"What is a sport psychologist for?"

in collaboration with Sandra Pelaez Ph. D.
drapeau Canada cérémonie d'ouverture

I get asked this question a lot, but what we should really be asking is "What is he not for?" He or she won’t throw punches for you, that’s about it!

I’ve been working with my sport psychologist for almost 10 years now. I can’t tell you how much she has helped me, during both the highs and the lows.

Depending on your needs, your sport psychologist will work with you on your thoughts, your feelings or your environment. For example, he can help you to:

  • set realistic and measurable goals for yourself;
  • reach your goals by giving you the right tools;
  • better manage your stress and energy levels during the week and on the day of a bout;
  • better control your emotions in the ring;
  • facilitate your return to the sport after a concussion;
  • improve communication with your trainer on a day-to-day basis, when developing strategies or solving conflicts;
  • solve conflicts with your family, partner, friends, boxers or staff of the club when you feel that these are having a negative effect on your performance;
  • practise visualisation techniques to improve your performance and decrease your stress;
  • avoid ups and downs in motivation, especially when you have no competition in sight;
  • identify a problem, when you feel that something is bothering you, in training or during bouts;
  • clarify and solve any situation connected with your boxing.

Yes … he can do all this!

How to find a good sport psychologist?

When choosing all your professionals, make sure they have a background or recognized expertise in their field. And when selecting a sport psychologist, look for someone who has worked with successful boxers in the past. This way, he will already be familiar with your environment, the problems specific to your sport and the ways to address these issues.

Here’s another important point: follow your gut! You should feel comfortable with your sport psychologist. You should feel that you can trust him and that he really has your well-being at heart. If you do not feel completely free to speak your mind, or worse, if you feel judged, you still haven’t found the right person for you.

Should I see my sport psychologist every week?

Do athletes continue to see their doctor when their injury has healed? No! They only go back if they injure themselves again. It's the same for your psychologist! Personally, ahead of a major competition, I see my psychologist once or twice a week but, aside from that, it’s only when I need to.

Remember that a good psychologist will make himself available to help you, but he will not make himself indispensable. His job is to give you the tools you need to become more and more independent.

Do I have to talk about my personal life?

Not necessarily. Again, it depends on what your needs are! For example, if you are very stressed in the weeks before a competition, your relationships with your friends and family may become strained, and this could be hard on you. If you feel like you need to talk about it, you can reach out to your therapist. But nothing forces you to open up about your personal life if you don’t want to! Your psychologist will help to the best of his ability with the information that you give him.

Last but not least, keep in mind that consulting a sport psychologist is not a "magic pill." It takes commitment and work on your part. But I assure you that when you see the positive effects on your performance, you'll wonder why you didn’t start the work sooner!

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