Sports Psychology for athletes has become increasingly popular over the past number of years as professional athletes increasingly attribute their success, comebacks and ability to overcome obstacles to their work with sports psychologists. In fact, there is a popular television drama series that features a sports psychologist who consults with football players, tennis players, coaches and managers. While the television sports psychologist role is exaggerated and over the line in some cases, it is true that many of the problems athletes demonstrate on the field are often a reflection of problems they are having in their lives off the field.
While sports psychologists teach mental and emotional skills that can be helpful for athletes to perform better in their respective sport and these skills can also be applied to their personal lives, often times, it is the personal counseling over a period of weeks and months that often makes the most difference in the long term success of the athlete.
A quick consultation or brief session or two can be helpful in the same way a band aid or a field adjustment by a personal trainer to attend to a strained muscle can provide a temporary fix. However, the long term solution usually requires both a more comprehensive evaluation and a more in depth treatment.
In my sports psychology practice inBoca Raton,Florida, because of the many tennis and golf academies, I tend to see many of these types of young athletes. They are referred by coaches and brought in by their parents and almost always come in for “performance related” concerns. I have found that often times these performance issues affect them in many areas of their lives. For example, a tennis player who gets very anxious before a match to the point of throwing up, responds in a similar way before taking a test in school or giving a presentation in front of the class. While teaching the athlete how to relax would be a part of the treatment package, other components would include helping the athlete understand the connection between his or her thoughts and feelings and teaching cognitive coping skills to create healthier attitudes and beliefs.
By understanding and working on the “big picture”, young athletes can learn to perform to the best of their abilities and develop into emotionally healthy adults.
Dr. Robert Heller is a psychologist and sports psychology consultant based in Boca Raton, Fl and author of the mental conditioning CD-ROM program TENNISMIND.
(Previously published in “Tennis Enthusiast”