Tag: Sport Studies

Premier Sport Psychology is excited to welcome our newest member, Olivia Wyatt! Olivia will be in charge of running our social media campaign this summer. We caught up with Olivia earlier this week to learn a little more about her.

Let’s start with a fun fact about yourself.
Right before leaving for my freshman year of college, a few of my friends and I went skydiving.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I would love to go to Italy. Rome, Venice, Florence, Verona, Milan–just about anywhere I could. After that, I’d go to South Africa.

Do you prefer movies or Netflix?
Both! However, I’m fairly talented when it comes to Netflix binging, so I’d say I prefer Netflix.

What is the best show you’ve watched on Netflix?
Gilmore Girls is my all-time favorite show and having it on Netflix makes for some good procrastination. The West Wing is another classic, and I just finished up Mad Men. I like having Netflix on in the background while I work (not very efficient, I know).

Chocolate or vanilla?
If we’re talking ice cream, I’ll take it all.

What is the most played song on your iPod?
Roar by Katy Perry

You are being sent to a deserted island you can bring one person and one item. Who and what would you bring, and why?
I would bring one of my best friends, Michael. He’s incredibly smart and has his quirks–so much so that he is consistently compared to Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. He’d make for a fun companion, and I’m guessing we’d survive. For the item, can that be something unrealistic, like my iPod with unlimited battery life? I’m always listening to music and wouldn’t want to give that up.

Favorite sport to play? How about to watch?
My favorite sport to play is soccer. To watch? That’s by far baseball. Hockey would be my second favorite, but there’s something about the no clock element of baseball that makes it reign supreme.

Who is your favorite athlete and why?
My favorite athlete is Justin Morneau—he’s actually the reason why I have focused on sports-related fields. On August 2, 2008 (yeah, I remember the date) I was at a Twins game with my dad and my brother, and I saw that Morneau’s number was 33 – 33 was also my soccer number, so I had to like him! Then, later in the game, I was looking at one of the small scoreboards in the Metrodome and saw that his batting average was .316 – which happens to be my birthday. Something clicked, and from then on I was hooked – following every game and all the players. I’m glad Morneau’s a great person on and off the field, because it has given me someone to root for. Fun Fact: Morneau was on the MLB All-Star Final Vote ballot last year, and I voted over 12,000 times to bring him back to Minnesota. Sadly, it was to no avail – but he did come back for the Home Run Derby, so life was good.

What is your experience with sports?
I grew up playing soccer and dancing, and then had to make the inevitable choice between the two once I reached high school. I chose to continue to dance competitively, as well as train younger dancers. Currently at Tufts, I tap dance in an ensemble. I also kickbox.

What has draw you to the sport psychology world?
While I was in high school, I was drawn to the analytical side of sports. I have since realized that what more interests me is the dynamic that players have with each other–both as teammates and competitors. Even more so, I’m fascinated by how a player can have all the makings of a star talent-wise, but fail to reach that potential if he or she doesn’t have a strong mental game. Sport psychology aligns right along with helping athletes master their mental games.

What is your educational background and what are your future aspirations?
I just finished up my sophomore year at Tufts University (which is located just outside Boston) where I’m studying Psychology and Economics. After I graduate, I plan to obtain a Masters and Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Sport Psychology in the hopes to one-day work for an MLB team.

The game of soccer is one of the most physically demanding in all of sport. With physical demands of the whole body and players traveling, on average, seven miles in a game, there is no doubt that soccer athletes have to be some of the most physically fit in the world. But what comes, then, when regulation and extra time have passed and players must engage in game-deciding penalty kicks? What physical skill is required there? The ball is centered, only 12 yards away from the goal, with the keeper completely at the taker’s mercy in regards to where the shot will go, when it will be taken, etc. So why at the World Cup – soccer’s greatest stage – is the conversion rate for penalty kicks only .71?

The answer is one of the most beautiful ironies in all of sport: the simplest of physical tasks becomes the most difficult because of how mentally challenging it is.

The one-on-one nature is naturally going to elicit some nerves. Coupled with the pressure of the moment, the implications of the result, and the apparent ease of the situation, those nerves can make a player far from their best. Some factors are beyond the player’s control: who shoots first and who shoots second, and consequently who shoots for gain and who shoots to recover, is determined entirely by a coin flip. For some, the pressure is next to none; goalkeepers are seen as heroes if they save a penalty kick, and receive next to no blame for allowing a goal. However, for the players taking the penalty kicks, it can be said for certain that mental strength is the key.

Confidence, strength of will, and physical ability–these are all the pieces to the penalty kick puzzle. All are ever-present with the USA National Team. Just consider the team’s slogan through the tournament thus far: I Believe. Klinsmann, the team’s coach, just told his players to change their flights until after the World Cup final. Think Team USA has confidence? While we hope the game for the Americans doesn’t end up coming to penalty kicks – hopefully we have the win secured long before they become necessary – don’t be surprised to see the team shine if it comes to that. The mental strength is there, and the whole country can’t be wrong when they say, “I believe that we will win!”



Hatokie, A. (2014, July 1). The psychology of penalty shootouts. – Football. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from http://www.aljazeera.com/sport/brazil2014/2014/07/psychology-penalty- shootouts-20147182438644251.html


Imagine this: You are an athlete – and not just any athlete – an elite athlete.  You are a highly successful player in the sport of your choosing.  The highlight of your day includes stepping onto the field, ice, or court.  The sport drives you, and it serves as your passion for countless years.  Many of your best memories come from your sport, but so do a few of your worst.  After suffering from 5 concussions, you have limited your ability to focus for more than a ten-minute span.  Having a dim light on causes you pounding headaches.  Feeling faint and dizzy has become apart of your physiology. And worst of all, the thought of getting back into the sport you can’t live without shoots a bout of anxiety and fear ripping down your spine.  It does not take an athlete to understand the effects of an injury due to sport.  It does however, take the right knowledge to understand how to best treat those injuries.  A study published by the Journal of Sport and Health Science in 2012 open the topic by saying:

“Sport injuries frequently have profound negative consequences on the physical health of sports participants.  They also have the potential to cause a great deal of psychological disturbance through increased anger, depression, anxiety, tension, fear, and decreased self-esteem.  Sport injuries often result in an immediate imbalance and disruption to the lives of the injured athletes including loss of health and achievement of athletic potential.”

The study is quick to note that while there are serious physical implications that follow an injury, there are serious, and often times more detrimental, psychological effects.  Laura Reese, Ryan Pittsinger, and Jingzhen Yang sought out to decipher what steps psychologists can take to help restore the most crucial component in recovery: an athlete’s mind.  The study targeted populations of injured competitive and recreational athletes age 17 years and older by using interventions commonly used in sport psychology.  The interventions included imagery, goal-setting, relaxation, micro-counseling, written disclosure, and acceptance and commitment therapy.  The interventions showed promising results.  Guided imagery/relaxation was associated with improved psychological coping and reduced re-injury anxiety.  Psychological techniques such as micro-counseling, acceptance and commitment therapy, and written disclosure demonstrated effectiveness in reducing negative psychological consequences, improving psychological coping, and reducing re-injury anxiety. While seemingly small, these improvements may be exactly what an athlete needs to get back to where they want to be.

The reality of injuries in sports is that too often the process of recovery turns a blind eye to the single strongest operating force in our bodies: our brains.  While we work daily to subdue concussion symptoms, heal a broken bone, or undergo surgery to repair a tendon, we forget that the component driving that recovery in the first place lies in our head.  The encouragement of psychological repair must be reinforced by psychologists, doctors, social support and the athletes themselves.  Using interventions such as those demonstrated in this study may provide the foundation needed to get athletes back in competition both more timely and safely.  The importance of mental stability during a physical injury could not be more crucial.  You would never allow an athlete to go back to competition with a broken collarbone.  They are simply not ready.  Think twice before sending an athlete – or yourself – into competition before mentally ready.  You may not be able to see the injury, but that is an injustice of equal offense.



Effectiveness of psychological intervention following sport injury. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 1, 71-79.