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October 1, 2018

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Breaking Down the Stigma of Using a Sport Psychologist

April 23, 2018

Recently I was sending out emails to potential networking sources and sent one to the President of a local sports organization. His response to me was "Thankfully none of my players need your services." I was struck by the word thankfully. At first I thought perhaps I did not represent what I do well enough, but a rereading of my email did not show me that. All I came up with was the question why the stigma of seeing a sport psychologist?

 

We live in a society that is inundated with sporting opportunities to play or watch. In my last blog, I mentioned how the announcers in the Olympics pointed out many of the mental skills used by the athletes. At the same time, if someone spends just five minutes watching any sporting event on tv, from the NFL to MLB to tennis or gymnastics announcers constantly reference the concept of mental toughness, yet he was the head of a program immediately dismissing the idea that his players would benefit from learning the skills to improve performance. 

 

Recently the NCAA has note that the mental health of student athletes needs to become a primary concern of athletic departments. Michael Phelps has discussed his battles with depression, Simone Biles,, who won multiple gold medals, has talked about her mental skills coach, and maybe most notably Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers talked about his panic attacks during games, which also led him to seek help. These are just a few examples of high profile athletes that have acknowledged how aspects of mental health impact performance, but that with the right support they can learn the skills necessary to manage these challenges. Programs exist and many other high profile athletes all utilize the services of sport psychologists, but it is rarely talked about. Clearly the stigma is there, but why?

 

I think the stigma may lie in the words mental toughness. Implying you need a sport psychologist automatically implies you are not tough enough to perform, an we all know sports are about toughness, and not appearing weak. If you appear weak it is assumed your opponents will take advantage of you or you do not have what it takes to be a winner. What is forgotten is that seeing a sport psychologist is not a sign of weakness, but that the goal is to improve on your mental skills in the same way as going to the gym increases your physical skills. If you see a trainer or a nutritionist are you seen as physically deficient? The answer is obviously no, you are seen as motivated and dedicated to improving your performance.

 

So how do we break down the stigma? A sport psychologist needs to be viewed as any other member of an athlete's team from a coach, to a trainer, to a nutritionist, to a massage therapist, to even a family member or friend. Everyone contributes in one way or another to an athlete's performance. At the same time, learning mental skills needs to have a value in society, not a sign that something needs to be ''fixed'' in a person. Everyone can benefit from learning new skills, new ways of thinking, and new ways of understanding themselves whether it be on the field, at school, or just on a random Sunday watching tv. We will all end up happier and more confident in ourselves by doing so. 

 

Join us in helping to breaking down the stigma of using a sport psychologist. Call us today at 978-482-7991, email at mflynn@peakmpc.com, or visit our website at www.peakmpc.com. Do not forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin and remember Confidence In Performance, Confidence For Life. 

 

 

 

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