Lotus pose on two

By Alyssa Roenigk, ESPN The Magazine
Originally Published: August 21, 2013

“IT’S DIFFERENT HERE,” Pete Carroll says. “Have you noticed?” It’s hard not to. At 9 a.m. on the first Sunday of training camp in Renton, Wash., high-performance sports psychologist Mike Gervais, dressed in a navy Seahawks hoodie and white baseball cap and flashing more enthusiasm than is rational at this hour, welcomes players into a meeting room at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. This place used to be the site of a coal tar refinery; now it’s the happiest, greenest campsite in the history of the NFL. Gervais is about to lead a meditation session and, as he always does, instructs the players to hit record on their phone voice-recorder apps and to close their eyes. Then he starts guiding them: “Quiet your minds,” “Focus your attention inwardly” and “Visualize success.”

This is the Pete Carroll experience we always hear about. After flaming out as an NFL head coach, Carroll rebuilt his rep as an ultracompetitive buddy coach at USC. But beneath the perpetual smile was a guy who thought, more than anything, there was a better way to win. Meditation is only part of it. After Carroll was fired by the Patriots following the 1999 season, he agonized over what he’d do differently if he landed another NFL head-coaching job. Almost every day for the better part of a decade, while leading Southern Cal to seven top-10 finishes and one BCS title, he jotted down do-over notes. His dream was to fundamentally change the way players are coached. The timeworn strategy is, of course, to be a hard-ass — think Bear Bryant banning water breaks, Vince Lombardi screaming and yelling, Mike Rice throwing basketballs at players’ heads, Nick Saban berating his team on the sideline. Carroll craved a chance to reimagine the coaching role in the NFL. “I wanted to find out if we went to the NFL and really took care of guys, really cared about each and every individual, what would happen?”… Click here to read on

When the going gets tough in sport

By Caroline Heaney, Open University
Originally Published: Wednesday 29th June 2011

Imagine you’re the favourite to win an important event, maybe even the Olympic Games. You’ve trained hard and are at the top of your game, but two weeks before the event you sustain a serious sports injury. How would you feel?

Injury can be difficult for any sports performer but for those competing at a high level, often on a full-time basis, the impact of injury can be significant, leading to anger, frustration and anxiety. In an interview with The Times, 2009 World heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis compared the injury she sustained prior to the 2008 Olympic Games to a bereavement: “I know it sounds dramatic, but to devote your life to something and then have it snatched away is a bit like suffering a bereavement. You’ve lost something that’s part of you.”… Click here to read on

The psychological Olympian

By Caroline Heaney, Open University
Originally Published: Thursday, 26 January 2012

Self-confidence has a very important part to play in successful sports performance. People who have a high level of self-confidence or self-belief in their ability to perform well in a particular task are much more likely to do so than people who have low levels of self-belief. But where does this confidence come from? According to the psychologist Albert Bandura our level of self-confidence in a particular situation is influenced by factors such as our previous experiences, role models, feedback from others and our interpretation of any feelings of nervousness. Therefore in sport if an athlete has performed well in training and competition in the lead up to an event, has seen role models similar to themselves perform well, has received encouragement from important people around them (such as a coach) and is able to cope with the pressure of an impending important event they are likely to have high levels of self-confidence and perform well… Click here to read on

Phys Ed: How to Overcome Fear on the Slopes

By Gretchen Reynolds, The New York Times
Originally Published: February 3, 2010

Peter Olenick, a 25-year-old freestyle skier and gold medalist in the Big Air skiing competition at last weekend’s 2010 Winter X Games, vividly recalls the first time he tried the Whiskey Flip, his self-invented marquee trick, a twisty, somersaulting double flip executed 20 feet or so above the halfpipe’s lip. “It was terrifying,” he says. “I didn’t even know if it could be done. But I’d been doing it over and over in my head, so I figured I could make it go right.” Some deep breaths, some mental finger-crossing and “I just kind of hucked it,” he says, landing cleanly, exhilarated. A second attempt was even “scarier. Now my body knew what was happening. But I did it. Fear kind of keeps all of us going.”

Fear may be the signature emotion of the Winter Olympics, prickling the skin hairs and sharpening the senses of all those athletes moving fast over slick, unforgiving surfaces. “Everybody feels fear out there, and I mean everybody,” says Ross Hindman, the founder and program director of the International Snowboard Training Centers in Colorado and California, which specialize in training midlevel and elite snowboarders. Fear affects those of us too who recreationally strap on skis, snowboards, skates or, more rarely, a skin suit in advance of a bobsled run. “The issue is how you deal with fear,” Mr. Hindman says… Click here to read on