and emotional edge that separates the best and most accomplished athletes from the rest.

As I was sharing my thoughts in front of a white board before 3 rows deep of skeptical, hulking mixed martial artists, I distinctly recall a young guy in the back row who was totally engaged in what I had to say and kept asking me question after question. As the other fighters listened and occasionally chimed in as well with their own questions, this young guy really stood out to me; his interest in what I was sharing was unmatched by anyone else in the room.

A few weeks later I received a telephone call from an MMA fighter who trained at Alliance, and he asked me if we could meet in person in my office for a sports psychology session. I’ve been privileged to work with a lot of the elite fighters from Alliance MMA, and I was more than happy to work with this anonymous guy I was briefly talking to on the phone.

Within a week, this anonymous fighter and I were scheduled to meet on a certain day at a specific time, and when that day and time rolled around, in came that young, inquisitive fighter who was asking me all those questions from the back row the day that I stood in front of the white board at Alliance MMA a month or so prior.

It turns out that that young man was none other than Myles Jury, who is currently a UFC fighter ranked among the top 10 featherweights in the world. The day that I had my first session with Myles, I think he had had only one fight in the UFC, and he was hardly considered a future contender for the UFC belt.

As I said before, I’ve been working diligently with Myles for a long time now. He’s been climbing up the ranks in his weight class ever since, and he’ll be facing Donald Cerrone this weekend to determine who will fight for the belt against the UFC’s current champion in the near future.

Prior to the bigger UFC pay per view events, the UFC and other MMA websites create videos that are designed to introduce you to the fighters and hype the fights up so fans will be enticed to pay the requisite $59.00 to watch the fighters compete.

Unbeknownst to me, Myles wanted me to be in the video leading up to UFC 182. I remember showing up to work about a month ago preparing to have a session with Myles at my office, and I was greeted by a camera crew consisting of 5 guys wanting to film how Myles and I interacted and what typically goes on in our sports Psychology session.

I’m a pretty easy going guy and pretty comfortable in front of cameras, so I decided to roll with their requests of me. One request from them was that I engage Myles in a sports psychology-related exercise to give a small window into how sports psychology works.

In that moment, I decided to engage Myles in a process called Voice Dialogue Technique. The basic premise behind Voice Dialogue technique is that we all have many parts to our personality; call them sub personalities if you will. Each part of us ( even the ones we don’t necessarily like) have loving, nurturing, and/ or protective positive intentions for us.

When we reject, bury, or disown these parts of us, they get louder, take over, and throw a coup; they run the show, and our higher selves watch helplessly as they do so.

Instead, it’s far wiser that the wisest, most decisive, and most discerning part of us run the show instead. This part of us is not so much a part of us as it is our essence. People assign this energy inside of us all kinds of names: the Watcher; The King or Queen: The CEO; The Higher Self; The Soul, etc.

In my teaching piece with Myles in the video, I was reminding him to turn to the CEO or King in him to show up before, during, and after his fight in ways that align with his core values and serve his highest good. I also encouraged him to partner with the other parts of him rather than reject or disown them.

For example, I encouraged him that if he noticed that a fearful part of him was emerging as his fight approached, it would serve him well for the King or CEO in him to thank the fearful part of him for showing up in an effort to protect him from physical harm, the fear of being negatively judged by others, etc . After acknowledging and honoring the fearful part’s positive intentions, I encouraged the King in him to turn to the Warrior part of him and let him take over and embody him before and during the fight; after all, the Warrior in him wants to serve him by rising to the occasion, performing well, and giving him the best possible chance to win this fight. In turn, the Warrior in him will give him the best chance to attract sponsors, make money, secure his future, and give him the financial freedom to live a more enriched life.

Our minds are symbolic by nature, and so they respond to imagery, metaphors, and symbols. Knowing this, I handed Myles a red and gold sword in the video to represent the Warrior in him. I wanted to remind him that it would be wise if his King or CEO summoned the courage and unbreakable spirit of his Warrior that’s waiting for his turn to serve Myles’ best interests this week.

Unfortunately the exercise that I did with Myles was edited, and so it’s likely that a lot of people may not have understood the intention behind the sword or how the Voice Dialogue Technique works.

Never the less, I thought it was important on that particular day to remind Myles of the Warrior’s heart beating rhythmically inside of him. I also wanted to remind him to partner with any well-intentioned fear that might come up for him during fight week.

Alas, even though I was given no forewarning to shoot this very small video segment with Myles as his fight with Donald Cerrone quickly approaches I think it was a success never the less, and as always, I sincerely enjoyed seeing and working with Myles “Fury” Jury!!

Whether or not Myles wins his fight this weekend is out of my control. I do know, however, that I am in his corner, win, lose, or draw, and that I always will be.

Thank you for very much for taking your time to read my blog entry; I hope that you enjoyed it!!

John Boesky, LMFT/MNLP/CHT/Certified Dharma Life Coach, and Sports Performance Coach

Life After Sports: How To Successfully Make The Transition

The life of an elite athlete almost always requires of them to make extreme personal sacrifices in order to attain the fame, money, status, and glory that comes with reaching the pinnacle of their chosen sport.  When they arrive, though, athletes often feel as though the sacrifices were well worth it.  They’ve climbed the summit of Mt. Everest, and the view from up top is awe-inspiring.  In addition, they’ve had friends, family, and strangers alike cheering them along the way, giving them endless praise and adulation that makes them feel beloved, extraordinary, and special.  For these athletes, it’s impossible for them to imagine that their professional careers will come to a grinding halt one day, whether it is through age, injury or exhaustion.  Father time will make his presence known to all of them eventually.

Along the way, these athletes have trained extensively and rigorously for years, and their pursuit of greatness consumes the majority of their young lives.  For most of them, they’ve chosen to make financial sacrifices, moved away from their family and friends, cut romantic ties with people they’ve loved, given up on college and academic studies, etc.  They’ve come to believe that the ends will justify the means.  While this may be true for a very small group of elite athletes, the majority of athletes are simply ill-prepared for life after sports.  They simply never anticipated that the day when the buzz and adrenaline rush of competing would come to an end; they didn’t foresee that the limelight would grow dim and then dark and they would soon feel forgotten, empty, lost, and ill-equipped to thrive in a world that demands more than brawn, size, and amazing hand-eye coordination from its citizens.  They simply never imagined how the end of a sport’s career would induce dramatic changes in their personal, social, and occupational lives.  Like soldiers coming back from war, they too must transition back into society and reconstruct new lives and adjust themselves to a new life style.

Athletes that fail to prepare for life after their professional careers are over are often vulnerable to  feelings of anxiety, depression, and a despair that runs so deep that they even commit suicide.  They feel lost and rudderless, and they are also vulnerable to suffering from an identity crisis.  Take former tennis child prodigy and 3 time Grand Slam Champion Jennifer Capriati, for example.  When her career ended as a result of multiple injuries, she said, “When I stopped playing, that’s when all this came crumbling down.”  “If I don’t have tennis, who am I? What am I?  I was just alive because of this.  I’ve had to ask, well, who is Jennifer?  What if this is gone now?  I can’t live off of this the rest of my life.  I struggle with trying to like and love myself on a daily basis.”

image taken from tmottgogo.com

image taken from tmottgogo.com

Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard famously said, “Nothing could satisfy me outside the ring…There is nothing in life that can compare to becoming a world champion, having your hand raised in the moment of glory, with thousands, millions of people cheering you on.”  Not surprisingly, Leonard struggled in retirement, suffering from extreme bouts of depression and eventually making repeated comebacks that never amounted to much.

For some professional athletes, the pressure becomes all too encompassing, and over the years there have been a number of cases of athletes committing suicide following retirement from professional sport.  This includes the tragic story of Russian Judoka Elena Ivashchenko, who committed suicide following depression brought on by her failure to win gold at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Many people wonder out loud, “What leads retired professional athletes to spiral into depression after the rigorous training, pressure, competition, and glory days are behind them?”  Three answers come to mind.  First, professional athletes become overly identified with their role as elite athletes.  In turn, they become addicted to other’s recognition that they are physical specimens capable of achieving amazing feats in their chosen sport.  While they are in their athletic prime, they remain blissfully unaware that they have many other dimensions to their personality, much like a diamond has many facets to it.  As they become singularly focused on perfecting their role as an elite athlete, they’ve unwittingly allowed the other dimensions of their personality to atrophy.  When their playing days are done, they often feel emotionally or intellectually arrested; they don’t feel whole, well-rounded, and complete as human beings.  In turn, they often suffer from an identity issues or an identity crisis of some kind.

In addition to an athlete’s loss of identity, they often experience anxiety and depression after their professional career is over because they suffered from “Tunnel Vision Syndrome.”  They spent far too much time thinking only of training, competition, and results.  As they were competing, they were likely coddled and enabled to some degree by their handlers, so they didn’t have to acquire many of the basic life skills that their non-athlete counterparts did.  Without these skills, they aren’t prepared for the “real world” and they therefore miss out on countless career opportunities.  They’re no longer sure where to apply their focus, and they can no longer fill the void with the comfort that a rigorous training routine once gave them.

The third variable that may contribute to the anxiety and depression that professional athletes feel when their career is over may be due to biological factors.  It’s well known that exercise boosts serotonin in our brains, and serotonin is a chemical in the brain that is responsible for regulating our moods.  I imagine that when an athlete stops exercising, there may be a dramatic decrease in the serotonin levels in their brains, and they may consequently fall into a depression.  In addition to a decrease in serotonin, athletes may also experience a decrease in the amount of adrenaline and endorphins that pump through their brains after they stop exercising as often as they did before.

Fortunately, there are ways for elite athletes to reduce the chances of suffering anxiety or depression after they’ve retired from sports. Emma Vickers, who is currently taking an MSC in psychological well-being and mental health, noted that first and foremost, elite athletes must reduce their exclusive identification with their sports role and expand their self-identity to other parts of their personality as well as other pursuits.  I echo her sentiments.  Like her, I believe that elite athletes must   remember, for example that they are Mothers, Fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends as well.  In addition, they must be open to acquiring new skills and reinvent themselves as doctors, lawyers, businessmen, life coaches, etc.  When they pursue other careers with the same heart, soul, and dedication that they pursued their professional sports career, the chances are high that they will be very successful at whatever they choose to do.

As they discover interests and competencies for other activities that go beyond sports, they will realize that they are truly multifaceted and multidimensional beings.  I remember watching the famous snowboarder, Shawn White, give an interview after he failed to metal at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi.  When he was asked what he planned on doing next with his life, he said that he was going to tour with his band and give a go at being a professional musician!!  Shawn White recalled how depressed and aimless he felt after he won the Gold medal at the 2010 Olympic Games, so he decided soon afterwards to become proficient at playing the guitar.  Apparently he’s a talented guitarist now, and he’s taking his band on the road to start an exciting new chapter in his life.

Photo taken from Rolling Stone Magazine

Photo taken from Rolling Stone Magazine

In addition to reducing their exclusive identification with their sports role and discovering new interests and competencies for awareness that extends beyond sports, I think it’s very important for former professional athletes to acquire stress management and time management skills.  Taking yoga classes, learning the art of mindfulness, practicing meditation, or hiring a life coach or Marriage and Family therapist are all great ways to achieve these skills.

Furthermore, I encourage professional athletes to maintain and/or cultivate strong relationships with their coaches, family members, friends, and managers who are sincerely interested in helping them to make their own personal growth a priority in their lives.  Even though elite athletes can be strong-willed and pride themselves on self-reliance, I strongly encourage them to allow others that they trust to support them in taking other avenues in life, keeping an open mind, and diversifying their sense of identity and expanding their sense of who they are and what they have to offer the world.

Finally, I would strongly encourage professional athletes to seek out the support and guidance of a Sports Psychologist to explore a wide range of adaptation techniques.  A Sports Psychologist can help an athlete to let go of their need to maintain the public’s perception of what they were when they were performing in their athletic prime.  A sports Psychologist can help them accept that they no longer have to be fitter, stronger, faster, and happier than everyone else; life doesn’t need to feel like a never-ending series of competitions.  They can cast aside their warrior mask and let go of any shame or embarrassment they feel around feeling vulnerable, and they can instead learn to embrace their own humanity.  They must come to realize that they are only human after all.




image taken from watoday.com.AU

image taken from watoday.com.AU

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, NLP Practitioner, and Sports Performance Consultant in private practice for many years, I’ve noticed that more often than not that  an athlete’s person’s mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual resilience determines how successful they’ll be in whatever athletic endeavor they choose to take on  in life.  Their resilience is that X factor that separates them from their peers.  It’s that athlete’s never-say-die attitude, their stubborn defiance to never give up or surrender in the face of overwhelming odds, and their unrelenting drive to stand their ground and keep fighting until the end that paves the way to achieving greatness.  Interestingly enough, resilient athletes who refuse to back down or go away during a competition sometimes lose.  Their tenacity, however, almost always pays off in the end.  They may lose the battle, but their opponents will remember their undying warrior spirit, and in turn they will eventually surpass their rivals and win the ensuing wars.

Resilient athletes eventually catch their rivals and win the proverbial war because their relentlessness eventually wears their opponents down.  Their unbreakable mindset and unshakable presence breaks their opponent’s will.  Much like zombies that rise from the dead time and time again after being shot at dozens of times, resilient athletes simply refuse to go away as well.  Each time they lose, they get right back up, and work even harder to chase down their opponent and finish them.  These athlete/zombies feel more positive and more determined than ever over time rather than discouraged.  They get up from defeat, dust themselves off, and vow to learn from their past mistakes.  By doing so, they get better and better.

Just when their rival thinks his or her opponent has been left in the dust for good, they can see their vanquished opponent in their rear view mirror yet again, and this leaves them reeling, wondering if their rival will ever go away.  Finally, when it becomes clear that their losing rival has every intention of chasing them to the ends of the Earth to catch them, they feel themselves starting to mentally crumble.  To them, it’s like being hunted down in the woods by FBI trained German Shepherds or blood hounds.  They simply can’t outrun them or out maneuver them in the long run, so eventually they fall to the ground, hands behind their back, and turn themselves in.  Although they were in the lead at one time, they eventually choose to turn around and throw in the towel.

One elite athlete that comes to mind that embodies this type of never-say-die resilience is tennis’ Rafael Nadal.  In 2011, Rafael Nadal was in the midst of losing seven consecutive meetings-along with the No. 1 ranking, to his arch rival, Novak Djokovic.  All of those heart-breaking matches came in finals, three at Grand Slam tournaments;  Wimbledon and the U.S Open in 2011, and at the Australian Open in 21012.  Clearly Djokovic had a strong mental and tactical edge back then.  If Nadal were like most athletes, he would have mentally folded whenever he played Djokovic in the months and years to come.  Nadal, however, is not like most athletes.  On the contrary, he is supremely resilient, and therefore his 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 win in this year’s 2013 U.S. Open finals made him 6-1 against Djokovic in their last seven encounters.  It also raised Nadal’s lead in the head-to-head series to 22-15 and made him 8-3 in their match-ups at Grand Slam tournaments.

So what changed in the competitive dynamic between these elite tennis players?  According to Nadal,  a lot had to do with the four-set loss to Djokovic in New York in 2011.  After dropping the first two sets, Nadal won the the third in a tiebreaker.  He said afterward, ” A very important moment for me.  I was able to change the situation, to fight more than I had in the previous matches against him, and see a way for me to play…Run for every point.  Fight, fight for every ball.  And play aggressive.  And that’s what I did in the third set.”  In other words, Nadal harvested from him loss optimism and confidence.  Rather than wilt from yet another defeat, he decided to become even more resilient, more mentally tough, and more mentally and emotionally resourseful.

Their next match was the Australian Open final in January 2012, and Djokovic won that one too.  They played five sets that stretched over nearly six hours, making it the longest Grand Slam title match in history.  Although Nadal lost that epic match, he said afterward, ” I finished that match in Australia very happy, because another time I was able to change the dynamic.”  The next time they played, about three months later in the final at Monte Carlo, Nadal won in straight sets.  Having learned from his previous losses, this time he played closer to the baseline and looked to attack more when possible.  “After that victory, mentally, you feel more confident when you come back on the court against him, ” Nadal said.

The Nadal-Djokovic rivalry is a true testament to the power of mental and emotional resilience.  Nadal was better at the start of their careers.  Djokovic did what he needed to do to edge ahead.  Then, summoning his resilience, dogged determination, and unwillingness to be daunted by previous losses, Nadal regained the upper hand again.  Together, they have won 12 of the past 15 major titles.

There’s an old Japanese proverb that says, “Fall down 7 times, get up 8.”  As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Performance Consultant, I’ve found that this is what elite athletes do.  They remain fearless, undaunted, and supremely resilient.  Ultimately, this extraordinary brand of bullish tenacity and unwavering spirit eventually causes their rivals to mentally and emotionally break.  Their resilience, mental toughness, and unwillingness to go away paves the way to their greatest successes and triumphs both in sports and in life.

If you’re an athlete who tends to fall away when the going gets tough or when you’ve lost to your rivals time and time again, I invite you to tap into the zombie spirit inside of you and stick around through thick and thin.  Become defiantly resilient, and refuse to back down or surrender, however bleak things may appear in the moment.  In the end, your fierce determination and never say die attitude will wear down your opponents and your arch rivals, and you will eventually emerge victorious in the end.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog!!  I hope that you found it useful.


John Boesky,LMFT # 39666

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Performance Consultant





image taken from dynamicquantumcoaching.co.za

image taken from dynamicquantumcoaching.co.za

Capable sports psychologists know how to help athletes access their Unconscious Mind so that they can pool the wisdom and resources that they’ll need to perform at their very best.  Sports psychologists assist athletes in doing this by using a number of techniques, like Hypnosis, EMDR, Voice Dialogue Technique, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Emotional Freedom Technique, and many others.  Unfortunately for a lot of really good athletes, they don’t  know what the Unconscious Mind is.  Essentially, it is the part of the mind that houses memories, belief systems, values, neuro-associations, sub-personalities, and all kinds of valuable wisdom that they aren’t consciously aware of in the present moment.  Only upon reflection, or when they’ve been asked a thought provoking question, or with the guidance of a sports psychologist, do these awarenesses percolate up from their unconscious mind  into conscious awareness.

As a Sports Psychologist Consultant, I often share with my clients  that only 8% of our moment-to-moment awareness is conscious.  The other 92% of our conscious awareness resides in our Unconscious Mind!!  Think of a small house for a moment that has a very large warehouse attached to the back of it.  The small house represents our Conscious awareness.  Everything else that is stored in the large warehouse behind this small house represents the Unconscious.  Sports Psychologists like myself work very hard at accessing their client’s Unconscious so that they can use  the unlimited resources that await them there.  With the support of a sports psychologist, an athlete can get into rapport with their unconscious mind.  In other words, their thoughts, feelings, sub-personalities, belief systems, value system, and energy field all become aligned with one another, and they become aligned and congruent with their Conscious Mind.  As a result, Sports Psychologists help them to become free of tension, self-doubt, and internal conflict.  Instead, their whole mind ( the 92% and the 8%) are working in concert with each other.  They are in rapport, and they are working together to help an athlete achieve his desired outcome and perform at his or her very best.

John Boesky


Sports Performance Consultant



Astana Camp-13
photo credit: kwc via photopin cc

Sports Psychology gives athletes tailor-made tools, techniques, and strategies to realize their fullest potential in their chosen sport.  In addition to this, Sports Psychology gives athletes an opportunity to develop self and other-awareness.  In turn, these competitors develop a more solid sense of themselves.  They are, after all, more than just athletes and competitors.  They are multifaceted and multidimensional human beings, just like you, me, and everyone else lucky enough to grace this Earth for a short while.  They are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, friends, etc.  In order to develop connections with others and a sense of belonging in the world, they must learn to be humble at times, vulnerable, honest, accountable, compassionate, authentic, etc.  They must learn to strengthen their character, and they must learn to show up in the world with integrity so that their words and actions are in alignment with each other.  They must discover what they value most, what belief systems serve them and what belief systems sabotage them.  They must accept who they  they are, and they consciously choose to transform into who they want to become.  Then they must then learn to align their actions today with their vision for who they want to become tomorrow.  Otherwise, they risk becoming a champion in sport, but a loser in life.

In light of the aforementioned, I’m left wondering about superstar athletes like Lance Armstrong and countless others that have reached the pinnacle of their sport only to discover that they’ve lost their dignity in the process. In the short term, they performed brilliantly in sport.  In time, though, the truth catches up to them, and it becomes abundantly clear that they were frauds all along, and that what they accomplished took place behind smoke and mirrors. In time, these athletes realize that the ends didn’t justify the means after all. They lose virtually everything:  Their medals, their sponsors, and their money.  More significantly, they lose the respect and trust of those who loved them and believed in them.  They soon become outcasts, pariahs, and damaged goods.

There are those who believe that “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”  I believe that saying is merely an athlete’s way of trying to justify his unethical behavior.  The truth is, there are countless other athletes who have become champions in their sport the old fashioned way.  They did it through hard work, dedication, self-sacrifice, etc.   Roger Federrer, for example, has won 17  Grand Slam titles in tennis, and he’s never resorted to cheating, lying, or intimidating others to help him become the greatest tennis player of all time.  Instead, he’s won his 17 grand slam titles while simultaneously earning countless Sportsmanship Awards along the way.  As a Sports Psychology consultant, I deeply appreciate his athletic prowess.  I appreciate even more, however, his character.  He’s self-assured, respectful to others, willing to be vulnerable, compassionate, empathetic, honest, accountable for his actions, etc.  In other words, he has a very solid sense of himself.  He is the Real Deal.

I believe that had Lance Armstrong sought out the help of a Sports Psychologist long ago, he would have come to believe that his talents alone would have made him a 7 time Tour de France champion.  Or perhaps he might have discovered that his talents alone wouldn’t have taken him to the top of his sport.  In this moment, he would have had an opportunity to decide what kind of man he wanted to be.  Hopefully, he would have decided that being a man of integrity was far more important to him than collecting 7 Tour de France yellow jackets.  Yet without a sports psychologist, Lance denied himself an opportunity to develop his character.  Without self-awareness and time for self-reflection, he chose to be arrogant,dishonest, and unaccountable for his actions.  He didn’t understand that performing well in sports and performing well in life are not mutually exclusive.  True champions can do both simultaneously.

John Boesky


Sports Performance Consultant


Body Language in SportsMost people already know and understand that our thoughts influence how we feel, and how we feel influences how we move and carry ourselves.  In light of this knowledge, athletes are encouraged to think positively.  These positive thoughts in turn help them to feel better about themselves, their performance, and their chances of being  victorious when competing against others.  Such positive feelings include more self-confidence, resilience, motivation, passion, courage, joy, focus, etc.  As they feel better, their body language changes for the better too.  They keep their heads up, their chests expand, their breathing deepens,  their shoulders widen, their muscles relax, etc.  Soon enough, their thoughts, feelings, and body language are positively congruent and positively aligned, and they have entered into an optimal state of arousal.  They’re ready to compete and perform up to their full potential.

What most athletes don’t know, however, is that there is a bi-directional relationship between the mind and body.  Just as our thoughts influence our feelings and our body language, our body language influences our feelings and our thoughts.  It’s very important to remember this on days when an athlete is having negative thoughts and/or feeling tired or down.  He can change his negative state by simply changing his body language, and by doing so he’ll immediately start to feel better and think more positively.  In addition, his positive body language will send a clear and powerful message to his opponent:  “I’m a fighter, I believe in myself, and I’m here to win.”

As a Sports Psychology Consultant, I want to help you transform your body language for the better so that your confidence builds, your mood brightens, your focus sharpens, and your opponent sees how you carry yourself differently, with more swagger and self-belief.  When you’re ready to make this fundamental change to your body, mind, and spirit, give me a call!!

John Boesky


Sports Performance Consultant


What Seperates The Best From The Rest

image taken from www.vibe.com

image taken from www.vibe.com

Athletes who excel in sports generally love the process that they must go through in order to achieve excellence in their chosen sport. This process includes growing mentally, physically, and spiritually. Although they prefer winning over losing, they value performing up to their potential and competing against the very best even more. Given this, these elite athletes tend to be more process-oriented and performance-oriented rather than outcome-oriented.

When they feel anxious before a competition, they choose to interpret their anxiety as excitement instead. They believe that the excitement that they’re feeling is their bodies’ way of awakening their senses so that they feel alert and prepared for the battle ahead. They also recognize that feeling excited before a competition is normal.

When they feel fear before a competition, they recognize that this feeling is perfectly normal too. They recognize that being fearless doesn’t mean being without fear. It means showing up and doing your best even when you are feeling afraid. In addition to understanding this fundamental truth, elite athletes recognize that their fear is merely their unconscious’ way of trying to keep their ego and self-identity intact. With this in mind, they choose to acknowledge their fear and thank it for trying to love and protect them. Feeling acknowledged and appreciated, their fear subsides and goes away.

When elite athletes lose, they take their losses or setbacks as opportunities for self-reflection, growth, and improvement. They believe that there is no such thing as failure, there is only feedback. This belief enables them to take positive lessons away from their losses, which in turn helps them to release any residual negative feelings they’re holding onto inside.

These athletes also engage in pre-performance rituals before competition that help them to feel calm, centered and focused. For example, they’ll pack water bottles in their equipment bags, an extra set of clothes, protein bars, etc. They do this to avoid feeling discombobulated when they show up to compete. They want to feel instead that everything is in order, and this perception in turn enables them to feel calm and focused only on their performance.

The top athletes also engage in rituals, habits, and strategies while they are competing that enable them to achieve great results over and over again across time. For example, some professional tennis players will do the following ritual in the same sequence each and every time they go the line to serve: First they’ll take a deep breath in from their diaphragm to release the tension they feel in their bodies. Next they’ll picture where they want their serve to go, and they’ll imagine it landing in that exact spot. After that, they’ll bounce the ball three times. At this point, their ritual has been completed, and they toss the ball up in the air and serve.

Finally, the best athletes engage in rituals after competition. Some may stretch, while others may take a cold bath to reduce the inflammation in their joints and muscles. There are others that prefer to spend their time after competing journaling on what they did really well, and they’ll also make note of what they’d like to work on more in practice. These kinds of rituals and routines following competition give these athletes a sense of closure after a long day of competing. They also offer their bodies a chance to recover, and they give their minds a chance to reflect as well as learn and grow from their experiences.

In addition to incorporating rituals into their athletic performances, the best athletes also masterfully access their ideal, peak performance states whenever they want to. Some athletes, for example, choose to get into calm, relaxed states before and during competition, while others choose to feel confident, aggressive, and unstoppable.

They access their desired states by calling on specific auditory, visual, kinesthetic, gustatory, and/or olfactory stimuli that trigger neurologically linked internal feeling states . Some MMA fighters, for example, will deliberately play their favorite rock songs in their heads before or during a fight in order to feel pumped up, powerful, and unstoppable. Some other fighters might choose to picture their children waiting for them at home, and this image unleashes in them the animalistic desire to fight for their physical safety and financial security.

One state that top athletes choose to access a lot when they’re competing is the state of being totally present in the here and now. They forget about the mistakes that they’ve made before, and they choose instead to focus their attention only on the present moment.

They’re able to let go of past mistakes so quickly because they understand that experiencing ups and downs and going through troubled waters are intrinsic parts of the process of achieving excellence. Having made peace with this reality, they learn to become comfortable being uncomfortable, and they learn how to adjust, adapt, and compensate on off days.

Speaking of off days, when they happen top athletes stop the accompanying negative thoughts in their heads dead in their tracks. They’ll use mental imagery or some other technique to acknowledge them and then let them go, and they’ll immediately replace them with positive thoughts, uplifting affirmations, and empowering incantations. In turn, these athletes remain clear-headed, focused, and determined even when the chips seem down. For them, the chips are down only for the moment, and they believe that they’re going to grab the momentum right back.

In addition to monitoring their minds, the best athletes also pay close attention to their bodies. They see to it that their body language remains positive at all times because they understand that just as their body language is influenced by the talk that is going on in their heads, the talk in their heads is influenced by how they carry themselves in their bodies. In other words, they understand that their psychology and their physiology are inter-related and feed off of each other. If they’re shoulders are slumped, for example, they’re likely to start having negative thoughts. If they smile and stand tall, however, they’re likely to think positively about the challenges they’re facing.

In addition to managing their minds and bodies, great athletes also manage their ego’s desire to control everything when they’re competing. They focus instead on controlling what they can, and they let go of their wish to control what they cannot. For example, they realize that sometimes they cannot control the outcome of a game, match, fight, etc. If a basketball team is shooting lights out from half court all night long, for example, there’s little that the opposing team can do about it. If a boxing referee is biased and intends on giving his decision to one fighter over another regardless of what goes on inside of the ring, there’s little that the unfairly treated fighter can do about it unless he scores a knockout. Finally, if a tennis player hears garbage trucks making loud, thumping noises adjacent to the court he’s playing on, there’s not much that he can do about that either.

The best athletes realize that all that they can really do is focus on the things that are within their control, such as their mental and physical preparation, their attitude, their effort level, their focus, their game plan, and their execution of that game plan. By keeping things simple and focusing on only what’s within their control, these athletes feel more at ease than peers who futile try to control the uncontrollable. Consequently, they perform better and play up to their potential far more often.

Elite athletes are also known to consistently train very hard, and they keep their focus and effort level during practice the same as they do on the day of competition. As a result, they develop great mental and physical habits that enable them to perform well on game day. Because they’re in tip-top mental and physical shape, the day of competition feels comparatively easy and effortless to them. They’ve prepared for the worst, and now they have an opportunity to perform at their best.

Moreover, because the perceived demands of competition are balanced by their perceived capabilities, they’re more likely to feel very relaxed and confident going into competition. These athletes may even experience a state of optimal arousal, often referred to as the “zone” or the “flow”. In this state, everything appears to go smoothly and effortlessly for them. They’re totally absorbed in the moment, and they play with relaxed concentration, controlled intensity, and clarity of thought.

Almost all athletes have strengths in their games as well as weaknesses. Average athletes, though, tend to fall in love with their strengths, and they tend to turn a blind eye to their weaknesses. They figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Since they’ve been winning more often than losing, they figure that they should just stay the course.

Elite athletes, on the other hand, are not content having glaring holes in their games. They are always striving to improve and become more well rounded, and in this vein they regularly dedicate some of their practice time to improving on their weaknesses. Take Tiger Woods, for example. Even though he’s already won 14 major golf tournaments, he still works tirelessly on improving his golf swing. Another athlete who works tirelessly on his weaknesses is Rafael Nadal, the world’s number one tennis player and winner of 9 Majors. Even though Nadal has already accomplished so much in his young tennis career, he has recently improved his volleys, added power to his backhand, and added 15 miles per hour to his serve!!

Even though the top athletes generally rely more on their weapons and strengths on game day, they’re also more willing than others to put them aside for awhile when they’re not working. They focus their attention instead on what is working for them. For example, when great baseline tennis players are hitting errant ground-strokes but are serving and volleying well, they’ll stick with serving and volleying for awhile. This gives them confidence, and this confidence gives every facet of their game a pick-me-up. Soon, the baseline shots that they were missing start landing inside of the lines.


Discover Who Uses Sports Psychologists,
What Happens In A Sport Psychology Session,
And The Many Benefits Of Sports Psychology

Bill Cole, MS, MA
Founder and CEO
William B. Cole Consultants
Silicon Valley, California

Pete Rose“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 and ignorant.

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 sport 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 sport psychologist on staff. Look at the representation of sports psychologists being utilized across the entire range of sport:

  • 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 Psychologists
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 edge.
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 teams.

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 not you?

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.

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 coaching”.

The Top Fears Athletes Have About Seeing A Sports Psychologist

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:

  1.  A fear that they will be asked to change, or be made to change. Change itself can be intimidating.
  2. 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.
  3. 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”.
  4. A fear of becoming dependent on the sports psychologist.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Is It Possible I May Be Secretly Hypnotized? This will not happen without your knowledge or authorization.
  13. Sports Psychology Coaching May Take My Killer Instinct Away. On the contrary, your will to win and your mental toughness will be enhanced.
  14. 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 and advancement.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. Being Mentally Tough And Being A Winner Are Inborn Qualities, So Seeing A Sport 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Sports Psychology Won’t Help An Athlete Of My Skill Level. Any skill level can improve through mental training.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. 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.
  31. 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.
  32. 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 best coach.
  33. 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.
  34. 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.
  35. 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 say.
  36. 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.
  37. 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.
  38. 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.
  39. 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.
  40. 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.
  41. 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.
  42. 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.
  43. 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 techniques.
  44. 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.
  45. 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.
  46. 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.
  47. 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.
  48. 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.
  49. 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 therapeutic outcomes.
  50. 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.
  51. 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.
  52. 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 to work.
  53. 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.
  54. 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 with you.
  55. 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.
  56. 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.
  57. 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.
  58. 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.
  59. 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.
  60. 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.
  61. 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.
  62. 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” you.
  63. 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 and behavior.
  64. 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.
  65. 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.
  66. 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.
  67. 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.
  68. 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.
  69. 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.
  70. 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.
  71. 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.
  72. 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 Sport 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:

  1. Discuss any performance issues that trouble you or concern you.
  2. Talk about any emotional obstacles holding you back.
  3. Explore any technical issues that affect your mental game.
  4. Engage in creative exploration of how to resolve these issues.
  5. Understand the mind-body connection and how to make it work for you.
  6. Gain additional perspectives on your sport experiences and challenges.
  7. Feel deeply listened to and respected as you discuss your problems.
  8. Assess your mental strengths and weaknesses.
  9. Devise a mental training plan to help you overcome mental weaknesses.
  10. Discover learning experiences and exercises to help you become self aware.
  11. Share the kind of things and ask the kind of questions you would normally not be able to share with your friends, parents or coaches.
  12. Grow from being assigned mental training homework.
  13. Be assessed on a variety of mental measures to increase your awareness.
  14. Receive assistance in making better decisions about your issues.
  15. Benefit from a viewpoint other than your own.
  16. Make action plans to bring your goals to reality.
  17. Learn a wide variety of mental skills.
  18. See charts and illustrations to help you understand key concepts.
  19. Learn self-regulation skills for emotional, mental and physical control.
  20. Ask any questions you may have about your sports experiences.
  21. Discuss sensitive issues in a safe, confidential environment.
  22. Gain the perspective from someone who has been a successful athlete, coach and mental trainer.
  23. Set up weekly and monthly structures that help you stay accountable to your goals and dreams.
  24. Replace negative thought patterns with positive ones.
  25. Help you realize higher levels of confidence.
  26. Set goals that help you learn faster, perform better and enjoy yourself more.
  27. Familiarize yourself with the zone and be able to enter it more often.
  28. Navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of change.
  29. Experience high quality communication skills.
  30. Rehearse mental skills.
  31. Have a dialogue that helps you think and solve your own problems.
  32. Hear advice, suggestions and counsel.
  33. 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.