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Psychological Problems & Solutions

Psychological Problems and Solutions in Sport
        How can an athlete tell when a problem is psychological? Robert Nideffer (1992), a professor at San Diego State University and President of Enhanced Performance Systems, offered a simple guideline. If an athlete is satisfied with his or her performance on good days but unable to reach that level of excellence during competition, there might be a psychological problem. If the athlete is not satisfied with his or her performance on good days, then the problem is one of skill or training, not psychology.


Source - Sports Performance Coaching

Sample Interaction with Athlete

A Client Centered Approach

       Before any advise is given to the athlete, a few questions should be asked to 1) gain further information and 2) build a rapport with the athlete. These questions would inquire of their athletic history, goals, past experiences with sport psychology techniques, past experiences regarding refocusing, what do they mean when they mean by "zone", insights to what they think the problem is, what they've tried to do remedy the problem.

      After listening to these concerns, the sports psychologist may ask the athlete to describe the feeling they had when they were in their "zone". The sports psychologist could reflect on what the athlete has said or ask the athlete to clarify certain details of what they have described so the sports psychologist can 1) gain understanding to the athlete's problem 2) have the athlete review this feeling 3) assure the athlete the sports psychologists has understand what was expressed.

      Next, the sports psychologist could ask the athlete to explain what they feel is the problem. The sports psychologist may ask the athlete how they feel when performing. Again the sports psychologist can reflect and comment so the sports psychologist may have a better understanding of their problem. At this point sports psychologist would ask the athlete specifically if they feel their problem may be "such and such", depending on the information the athlete has shared. After the sports psychologist and the athlete have discussed the possible causes of the problem, the sports psychologist should follow up by asking the athlete what they think the appropriate steps are in combating their problem. This may be facilitated by asking the athlete to recall what steps had or had not worked in the past in similar circumstances.

      It is best if the athlete could formulate an opinion of his own. As a consultant, the sports psychologist would attempt to guide the athlete to plausible and practical solutions. These solutions may incorporate mental exercises or certain rituals depending on the suspected problem. The athlete may have to learn how to refocus in doing their job, the process of performing. The athlete must be encouraged shift the focus away from winning and toward doing there best.

      The athlete must learn to deal with expectations from themselves and others. Perhaps the athlete has demands placed on him from coach, family, teammates, friends, or fans. Perhaps the athlete will benefit from visualization of successful performances, arousal control through relaxation, self talk, or further counseling. The possibilities are numerous. It is important to leave many of the decisions up to the athlete.

      The sports psychologist can act as a catalyst by:
  • Encouraging the athlete in becoming their best;
  • Reflecting issues, concerns, and possible solutions of the athlete;
  • Teaching the athlete what specific methods are available.

Recommended Reading:

PDF Managing Student-Athletes' Mental Health Issues A student-athlete’s “mental health” might be viewed as secondary to physical health; however, it is every bit as important. It makes little sense to try to separate the “mind” and “body.” One affects the other. Medical problems often have psychological or emotional consequences. Psychological problems (e.g., eating disorders,
substance related problems, etc.) typically have medical consequences. Some signs and symptoms of possible mental health problems.

Integrating sport psychology and sports counseling Up to 15 percent of American athletes suffer from psychosocial problems. Clinicians are searching for solutions to problems -   sport psychologists concentrate on performance enhancement and mental skills training. Sports counselors focus on the athlete's psycho emotional difficulties and development as an individual.

Although the disciplines of sport psychology and sports counseling have traditionally been distinct, the integration of these areas is necessary for the effective integrated sport psychology/sports counseling emphasis.

Psychological skills training myths Most athletes' psychological needs can be addressed by educational sport psychology ... Myth 3: PST Provides “Quick Fix” Solutions. Many people mistakenly think that sport psychology offers a quick fix to psychological problems.

Competition stress in sport performers  Examination of the performance and organizational stressors encountered by elite and non-elite athletes within the competition environment.

Importance of Youth Involvement in Sports  Participation in competitive team sports at an early age gives children an opportunity to understand the healthy aspects of competition in a friendly environment.

Benefits of Competitive Sports Not Always Clear-cut   Oct. 5, 2011  The Athlete's Sports Experience: Making A Difference and comprehensive developmental nature of the competitive sports environment.

Physical Education & Sports Policy for Schools   The Physical Education and Sports Program's learning environment suggests competitive sport should contribute to the health and well being of the student.

PDF STAY AND PLAY The rules in non-competitive sport can be changed to suit the participants and environment to ensure everyone can 'play' and that no one is excluded.


  • Coaches' Corner: Making Youth Sports Safe and Enjoyable   Many youngsters enter organized sports programs before age 6, and ... playing techniques can only be learned in a supervised sports environment, ... Competitive sports may increase the potential for psychological harm to certain youngsters.
  • Anxiety In Sports  May 6, 2010 ... Anxiety in sport is most common in competitive sports environments and could also be termed competitive stress.
  • PDF Youth Sports: Innocence Lost   In a competitive sport environment the rules are guarded by officials and the important decisions are made by the coaches.


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
and combined
with information from public institutions, plus athletic organizations/ associations that have a web presence with concerning team and individual sports programs:

Psychological Problems and Solutions
Flow/Peak Performance
Focus & Concentration
Goals and Objectives
Goal Setting
Personal Sabotage
Self Fulfilling Prophecy

All materials are copy protected. 
The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

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