Mind Over Sports


Posted on: July 15, 2012

“Observations that contradict existing wisdom often lead toward, not away, from the truth.” – Anonymous

In 1960, Dr. Maxwell Maltz wrote “Psycho Cybernetics” – a runaway best seller, and in it he introduced the concept of visualization, which subsequently was embraced by universities and colleges across this nation who were offering PhDs in sport psychology. In his book, Dr. Maltz wrote of the “Theatre of the Mind” and maintained that if individuals were to visualize something in their lives, it will take place, regardless of what is happening in their personal lives.

I must not be a very persuasive person because for the past 26 years I’ve tried unsuccessfully to convince others of something that I accidentally stumbled upon. That is, if an athlete is encumbered with unresolved issues and/or problems in his or her personal life, visualization techniques are totally ineffective. And in 1987, I read something in the media that absolutely convinced me I was on the right track. It involved one of golf’s greatest visualizers, Tom Watson. Here’s what happened: Rumors were floating around about Tom Watson’s personal life during the 1987 U.S. Open Golf Tournament. After an opening round of 72, he called a press conference and announced he was not an alcoholic, he was not divorcing his wife, and he was not firing his brother-in-law as his agent. Whatever impression his declaration made on sportswriters, he cleared the issues from his head and focused on golf. The next day he shot an outstanding 65 and finished runner-up in the tournament.

I think the main reason I’ve been unable to get this fact across to the general public is because our educational institutions are teaching otherwise. At the present time, if you have a degree in sport psychology and attempt to help an athlete with his or her personal issues you could lose your license. The reason for this is that you would be entering the domain of the clinical psychologist, which is taboo since the field of psychology is very territorial. My recommendation is that when our universities and colleges award a student with a PhD in sport psychology, they should, simultaneously, require that the student also have a masters degree in counseling. This will enable the student to help athletes with their personal problems and issues without losing his or her license. But for change to come about, our universities and colleges would be required to acknowledge they have erred over the past 52 years, and I really doubt that will happen.


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N. V. I.
National Visualization Institute

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