In both individual athletes and group therapy applications, performance enhancement strategy is one of the primary concerns addressed by sports psychologists during treatment. Qualified sports psychologists may provide counseling services to athletes, coaches, trainers and parents, offering methods of optimizing mental response to team sports and athletic activity.
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”.
Following its stated goal of promoting the science and practice of applied sport psychology, AAASP quickly worked to develop uniform standards of practice, highlighted by the development of an ethical code for its members in the 1990s. The development of the AAASP Certified Consultant (CC-AAASP) program helped bring standardization to the training required to practice applied sport psychology. AASP aims to provide leadership for the development of theory, research and applied practice in sport, exercise, and health psychology. Also during this same time period, over 500 members of the American Psychological Association (APA) signed a petition to create Division 47 in 1986, which is focused on Exercise and Sport Psychology.
Sports psychology is a relatively young discipline within psychology. In 1920, Carl Diem founded the world’s first sports psychology laboratory at the Deutsche Sporthochschule in Berlin, Germany. In 1925, two more sports psychology labs were established – one by A.Z. Puni at the Institute of Physical Culture in Leningrad and the other by Coleman Griffith at the University of Illinois.
“Unlike therapy, which goes into depth about various issues usually dealing with the past and consulting which generally results in giving the client answers, coaching is more action-oriented and focuses primarily on the present and future.” Coaching focuses on what the client wants and utilizes a process through the one-on-one coaching sessions to enable the client to self-discover, learn and determine their own “answers”. It is the client who determines the goals and commits to their goal, while allowing the coach to help hold them accountable.
Republic of Ireland: There are few graduate and no undergraduate programmes in Ireland offering specialised degrees in sports psychology. However, psychology is one of the professions listed for statutory registration with the relevant registration board of the Health and Social Care Professionals Council. The title of the profession is protected by law and can only be used by registered practitioners.
I work with athletes and performers at every level, from novice and recreational to elite and professional, so the situations that I address are constantly evolving, bringing different challenges each day. I may give training to an entire team, meet with an individual client at my office, or observe a client at practice or at a competition. I may speak with their coaches or families; it just depends on what we are trying to accomplish. We work on developing the mental side of their game and performance. This involves building skills in areas such as focus, concentration, motivation, goal-setting, managing intensity, overcoming performance obstacles, stress management, and learning how to perform optimally even under pressure. We also address issues such as performance anxiety, burnout, lack of confidence, recovering from an injury, and handling performance pressures that come when new levels of achievement are attained.
ABSP certification requires a doctorate degree, plus either a license to practice or a certain amount of research/publications. The ABSP also requires candidates to pass the Board Certified Sports Psychologist Examination, as well as have a certain amount of practical experience, research experience, or outstanding contributions to the sports psychology field.
My misgivings about executive coaching are not a clarion call for psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis, in particular, does not—and never will—suit everybody. Nor is it up to corporate leaders to ensure that all employees deal with their personal demons. My goal, as someone with a doctorate in psychology who also serves as an executive coach, is to heighten awareness of the difference between a “problem executive” who can be trained to function effectively and an “executive with a problem” who can best be helped by psychotherapy.
Over the past 15 years, it has become more and more popular to hire coaches for promising executives. Although some of these coaches hail from the world of psychology, a greater share are former athletes, lawyers, business academics, and consultants. No doubt these people help executives improve their performance in many areas. But I want to tell a different story. I believe that in an alarming number of situations, executive coaches who lack rigorous psychological training do more harm than good. By dint of their backgrounds and biases, they downplay or simply ignore deep-seated psychological problems they don’t understand. Even more concerning, when an executive’s problems stem from undetected or ignored psychological difficulties, coaching can actually make a bad situation worse. In my view, the solution most often lies in addressing unconscious conflict when the symptoms plaguing an executive are stubborn or severe.
According to Dr. Ken Grossman, a clinical hypnotherapist in Sacramento, “The only quality that makes someone a good candidate for hypnosis is that they want to stop. What makes someone a poor candidate is that they have no desire to stop.” McGrail agrees, adding, “There are very few people that will not allow themselves to be led into a hypnotic state.” While this may sound far-fetched to skeptics, think of it as the sort of state you’re in when you’re driving and miss your exit — that’s a mild form of hypnosis in and of itself. What these therapists do is just deepen the experience, using our natural capacity for dropping into trance-like states.
Hypnosis is a powerful tool to help clients overcome challenging issues such as anxiety, phobias, pain management, hot flashes and more. Hypnosis is also a way to help let go of addictions like smoking, overeating and gambling. In and of itself, hypnosis is not a therapy, but it can be used in conjunction with therapy to empower and encourage the person receiving it to make positive change. Some people are more susceptible to hypnosis and will benefit more from hypnotherapy than others.
Most organizations believe that once someone reaches executive or senior status in the organization, they should inherently be able to act under pressure, inspire and implement ideas, keep their skills sharp and current, and have all the answers. In actuality, they can eventually get there on their own but the engagement of a qualified executive coach will exponentially increase not only the time it takes for the executive to get there but also the ability for the executive and the company to sustain the change.