Author Archives: Brian Zinkel

4 Tips to Improve Your Mental Toughness For Athletics

psychologyStanding out in athletics is difficult no matter what point you are in life. Whether you’re trying to make the JV basketball team or you’re getting ready to pitch Game 1 of the World Series, if your mental toughness isn’t up to par, you’re probably not going to be very successful.

Most elite athletes report that at least 50% of their superior athletic performance is the result of psychology factors or mental factors. That’s why mental toughness is so essential — here are some tips to improve your own metal stability and prepare you for a successful athletic career or moment.

Practice Makes Perfect

Your mental skill has to be present on the field, yes, but you’ll never be able to perform at the best of your ability without practicing as much as possible. As you’re practicing, you’ll be learning the game or sport better each time you work out or go over your playbook, which will only increase your mental capabilities.

Relax, Relax, Relax

Training yourself to relax, especially during high-pressure situations, is an absolute must if you want to succeed in athletics. You’ll surely find yourself in extremely anxious situations while playing your sport (game on the line, final stretch of a race, etc.), so being able to relax during these moments will surely help you succeed.

Speak With a Sports Psychologist

Professional psychologists can help you not only feel better about yourself on the court, field, rink, or diamond, but they will help you in all areas of life. There are a lot of stresses involved with athletics at every single level — so talking through those difficulties can certainly help clear your head and prepare you for success.

Have a Short Memory

Part of the psychology factor pertaining to athletic performance is the ability to forget your mistakes and actually learn from them. For example, Tom Brady can throw five interceptions in a game and lose one week but won’t let that ruin his overall performance. He’ll likely come right back even more determined than before and succeed on the field because of his mental toughness.

Don’t let your anxieties and nerves get in your way of your athletic performance. Improve your mental stability before your next game or competition. If you want to learn more about sports psychology and how it will help you perform on and off the field, contact Sheryl Smith, Phd today.

3 Reasons Mindfulness Will Make You A Better Athlete

psychologistMindfulness is an essential part to success. This is especially true for those in the sports industry. Competition is a key component to the sports industry. In order to be in the zone for these competitions, an athlete must practice, workout, analyze their opponent, and most of all ready their mind.

Training the body for taking on the competition is just one part of athleticism. But preparing the mind to stay focused and confident while on the field or the court is also important. Here are three reasons why you’ll want the help of sports psychology before you get ready to conquer the field:

  1. Developing coping mechanisms.
    Athletes benefit from seeing a sports psychologist because they’re given ways to cope when they inevitably experience adversity. People with and without mental illness often crumble under pressure because they don’t have the necessary coping mechanisms to handle their stress or anxiety. For athletes, this often means losing the ability to focus and play effectively. A sports psychologist can help an athlete understand the challenges they’re facing and what strategies they can come up with in order to face them and play well.
  2. Redirecting your focus.
    A sports psychologist can help an athlete refocus their skills during the competition and remain focused during the pre-game. Focus is essential to the execution of one’s skills. Whether you’re in an office or on the court, if you’re focused on your mistakes rather than the product then you’ll fail to succeed in your task. Sports psychology teaches athletes to keep their focus from sliding toward their insecurities, which could distract them from success.
  3. Develop confidence for full-athletic transition.
    Confidence is often built using a specific mindset. Sports psychologists work with athletes to develop a mindset built on game plans, practice, and preparation to help them perform at their peak ability. By having confidence in their skills, athletes can draw themselves away from life problems and focus solely on the game at hand.

Of those suffering from anxiety, up to 60% showed improvement after doing meditation for six to nine months. By seeing a sports psychologist, you can help to reduce your own anxiety on the field and gain the mental strength to keep going even when you feel like you want to quit. Sports psychology can help you cope with your insecurities and boost your confidence and focus on the court, which will boost your way to success.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sports Psychologists, Answered

psychologistDid you know that more elite athletes report almost 50% of superior athletic performance is a result of mental or psychological preparation? That’s right! In some cases, mind over matter really is important in the athletic world. And that’s why sports psychologists exist.
Despite the fact that mental power is an important factor in athletic performance, it’s common to still have questions about how sports psychology actually plays a role in that. So to get some of the confusion out of the way, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked sports psychology questions and answered them just for you.
What exactly does a sports psychologist help with?
We discussed mental performance before, but there are different psychological factors that can contribute to this performance. In sports psychology, as in ordinary psychology, it really depends on the person. So the answer to this question is plain and simple: sports psychologists take the needs of their clients into account and work towards solutions to those specific mental blocks.
Why do athletes seek out sports psychology?
In truth, each athlete may seek out sports psychology help for a different reason. No two sports are exactly alike, and no two athletes are either. However, there are some fairly common reasons that stand out from the rest. Some of these reasons include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Recovery from a serious injury
  • Transitioning to a higher competitive level
  • Mental toughness
  • Issues with perfectionism
  • Coping with setbacks

Does seeing a sports psychologist indicate mental weakness?
Absolutely not. Seeking out psychological help is done for a countless number of reasons, such as those listed above. The truth is that sports psychology treatment often has nothing to do with weakness at all. Rather, it has everything to do with a desire to better yourself in your chosen profession and in life.
The life of an athlete certainly isn’t something to sneeze at. From sports that are extremely demanding physically to competitions that are mentally exhausting, athletes often need help too. If you’re experiencing changes and want to mentally grow with them, you should consider seeking out a sports psychologist.

What Can Sports Psychologists Do for Athletes?

sports psychologistsAthletes seek out the assistance of sports psychologists for a multitude of reasons. Whether they’re having a performance issue that they want to address or there’s a general desire for improvement, sports psychology can be a solution for many athletes. Here’s a quick overview of what sports psychologists can do for athletes.
Enhance Performance
Enhancing performance is one of the most common reasons athletes will come to discuss different types of sports psychology. And one of the first skills they typically work on is mental imagery. This practice consists of five main categories: cognitive-specific, cognitive-general, motivational-specific, motivational-general mastery, and motivational-general arousal. Depending on the athlete’s specific goal, their sessions could fall into any one of these categories.
Recover from Injuries
Injuries may take a visible physical toll on an athlete, but there’s often a hidden psychological impact, as well. It’s the psychological harm that sports psychologists are tasked with healing. Things such as tolerating pain, adjusting to new limitations, and other performance issues will need to be addressed if an athlete wants to reach their highest potential after an injury.
Cope Under Pressure
Athletes are often under extraordinary amounts of pressure while they’re competing. Solo athletes in particular often struggle when coping with pressure. Rather than having a team to rely on, these athletes take 100% of the brunt of failure and the responsibility of success. Learning how to cope with this kind of pressure in a healthy, productive manner can not only improve performance, it can improve an athlete’s quality of life.
Enhance Motivation
Basic psychology has proven that intrinsic motivation is more powerful than extrinsic motivation. In short, true motivation comes from within. Unfortunately, mustering this kind of motivation takes practice. But help from a skilled professional or clinical psychologist can unlock an athlete’s best potential and inner motivation. Without this kind of assistance, many athletes may lose interest and motivation to perfect their performance.
Seeing a psychologist for sports is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s something that can help improve athletes’ performance beyond what they ever thought they could accomplish. Never underestimate the power of mental training!

3 Common Myths About Psychotherapy You Need To Stop Believing

psychotherapyWhen it comes to psychotherapy, many people don’t quite know what it is or how it can help them. But the fact is, psychotherapy has many different uses — 60% of anxiety prone people showed marked improvements in anxiety levels after 6-9 months of meditation, and there are plenty of other types of psychotherapy as well. Here are some common myths about psychotherapy.

  1. Myth: Any type of therapy is a sign of weakness.
    This myth is absolutely absurd, but it’s out there. In reality, many people need help overcoming mental troubles, and one of the best ways to get insight is by consulting a professional in the industry. Whether you’re interested in sports psychology techniques or want to talk to a licensed clinical psychologist, talking to a professional in the industry is always the right choice.
  2. Myth: Psychotherapy “fixes” people
    Although it may seem like psychotherapists and sports psychologists are miracle workers, it does take effort from the person receiving the therapy. Growth doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen without effort. Psychotherapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, nor is it a miracle cure for serious diseases or ailments. says, “For psychotherapy to work, you need to be an active participant, bringing your expertise about what life is like for you. The best solutions and insights will come from you, with the therapist acting more like a midwife than a psychic surgeon. In this way, you gain what you need to lead a better life, and are not dependent on the therapist to tell you how to live.”
  3. Myth: Psychotherapy results are always instantly visible
    Like physical medical treatment, results aren’t always visible right away, and it normally takes many sessions to notice visible improvement. Every single person reacts differently to different psychologists, and although it may take time to find the right one, results can be impressive when the patient has undergone enough treatment. Take time when evaluating whether or not sessions are successful. When patients keep attending sessions, results becoming more and more evident.

Ultimately, it’s important to understand the basics of psychotherapy before undergoing the treatment. For more information about the types of sports psychology, contact Sheryl Smith PhD.

3 Extraordinary Qualities of Mentally Tough Athletes

mental toughness trainingAthletes are often looked up to as role models, but it’s not always their athletic ability and on-field accomplishments that make them so admirable. The athletes that are the best in the world at their sport have impeccable mental toughness thanks to years of intense mental toughness training. The majority of elite athletes report that at least 50% of superior athletic performance is a direct result of psychological and mental contributing factors.

Here are some qualities of athletes who have undergone mental toughness training and are now the best of the best.


No matter how many adversities these athletes face during their lifetime, they are always able to bounce back and handle their tasks to the best of their ability. Resiliency is what separates the best in the world from just about everyone else. Life happens to everyone and it can be extremely difficult to respond to certain hardships, but the mentally tough are always able to do so, with great ability, while the feeble-minded usually end up having to quit.

Calm, Cool, and Collected

In addition to bouncing back from adversity, mentally tough athletes are able to stay relaxed under immense pressure as well. From Olympic competitors to Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, these athletes have to compete on the world stage, with millions of eyes on them and the weight of entire nations on their shoulders. This kind of pressure is enough to cause anyone to fold and mess up, but the best athletes in the world are the best for a reason and they are able to get the job done in these difficult situations.


The simple act of putting in the work is usually enough to separate the very best of the best as well. Talent certainly plays a part, but someone can have all the talent in the world and never achieve anything if they don’t put in the effort. Mental toughness training requires these athletes to both mentally and physically strain themselves for hours each day, everyday, for years and years, until they are the best in the world.

The importance of mental training for athletes cannot be understated. If you’re an athlete and want to improve your mental skills, it’s time to put in the work. Contact Sheryl Smith PhD today!

Grace Under Pressure: Useful Mental Tips from Olympic Athletes

sports psychologistApproximately 83% of coaches rank “mental toughness” as the most important psychological characteristic for an athlete to have, but getting to a point where you’re mentally tough can be difficult, especially without the help of a sports psychologist. But grace under pressure can certainly be achieved, according to some of the greatest athletes in the world.

Whether you’re a student athlete or training for the big leagues, here are some pieces of mental advice from a few Olympic athletes that could get you started on the path to excellent grace under pressure.

Allyson Felix
Felix is a track-and-field superstar, and she says the most effective mental tool for her is tuning out all other distractions.

” I don’t hear any noise around me. I’m completely just dialed in to what I have to do,” she said in an interview withSports Illustrated.

Michael Phelps
The 2016 Olympics marked Phelps’ fifth time competing in the worldwide event. But in 2012, his coach Bob Bowman spoke to the Washington Post about his mental tricks to stay focused under the pressure of a swimming event.

“He will see exactly the perfect race … and then he will go through scenarios: What if things don’t go well?” Bowman said.

Unlike Felix, Phelps spends time beforehand mentally preparing for potential stressors. This takes a lot of psychology and mental toughness training, especially because some of the scenarios may be particularly stressful to imagine.

Kayla Harrison
Harrison became the first American to win gold in judo during the 2012 Olympics. Instead of visualizing everything that could go wrong like Phelps does, Harrison told the Washington Post that she likes to picture only the positive outcomes to calm herself.

“I picture myself bombing the girl in the final and standing on top of the podium … and feeling the gold medal go around my neck,” she said. “I visualize all of that every night.”

Harrison’s mental skills involve using positive thoughts to release calming feelings. Performing these exercise every night has helped Harrison learn how to stay calm in times of extreme pressure like those when she’s competing.

There are multiple types of mental toughness training you can run through with a sports psychologist, but perhaps you can take inspiration from these medal-winning Olympic athletes to start forming your own mental training routine.

Guide to Understanding the Basics of Sports Psychology

sports psychologistWhen it comes to the field of psychology, there are several interdisciplinary and specialty subjects that are continuing to emerge. One unique field of psychology that many people are becoming aware of is sports psychology. Sports psychology is a combination of mental skill and mental toughness training that can help athletes perform better on the field.
Sports psychology focuses on the large impact the mind has on the quality of physical performance.Mental training includes, among other things, increasing focus, recovering concentration after a mistake, managing one’s self under pressure, and achieving a balance between thinking and trusting your sensory-motor system. These interventions typically include; goal setting, positive self-talk, motivation, stress management, and more.
A sports psychologist can help athletes from amateurs to professionals achieve their physical and mental goals. Many elite athletes report that at least 50% of superior athletic performance is the result of mental or psychological factors.
When it comes to setting goals, a sports psychologist can help athletes set goals that are challenging, yet realistic. As opposed to having a simple and short-sighted goal such as ‘winning the game’, a sports psychologist broadens the athlete’s horizons and helps him or her aim for more specific goals such as achieving process goals, having better communication with teammates, or maintaining a good attitude throughout the game.
Concentration skills are also strengthened in sports psychology. Athletes can learn how to refocus unnecessary noise and other distractions and focus only on the process of performing well in the moment. This can be an extremely useful technique to help athletes get in ‘the zone’ — a state where athletes act without thinking.
Another major aspect of sports psychology is assisting in the process of coping with injuries. For many athletes, their sport is a large percentage of their identity. When an athlete gets hurt, being out of practice and away from the team may seem to cause the entire world to come crashing down. A sports psychologist can help athletes learn healthy coping techniques and teach them to utilize their recovery time for mental training.
Overall, sports psychology offers many benefits to athletes of any age and skill level. The mental training skills learned with a sports psychologist can accelerate your development. If you’re interested in receiving high-quality treatment from a sports psychologist, contact me.