Mind Over Sports


Posted on: August 4, 2011

Sport psychologists often recommend visualizing an event, quieting your mind, ridding yourself of negative thoughts, and focusing on the present. It all sounds good, until attempted by athletes experiencing severe personal problems. In such instances, most sport psychologists focus on all the information coming in. But in my opinion, the problem isn’t information coming in, it’s information already there which hasn’t been addressed. A lack of focusing is usually the result of unresolved issues an athlete may be harboring inside his or her “self”. Athletes who resolve their issues prior to competing perform at a higher level than those who do not. And those who do not are more susceptible to error.
Bob Rotella, one of golf’s more successful sport psychologists, was quoted in an article that appeared in a past issue of the New York Times Magazine as saying: “I believe you have free will, that you control your thoughts.” In the same article, the writer reviewed the technique of another sport psychologist, Deborah Graham, who also counsels golfers on the pro tour: “Graham says that the chief difference between her approach and Rotella’s is that, as a practicing psychotherapist, she brings a clinical perspective to the problems at hand. In the name of golf, she delves into such things as players’ marital crises, their addiction to alcohol – subjects that may lie beyond Rotella’s focus.” The reason they may lie beyond Rotella’s focus is because, as a sport psychologist, he is not allowed to enter the domain of the clinical psychologist or psychotherapist. And if he does, he could lose his license.
My approach when working with athletes is more in harmony with Graham’s than Rotella’s. I do not believe you have free will regarding your thoughts, but rather they are products of your beliefs, which come from your feelings of self-worth.


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