Posts Tagged ‘sports psychology’

Video on Mental Benefits of Stretching

Sports Psychology Tip #3 – John F. Murray, Ph.D. – Stretching before any athletic competition is very smart. The physical benefits are obvious, but what you might not realize is that this helps remarkably to relax the athlete and get them ready mentally too.

While on a coaching trip with my client Vince Spadea who was playing a tournament in Chicago in July, 2009, I spoke with him about how stretching helps him with his performance.

Enjoy this video at:

The Power of Goal Setting with Spadea

Sports Psychology Tip #2 – John F. Murray, Ph.D. – Setting goals is incredibly important in any achievement situation. I use goal setting with all my clients, but the goals and strategies differ markedly depending on the athlete, the sport and the circumstance. Still you need to be away of some principles. I refer you to an article on goal setting that I wrote as a two page centerfold for Tennis Magazine in 2007.

Below is a video of my client, Vince Spadea, talking about how goals have helped him in his career:

Dr. John and Vince Spadea on Social Facilitation

Sports Psychology Tip #1 – John F. Murray, Ph.D. – If you are a serious athlete it is extremely important to get the crowd behind you. The benefit from an audience is called the “audience effect” or “social facilitation.” It works best with advanced performers in many fields. The opposite effect, social obstruction, can reduce performance with a large crowd when the skills are not well refined. See the article on social obstruction with mention of social facilitation here

In the video below, Dr. John F. Murray and his client Vince Spadea, whom he was coaching in Chicago in 2009, talk about how Vince has benefited from a supportive crowd in Key Biscayne and Delray Beach in his career. He is from South Florida, so he talks about how well he has done in these tournaments and attributes it to sports psychology and social facilitation.

Indians’ Snell deals with depression

Sports Psychology Commentary in the Indianapolis Star – July 2, 2009 – Phillip B. Wilson – He feared he would hurt himself while struggling with Pirates.

Ian Snell’s return to Indianapolis couldn’t have been more unusual. It’s not often a major league pitcher asks to be demoted.

Then he comes down to Triple-A and strikes out nearly everybody. His fastball clocked consistently between 94-96 mph, Snell struck out 17, including 13 in a row, Sunday at Victory Field. This was the same pitcher who threw the stadium’s only no-hitter on May 15, 2005.

But after his outing Sunday, Snell told WTHR-13 he has been battling depression and considered drastic measures about a month ago due to the growing negativity surrounding his struggles in Pittsburgh. He was 2-8 with a 5.36 ERA in 15 starts with the Pirates this year.

“Sometimes people do stupid stuff and I had to fight it, not to do something stupid and take my life for myself and from my family and my parents,” Snell told the station.

The demons, Snell called them, can be common in the high-pressure, big business world of professional sports. But they have earned more publicity recently in baseball. In the past two weeks, major leaguers Khalil Greene, Dontrelle Willis and Joey Votto have been on or off the disabled list with what have been described as anxiety-related issues.

One of the game’s best pitchers, Kansas City’s Zack Greinke, left the team for a while three years ago with a social anxiety disorder. Now he’s 10-3 with a 1.95 ERA.

Snell, 27, decided he needed to get out of Pittsburgh to get his mind right. He lashed out then at the media and fans.

“I just made a decision for myself, for my career and better for my life, so why not do it now than wait for later, until everything really blows up?” Snell said last week after a game in Pittsburgh.

The Indians said Snell is finished discussing the issue. Pirates director of player development Kyle Stark wrote in an e-mail the team does not want to do interviews on a private matter, but added “(we) have taken the appropriate steps to get the appropriate people involved. We are here to support Ian.”

That Snell seeks help is most important, said John Murray, a prominent sports psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla.

“They’ll say they have a dislocated throwing shoulder, but they won’t say they have a social phobia,” Murray said of the most common problem with clinical depression and anxiety disorders. “Many people are suffering in society because they don’t seek help.

“The more we avoid problems, the more they have a hold on us.”

Snell had an impressive Triple-A season with the Indians in 2005. He went 11-3 with a 3.70 ERA in 18 starts, including that no-hitter. He overpowered Triple-A hitters with 104 strikeouts in 112 innings and had just 23 walks.

He stuck with the Pirates coming out of spring training in 2006 and went 14-11 with a 4.74 ERA, then went 9-12 with a 3.76 ERA the next year.

Last year’s ERA ballooned to 5.42, when he went 7-12. He walked a career-high 89 batters in 1641/3 innings.

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington acknowledged in a recent interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Snell has struggled with the backlash from bad outings.

“Sometimes, a player can be his own worst enemy,” Huntington said. “In this case, we have to find the right buttons to push to help Ian reach his potential.

“The most successful players block it out. The ones that aren’t able to, it wears on them. In Ian’s case, for the better part of a year and a half now, he hasn’t felt like he’s been supported by the fans because he has struggled, and he has not been able to block that out. I think it will be a big step for Ian to make that jump.”

Snell’s next scheduled start is Saturday. The July 4 fireworks crowd at Victory Field is again expected to be a sellout, in excess of 15,000 fans.

“Seek God and positive people around you and look for your true friends, and they’ll come out and support you,” Snell told the station. “A lot of people support me right now. I’m just grateful, because if I didn’t have them, I probably wouldn’t be standing here right now.”

Hope you enjoyed the commentary on sports psychology

Sports Psychology Workshop Videos and Spadea

Wimbledon, England – Special to JohnFMurray.com – It was a long time since Vince Spadea had won at Wimbledon, not to mention that he had not won anywhere in a while. “It was good to see the scrappy veteran prove that when the going gets tough, the rapper gets going in a decisive 3 set victory over Paul Capdeville 6-0, 6-4, 7-5,” said sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray. “It was especially rewarding for me that his success came right on the heels of the 2009 Smart Tennis Sports Psychology Workshops held two days prior, and not too far from the All England Lawn Tennis Club.” Videos of this workshop in several parts are now available on YouTube.

“The British tennis fan and serious amateur competitive tennis player love Vince Spadea,” said Murray. “They tell me that they enjoy his personality and outspoken nature the way they loved John McEnroe, even if their reviews of his musical abilities are mixed.” “He’s eccentric, and the British people are too conservative, so he helps keep us balanced,” said one tennis player who recently attended Murray’s sports psychology workshop.

Murray has been working with and supporting Spadea since his record losing streak and subsequent comeback, and officially coached Spadea to a win over his next Wimbledon opponent, Igor Andreev, at the 2007 Australian Open. “I’ve not traveled with him this year as a fill-in coach. I stick to sports psychology most of the time from my office and usually meet with him when he is in town. Australia was a fun trip in ’07 and I got several coaching wins with him on the Aussie Open tour, but it’s almost unheard of for a sports psychologist to assume the coaching role, even if temporarily, but I had been a tennis coach in the past. What works best for most players, and is really lacking, is solid training in sports psychology”.”

CBS: Lesley Visser on How Sports Psychology Would Help David Ortiz

CBSSports.com – June 8, 2009 – See NFL Hall of Famer Lesley Visser’s new article about the unbelievable struggle faced by David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox. In the article she speaks with sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray about his struggle and likely solution at:
http://www.cbssports.com/cbssports/story/11834418
Many athletes benefit from sports psychology.

Earl Morrall Shares Wisdom with Sports Psychologist

Sarasota, Florida – June 6, 2009 – By Dr. John F Murray – Once upon a time there was an NFL quarterback who played for the Miami Dolphins. Many do not remember his name or his face, which is odd given his enormous accomplishments, but I will never forget. All that quarterback did was lead his team to victory in 71% of the games in the perfect 17-0 season! Imagine … the most influential quarterback on the greatest team in football history is largely forgotten. Well, I met him Earl Morrall today at the Hyatt Sarasota, and I don’t want anyone to forget him.

When Bob Griese broke his ankle in the fifth game against the San Diego Chargers in 1972, I was an 11-year-old fan sitting in the Orange Bowl stands, watching Deacon Jones’ helmet smash into Griese’s leg with my binoculars. I was devastated. My boyhood team lost their leader. How could an aging veteran with a crew cut win? He had backed up Johnny Unitas in Baltimore but how could the team win without Griese, I wondered? Now I think that since that season was so incredibly rare, they probably never would have never made it to 17-0 without the confident guidance of the experienced and calm veteran, Earl Morrall.

People forget his name because the young hotshot Griese took over again in the championship game in Pittsburgh, and then won the Super Bowl as if he had never been out. But don’t forget Earl Morrall, or you ignore history. Like the no name defense that now belongs in the Hall of Fame, Morrall was just an unassuming player who found a way to win.

Over the years I wondered what had become of the aging quarterback who contributed so much to Don Shula‘s perfect masterpiece. I reflected that he must be 90 years old now because he was so old then! Late 30s can seem like 50s to a kid. This kid, now 47 and walking to retrieve his car in the Hyatt parking lot, got a memorable surprise when Earl Morrall suddenly appeared. It was a spirited chat with a childhood sports idol. He is 75 now, but still looks as calm and composed as he did those days handing off to Csonka, throwing a post to Mandich or Warfield, or running for a touchdown that time when it seemed like it took forever! I enjoyed picking Morrall’s brain for tips that I can share with my clients, and especially those who play quarterback.

Morrall is at the Hyatt with a number of other athletes representing Champs during a fund raiser called Celebrity Sports Night. Others here this weekend include Calvin Murphy, Mia Hamm, Dominique Wilkins, Devin Hester, Luke McCown, Andre Berto, Milt May, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Otis Birdsong, Sam Jones, Wade Boggs, Michael Ray Richardson, Artis Gilmore, and Mario Chalmers.

So what words of wisdom did Morrall have to share about success and leadership learned in playing on the greatest team ever? There was a lot, but here are a few quickies: (1) communicate well with everyone around you and make sure you are all on the same page; (2) the difference between “goodâ€? and “greatâ€? is often just to do a little bit more; (3) sacrifice and keep your focus on the team rather than yourself; (4) work hard; and (5) do the right thing. He also talked about how different the game was back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, and how there wasn’t nearly the money in sports as today. It wasn’t until the end of his career that he really started making money, he said.

Those who know this sports psychologist know that the 1972 Miami Dolphins helped inspire an 11-year-old kid to want a career in sports some day. It worked and I owe a lot to Earl Morrall even though I only now met him 36 years after he did his job, taking over for a broken captain and driving toward touchdowns and immortality.

The “72â€? team will still be talked about 100 years from now. Miami Dolphins fans everywhere should never forget the quarterback who actually contributed the most to that team. He led the greatest team ever to 71% of their victories. He deserves a high five and he got one from me today, even if 36 years late. Long live the man, the myth, and Earl Morrall’s crew cut!

Wanted: Insane Tennis Parents

Slate Magazine – Huan Hus – June 2, 2009 – The only way to end America’s Grand Slam drought – With Andy Roddick’s loss at the French Open on Monday, American men have now failed to take the title in 22 straight Grand Slam tournaments, extending the longest dry spell in U.S. tennis history. This stretch of futility, coupled with a dearth of young talent on the women’s side, prompted the United States Tennis Association to overhaul its player development system last year, introducing a host of initiatives such as regional residential training centers, a new roster of national coaches to scout and train prospects, and an increased budget (upward of $100 million over the next 10 years). The plan is comprehensive and ambitious, intended to produce the next Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, and Venus Williams. Unfortunately for the USTA, national organizations with comprehensive mission statements don’t produce tennis champions. Crazy tennis parents do.

Consider the Williams sisters. As the story goes, their father, Richard, upon learning of the lucre that women’s tennis offered, decided to make his next two kids into tennis pros. That his wife, Oracene, didn’t want any more children was a minor obstacle—he simply hid her birth-control pills. He taught himself the game, coaching his protégés on rotten courts where their sessions were sometimes interrupted by gunfire before shipping them to a Florida tennis academy for refinement. While his girls racked up Grand Slams (17 singles titles and counting), he made headlines with his histrionic antics at tournaments, erratic ramblings, and general weirdness—he insisted on meeting his daughters’ first hitting coach at a public carwash because he believed the FBI had bugged his car and house.

Obsessive, overbearing, and downright insane parents are not a new phenomenon in tennis, nor are they uniquely American. Frenchwoman Suzanne Lenglen was the product of a taskmaster father who withheld jam for her bread if she practiced badly. Under Daddy Lenglen’s tutelage, and occasionally fortified with the cognac-soaked sugar pieces he provided during matches, Lenglen won 31 Grand Slam titles between 1914 and 1926. In 2000, Jelena Dokic’s father and coach, Damir, who has admitted to hitting Jelena (“for her sake”), achieved three legs of an ignominious Grand Slam, getting ejected from the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open. Since Jelena cut ties with him, he’s threatened to kidnap her and drop a nuclear bomb on Australia, where his daughter now lives. Maria Sharapova’s father, Yuri Sharapov, is currently so reviled for his cheating (blatant coaching during matches) and belligerence (making a throat-slitting gesture from the stands) that Anastasia Myskina refused to play in the Federation Cup if her countrywoman was named to the Russian team.

In 2001, June Thomas wondered at how women’s tennis has grown ever younger and more popular—but Mike Steinberger argued that there just aren’t enough great female tennis players out there. Anne Applebaum asked where all of Russia’s gorgeous tennis stars come from. Huan Hsu bemoaned the destruction of his promising tennis career at the hands of Chinese-American stereotype Michael Chang.

Why are so many tennis parents unhinged, and why are they so successful at incubating talent? While sociopathy—the utter lack of a conscience—undermines a society, it happens to be really useful on court. Florida-based sports psychologist John F. Murray likens the stress of the game to combat, and the late David Foster Wallace once wrote that tennis “is to artillery and airstrikes what football is to infantry and attrition.” It’s no coincidence that three notorious tennis fathers—Stefano Capriati, Mike Agassi, and Roland Jaeger—were trained as boxers. Great players reduce their opponents to targets that must be eliminated. This was the impulse Gloria Connors (the rare insane tennis mom) was encouraging when she taught her son Jimmy to try to knock the ball down her throat “because … if I had the chance, I would knock it down his”; when Mike Agassi positioned Andre at midcourt and blasted him with close-range shots; when Jim Pierce screamed, “Kill the bitch!” during one of his daughter Mary’s matches.

Arthur Ashe once remarked that if he didn’t play tennis, he’d probably have to see a psychiatrist. After all, you have to be somewhat crazy to submit to the itinerant lifestyle and brutal competitiveness of professional tennis, where only about 10 percent of the ranked players break even. “If you want to win the French Open, which is like desert warfare, you better darn well have a Jim Pierce beating you into the ground … so long as it’s not abusive,” says Murray, the sports psychologist. (For the record, Pierce was abusive. Mary claims he would slap her when she lost matches.) Murray also notes that the pathology of tennis parents often belies a certain genius, such as Charles Lenglen’s decision to eschew the demure playing style of women in his time in favor of training Suzanne against men, and Gloria Connors’ insistence on teaching Jimmy a two-fisted backhand in an era of one-handers.

For a long time, the USTA seemed to recognize that its role in developing American champions was to stand aside and leave the training to parents and Svengali coaches like Nick Bollettieri and Rick Macci. (In 1987, Bollettieri’s finishing school had an astonishing 32 players in the main draw of Wimbledon.) But in 1986, with Connors and John McEnroe aging and no obvious American successors on the scene, a panicked USTA launched its player-development program. (Disclosure: I worked for the USTA for a few years during and after college.) The methods—an infusion of money to support new regional training centers and national coaches—will sound familiar to anyone who followed last year’s renovation. Since that first attempt at resuscitation, the development program has been defined not by its production of Grand Slam champions (zero) but by the continual formulation of new plans: The department was revamped in 1995, 2001, 2003, and 2008.

While the bloated, bureaucratic USTA sputtered, tennis parents continued to spawn champions. Leading the way was Mike Agassi, a self-described “crazy Iranian from Las Vegas who browbeat his kids into mastering tennis.” Mike indoctrinated his son Andre by hanging a tennis ball over his crib and taping a pingpong paddle to his hand. Stefano Capriati boasted that his daughter Jennifer was doing sit-ups as a baby and had a racket in her hand as soon as she could walk. Though Jim Pierce had no tennis background, he pulled daughter Mary out of school to train her full-time, working her up to eight hours a day, sometimes until midnight. He also punched a spectator at the 1993 French Open and was so unruly that he led the women’s tour to add a provision for the banning of abusive players, coaches, and relatives. (In an act of solidarity, Richard Williams later called him “one of the best parents I have ever known.”)

The approaches of these tennis tyrants may have been objectionable and the psychological damage they inflicted on their children immense. Nevertheless, these parents had a plan, and they stuck to it. They spent time and money and energy and didn’t have to clear their decisions with a committee, answer to a board of directors (or even their spouses), or worry about overtraining or being fair to other players. And the expectations they put on their children, however misguided or unrealistic, originated from a resolute belief in their ability to become champions. Richard Williams’ biggest achievement is not teaching his daughters how to hit forehands and backhands but inculcating them with, in the words of 1990 Wimbledon finalist Zina Garrison, the “strength, confidence, and arrogance you need to become the top player in the world.”

It’s no surprise that the USTA would try to cultivate star players—the organization doesn’t have much to gain from acknowledging that it has nothing to do with producing Grand Slam winners. The reality, though, is that rational coaches and trainers with sensible development plans can never compete with the designs of an obsessed parent. The success of self-taught tennis players turned coaches such as Williams, Capriati, and Bollettieri—the famed coach didn’t pick up a racket until college—reveals that it doesn’t take long-tenured gurus and well-structured organizations to teach the game. Tennis consists of only a handful of basic strokes and strategies. As such, parents who wouldn’t dare try to teach, say, golf can read a book, watch a few videos, and give capable instruction. What separates the best players from their peers isn’t superior teaching. It’s maniacal devotion.

It’s no accident that three of ESPN’s 10 worst sports relatives (Dokic, Pierce, and Peter Graf) are tennis parents. The ugly truth is that for the United States to produce another Andre Agassi or Venus Williams, some crazed dad is going to have to add his name to that list. In its quest to develop a new generation of champions, the USTA would do well to remember the words of Robert Lansdorp, the former coach of Sampras and Lindsay Davenport. “The basic principle is the same,” he said. “Every person who has made it in this game, Americans or foreign, it has been the parents who were behind it.”

Sports Psychologist Comments: Keeping Local Racing Prodigy Logano On Track

Sports Psychologist Commentary: Hartford Courant – Shawn Courchesne – February 9, 2009 – Joey Logano was 7, racing Quarter Midget cars in Meriden, already saying he was going to be on the NASCAR circuit someday. And that he would challenge his favorite driver, Jeff Gordon, at racing’s highest level.

The kid may have been cocky, but here he is, at 18, ready to make his debut at the Daytona 500 next Sunday for Joe Gibbs Racing. Logano will be the youngest driver in the 51-year history of the race.

The buildup to his arrival in the Sprint Cup Series has been unmatched in NASCAR history. So far, he has excelled at every level. So far, he has not burned out. So far, the only headlines he has made have been for his racing.

In the history of sports, far too many have not been able to handle the pressure of being the child prodigy.

“I think for him, with the racing, he’s going to take his lumps. There’s a learning curve,” said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing and son of the team’s owner and namesake. “I think he’s shown he has a gift, though. … He’s going to get this figured out pretty quick.”

Sometimes the on-track part is the easiest, though.

“The racing, for these guys, they love it, but sometimes the off-track stuff can really be a problem,” Gibbs said. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job, though, working with [sponsor] Home Depot and everybody else involved in laying out a calendar way ahead of time that helps to make all this go better and try to keep some level of normalcy.”

Logano won his first national championship in Quarter Midget racing at 7. At 12, he was racing against adults in full-size stock cars. At 15, he was part of a bidding war for his services between some of the most powerful organizations in NASCAR, a battle won by Joe Gibbs Racing.

In 2006, at 16, he won in his debuts in NASCAR’s regional minor league Camping World East and Camping World West Series. Last June, he became the youngest driver to win in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series, one step below the top level Sprint Cup.

Then, last August, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Logano would replace two-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart in its No. 20 car after Stewart decided to leave the team.

Though Logano and his family decline to reveal how much he makes each year, those familiar with the financial workings of the sport estimate that he could earn upward of $3 million in his rookie season.

This success story is unparalleled in racing. The closest comparison in recent years is that of Casey Atwood, called the next Jeff Gordon by some when he entered the Sprint Cup Series full time at 20 in 2001 for car owner Ray Evernham. After the 2002 season, he never again ran a full season in one of NASCAR’s top three divisions.

“I think if you ask Casey, he would tell you that he underestimated the demands and what it really took to go Cup racing, the commitment that was needed,” Evernham said. “Casey could drive the car, but he wasn’t prepared for all the work that went along with being in that position.”

Crossroad

This is a crucial time for Logano.

“I’ve worked with many prodigy tennis players and golfers who have similar backgrounds as [Logano],” said Dr. John F. Murray, a sports psychologist. “An 18-year-old is just out of adolescence, and that’s typically the time that you’re learning important social skills. When you’re suddenly thrust into a profession where the demands are so much more than just participating in the sport, the effects can be tremendous on a young person.

“You’ll see them dealing with a sense of entitlement that comes with having been so successful in everything they’ve done. You’ll also often see them reach a point where they become more independent, and there’s a tension that develops between the lines of authority and their feelings about how they got to where they are and wanting to make their own decisions with themselves and their money, causing strained divides between parents or principal authorities in their career.”

Having sponsorship deals with major corporations like Home Depot and Coca-Cola come with responsibilities that not only include hundreds of appearances away from the track each year but also representing those companies properly in the public eye 24 hours a day.

Tom Logano, Joey’s father, said his son is prepared.

“I think he’s very level-headed, but he’s still a kid behind closed doors,” Tom Logano said. “He’s a goofy kid. You see that in his personality, but I think he’s surrounded by the best of the best, and I think he’s got his head screwed on straight.”

Room To Grow

J.D. Gibbs said they’ve modified some of the normal demands to lighten the load for Logano.

“In doing our planning with the companies we’re working with, we’ve blocked out time for him to be with his family and relax and not be on the go-go-go during his off-the-track time,” J.D. Gibbs said. “I think, for the most part, you’re better off focusing on the racing and not getting too worn out physically or mentally.

“People have to remember, he was with us when he was 15, and he was phenomenal then. He was great when he was 16. He was great when he was 17. People say we’re pushing him now and we’re doing things we shouldn’t be doing. If we hadn’t seen what we needed to see over the past three years, he wouldn’t be where he is now. You’ve got to take the big picture that he’s been getting ready for this for a long time.”

Still, the schedule can be overwhelming. Take Friday, for instance. There were Coca-Cola and Goodyear Tire photo shoots, ARCA RE/MAX qualifying, media interviews and Budweiser Shootout practices.

Evernham said the support system is there for Logano to avoid the pitfalls that left Atwood’s career crumpled like a car in a Daytona wreck.

“I don’t care what anybody says. At 18, you can’t know what to expect when you get into this,” Evernham said. “Certainly he knows what to expect out of a race car. He’s gotten this far doing that. The life lessons that he’s going to have to learn are about picking and choosing priorities, and that could be tough. He’s going to have 10,000 more things to worry about in his life now than he did last year. But around him are a great family and Joe Gibbs and J.D. Gibbs, who are two of the most well-organized and qualified people in professional sports.”

Tom Logano said he and J.D. Gibbs have talked about hiring a sports psychologist to counsel Logano.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Tom Logano said. “Heck, yeah. So much of sports is in your head.”

Joey Logano said he’s willing to try anything that is supported by his family or the Gibbs team.

“I don’t know what a sports psychologist does or what it would be about,” he said. “But if it was something the people around me thought would help, I would definitely do it.”

His biggest hurdle might simply be dealing with defeat. He’s not used to it.

“This is the top level,” Logano said. “You aren’t going to go out there and run great right off the bat. I know there’s a learning curve. As long as you mentally know that, it is what it is. This is all top dogs. I was a top dog in the other places, but you take the top dog from every level and this is what you get, right here, the Sprint Cup Series. I’m just one of the guys now.”

“When you’re suddenly thrust into a profession where the demands are so much more than just participating in the sport, the effects can be tremendous on a young person.” Dr. John F. Murray, sports psychologist

What is Real Sports Psychology?

The public needs to know that there are many people practicing within the field of “Sports Psychology” who lack the proper credentials and/or a good working knowledge of the profession. These may try to tackle issues without proper training or licensure. It can harm the public when a proper referral is not made or proper treatment is not conducted.
 
Did you know that there are generally two types of individuals who may be perceived as Sport Psychologists by the public? Were you aware that a clear distinction needs to be made between them?
 
The first type (coming primarily from sport science programs) may have taken courses in sport psychology and may be excellent scientists, researchers, or teachers, but they are 99% of time neither trained nor licensed (the minimum standard of care required by a state) to provide psychological services. They may not hold themselves out to the public as Sport Psychologists in private practice in the vast majority of states. If clinical issues are suspected (e.g., anxiety, depression, anger), they must refer the athlete to a licensed professional (such as a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist) to allow for proper care.

The second group, the practicing Sport Psychologists, are licensed psychologists who are additionally trained in the sport sciences with supervised training in providing both counseling/psychotherapy and performance enhancement services to athletes. These Sport Psychologists offer the benefits of training athletes in performance enhancement while conducting assessments and counseling as needed rather than having to refer the client to another professional.

It is extremely important to ask if individuals who call themselves Sport Psychologists are licensed in their states as psychologists, and then inquire about the extent of their supervised training and experience in working with athletes and teams.
 
Practicing Sport Psychologists combine two separate academic and experiential backgrounds – psychology and the sport sciences. Proper credentials and training in BOTH disciplines are essential to hold oneself out to the public as a Sport Psychologist. Unless the professional has been trained and experienced in BOTH disciplines, and licensed in psychology, the person is not a true Sport Psychologist and is not permitted to advertise as a Sport Psychologist.
 
But … just as highly trained sport scientists without proper training and licensure in psychology cannot use the title “Sport Psychologist,â€? the same holds true for authentic licensed psychologists who have not undergone rigorous and proper training and supervision in the various sport sciences, or who have not received the proper supervision by another legitimate Sport Psychologist.
 
State laws, you see, prohibit any permutation of the title “psychologistâ€? unless the professional is state licensed. State laws protect the use of the title “psychologistâ€? and only allow licensed psychologists to legally use the title in order to protect the public by establishing a minimum standard of care.
 
I know why this is wise. I learned almost nothing about how to counsel, assess, or diagnose an athlete with a general problem when I was studying and receiving a Masters degree in one of the best sport science programs in the country. Similarly, while studying in a clinical psychology program, I learned almost nothing about how to improve an athlete’s performance through mental skills training, or how to structure practice conditions. The thousands of hours of supervised training or “on the job” work with hundreds of clients, however, was the critical piece that would have never in 20 years been possible to acquire in a strictly sport science program. While performance principles are key, knowing about people, how to diagnose and treat problems and how to counsel is infinitely more important! Psychology programs are set up to provide that kind of training. Sport science programs are not.
 
When I am working with an athlete, I find that much of our time is spent discussing and resolving general issues – perhaps even 70% of the work! This goes way beyond mental skills training or performance enhancement. Reducing and resolving problems off the court or field can help an athlete perform better just as much or more than specific mental skills training! I believe that holistic care requires an understanding of both the “person” and the “performer.”

It is important to at least communicate this message to athletes, trainers, players and executives.
According to many reports, pro sports teams are not always giving their athletes the proper care because they do not have the properly trained professionals on board!
 
In sum, becoming a licensed “Sport Psychologist” is necessary for the individual who wants to handle serious personal or clinical issues, enhance performance through mental skills training, and use the title “Sport Psychologist.” While gaining this extra training takes more time and effort, these professionals are more versatile than either “non-psychologist sport scientists” or “non-sport scientist psychologists.” Licensure also carries its weight in gold in terms of client well being and public safety.
 
Is this news? Not according to Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated and Selena Roberts of the New York Times. Both have addressed the seriousness of real Sport Psychology in their articles on the subject. They know how important this is.