Sport Psychologist working not only with the Athlete

CATEGORY: , 29.10.18
By Beata Justkowiak

The top athletes know the power of mind. They know that when it comes to competition and racing the head is the biggest supporter or enemy. Pro athletes use trusted psychological techniques such as visualisation and positive self-talk to stay at the top of their games.

When working with a team, sports psychologist must first be accepted and supported by the coach. Then the expert can start working to help the coach maintain a productive, balanced emotional arena for the athletes.


Giving an athlete or team the best chance of bringing home the gold also requires creating an entire environment of carefully constructed group and interpersonal dynamics. Sports psychologists are no longer just training athletes. They are also training the coaches and family members in the competitors’ lives.


Family – support or stress?


Elite athletes might be better than the average person at shutting out distractions, managing their emotions and controlling their energy levels. But they are not immune to an overbearing parent, negative coach or unsupportive teammate.

Creating cohesion and good communication among team members is key. To excel, athletes also need to feel confident about their own roles as well as their contributions to the team.

Friends and family members can provide mental stability, but they can also be a psychological drain. I often work holistically with athlete but also with family and friends to teach them how they could provide the most support—and the least distraction.



Always here, with you


Whether it’s a race day or training, I’m always with the athlete, maintaining eye contact, to support him by letting know that I’m here with you, but also working remotely I’m always online available for all casual chats, laughs and complains. I’m there to listen, to see and later to be a mirror of athlete’s emotions.

Most often I work through observations and one-on-one discussions but casual, incidental interactions, such as the informal bus ride chat from the training facility to the hotel are very common and effective part of mind training.


However, for true magic to happen, athlete must be willing to develop the relationship with psychologist. It does take time and commitment, and it’s a two-way street;

it’s hard to release your emotions and allow someone into your personal life and tell them I do this and that before a competition and not worry they’ll think you’re crazy.

Once we establish trust, my key job is to push athletes beyond their mental comfort levels, allowing them to fail sometimes, but not to break them. This can build mental toughness seen in many elite athletes.

Mentally tough athletes are really good at making adjustments and doing them quickly. They look for a lesson in it, and if there’s none, they move on.



Taking training to the next level


The individual work with athletes requires crafting our own approaches, rather than work from an industry standard. Sport psychologists often need to use the artistic nature of our profession, designing tailor made techniques, blending new with well-known and having the constant curiosity and flexibility to explore more.

One of the biggest challenges facing the field, however, is that it’s nearly impossible to measure results. Athletes can report what they were thinking and how they felt, and those answers can be measured against the competitive results. But it’s rarely enough. Sport psychology still miss the physically tangible measure of mind training effectiveness.

Sadly, not even the best mental preparation can guarantee gold. But, it can help an athlete to be able to compete when his Olympic moment comes.

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