There is an intense mental toll of reaching—and remaining—at the pinnacle of a sport. “The top six inches of the body matter just as much the rest,” says Matthew Cunliffe, a sports psychologist, who spoke with Quartz about what goes through the minds of elite athletes and how psychologists can help them win. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
There were a lot of surprises. Foodwise, now I actually crave vegetables. Also, there unfortunately is definitely a difference in how people treat you when you’re bigger versus when you’re smaller. But I think the biggest surprise for me is, physically, it’s crazy how much I can walk without getting winded or how many sports I’ve found I actually enjoy, such as cycling and skiing.
Practice in the field of applied sport and exercise psychology usually involves a combination of individual and group consulting or counseling depending on the style of the professional conducting the intervention and the needs of the client.  Although there are many specific concepts within applied sport and exercise psychology (e.g., goal setting, concentration, motivation, relaxation, imagery), the general goal is to teach mental skills necessary to perform consistently in training and competition, increase adherence to exercise programs, and to help individuals realize their potential.
Hypnosis might not be appropriate for a person who has psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, or for someone who is using drugs or alcohol. It should be used for pain control only after a doctor has evaluated the person for any physical disorder that might require medical or surgical treatment. Hypnosis also may be a less effective form of therapy than other more traditional treatments, such as medication, for psychiatric disorders.
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By dint of McNulty’s force of personality or indefatigability, Mirabella stopped fighting his coach’s efforts to toughen him up. To all outward appearances, Mirabella began acting like the assertive executive he wasn’t. Once McNulty saw Mirabella’s behavior change, he told the CEO that Mirabella was now up to the job. But within a week of ending his meetings with McNulty, Mirabella became severely depressed. At that point, he turned to me for help.


Motivation — Recent research implies that sports-related achievement motivation is composed of several traits that together form a general orientation of a person towards achievement in sports. This research refers to The Achievement Motivation Inventory (AMI) (Schuler, Thornton, Frintrup & Mueller-Hanson, 2003) which is a broad-spectrum assessment of achievement-motivation in business, and has been used to develop the Sports Performance Indicator.
Sport psychology is an interdisciplinary science that draws on knowledge from many related fields including biomechanics, physiology, kinesiology and psychology. It involves the study of how psychological factors affect performance and how participation in sport and exercise affect psychological and physical factors.[1] In addition to instruction and training of psychological skills for performance improvement, applied sport psychology may include work with athletes, coaches, and parents regarding injury, rehabilitation, communication, team building, and career transitions.
Hypnotherapy is a form of therapy used to reprogram the subconscious mind. When under hypnosis, you put your mind and body into a heightened state of learning, making you more susceptible to suggestions for self-improvement or behavior modification. The goal is to put the subconscious and conscious mind in harmony, which in turn helps give you greater control over your behavior and emotions.

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"After smoking for 38 years I wanted to quit but didn't think I could do it. I decided to try the Quit Smoking Stay Stopped hypnosis download. I listened to it 3 times and set a date to quit. On that date I listened to it just before I smoked for the last time, then just quit, I was able to go 1 maybe 2 days before I would listen to it again to help me get through the urge to smoke, after a week I no longer needed to listen to the hypnosis and don't need the cigarettes anymore."

One increasingly common use of coaching for senior executives focuses on the challenges of managing younger workers, and on helping executives better understand and lead a new generation of employees whose work ethics and values are different, says Stephen Fairley, president of Chicago-based Today's Leadership Coaching and coauthor of Getting Started in Personal and Executive Coaching (Wiley, 2003).


How about taking out a pen and paper and making a list of all of the benefits you will enjoy as a non-smoker? Picture yourself in the future, say six months or a year from now. How great is it knowing that when someone offers you a cigarette you find yourself saying ‘no thanks’? Perhaps you can imagine how proud and happy you are going to feel and how proud you will be of yourself. If you’re not sure if you are ready to quit smoking but you would like to consider the possibility, we can take a closer look at your particular situation and likely help you come to a clearer understanding. The initial screening and consultation is free.
Both sport psychology (focusing on the dynamic interplay between psychological factors and athletic performance) and sport and exercise psychology (focusing on using psychological insight to increase exercise and activity levels) are essential components in empowering performance. Whether that be for professional athletes or the general population, an understanding of how the mind works can have a huge impact.
The concept of ADHD coaching was first introduced in 1994 by psychiatrists Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey in their book Driven to Distraction.[8] ADHD coaching is a specialized type of life coaching that uses specific techniques designed to assist individuals with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The goal of ADHD coaching is to mitigate the effects of executive function deficit, which is a typical impairment for people with ADHD.[9] Coaches work with clients to help them better manage time, organize, set goals and complete projects.[10] In addition to helping clients understand the impact ADHD has had on their lives, coaches can help clients develop "work-around" strategies to deal with specific challenges, and determine and use individual strengths. Coaches also help clients get a better grasp of what reasonable expectations are for them as individuals, since people with ADHD "brain wiring" often seem to need external mirrors for accurate self-awareness about their potential despite their impairment.[11]

Normally, this is for three months or less. The focus of the work is to identify and prioritize developmental needs.  This work is usually done in conjunction with the executive and the executive’s supervisor or HR. Interviews are conducted and a developmental plan is created with the client. This coaching jump-starts the plan with a quick transition to client independence with the supervisor and HR support for continued progress. This coaching is described more as a three-way partnership between the executive, the coach, and the organization, in which all involved agree on specific goals and parameters. Issues discussed in a coaching session however, outside of the set parameters, are considered “personal and confidential”.
In North America, early years of sport psychology included isolated studies of motor behavior, social facilitation, and habit formation. During the 1890s, E. W. Scripture conducted a range of behavioral experiments, including measuring the reaction time of runners, thought time in school children, and the accuracy of an orchestra conductor's baton.[6] Despite Scripture's previous experiments, the first recognized sports psychology study was carried out by an American psychologist Norman Triplett, in 1898.[7] The work of Norman Triplett demonstrated that bicyclists were more likely to cycle faster with a pacemaker or a competitor, which has been foundational in the literature of social psychology and social facilitation.[8] He wrote about his findings in what was regarded as the first scientific paper on sports psychology, titled “The Dynamogenic Factors in Pacemaking and Competition”, which was published in 1898, in the American Journal of Psychology. Research by ornithologists Lashley and Watson on the learning curve for novice archers provided a robust template for future habit formation research, as they argued that humans would have higher levels of motivation to achieve in a task like archery compared to a mundane task.[9] Researchers Albert Johanson and Joseph Holmes tested baseball player Babe Ruth in 1921, as reported by sportswriter Hugh S. Fullerton. Ruth's swing speed, his breathing right before hitting a baseball, his coordination and rapidity of wrist movement, and his reaction time were all measured, with the researchers concluding that Ruth's talent could be attributed in part to motor skills and reflexes that were well above those of the average person.[10]
Shawnte Mitchell is general counsel and vice president of human resources, legal affairs and compliance at Aptevo Therapeutics Inc. At her previous employer, she was offered a coach, Suzi Pomerantz of Innovative Leadership International, to address certain internal team challenges. “[Pomerantz] helped me define the things that were contributing to those challenges — and sort out which of those things were mine.”
The BLS reports that the job outlook is best for sports psychologists with a doctoral degree in their specialty. Positions for potential psychologists with master's degrees are limited and candidates may face intense competition for the available jobs. Sports psychologists with master's degrees may expect to work as assistant counselors or in research positions, directly supervised by licensed psychologists. Time spent volunteering with sports teams or interning under the supervision of sport and exercise psychology professionals may also be helpful in obtaining full-time positions.
Consultation and training. Team building; sports organization consultation; systems interventions with parents and families involved in youth sports participation; education of coaches regarding motivation, interpersonal and leadership skills and talent development; education of coaches and administrators regarding early identification and prevention of psychological difficulties.

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It is pertinent to mention that the practice of applied sport psychology is not legally restricted to individuals who possess one type of certification or licensure. The subject of "what exactly constitutes applied sport psychology and who can practice it?" has been debated amongst sport psychology professionals, and as of 2011, still lacks formal legal resolution in the United States. For instance, some question the ability of professionals who possess only sport science or kinesiology training to practice "psychology" with clients, while others counter that clinical and counseling psychologists without training in sport science do not have the professional competency to work with athletes. However, this debate should not overshadow the reality that many professionals express the desire to work together to promote best practices among all practitioners, regardless of training or academic background.
“We offer internal coaching for employees going through the Emerging Leader Program,” said Jill Clark, group vice president of talent management at JDA Software Inc. “[It’s] a combination of internal and external coaching for VP-level executives going through the Fearless Leader Program; and external coaches for executive-level folks who want to be more effective.”

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is the name given to a series of models and techniques used to enhance the therapist's ability to do hypnotherapy. NLP consists of a number of models, with a series of techniques based on those models. Sensory acuity and physiology is one model whose premise is that a person's thought processes change their physiological state. People recognize such a physiological change when startled. The body receives a great dose of adrenaline, the heart beats faster, the scare may be verbalized by shouting, and the startled person may sweat. Sensory acuity, (i.e., being attuned to changes occurring in another person) will strengthen communication to a person in ways over and above simple verbal cues, therefore making the therapist more effective. A second model of NLP deals with representational systems. The idea behind this model is that different people represent knowledge in different sensory styles. In other words, an individual's language reveals that person's mode of representation. There are three basic modes of representation. These are: Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic. The same information will be expressed differently by each. For example, the auditory person might say, "That sounds good to me;" the visual person might convey, "I see it the same way;" and the kinesthetic person would offer, "I'm comfortable with it too."
Mansfield could neither comprehend nor cope with the attention she received once promoted to the role of boss. While most managers would view the schmoozing and lobbying for attention that her reports engaged in as office politics, Mansfield saw these attempts at currying favor as trial balloons that might lead to dating. She was not being sexually harassed; Mansfield was merely experiencing interpersonal advances that threatened the protective fortress she had erected against feelings of intimacy. The better Mansfield managed the men in her division—and the more her constructive feedback improved their work—the more intimate they appeared to become as a natural outcome of their appreciation.
An often-overlooked intangible benefit of executive coaching is stress reduction. Executive coaches can empower executives with an arsenal of tools and tactics to combat stress and, in turn, improve productivity levels. A study by Jan Ramsøy and Sigrid Stover Kjeldsen, in cooperation with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, found that coaching reduced executives’ stress levels by, on average, 18 percent after only eight to 10 coaching conversations (some participants experienced stress level reductions as high as 47 percent). Perhaps what’s most powerful is the fact that effective coaching appears to be contagious! Research by Dr. Sean O’Connor & Dr. Michael Cavanagh of The University of Sydney found that the closer employees are situated to individuals who have participated in coaching, the higher their levels of well-being.

This coaching is for a minimum of six months up to one year. The focus is to identify and prioritize developmental issues and goals with an action plan. The coach will gather data via a client questionnaire, a 360 degree feedback process, and/or other diagnostic assessments such as Myers-Briggs, Strength Finders, etc. The coach is responsible for working with the executive to determine the plan, its implementation and subsequent follow-up.  The coach also lends support to the client in addressing and focusing on strategic issues of the organization, while simultaneously addressing personal developmental issues.


A combination of physical education and psychology is essential for starting a sport psychology career. Some colleges and universities might offer sport psychology bachelor degree programs, which includes a blend of psychology courses and physical education courses. A sport psychology career, however, can also usually be started with a bachelor's degree in general psychology. A few aspiring sport psychologists, however, may even be able to begin their careers with a bachelor's degree in physical education.
Whatever the reason, distinct from other forms of training, coaching focuses on a specific way of “learning” for the executive. It is believed that “the more an individual is involved in identifying problems, in working out and applying solutions for them and in reviewing results, the more complete and the more long-lasting the learning is. This form of self-improvement tends to bring about learning with a deeper understanding than learning that is taught.”[1] Given the right circumstances, one-on-one interaction with an objective third party, who is not tied to the organization or other executive or company influences, can provide a focus that other forms of organizational support cannot. Coaching develops the leader in “real time” within the context of their current job while allowing them to maintain their day-to-day responsibilities.
Hypnotherapy is a therapy that spans hundreds of years and has many practitioners across the United States. Researchers have studied whether hypnosis can treat a variety of medical conditions, from irritable bowel syndrome to anxiety and depression. The goal for hypnotherapy is to help a patient learn to better control their state of awareness. In the case of depression, hypnotherapy sessions may be focused on helping a person achieve a state of relaxation. In this relaxed state, they can discuss their feelings and emotions without raising stress and anxiety levels.

One obvious risk to patients is the insufficiently trained therapist. The inadequately trained therapist can cause harm and distort the normally pleasant experience of hypnotherapy. A second risk for patients is the unscrupulous practitioner who may be both inadequately trained and may have some hidden agenda. These rare individuals are capable of causing great harm to the patient and to the profession. As mentioned above, the patient should carefully scrutinize their chosen therapist before submitting themselves to this dynamic form of therapy.
October 20, 2017 - At the annual conference of the Association of Applied Sport Psychology (AASP), Center faculty, current doctoral students, and alumni had a reunion dinner to reconnect and make new connections among the many generations that were in attendance.  Pictured are (from left in front row):  Dr. Robert Harmison (James Madison University), Dr. Nick Beck (private practice, Pensacola FL), and Karolina Wartolowicz (third year doctoral student); (from left in the back row):  Carlie McGregor (third year doctoral student), Dr. Joey Raemaker (University of Notre Dame), Dr. Trent A. Petrie (UNT Center Director, Tess Palmateer (second year doctoral student), Andrew Walsh (first year doctoral student), Alan Chu (fifth year doctoral student), and Dr. Brian Yu (UC Davis).
Practice, practice, practice. Get in with different consultants and see what they’re doing. Work with younger athletes on their mental game using your own experiences to start developing your models. Volunteer to be the mental coach of a youth team based on your credentials as an athlete. And keep reading and applying what you read to your own competitive experience. Keep being an athlete and test your skills on yourself first.
In the 1950s, Milton H. Erickson developed a radically different approach to hypnotism, which has subsequently become known as "Ericksonian hypnotherapy" or "Neo-Ericksonian hypnotherapy." Erickson made use of an informal conversational approach with many clients and complex language patterns, and therapeutic strategies. This divergence from tradition led some of his colleagues, including Andre Weitzenhoffer, to dispute whether Erickson was right to label his approach "hypnosis" at all.[10]
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