Sports psychology is the scientific understanding of the mental side of human excellence. Sports psychology services are highly praised and utilized across all sports, because of the equal importance of the mental and physical aspects of the athletes.

As Yogi Berra said, “Ninety percent of sport is half mental.” Numerous research studies and anecdotal reports from world champions and gold medalists over the past 25 years confirm that sports psychology techniques may significantly improve an athlete’s performance.

It is highly recommended that all athletes should develop mental as well as physical skills to play their best more consistently, experience greater enjoyment, and increase their chances of victory. In a competitive environment, superior mental strength and stamina offers a huge advantage and leads to a higher success rate.

A few key mental skills valuable for athletic success are outlined below:

• Confidence

• Concentration

• Motivation

• Emotional control

• Intensity regulation

• Mental toughness/resilience

• Communication

Mental training tools that

are extremely effective include:

• Goal-setting

• Imagery

• Self-talk

• Breathing control

• Relaxation/energizing

• Body language

• Power statements

When then can an athlete benefit from working with a sports psychologist? In order to enhance their performance from a mental standpoint, athletes can benefit at any time from sports psychology. Young athletes can get a “head start” by developing their mental strength and stamina early on rather than waiting until college or beyond. Specific scenarios when athletes can benefit greatly from sports psychology services include:

• When an athlete wants to see how great they can play a sport, and reach their true and full potential, by fine-tuning his/her game mentally and emotionally.

• When experiencing a mental block, performance plateau, prolonged slump, demotion, or injury.

• When personal or interpersonal issues or concerns, are interfering with the athletes’ performance.

Your mental ability can either hold you down (e.g., fear of failure) or elevate your performance (e.g., high confidence level). All athletes should strive to master their mind rather than being mastered by their mind. Every athlete can learn to think as a champion and take their performance to the next level by improving in one or more of the following areas:

• How the athlete prepares (training mind set)

• How the athlete competes (trusting mind set)

• How the athlete manages the moment (full presence)

• How the athlete deals with results (performance debriefing)

• How the athlete communicates with others (leadership and teamwork)

• How the athlete decompresses away from sports (stress management)

In some, sports psychology boosts the mental side of any athlete’s performance. A sports psychologist works collaboratively with an athlete to identify the challenge(s) he/she is facing, increase self-awareness about what is working/not working, assist the athlete in finding the best solution(s) to the issues confronting him/her, and build his/her mental skills and strategies to put the athlete mentally in charge and accomplish their goals — no matter how bold or difficult those goals may be. In other words, a sports psychologist plays a parallel role with the coach and is pivotal in helping athletes to achieve their true and full potential.

• Sports psychology consultant Dr. Jim Afremow and his wife, Anne, have been residents of Ahwatukee Foothills since 2000. Reached him at (602) 999-4168, or

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