Keep in mind that I have been working as a sport psychology consultant for three decades now. I’ve seen a lot of changes, but not enough. In Europe and even in Canada I know sports psychology consultants that never even hear these questions. So why here? If you get my book you will note that I trained under someone many consider the modern father of sports psychology n North America, Bruce Olgilvie. He started working with athletes in 1966. And we still ask the question 46 years later. The Russians brought Sports Psychologists with them in the 1950’s. Why is it in North America, particularly in the US, we have made such slow progress. This is in answer to feedback I got from my post “Is Mental Training Right for You”
Many athletes have a fear that other athletes or teammates will see them as weak if they work with a sports psychologist. Are you or any of your athletes hesitant about mental training? I talked with a football player at a DI University that has a sport psychologist and he said very few would utilize their services and it was free. Myths about sports psychology can prevent athletes from developing a strong mental game.
Even though sports psychology has become more widely accepted particularly with professional athletes, some myths still remain about working with a sports psychologist. Many club, high school and collegiate players are unaware that almost all professional and elite athletes seek mental training.
We’re surprised that people still view mental training or sports psychology as a weakness and thus think they are inferior because they need to do mental training. Unfortunately, a few athletes still buy into myths about sport psychology and do not see how this can help them. This is a misguided conception about the value of using a sports psychology consultant.
Why do professional athletes believe in mental training? One of the characteristics of great athletes is their desire in improving themselves. That doesn’t just apply to their physical skills; it applies to their mental game as well. There’s nothing weak about wanting to improve performance. Your desire to improve both your physical and your mental game shows your commitment to becoming a better athlete. Look at it this way. An athlete will work on physical conditioning and do strength training as part of normal training. They may get help with a specialty area like speed and agility training. Add what we are doing to help athletes with nutrition is amazing. An athlete might also seek out technical coaches to become more skilled in their sport. In baseball it might be a hitting coach, in basketball perhaps shooting. All of this is normal.
As sport psychology becomes more well known, athletes at all levels are using mental training to become better athletes-no matter if they are in a slump or trying to keep a winning streak alive or simply seeking to be their best. Many professional and elite athletes talk publicly about their use of sports psychology. From pro golfers to pro football players sport psychology is being utilized. It may be an odd statement, but pro football players that embrace sport psychology would never consider it a weakness since part of their belief is that of being mentally tough.
Players are more likely to embrace mental training and work with a sports psychology consultant when they understand it and how it can help. However, the best way for athletes to buy into mental training is when they actually experience its power firsthand. Sports psychology or mental training helps athletes perform under pressure, block out distractions, focus on execution, stay in the zone, and many more mental game elements that are essential for success in sports.
The next post will talk about “What is Sport Psychology? How does it help you?”