John T. Stallworth, J.D., Ph.D.
David S. Litton, Ph.D.
Carol Pierce-Davis, Ph.D.
Rebecca Redwood, LMSW-ACP
Theodore Carlos, M.A., LPC
Whitney Humphrey, M.A., LMFT-A
Dona Stallworth, Ph.D.

Using Psychology to Improve Sports Performance

"Everyone is pretty much at the same level physically," says American diver Michelle Davison. "[The difference comes down to ] who can hold it together mentally."

That lesson has not been lost on the U.S. Olympic Committee. It had one full time sports psychologist in 1988. Today it has five.
-from Newsweek 9/25/2000

In any sport, a player's success (or failure) results from a combination of physical (e.g. strength, speed, balance, coordination) and mental (e.g. concentration, confidence, anxiety management) abilities. Most coaches consider that sport is at least 50% mental with certain sports such as golf, tennis, and figure skating consistently rated as 80% to 90% mental.

Psychological techniques can improve performance in several ways:

Imagery can facilitate optimal physical performance and even speed up recovery from injuries. We are seeing that psychological training with imagery can enhance physical performance by facilitating the nerve-muscle communication process. Imagery is especially effective when combined with the relaxed state of hypnosis. You may be surprised by the "supercharge" that hypnosis can provide.

Thought and attention control are also important. What your internal dialog say can affect your performance positively or negatively. Those who have been trained to expect success attain more so than those who don't expect it. Also your thought processes after a less that optimal performance(shot, stroke, race, etc) can affect your future performance.

Arousal control is important for optimal performance. Too much arousal can cause you to "choke." Not enough can impede you. You can use psychological techniques to attain optimal levels of arousal for optimal performance.

I can help you design a Psychological Skills Training Program (PST) to fit your needs in a relatively short period of time. And because I teach you techniques that you take away with you to do on your own, it's not an expensive process.

This is intended to give you an idea of the menu of services available to you in your effort to boost your performance. It is a map of your Personal Psychological Skills Training Program


Needs Assessment

What aspect(s) of your game/sport do you need to improve? Where and when is your performance less than optimal? What is it that seems to cause you problems? Do you "choke," have trouble focusing, get nervous or tense? Are you able to get into your "flow?" I will spend time with you to determine what psychological component(s) will best address your concerns.


Personality Assessment

This is an objective "test" that analyzes personality traits that may negatively or positively impact your performance. You will get a thorough narrative report and I will also go over the results and implications of any significant traits This is meant to eliminate any psychological "traps" that you may be prone to fall into. The test takes about an hour (or less) to complete and you do a pencil and paper version in my office or I can arrange for you to take it over the internet. Either way, the results are strictly confidential. Most people find the results interesting, enlightening and accurate.


Psycho education

With written material and face to face conversation, I will teach you the psychological dynamics (without using "psychobabble") relevant to your needs and situation. Having a clear understanding of the way that mind and body interact gives you an edge. You get a road map that you can refer to when needed. Some examples are:

� how arousal and anxiety work

� how your expectations affect performance

� how your attitudes affect performance

� how the way you think about less than optimal performance affect you

� the mechanics of attention and concentration

� the role of goals

I may recommend books that will address relevant aspects of your psychological performance.


Psychological Techniques

This is the good stuff! It usually involves imagery, relaxation, breath control, or hypnosis (sometimes all of them). This is where we put the pieces together to put your mind and brain to work for you more effectively and powerfully. You will have learned the "Why" from the preceding steps, now you will learn the "How." This is where I will give you tools to enhance your own performance. Tools that you can take away and practice and use. This is where I put myself out of a job because the techniques I teach you are portable. You will be able to carry forward on your own..

I will, of course, always be glad to help with a refresher or refinement.


My Goal

My goal is to help you get closer to where you would like to be and have you tell others how valuable the experience was. Because of this, if I don't think I can help, I'll tell you as soon as possible and help you find a more appropriate resource. My style is open, informative, and I don't have a big ego. I view our work as a team project. I'll take the lead, but I'll depend on you for feedback and direction. If at any point you have questions or concerns, I want to know them.

Give me a call at 345-6781 ext. 22 for more information.

David S. Litton, PhD

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