‘Individual athletes contact me because they may be challenged within their sport, may get frustrated when losing a game and watching their play go downhill. They get upset at themselves — ‘I suck. I’m no good.’ Whatever. That affects their game play.”
Speaking is Scott Iverson, 35, a Vista sports performance consultant who can be found at shapeconsultingservices.com on your internet dial. Iverson has a B.A. from Radford University, master's in Sports Counseling, and a Ph.D. from San Diego University for Integrative Studies. One wonders, what does a sports performance consultant do?
Iverson says, “I help [athletes] use psychological tools — imagery and visualization techniques — to build their confidence and play better games.”
“How old are your clients?”
“Anywhere from 11 all the way up to a 46-year-old. I work with private organizations such as USA Gymnastics, USA Hockey. I haven’t seen a high school player, per se; they are in high school, just not playing at their high school.”
Back to the “what do you do?” question.
“Performance enhancement,” Iverson says. “They could be a top-notch athlete — maybe they do well in practice, but come time for a game, playing in front of a crowd, they get nervous, get high anxiety. They want to do well for their team and make an impression on their coach.”
I say, “You’re not spending years with these people, right? It’s more like weeks?”
“Yeah, it’s only 6 to 12 weeks because there is only so much you can do with someone,” Iverson says. “If they’re not willing to participate and practice what you teach them, then there’s not much else you can do. But, you’re right, it’s not an ongoing thing. I’m not diagnosing someone with a major disorder. If something along those lines pops up, then
I would refer that person to a clinical psychologist.”
Back to the “what do you do?” question. “Say, I’m on a high school baseball team and I’m great in practice but freeze up during a game. What would you do for me?”
“Find out what thoughts are going through your head before, during, and after the game,” Iverson says. “You do a visualization. You can do it two ways. You’re on the field, you’re out there playing the game — feeling that emotion, seeing, hearing, using all of your senses to register how it feels — when you start to freeze up and don’t play well.
“Then, you want to start changing to a more positive feeling. You’re amongst teammates, you’re out there with eight other guys, you have the support of people cheering you on. You know you’re good, you remember what you’ve done in practice, you can focus on seeing yourself do things almost perfectly.
“You can also watch it from an outside point of view; watch yourself play the game as if you’re in the stands. See how you’re reacting to certain situations. Do you see yourself getting nervous or are you pulling away when you’re at bat? Are you dropping your shoulder or elbow? Then correct those as you go along.
“The point is to have more of a positive outlook. Use positive thoughts over and over again. It’s something that doesn’t happen overnight, but if you practice day in and day out for five or ten minutes, things eventually get to the point where you’re not as nervous, you’re not feeling that anxiety, and you can play well.”
I mention that sports counseling always seems to be the next big thing but never is.
Iverson says, “It’s been a hidden thing. Individuals speak to psychologists, but they don’t see a psychologist who’s attached to a team or in an organization. But, nowadays, even some universities have a sports psychologist on hand as part of their athletic department. You also have Olympic Training Centers throughout the United States — they have sports psychologists full-time for the athletes to go and see whenever they want.”
I say, “I’m thinking of college basketball. Fertile ground because it’s such a small team. Coaches are so greedy and make so much money, you would think they would use sports psychologists in order to get even the tiniest of edges. Do you know of any Division I basketball program with a sports psychologist?”
“I don’t. And I agree with what you just said. There are coaches who are old school — basketball, football, maybe in baseball — they just don’t believe in this stuff. But, I know UCLA has a sports psychologist on campus for their athletes. I think USD has one. The University of Washington has one and so does Washington State. More and more schools are coming up with them.”