How Can Coaches help players out of a slump?

I do a regular interview with Michael Austin from Basketball Coach Weekly. Coaches often ask me about team motivation techniques, and what sport psychology skills they can use with their athletes.  In this most recent interview, (which I particularly enjoyed) I address the answer to those questions in terms of how coaches can spot and help correct a player who is in a slump.  Check it out!

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One Shot at a Time

Most golfers know that to play well an important, if not the most important part, is to focus on playing one shot at a time and not get ahead of yourself and count the victory or score. This is not just true for golf, but can be applied to any competitive sport.

It’s one thing to know this and another to do it.  In a recent article, Professional Golfer Ben Crane, after winning a tournament talked about how he set his goals this year to develop and focus on a process for hitting each shot, not winning.

There are a couple of ways that you can begin training your mind to do this.  Next time out, keep track on your scorecard with a system of a plus or minus to identify whether you followed your swing routine.  A second method is to rate your focus on each shot on a scale of 1 to 5.  Either way or any combination will help remind you to stay focused on one shot at a time.  Do this each time out and your mind will become more disciplined to this way of playing.

From Oregonian, April 2, 2010:
But the victory and rewards were less important to Crane than each shot he executed. 

“My goals look very different that winning,” Crane said. “I used to think I wanted to win, and now I realize that for me, it’s not about winning, and if I’m thinking about winning, then I’ve missed the boat.”

So what is he thinking about? Crane says his sole focus on the course is the process he goes through in hitting each shot.

“I have certain things — I guess you could call them checklists or progressions — that I go through before, during and after each golf shot, no matter what kind of shot it is,” he said. “I’ve committed myself to doing those things. And then I grade myself on how I did those things. I don’t grade myself on where the ball went.”

Golfers have long touted “one shot at a time” as a course strategy, but few have ever committed to it as totally as Crane. It was the result, he said, of a meeting he had with eight of his advisors in November in which they dissected his game.

The end result was Crane’s third victory on the PGA Tour. But he was so consumed with the process of each shot, he says he had no idea he was in the lead on Sunday until he holed his final putt.

“I certainly didn’t know what the people were doing in front of me, and I didn’t look at the leaderboard all week long, and that day,” he said.

Read the complete article in the Oregonian

About the Author: Mark Henry is a Licensed Professional Counselor passionately committed to helping athletes identify and develop the mental skills that will take their game to the next level. In addition, he brings years of experience coaching college basketball and numerous sports at the high school level.

Overcoming Fear

Are you wondering how the Winter Olympic athletes overcome their fears when attempting extreme flips and somersaults, or after crashing? Basically, those who are successful quickly rewrite any fears or setbacks into a positive and successful visualization of the skill. Read more

Lindsey Vonn and Performance under Pressure

In a recent article on Olympic skiier, Lindsey Vonn, she was interviewed about how her ability to perform under pressure.  She commented how she has grown and developed her confidence.  Here’s her quote from Bill Pennington’s article in the New York Times.

Vonn is not naturally introspective. But when I asked her how she has managed to perform successfully under pressure in recent years, especially since stress seemed to undo her in the past, she paused. “Athletics at the highest level is a sport within a sport,” she answered, looking at the ceiling. “When you’re young, you develop ways to win, and you think they will always work, but then you get to the top, competing against the other top athletes, and sometimes things don’t work. You go home and ask yourself what went wrong, and for me the answer was that I didn’t have enough confidence in my preparation, and I didn’t have enough trust in myself.

“So now I know that I’ve worked harder and prepared myself better than anyone. And I have put things in place. I have a race routine. I have a team of people helping me. I have winning habits. I believe in myself. I have balance in my life. In the end, it’s a mental maturity to let your best come out.”

The New Year’s Resolution – Why some Goals Fail and How to Set More Effective Goals


Welcome to 2010!  Did you set a New Year’s Resolution (or 12)? Have you kept them? Have you already written any off as impossible?

Have you ever wondered why New Year’s Resolutions so seldom stick? The New Year’s Resolution is about changing human behavior, which is no easy feat. (Trying to change it in the days after staying out all night and having a little too much champagne doesn’t make it any easier!)

Setting New Year’s Resolutions is but one form of goal setting. The reasons that athletes fail to achieve their goals are the same reasons people in all walks of life may fail using the New Year’s Resolution to change habits and lifestyle. In sport psychology research and literature, goal setting is the most consistently proven factor in facilitating peak performance. However, when goals are not set properly, they are not as effective as they could be, and can even be counter-productive.
Whether setting a New Year’s Resolution, or just a goal in general, here are the main reasons that goal may fail:
1) Too general
2) Too hard or unrealistic
3) Doesn’t account for unexpected events
4) No consistent check in
5) Lack of support system

Let’s take a common example of a New Year’s Resolution that is well intentioned, but destined to fail.

Goal: “I want to get in better shape this year.”
Sounds good, right – who wouldn’t want that? But, as is, this goal is destined to fail because it is 1) too general. What does that goal mean? How is it measured? If you go running 1 time in 2010, compared to 2009, when you went running 0 times, you have accomplished your goal! However, I doubt this is what you had in mind when you set that goal. It is too general; so let’s make it more specific:
“I will get in better shape this year by running every day.”
That sounds a little better, but will most likely fail because it is 2) too hard or unrealistic. Most people do not run everyday, and missing 1 day will serve as a de-motivator, making it easy to say the next day: “Oh well, I have already failed, there is no way to accomplish my goal, so what’s the difference if I run or not today?” So let’s adjust to make the goal more realistic:
“I will get in better shape this year by running 3 times a week.”
More specific? Check. More realistic? Check. This goal is pretty good as set. But there are a few other factors to consider. 3) Does this goal account for unexpected events? What happens if there is a weeklong blizzard? What happens if you turn an ankle and can’t run for 2 weeks? These are the kinds of rhythm-breaking events that can derail a goal fast and permanently. So what adjustment can be made to this goal to account for the unexpected? Have a back-up plan so that running can be expanded to other exercise: yoga at home, a Pilates class, and basketball or swimming at the gym are some examples.
“I will get in better shape this year by exercising 3 times a week.”
This goal is infinitely better than it was in its first iteration, and more likely to be attained. Now let’s consider a couple extra points to solidify this goal further; into a life changing plan. The first point is that, with 4) no consistent check-in, many goals can just drop off your radar (due to the factors already mentioned). A couple ideas can help with this. The first is to make sure you write it down and put it in a place you can see it. Or if you like to write, try journaling on your goal. Even better yet, you can break your goal down into smaller pieces 

“I will get in better shape this year by exercising 3 times a week in January. I will set a new goal for February.”

Last but not least, make sure there is no 5) lack of support system. Goals tend to move along better with someone there to support and push you in your goal. It might be a family member or a friend or a trainer at the gym. No matter whom you choose, it has to be someone who is not afraid to call you out when you are slacking, and tell you the truth. This person can also help with the consistent check-in.
It can be helpful to set this goal with a friend or family member (“I will get in better shape this year by exercising 3 times a week with Bill.”) or by making sure it is in a class (“I will get in better shape this year by taking a yoga class 3 times a week.”) or with a trainer (“I will get in better shape this year by exercising at Bob’s Gym 3 times a week.”)
The New Year is a traditional and natural time to make changes – to improve yourself and your quality of life. Athletes know that this needs to be done more than just once a year. Give yourself the best chance to succeed in the changes you want to make by setting goals properly. The New Year’s Resolution is a good place to start!

Interested in working with a sport psychology consultant on your goal setting plan? Contact usset up an appointment!


Psychological support for athletes under pressure

In addtion to working with athletes to enhance their performance, our consultants work with athletes to give them the support to manage the unique pressures that athletes experience. While society may think that those who engage in athletics are healthier, mentally and physically, the evidence doesn’t support this.  Athletes are just as likely as the rest of us, possibly even more so, to suffer from depression, anxiety, addictions, and other illnesses.
In the wake of the tragic suicide of Robert Enke, the world has begun to ask questions about the levels of psychological support available to players who have to deal with the highly pressurised environment of professional football. In England, the Sporting Chance Clinic has been asking those questions and providing that support for the eight years since its inception.
Click  here to read more

Baseball Mindset Training

All good baseball players know how important a strong mental game is in separating the elite player from the rest.  But, understanding this alone isn’t enough to reach your potential  Beginning with a FREE INTRODUCTION on November 5th, Metro Baseball Academy and the Sport Psychology Institute Northwest are teaming up to bring you 5 seminars focused on strategies to help you reach that potential.

All 5 seminars run from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
November 5th seminar is FREE
Cost of a single seminar is $35
$100 for all four seminars

For more information, or to register, please call 503.863.7375 or email

November 5th: Free introduction to the Mental Game – Playing with Confidence.  We’ll outline for you the fundamentals of the mental game that Professional Baseball players use to build greater confidence

November 12th
:  Commit to a mission and develop a mantra. Know why you play, how you want to play, and what you want to accomplish in the game.

November 19th: Take Control of your focus.  Learn how to manage your emotional and mental energy.

December 3rd: Self-Talk, Relaxation, and Imagery.  Learn to use these strategies when faced with adversity.

December 10th: Preparation, Action, and Response.  Develop a pre-game and pre-pitch routine. Build a plan to perform at your best and one pitch at a time.

When we lose what we once had

Sports Identities


It happens at all levels. Pros retire and move on to the broadcast booth. High schoolers graduate and get to the next level – some realizing they won’t make it big. Older weekend warriors gradually realize they can’t compete like they used to.At all levels of athletics, the transition point is eventually reached for most of us when we realize we can’t always go on. Maybe it’s age, or injuries, or other factors, but at some point the identity of pure athlete is lost.

What is the impact of losing our identities? How can some athletic identity be preserved, even if competition at previous heights is no longer possible?

Leave your comments about athletic identity, and it’s loss, below.

Home Field Advantage?


Home field (dis) advantage?It’s assumed in sports that playing at home ALWAYS gives an advantage to a team. The roar of the crowd helps push the team to greater heights, building leads and coming from behind, right?

Maybe not. A new story in the Toronto Star tells us the Maple Leafs win at home only 49.4% of the time since 2005 and a remarkable 39% last season.

The reason may be simple – increased pressure to playing at home. The home crowd comes expecting a win, and good luck to the home team if they lose. One ex-Leaf said “Especially if you’re not playing well, there’s the pressure of, `Oh God, if I mess up they’re going to be talking about it in the paper all week and I’ll get booed off the ice’.”