6 Smart Tips

Check out our 6 Smart Tips to awaken your competitive edge!

Free Evaluation

Take our free evaluation and test your mental toughness, get an assessment of how mentally competitive you are and what you need to improve!

Important Links

BLOG Archives

10 NIS 4 ALL Interview

I was recently interviewed by freelance sport journalist Andre Christopher Smith and the following are excerpts from our conversation.

Susan Zaro

1) 10 NIS 4 ALL: Susan thank you for spending time doing this interview with me. Please explain what a sport psychologist does and the type of training/education you must go through to do this.

Great question, although a complex answer.  The field of sport psychology is still in its infancy.  Currently, individuals from several different educational backgrounds can work in this field.  While many colleges and universities offer Masters Degrees in Sport Psychology, there is not a Doctorate degree in this field.   Individuals in the sport psychology field who have a Ph.D., Psy.D. or E.D.D. may have their Doctorate in clinical or counseling psychology, education, exercise physiology, kinesiology or a variety of other disciplines.  Sport psychology practitioners may be either licensed or unlicensed to practice.  In order to be called a sport psychologist a person must have a doctorate and be licensed as a psychologist by the licensing board of the state.

Certification programs developed by the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) are setting standards for the profession of sport psychology and are continuing to gather momentum as consumers look for ways to find referrals to reliable resources. Any consumer interested in using the services of someone in the field of sport psychology should inquire about a practitioner’s credentials, licensing, training and experience prior to making an appointment. AASP has developed a helpful guideline for choosing sport psychology consultants. In addition, consumers can check with professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA, division 47).

I combine my knowledge and extensive experience as a competitive athlete with years as a coach and psychotherapist to provide sport psychology services to individuals and groups. My practice is made up of a wide population of athletes including professional, collegiate, high school and those participating on a competitive/recreational level.  After playing both collegiate and professional tennis I decided to work with athletes in the area of sport psychology.  My training began with a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Santa Clara University. This was followed by 3,000 supervised internship hours in counseling settings.   This led to my licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist.  When I am working with athletes in my counseling practice, I refer to myself as a sport counselor or sport consultant. I continue to broaden my educational experience, and knowledge through sport organization memberships such as AASP. I am trained in level II Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) and in biofeedback, and I have a level II Sport Science Certification from the U.S.T.A. and Sports Science Specialist Certification through the U.S.P.T.A. High Performance Competitive Player Development Program.

After becoming licensed I began working primarily with athletes. One of my first opportunities arose in the athletic department at Santa Clara University. I developed a pilot project for a group of injured athletes at the university.  I met with the athletic director and expressed my idea of creating a six week pilot project for injured athletes.  The athletic director said if the head trainer felt a pilot project sport injury group would be useful to the athletes then I had his permission to create one. As soon as I met with the trainer and handed her my proposal she said, “Yes, absolutely. There is a need for this type service for the athletes.”

The group was co-ed and primarily filled with athletes that had recently undergone knee surgery, back injury and were experiencing difficulties coping physically and mentally with the injury and issues surrounding the injury.  The group met for ninety minutes once a week for six weeks. The meetings provided a positive environment for the athletes to talk about the problems of adjusting to their injuries, concerns about returning to their pre-injury performance level, issues regarding relationships with coaches and teammates and whether they would have a chance to regain their position on the team. Each week the group was introduced to educational materials, self management skills and problem solving ideas to help them maintain a positive performance recovery mind-set. A few of the injuries were severe enough that it was appropriate for the athlete to focus on transitioning out of their athletic career. Membership in the group kept these athletes from becoming isolated.  It was a wonderful experience for me and the group members. Individuals in the group bonded closely during the six weeks and as players returned to their sport other group members supported them by attending their games. I could not have asked for a more rewarding beginning in sport psychology.

Sport psychology as well as peak performance have become familiar terms to the general public in the last 10 years. Peak performance skills are now equally recognized in other fields such as the performing arts and business. Sport psychology consultants are being called upon to provide a variety of services. In my practice the most common services I provide for clients include:

a) Creating customized athletic performance programs through the introduction of relaxation techniques, developing pre-match/game focusing routines, goal setting, mental rehearsal, creating positive cognitive dialogue, and teaching emotional management skills.

b) Helping athletes, parents, coaches and families manage issues surrounding competition. There are many types of pressures that arise around competition. Pressures may develop from within the athlete, expectations of a team, coach, or parents, and even media.

c) Helping athletes with psychological counseling and support prior to and during injury rehabilitation.

d) Developing and/or enhancing the experience of youth sport program participation. Sports involve developmental stages. For example: the skill sets, practice, mental focus and social needs of a five year old child will be very different than for a ten year old participating in the same sport. The skill sets, practice, mental focus and social needs for a ten year old will be very different than for a fifteen year old playing the same sport.

e) Developing sport for health for individuals and groups wanting to engage in an exercise program without engaging in competition. Engaging in a program of regular exercise is beneficial for mental and physical health and well-being.  As a sport psychology consultant my counseling skills and sport knowledge serve to help clients stay motivated to continue a program of exercise or explore issues related to exercise adherence.

f) Counseling clients who are experiencing life transitions. Whether experiencing transition from high school to college, college to the pro’s or pro’s to retirement significant life change can effect mood and an athlete’s performance. Other transitions such as moving away from a coach, relationship issues, and grappling with new time management requirements can disrupt an athlete’s life.

g) Working with clients to prevent and manage burn out.  Players, coaches, trainers, families can experience burn out if they are not able to manage the stresses, pressures and time commitments involved in all the activities and commitments related to playing sports at a high level.

2) 10 NIS 4 All: I see that you attended and graduated from Santa Clara University. How did you enjoy your time at Santa Clara and was Psychology what you planned on getting into from the very beginning?

Attending Santa Clara U. for graduate school was the first time I immersed myself in an academic environment without competing athletic distractions.  One of the initial steps in the application process was being interviewed by one of the graduate school professors. During the interview I shared with him my background as an athlete, that I had played competitive tennis through the juniors, attended UCLA for two years on a tennis scholarship, and competed a short time on the women’s professional tour. I explained to him that my goal upon graduation and becoming licensed was to work with athletes and associated issues.  He was quite intrigued with my story and thrilled I had a clear plan and focus for obtaining a Master’s in Counseling Psychology. He appreciated I understood the unrecognized, and at that time unmet needs for counseling in sports and the sensitive issues within this arena.

In the following years during the academic process I chose class projects and papers around sport subjects and issues. I think most of the professors found it a creative use of the program. I appreciate the immense support I received towards my goals through the Santa Clara University program.

3) 10 NIS 4 All: As I read some of your bio I noticed that you participated in tennis,  first as a junior player then collegiate and eventually at the professional level. As you look back on those years can you explain what impact these years in tennis weighed on the decision to go into the sports psychology career you are in now?

The influences of my life experience, opportunities, enjoyment of playing tennis and awareness that studying psychology has brought to my life definitely has impacted my decision to work in the field of sport psychology. In the era I played competitive tennis, the path to success was singular, play, play and play. The most talented and hard working athletes who had drive and the good luck of living near a tennis club with an engaging teaching pro who knew something about competition were the ones who had the best chance of rising to the top. I was fortunate to grow up in Palo Alto, California, where Stanford University is located.  Dick Gould was just beginning the Stanford dynasty. Tennis was and continues to be a very active social past time in the community. There were and still are many talented juniors and willing adults to practice against.

Today through the internet there is a plethora of useful sport science information available to athletes, coaches and trainers. Through social networks and organizations coaches have vast amounts of information to help their players develop. Most coaches spend their time focusing on a player’s technical, strategic and tactical skills, footwork training and may have some awareness of psychology.  Few coaches formally study or provide a full spectrum of psychological and peak performance services that a trained sport consultant is able to offer. The overall process of committing to a sport is more complex than in the years I played.

In my path to becoming a sport consultant I’ve taken and will continue to take sport science classes to keep my skills current. The sport sciences are made up of several disciplines including sport medicine, biomechanics, motor learning, sport psychology, nutrition and exercise physiology. My knowledge in these areas is an important part of a consultation with athletes when they ask for a peak performance assessment.

A typical example of how I integrate my sport science training is a player comes to my office and asks for help with mental performance because they keep losing third set matches. Within the process it’s important to sort out if losing in the third set is created by mental, physical, nutritional or strategic influences. After listening to the athlete, sometimes it makes sense to refer them to a nutritionist, or a conditioning coach in addition to working with me on mental performance.  Some players become physically exhausted due to inadequate nutrition or conditioning and think it is a mental issue. It is a mental issue to the extent that being dehydrated or physically fatigued will slow down a player’s mental process and reaction time. Tired players may try to end points too early by taking risks that frequently don’t pay off.

An experience that contributed to my belief in the value of a total training program happened towards the end of my competitive playing days. I had the opportunity to work with a physical trainer who had some interesting ideas regarding sport conditioning.  He invited me to join a group he was working with that was comprised of mostly male football quarterbacks and receivers. I spent a lot of time sprinting on the field, running play patterns and laughing. It was great physical training, although I don’t think I ever intercepted a throw nor caught a pass unless I was spotted 10 yards.  I spent several months working out with the athletes, both on the field and in the gym. The trainer understood I needed speed, flexibility and stamina, not bulk. Eventually, through the work with him, I obtained a base of physical fitness that enabled me to be conscious of a new level of energy and stamina which significantly contributed to my physical and mental confidence as a player. Tennis specific training today would not include working out with football players, but many of the speed, agility and balance exercises I engaged in would be similar.

I assume I could have accomplished more as a player had I worked with someone knowledgeable in the sport sciences early in my career, but I have no regrets.  I recall the dramatic shift in Martina Navratilova’s win/loss record against Chris Evert after Martina began working with a physical trainer and nutritionist.  From that point on physical preparation for the game of tennis became immensely essential to a players success. Player’s must be physically fit to play well consistently.

4) 10 NIS 4 All: I have coached tennis in high school, team tennis, and individuals. I have seen all aspects of the parents of these players; what do you feel is the reason that youth who start so strong in tennis at a young age start to lose interest by the time they reach the college level or even sooner?

To obtain a high competitive skill level in tennis, players must possess an array of unique mental and physical qualities.  During a player’s early years parents can manage and reward a young player to a degree that can drive early success. Typically the scope of competition begins within a pretty small arena.  In a recent article for TennisPlayer.net, Nick Saviano, Director of Saviano High Performance Tennis Academy said, “There is too much emphasis in lower levels of junior tennis on the person on the other side of the net. The emphasis is on how to beat other kids when it should be on how to play the ball and how to recognize situations in points.” I agree with him. Being the top player in an age group in the 12’s or 14’s is not a guarantee of future success. Parents and players frequently become caught up in results instead of looking at the game for the long haul. To become successful in tennis, parents and coaches need to understand a player’s stage of physical, mental and social development.  An example of this is that at the high school level interaction with peers is very important and a player may choose to play on a high school team because it is a fun activity to engage in with their friends.  Motivation for these players is often grounded in a group purpose.

At levels of the game where juniors reach high national or international levels of success, they already have a certain established inner athletic motivation and confidence.  Coaches and parents at this point can provide career guidance and support but players at this level have to have inner motivation along with the opportunity to continue to achieve. Within each new competitive level the group will weed out the players who for some reason cannot keep up with the new group and the presenting challenges.  As much as I believe goal setting can help a player define what they are striving for within a specific time period in their sport, I think this skill is only useful to a certain point. I imagine sitting down with John McEnroe or Andre Agassi when they were 17 or 18 and asking them to write down their goals for the year.  I think each of them would have had very different responses.  John’s response would be completely different because his motivations and reasons for playing were so different from Andres.  By the time a player is 15 or 16 competition at high levels becomes too challenging to play for someone else’s dreams and goals.  This is a hard reality for many parents involved in their children’s athletic career and who have put in years of devotion to see their child’s success. At this point parents may feel a sense of disappointment that the child doesn’t share the same goals and dreams. Historically the mid to late teen years is when players act out or drop out for various reasons.

I encourage both players and parents to recognize all the benefits that are created because of the child’s sport involvement. The dream may not turn out as the parent or child had imagined at an earlier stage in the process but tennis is a sport of a life-time. The skills a child learns from competing, training and learning will remain with them. There are many opportunities to play in different settings throughout the course of a lifetime. Examples of this are collegiate D-1, 2, or 3, collegiate club tennis and beyond college there are many levels of adult tournaments and leagues.  I’ve seen players who thought they were done with playing, take it up again in graduate school. Players rediscover tennis as a great opportunity to network and the pressure of winning isn’t the same intensity. They engage in the sport on their own terms.

5) 10 NIS 4 ALL: As a certified Sport Science Specialist for the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) what type of cases do you come across that have been an overwhelming cause of a player’s downfall? And how do you treat players to correct this problem?

I received certification through the USPTA Sport Science Specialist program.  I am not referred players directly through the USPTA because of this certification. Although in my practice I do work with highly ranked tennis players who have incurred injuries. Most of these players are high school and collage age. Often the cause of injury according to their sport medicine doctor is probably due to muscle imbalance and overuse. Player’s see me for help with the psychological impact of the injury. Sadly several players undergo surgeries on their back, elbow, hip, wrist or shoulder before they reach college. Many of these players have been highly ranked, developed sound technical skills and then due to an acute or chronic injury, were forced off the court for three months to a year. The amount of time on the side-line can greatly impact a player’s skill development particularly when these injures occur in the later teen years.  Junior or senior high school players on target to play at a D-1 school who are forced to sit out a year with an injury typically experience a significant decline in their national ranking. Some player’s in their sophomore or junior year in high school receive letters of interest from the athletic department of colleges. After the players ranking disappears those invitations, not always but often, fade away as well.

All players have weaknesses in their bodies. There are many sport medicine and training concerns for young athletes as the muscle structure of adolescents isn’t developed enough to take the constant physical demands of tennis as it’s played today. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) recommends that players have both medical screenings by a sports medicine practitioner and a sports physiotherapist to evaluate general health and injury risk. Feedback from the screenings is given to the tennis coach and fitness trainer so they can plan effective training programs, and periodisation phase schedules to fit the needs of the athlete.

Typically a player comes to see me because of an emotional issue related to chronic or an acute injury. A sports medicine doctor may prescribe that the athlete cut back or alter their physical routine and add a cross training program to give their body time to fully heal. Besides talk therapy, visualization, and progressive goal setting are useful skills I teach to players during their recovery and gradual full reintegration into their sport.

6) 10 NIS  4  ALL: As a player on either a junior circuit or a player on the pro circuit it is a struggle to keep your mental game on focus, because of the media, fans and even family. What would you suggest to these players to develop a pattern to stay focused with their mental game?

The mental game on and off the court is an acquired skill. It’s valuable for a player to filter out distractions that can be avoided. When I work with a player and their family I help them access whether something is a distraction or whether it is of value to the goals and health of the athlete’s development. These skills of judgment improve as the athlete matures and through life experience.

7) 10 NIS 4 ALL: I have not seen your cable TV show “Pieces of the Game.” Tell me about it and how you came up with the idea.

“Pieces of the Game” was a short lived cable show I created for the recreational player. At the time I thought it would be useful for people to have an opportunity to watch the skill transformation of 3.0/3.5 players.  The show was divided into three parts, technical assessment and instruction, drills for practicing stroke and footwork, and concluded with mental skills tips.

Lindsey Davenport, I believe was the number one female player in the world. Tennis was shifting to explosive power and it was clear to me that most if not all the people with whom I was teaching at the time would never be able to hit the ball as hard as the emerging players. My concept was to work with a few 3.0/3.5 players, point out the common errors made by players at this level and demonstrate how to correct the errors. I was working on the hypothesis that if the audience had the opportunity to see the transformation of a player at their skill level improve, they would feel motivated that they too could acquire new skills and become a better player. I guess it was my version of reality t.v. without the prizes or booting players off the show. I had a lot of fun creating the shows and working with the players. In the weeks following the broadcasts some people told me they had watched and enjoyed the segments.

With the technical tools available nowadays, most tennis professionals through the U.S.P.T.A. can and do put their own instructional videos on-line or on u-tube. Instructional sites such as The Tennis Channel, or TennisPlayer.net to mention a few bring an abundance of great content for all levels of players on-line.

Today, I continue utilizing the many convenient technologies available to help players improve. It’s just not broadcast on public t.v.

8) 10 NIS 4 ALL: When you attended U.C.L.A. you attended under a tennis scholarship. What was life like being on the tennis team and what were the pressures you dealt with?

I loved U.C.L.A. and competing under the U.C.L.A. banner. I thrived with the athletic opportunities. It was, however, a challenge mixing the academic pressures that were inherent at UCLA with the athletic schedule of team practice, season collegiate matches, and individual year round tournaments.  By the second year I reached a crossroad and needed to choose between tennis and academics. I knew I could always return to school so I chose tennis.

I wasn’t prepared for the complexity of professional tennis. I was young and didn’t have the type of support for this transition that is now available to athletes. Today players have many more choices. Kids in high school are being home schooled so they can play tournaments all over the world. Players earn scholarships to tennis academies or may be in a situation where their family can send them to an academy for two or three months at a time. Athletic departments particularly at schools such as U.C.L.A. now have incredible support systems intact for student athletes. I attended a tennis reunion at U.C.L.A. two years ago and met several players who played on the team in the years after me. It was interesting how similar my experience as an athlete playing on the team had been to their experience. Many of these players had left college and jumped onto the professional circuit for a few years. The demands of being a student athlete had been too much with too little internal guidance and support from the college. Over the last several years the system has shifted. The athletic department began listening to the needs and providing in-house support to these high level athletes so they could attend this high level academic school and manage the demands made on their time and energy. Today I think universities are awake to the reality that 99% of student athletes will not have professional athletic careers. They are more tuned in to the tremendous long term returns in providing a system for athletes to train and stay in school. These athletes will contribute to their team for four or five years and graduate as happy alumni. Happy alumni will encourage their children and their friends children that U.C.L.A. is a great school that respects and takes care of their athletes. It’s a win/win situation.

I work a lot with athletes who are making the transition from high school to college.  I help them think about what they want from their college experience both athletically and academically.

9) 10 NIS 4 ALL: Can you tell me about Sports Health Counseling and how your business helps athletes, families and coaches? Walk me through the steps you take when you are contacted.

The process begins when a client finds my services through a referral from an athlete, coach, sport medicine doctor, fitness trainer or through my website.  The client is typically looking for counseling services related to a sport issue or looking to improve performance through a peak performance mental skills training program.  When an athlete, family, coach or sport organization contacts me the first step is arranging a time to meet for a free 30 minute consultation.

I work with a wide variety of athletes, high school, college, professional and social recreational.  During a consultation the client discusses the presenting issues, and the methods that have been attempted in the past to work through the issues.   In my experience almost all performance issues have fundamental counseling components whether the presenting issue is time management, developing routines, energy management, difficulty focusing, parental/coach issues, injury issues, transition issues and so forth. I assess with the client which of the customized programs and services I offer are appropriate for the client’s specific needs. By the completion of the meeting we decide whether the work together will meet the client’s goals and go forward from there. The work I do is very rewarding and typically the clients I meet are very motivated to make positive changes in their lives that will benefit their long term athletic goals.

10) 10 NIS 4 ALL: I read a little on your website about EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing). It is fascinating please explain what this is all about.

EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy.  EMDR was discovered by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987. Dr. Shapiro first worked successfully with victims of trauma and later war veterans who had for years suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome. EMDR is based on a theoretical information processing model which says that, “When someone experiences a psychological trauma, it appears that an imbalance may occur in the nervous system, caused perhaps by changes in neurotransmitters, adrenaline, and so forth. Due to this imbalance, the information-processing system is unable to function optimally and the information acquired at the time of the event, including images, sounds, affect and physical sensations, is maintained neurologically in its disturbed state.” (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing; Basic Principles, Protocols and Procedures. Francine Shapiro, 2001).   Symptoms arise when traumatic events are inadequately processed and can be altered when the memory is fully processed. Practitioners later began to adapt the effectiveness of this model with athletes.

For example, a tennis player may retain a memory of having a big lead against a highly seeded player and then, through a series of events, chokes and loses the match. In later matches she finds herself having a lead, begins to doubt her ability to close out the match and again chokes.  Over time she may develop performance anxiety and begin to believe it’s her fate to get close and then choke.  A clinician, through a mix of bilateral stimulation of the brain, such as bilateral eye movement, bilateral sound, or bilateral tactile stimulation, along with cognitive behavioral therapy would have the player recall the distressing memories of the match she originally choked.  The reprocessing of the memory and the bilateral stimulation is continued until the memory becomes desensitized. The process then shifts to anchoring positive thoughts, images and feelings that more realistically represent the player’s current skills and abilities. When the player recalls the original incident of choking she recalls the incident with new perspective, insight and resolution of the cognitive distortions and relief of the maladaptive physiological reactions.

11) 10 NIS 4 ALL: As you work with youth athletes do you require that the family is involved in the process in full or just partially? What are you finding are the challenges with youth athletes?

Competitive tennis and the opportunity to engage in all the processes of becoming an accomplished player offer youth a structured multi-layered environment which promotes the development of useful life skills. Competitive tennis is widely recognized as an arena for youth to develop independent thinking, develop creative problem solving skills, self-discipline, energy management, deal with adversity and many other useful qualities. The development is the key when discussing junior players. The process of developing mental, physical, technical and strategic skills takes time. Parents make large time, energy and financial commitments as they give their children an opportunity to participate. The long term costs of lessons, clinics, tournament fees, travel time, purchasing equipment requires a financial commitment. There are often other children in the household who have different sport or social/recreational interests. Each family has its own issues around a child’s sport involvement. Depending on the age, presenting issues and goals of the client it is often appropriate to invite the family at least partially into the counseling process.

12) 10 NIS 4 ALL: As you look at tennis in the past several years and not naming names are there any professionals on the ATP and/or WTA circuit that you feel should be coming to you for your services? What type of services should they be coming to you for?

During a recent interview with Bill Simon for Inside Tennis, broadcaster Mary Carillo made the comment that, “Steffi (Graf), Monica (Seles), Chris (Evert) – the most devastating part of their arsenal really was their mental fitness. They were fundamentally tough from a very young age, and they stayed that way for a long time. That’s what’s missing in women’s tennis – mental toughness. It used to be what separated the women. Now what separates them is whether they can serve. Whichever woman serves best is going to win. It’s the dominate stroke. If you’re a guy who wants to be at the top, don’t even think about not being fit, mentally tough; not being fast; not winning tie breaks.”

I agree with Mary’s comments and will add that the women’s game has untapped potential for growth. I do think other recent women players that deserve mention for their mental toughness are Lindsey Davenport, Serena Williams, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters.

A distinction between the men’s and women’s tennis is that the men, beginning in the juniors, face a much deeper pool of competition. On the men’s side mental toughness is an essential part of survival. To make it to the next level of the game the men have to have all the mental, physical, strategic, and technical tools working.  Women’s tennis doesn’t yet have the benefits of competitive depth. If barriers to entry were steeper, due to tougher competition beginning in junior tennis, upcoming players would be naturally forced to develop more tools. Mental toughness would happen as a process of the exposure to being in a very competitive environment.

Overall, I believe the future of women’s tennis is bright and will become more exciting as the competitive barrier to entry becomes more challenging.

13) 10 NIS 4 ALL: Your field is a very integrate part of an athlete’s professional career. I feel most athletes don’t think about sport psychology until the need comes up which in some cases, at the last moment. Can you give a closing statement on when an athlete should be thinking about sport psychology or what signs they should be noticing if they are deep into their career already?

Peak Performance is an integral part of an athlete’s training program. It’s not a magic bullet.  Practice matches, clinics and individual lessons create a very different environment than competing for national titles or prize money. During the course of a competitive match all sorts of unpredictable situations arise that have the potential to trigger thoughts and emotions that can easily distract a player and invite frustration, worry, anger, if the player doesn’t have the tools to manage their emotional energy.

I often hear the statement that success in tennis 80 percent mental if not more. In my experience the mental skills are 25 percent of a complete training program. When a player has ignored this feature of training and finds themselves lacking confidence, having difficulty focusing and begin to doubt their abilities to ever win big matches again, now the mental game has spiked in importance to 80 percent.

At the introductory levels of sport, coaches and parents have an opportunity to lay the ground work of teaching useful mental skills techniques. Examples of basic skills include providing simple focusing techniques, teaching basic breath and relaxation skills to set the stage for future energy management, showing kids techniques to let go of distractions and errors, and giving kids confidence to put 100 percent of themselves into matches regardless of the outcome.

Several years ago I was working with a young child who is highly ranked and very talented yet had become prone to melt downs on the court when she made easy errors. The emotional frustration she experienced after making an error was creating an ongoing downward performance spiral.  I was asked to meet with one of the parents and the child. During our meeting I asked if any mental training had been introduced to her by the coach. The parent said, the coach is an excellent technician but doesn’t have the skills, knowledge or time to work with their child on the mental skills. The program I set up for her was simple yet effective. Over the course of a month, with a few tweaks and adjustments, she began to efficiently apply the skill sets she had learned and over time. Eventually, she didn’t need to consciously think about the skills, they had become a seamless part of her performance.

Players perform more consistently at their skill level when they are confident, in control of their emotions, having fun and taking reasonable risks on the court.  Learning mental skill doesn’t come with a guarantee of winning. But there is a lot of scientific evidence suggesting that peak performance techniques do enhance sport performance. Learning mental performance skills is one of the many pieces of the game

Leave a Reply



You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>