In working with athletes and teams, it is very important that the sports psychologist focus on both enhanced mental skills and improved mental health too. To exclude either of those two components would be a huge mistake. Becoming more confident in a tennis tiebreaker, for example, is really important, but it might be even more critical that the tennis player develop greater overall self-esteem and reduce general feelings of depression or anxiety associated with the grueling tournament schedule.
Too many supposed sports psychology experts who are not licensed or properly trained in general psychology (they are not allowed legally to use the term psychology in their work) focus on building mental skills but they don’t have the training and experience to handle more generic mental issues when they come up. Remember, an athlete, business person, or other high performer is a person first and foremost, so they are going to need to be as healthy as possible mentally in their quest for achievement. This is smart from both an overall health perspective and from the viewpoint of performance. There is nothing worse than a top athlete who is hampered by something as basic but important as a broken relationship, and cannot get professional help from his or her supposed sports psychologist who might have no idea how to address that.
Dr. John F Murray believes that mental health and mental skills success can and need to go hand in hand in working with clients. What good is achievement if the person cannot enjoy it? At the same time, helping a person cope with a death in the family, for instance, is not really going to help with his or her pre-shot routine in golf.
Playing a sports game is important for sure. We call that mental performance or smart play. Playing smarter at life by being as healthy as possible mentally is even more important to the long-term success and well being of any human being, including top performers!