1. Who needs a sport counselor?
  2. What is Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)?
  3. What is biofeedback?
  4. What is Visualization?
  5. What is Sport Science Anyway?
  6. Do I need to be a “serious athlete” to benefit from the competitive excellence/peak performance services that you offer?
  7. What are the ages of the athletes you work with?
  8. How is this program helpful to someone who has labeled themselves or been labeled by others as a “head case?
  9. Are your programs/classes only geared towards tennis players?
  10. How do I make arrangements for you to come to our club and present a Peak Performance clinic?
  11. Why should I use a board certified practitioner?

1. Who needs a sport counselor?

  1. Are you looking for a competitive edge?
  2. Are you concerned with your child’s experience in youth sports?
  3. Are you looking for a way to get more out of your exercise experience?
  4. Do you or the athletes you coach….
      …lose focus during competition?
      …lack confidence during games?
      …choke during important competitive events?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then you should know that people seek a sport counselor to…

…improve performance.
This is the most common reason for consulting a sport psychology professional. In general, performance may be enhanced through the teaching of mental strategies that either refine the practices of effective performers or help other performers overcome obstacles that prevent them from reaching their potential.

…deal with the pressures of competition.
Athletes at all levels seek help in dealing with the pressures of competition. Such pressures may stem from parental and/or coach expectations as well as the athlete’s own expectations regarding performance.

…enhance the experience of youth sport participation.
Youth sport organizations may employ a sport psychology professional to educate coaches about how to increase the satisfaction and enjoyment of participants and about the coaches’ role in promoting the development of healthy self-esteem.

…get psychological assistance with injury rehabilitation.
People with injuries may seek assistance with adjusting to non-participant status, adhering to physical therapy, tolerating pain, or other issues.

…assist with an exercise program.
People who want to exercise regularly may work with a sport psychology professional to increase their motivation and help with other issues related to exercise adherence.

…receive guidance in dealing with life.
Concerns with personal problems can adversely effect exercise and athletic performance. People often find that counseling helps to put things in perspective and allows for greater satisfaction in life, career transition, and time management.

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2. What is Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)?
“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.”

“EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain functions. Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR session the images, sounds and feelings no longer are relived when the event is brought to mind. What happened is still remembers but is less upsetting.” (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing; Basic Principles, Protocols and Procedures. Francine Shapiro, 2001).

Changes from EMDR often involve more than one session. Depending on the level of trauma and other factors affecting the client. A few sport examples of how EMDR can be a useful process for athletes includes:

  • Allows the baseball/softball player who was hit by an errant pitch focus on reading the pitch instead of stepping away from the plate in fear of being hit each time an inside pitch is thrown.
  • Gives the tennis player who holds the memory of having a big lead against a highly seeded player and then “freezes” and loses the match, renewed confidence that he/she can get ahead in matches and close them out.
  • Helps the basketball player who has been experiencing performance anxiety and avoiding taking shots ever since the game he/she missed the 3 pointer that would have put the team into overtime.
  • Helps the football player who has been side-lined with an injury for two months to return to competition after healing .  EMDR treatment can be useful in resolving residual emotional trauma that resulted from the initial injury.

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3. What is biofeedback?
“Biofeedback is a self-regulation technique in which auditory or visual feedback provides information about biological functions not usually available to a person’s awareness…” (Psychology of Sport Injury. John Heil, 1993). “Commonly used measures include muscular activity, skin response, peripheral temperature, respiration rate, heart rate and brain wave activity. Timely and precise feedback of fluctuations increase the persons awareness of the specific circumstances and behaviors that lead to change.” (Biofeedback-Assisted Self Regulation for Stress Management in Sports. Leonard D. Zaichkowsky and C. Zvi Fuchs, 1993).

Biofeedback training is more effective in combination with cognitive training, progressive relaxation and imagery rehearsal skills. Biofeedback can be helpful to athletes who experience psychological and in turn physiological stress which creates high levels of muscular tension resulting in poor performances. It is also a helpful tool for injured athletes.

The acquired skill of lowering psychological stress enables the athlete to control the level of muscular tension which may be associated with competitive stress or anxiety. The physiological use of biofeedback increases the athletes ability to perform by reducing cardiovascular and respiratory stress and increasing muscular flexibility.

Read more about Susan’s Biofeedback services.

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4. What is Visualization?
Visualization is a term which refers to vividly creating or recalling an experience in the mind. The athlete makes use of all of the senses: touch, hearing, sight, smell and even taste to create and control the mental image.

Similar names for this process are mental rehearsal, imagery and mental practice. The process involves training the athlete to put together pieces of information and shape stored memories into meaningful images.

A few athletic uses of visualization training are to improve concentration, develop control in pressure situations, practice sport skills movement and strategies, cope with pain or injury.

Visualization is another useful tool to establish a mind/body connection while reinforcing physical skills and movement.

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5. What is Sport Science Anyway? (In some of the categories listed below Susan primarily works in the area of tennis.)
Sport Science encompasses a number of different disciplines including sport medicine, biomechanics, motor learning, sport psychology, nutrition and exercise physiology. All the sport sciences play a part in the development of athletes. The following are brief definitions of each of the sport sciences.

Sport psychology: includes the mental side of sport and encompasses the study of human behavior within the sport setting.

Sport medicine: includes the treatment and prevention of athletic injuries and rehabilitation. (See section on sport injury program).

Sport biomechanics: deals with the analysis of human movements and forces including the analysis of proper and improper stroke mechanics.

Motor learning: studies changes in movement behavior because of practice or experience and deals with the process by which the human body learns movements and both basic and complex tasks.

Sport nutrition: the study of the utilization of food substances during physical activity.

Sport physiology: involves the study of the systems of  body functions and specifically adaptation during exercise.

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6.  Do I need to be a “serious athlete” to benefit from the competitive excellence/peak performance services that you offer?
No. You only need to be “serious” about your interest in working to establish goals and learning and applying strategies to effectively incorporate the tools into your athletic program.

There needs to be a willingness to take an experiential vs. an intellectual approach to learning. At times people are adept at intellectualizing the concepts but do not spend enough structured time purposefully practicing the techniques.

There is a need to be somewhat self-observant and open to trying some simple new ideas. The convenience of developing a competitive excellence/peak performance program is that frequently, people I work with report they are able to apply the learning to other areas of their life. Many clients they notice their focus improves in their professional life, academic pursuits and other activities.

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7.  What are the ages of the athletes you work with?
The programs work best with athletes twelve years and older. Typically the earliest that I begin work with athletes is age twelve and this is usually through the programs where groups of young athletes are introduced to the basics of competitive excellence/peak performance.

The techniques taught in these programs are defined by the experience level and age of the group.

There is a growing population of senior athletes with whom I work. I have the pleasure of working with player’s in their seventies. It is wonderful that this segment of the population have leagues and other arenas in which to compete. It is fun to work with senior athletes who are continuing to look for opportunities to develop “an edge” over their competition.

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8. How is this program helpful to someone who has labeled themselves or have been labeled by others as a “head case?”
In my experience “head case syndrome” is learned behavior. A “head case syndrome” occurs when a player links a thought to an unsuccessful behavior. A combination of this linking process coupled with the “incubation” within the player’s identity with the sport, escalates to a point where the athlete begins to expect “failure’ as a natural outcome.

At times even when a player experiences outcomes quite differently, even a successful outcome when they expect failure, the successful outcome doesn’t register within their overall experience of ability. The success becomes labeled as a “fluke.”

There are zillions of variations to the stories an athlete shares when describing their version of “head case syndrome.” Many of which explain how this unflattering and extremely unhelpful label was bestowed upon them.

A common one is that the athlete had been taught poor technique while learning their sport and made errors because his/her technique didn’t match the requirements of the sport. The player became discouraged by his/her seemingly lack of athletic ability. Coaches and parents are often catalysts to a child believing he/she has failed.

Adults who become involved in sports later in life frequently begin their athletic activities with a critical gremlin in their heads. The voice of the gremlin is overly critical concerning their perceived athletic skills and abilities, as well as a fixation on why they should be better or will never be better etc.

The gremlin voice frequently occurs in adults who at some point in their childhood development experienced a unsatisfactory sport experience. This may have been perpetuated by a demanding coach that expected the child to know and perform at a level of sophistication that the child was not developmentally ready to handle.

Or the child as a product of overzealous parents that wished for a sports star and the parents would be visibly disappointed when the child didn’t perform up to their hopes and dreams.

The stories are endless. The good news though is that Sports Health Counseling services and programs address some of the baggage an athlete may be lugging around and breakthrough the mental obstacles to “unlearn” the unhelpful stories.

There are no magical cures to the process. It takes time, conscious effort, commitment, discipline, trial and error and more importantly patience. As the athlete replaces the old stories with new observations and results he/she progressively come into a new positive experience in assuming their sport identity.

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9. Are your services/programs only geared towards tennis players?
No. I am active with athletes in basketball, baseball, golf, volleyball, tennis, soccer, equestrian, skiing, skating, ball room dancing, swimming and track.

When I work with tennis players individually or through competitive excellence/peak performance programs my knowledge, background and training as a player and coach (see about Susan Zaro) allow me to effectively work with this group in all areas such as stroke technique, strategy and specific drills if the player wants this information.

However, when I work within other sports I keep the material specific to the mental skills of competitive excellence/peak performance and do not coach. I leave technique and strategy training to the coaches. I willingly present clinics as long as the coach is presenting the sport specific portion of the program.

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10. How do I make arrangements for you to make a competitive excellence/peak performance presentation to my team?

Contact Susan Zaro

When you contact Susan, simply share your sport topic, contact information and phone number.

11. What does Board Certified in Biofeedback mean?

Board Certification demonstrates professionalism and adherence to carefully developed standards as a healthcare provider. BCIA was established in 1981 with the mission of protecting the general public by establishing strict standards for biofeedback practioners.  The Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA) is the  only institute recognized worldwide that grants certification to biofeedback practitioners. The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB), the Biofeedback Foundation of Europe (BFE) and the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) all endorse BCIA certification. BCIA was established in 1981 to certify individuals who meet education and training standards in biofeedback.