Interview with SPINw’s Michael Wilson

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Lacrosse team gets dose of mental toughess training during a championship season.

*UPDATE* July 30, 2014 – We are happy to report that Mike is now a consultant with Evolving Concepts in Santa Barbara, CA.  Please check out his website at  Mike was a great part of our team at SPINw, and we can’t endorse his knowledge, passion, and integrity enough!


Meet Mike Wilson:

For the past two years, Mike Wilson has interned with the Sport Psychology Institute Northwest.  He is currently finishing up his Masterss Degree in Sport Psychology at John F. Kennedy University.

Over the course of the 2012-13 winter and spring seasons, Mike worked with Westview High School’s freshman boy’s basketball team and Sunset High School’s junior varsity boy’s lacrosse team.  He discussed sport psychology techniques and mental skills concepts like, goal setting, mental toughness, focus, and team cohesion.

SPINw consultant Jimmy Yoo had a chance to sit down with Mike to identify frequently asked questions by the high school athletes he worked with.

Q:  What is Mental Toughness?

Mike: Mental toughness is part of your belief system.  It is an adopted/learned behavior created by the environment (i.e., sport) in which an athlete performs.

Mental toughness is made up of several different traits that include resilience, persistence, aggressiveness, confidence, and pride.  It is something an athlete uses to overcome his or her fear, anxiety, or stress that is related to competition.


A quote from Bill Belichick, Head Coach of the New England Patriots, on being mentally tough:

“In the end, our ability to perform under pressure is critical.  In that light, it really comes down to two things.  No. 1, the team process, all of us being able to work together and perform productively in the way that we need to do to win.  We use the term ‘mental toughness’ a lot, and to me that term means doing the right thing for the team when things aren’t right for you — maybe a guy that’s not getting the playing time he hoped for, maybe he isn’t getting as many opportunities to do whatever it is he’d like to do.  We all have to give up a little bit of something in this sport, and mental toughness is going out there and doing what’s best for the team even though everything isn’t going exactly the way you want it to. That’s what defines mental toughness in my mind.”

Q:  When I am not performing well during practices and competitions, what can I do to perform better?

Mike: Performance has so many factors and athletes experience so many highs and lows throughout a game/competition and during practice.  Look at building consistency in what you do each day.  It is important to assess things one day at a time, rather than only judging your performance after a game/competition.

Q:  What kind of goals should I be setting for myself?

Mike: Set a goal you can accomplish right now.  In order to create a goal that you can accomplish it has to be first and foremost realistic, then specific, and measurable.  We all have the end-goal in mind, that is called the dream at this point and it is the easiest goal to think about.  However, if we want to make that dream come true we have to pave a way to get there.  This is why setting goals for the here and now, the moment, is essential to achieving the end-goal.  For example, as a lacrosse player, if you want to score 20 goals in a season, at the next practice you could work on taking at least 20 shots on goal where you focus on hitting corners with an over hand shot.  Or as a basketball player, if you want lead the league in free throw percentage, at the next practice, you could focus on your form when shooting free throws.

Q:  What characteristics does an athlete need to be a leader on the team or to be the captain of the team?

Mike: One of the defining characteristics of a leader is the unquestionable desire for responsibility.  Leaders take the opportunity and tasks upon themselves, and sometimes, they aren’t even aware that they are doing so.  Leaders are a funny breed because most of the time they have no clue anyone is following them.

Q: Our team captain was recently promoted to the varsity squad, who will lead us now?

Mike: If you want to know who is going to be the leader, start looking for who is following who and who does everyone talk about the most.  At times like this, when unexpected movements happen, it is essential for coaches and players to designate a leader with whom they trust and respect.


Q: Is it beneficial to identify your role on a team?

Mike: Identity breeds clarity. Establishing what your role is on a team allows you to focus on you.  When everyone on a team is on the same page, it is amazing how teams perform.  Understanding the person’s role to your right, left, front, and behind produces trust and therefore confidence.  If your role is to be a captain, reflect on what the responsibilities of a captain are and carry them out.  If your role is to come off the bench, then focus on the expectations of that role and do them.  Your role is to be the go-to shooter, then focus on shooting.


Q:  What does it mean to be a team player?

Mike: To be a team player is to no longer seek personal glory.   When a team player performs, he or she shows the necessity for their teammates.  A team player not only depends on their teammates, but also extends themselves for their teammates. This behavior ranges from cleaning up gear after practice to helping your teammate double-team on defense. A team player flies under the radar, often going unnoticed because of their constant assistance ensuring that teammates can perform their responsibility.


sport psychology portland or lacrosse

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