2014 is shaping up to be the year of sport psychology. Most coaches and athletes recognize the importance of the mental game, but don’t spend the necessary time to train mentally. It’s a field that is growing, but sport psychology still struggles to achieve a tremendous amount of mainstream acceptance. Whether it’s visualization, focus, team building, or leadership training, using a mental conditioning coach to supplement the technical, tactical, and physical elements of athletics can be another key to success. So why don’t more athletes, teams and organizations use it?
So far in 2014, there tangible evidence that training your mind, as well as your body, can be the difference between good and great. As of today, here are some of the bigger name athletes and programs who have a sport psychologist or mental conditioning coach on staff:
Florida State Seminoles – 2014 NCAA football Champions (Jimbo Fisher, head coach)
“We are going to put as big of an emphasis on mental conditioning as we do physical in our program because you don’t need to be sick to get better,” Jimbo Fisher
UConn Huskies – 2014 NCAA men’s basketball Champions (Kevin Ollie, head coach)
“Initially, Connecticut’s players were skeptical of what was perceived as another formulaic team chemistry exercise. Boatright said that none of the Huskies wanted to attend the sessions or even talk at first, but that now Carr “is a part of this team,” and “after we had that meeting, our chemistry was unbelievable.”
Doug McDermott, Creighton University – 2014 Naismith Trophy for best men’s college basketball player
“Stark has McDermott lie on a training table and talks him into a deep-relaxation phase. Stark counts backward from five to one. McDermott arrives at a beach. There, he removes the clutter from his mind — the anxiety of game day, the pressure of carrying an offense for a top 10 team, the desire to not let anyone down– and puts it in a box, on a raft, and pushes it into the blue water. The tide carries it away.”
Seattle Seahawks – 2014 NFL Super Bowl Champions (Pete Carroll, head coach)
“Gervais is about to lead a meditation session and, as he always does, instructs the players to hit record on their phone voice-recorder apps and to close their eyes. Then he starts guiding them: “Quiet your minds,” “Focus your attention inwardly” and “Visualize success.”
Liverpool FC – 2014 Leader of the English Premier League with 3 games to go.
“Steve has helped a lot in terms of mindset. He’s all about self-belief: don’t go out there with the mentality of trying to do something, just let it happen.” – Daniel Sturridge
Union College Hockey – 2014 NCAA men’s hockey Champions (Rick Bennett, Head Coach)
“Just one shift at a time. This is the biggest game of our lives, hands down, but you’ve got to treat it like any other game. It was tough, I had people texting me, people calling me and stuff, and, you know, it was real tough to keep that mindset, but with our sport psychologist we were able to get that done.” – Union College captain Mat Bodie
Alabama Crimson Tide – NCAA football Champions ‘09, ‘11, ‘12 (Nick Saban, head coach)
“Instead of talking about wins and championships, Saban speaks about the Process. In its most basic form, the Process is Saban’s term for concentrating on the steps to success rather than worrying about the end result. Instead of thinking about the scoreboard, think about dominating the man on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage. Instead of thinking about a conference title, think about finishing a ninth rep in the weight room. Instead of thinking about graduating, think about writing a great paper for Intro to Psych.”
If you have never worked with a mental conditioning coach, what are the barriers holding you, your athletes, your coaches, or your organization back? Reply to this post, or email brian@spinw.