As a cognitive oriented psychologist, I have used cognitive therapy for sports improvement with athletes for many years. Athletes like the practical, here and now emphasis and that they are given specific mental and emotional skills to practice and incorporate into their sport.
Since I am based inBoca Raton,Florida, a large number of my sports clients are young tennis players as there are so many tennis academies located nearby.
At the writing of this blog, the US Open is being played and former tennis star, Marit Safin was interviewed on his unlikely victory in the 2000 championship finals over the great Pete Sampras. He said his coach had told him that he had no chance in winning and that he should just do his best not to embarrass himself by playing too badly. This kind of “reverse psychology” had the effect of taking all the pressure off of Marit, who played a great match and ended up winning in three straight sets.
By changing his mindset from, “I must win. I have too win. People expect me to win,” to “Just play your game and stay focused,” Safin was able to play without pressure. After all, it was Sampras who was expected to win. If there is any pressure, it should be on Sampras.
By playing with less pressure and a more relaxed mindset, Safin was able to effectively use his great tennis skills to get the job done!
Cognitive therapy for sports, like other applications of cognitive therapy helps athletes identify and change self defeating thoughts, attitudes and beliefs to healthier, rational and productive ones which allow the athlete to perform to the best of his/her abilities.
Like physical skills, once learned, mental skills need to be regularly practiced and used to remain strong and effective.