Thursday, May 24, 2018

Common Myths and Misconceptions About Sport Psychology: Exposed!

Adrienne Langelier, MA, LPC

Sport Psychology? What? Not for me, thanks. I’m fine.

While we’re making progress, that response still comes up way more than it should. Say we suggest using a sports dietician, physical therapist, trainer, etc., the response will still likely be less polarized. And that’s a shame.
Why is this happening? Well, there exist some common myths about sport psychology the field of sport psychology and its objectives. Athletes (often very famous, accomplished ones) who use sport psychology professionals and principles will likely disagree with the opening statement of this post-and for good reason. I always find it fun to flip original ideas about what sport psychology consulting is actually like and about early on in my work with my athletes. And yes, many now-believers were once doubters.

Now for the fun part-taking these misconceptions and flipping them on their heads. (no pun intended, ok, kind of!)

1.       “Don’t be a head case.”

Myth: Sport Psych is for problems or athletes with them

Truth: Sport psychology consultants help good athletes become great.

Oh, and guess what? Good athletes are able to acknowledge difficulties and learn to work through them. Sometimes with help. But you in no way have to be struggling, slumping, or yipping. If you are, that’s ok too. You’re still normal.

If you’re seeing a sport psych or related professional., it’s because you’re committed to gaining an edge; it’s not because there’s something wrong with you.

More and more, athletics programs and coaches embrace the value of sport psychology. It’s becoming more mainstream in programs, such as universities and Olympic Committees which in turn changes the viewpoints of athletes when it comes to using sport psych.

2. “I tried it and it didn’t work.”

Myth: Sport Psych work is a quick fix.

Truth: developing new habits and skills takes time and commitment, just like perfecting physical skills, or eating healthy. You cannot just go do one weights session and get ripped, or can’t eat one healthy meal and become healthier. Sorry folks, doesn’t work that way.

Sessions with consultants can be anywhere from 15-20 minutes to over an hour, depending on what you need and the circumstances. They can be held on the field, golf course, in an office, or in the bleachers. Honestly, one of my favorite places to meet athletes is the local coffee shop if they’re cool with that.

 It’s really flexible. I get comments all the time from social media followers about how I’m “everywhere”. That’s because my field takes me places and helps me serve my athletes best. Spending time on your mental game, in fact, can be integrated fairly easily into your life and routine.

Start small, be consistent, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, you’ll be surprise with how much you’ll grow and improve.

3. Where’s the couch?

Myth: All you do is talk in a room.

Truth: Couches are so a thing of the past. Personally, I refuse having a couch in my office when I see athletes there. It’s so flexible and dynamic. Yes, sessions happen in the office, but like mentioned earlier, they can happen anywhere athletes feel comfortable. Online communities are also popping up as well with 24-7 access to tools.

This stuff is a relationship and partnership between consultant and client. It involves teaching, feedback, experimentation, and sometimes just talking life as well. A lot of sport psychology practitioners like to do their work in the athlete’s natural environment. That’s why you see us so often at tournaments, track meets, and games.

4. Close Your Eyes and Breathe

Myth: It’s boring, rigid, and repetitive and maybe a little, dare I say, cheesy.

Truth: Sport psych work centers on the individual athlete/team and involves sports and competing. Not boring. Each sport and athlete are different. Also not boring.

There’s also a lot more to it than learning how to deep breathe and visualize. Or be told ‘you’re awesome’. Not that those tools aren’t important, there’s just so much more to it and the athlete has a lot of say in the process.

 Sport psychology is typically very engaging. You’ll recap past and current performances, practices, and anything in between. You’ll be asked what triggers you have that lead to frustration or nerves or what helps you succeed. You’ll discuss things like what you want to think about, focus on, tell yourself, and feel in order to craft your own, replicable mindset to perform your best on and off the field. Consultant and athlete get creative in using videos, words, logging, etc. to dial it in.

So next time you see a sport psychology professional at a game or practice, don’t be afraid to check in or say ‘hello’. Don’t worry, we won’t and can’t shrink your head!

I'll drive this sucker home with one last point: just like any other aspect of training and recovery, you get out of your mental game what you put into it. Namaste.