Sports Psychology: Interactions Between Mind and Body

In this episode, Nathan talks with Gary about how he got into sports psychology. They also discuss issues that can be addressed uniquely by sports psychologists and the impact that they can have on individuals and teams.

Nathan describes his first personal experience with the power of mind in physical skill. While watching the Australian open, Nathan's attention was captured by the style and power of Pete Sampras's back hand. Nathan imagined himself performing in such a way. The next time Nathan was on the court, both he and his coach were surprised about the improvement in his back hand.

Nathan provides a quick summary of a well-known study on effects of imagery in free-throw shooting in basketball. The study showed that imagining practice had a beneficial effect, and it improved the effect of physical practice on free-throw performance. Nathan talked about how Russia and countries from the former eastern block as well Australia and New Zealand had a head start on the United States in crossing between disciplines focused on mind and those focused on body. Gary and Nathan discussed the transformation in the U.S. over the last twenty-five years to greater appreciation of the interactions between mind and body.

Nathan and Gary talked about the influence of sports psychology in Pete Carroll's success as a football coach, for example with USC the Seattle Seahawks, that enable his teams to compete with teams led by brilliant tacticians. This discussion segued into the topic of variability and individual differences as an especially important consideration in psychological science. Nathan explained that critical thinking and empathy are essential tools for the Sports Psychologist in coming to know individuals as such.

Nathan finished by talking about his personal experience with young athletes in high school and junior high school. There are important differences in how a sports psychologist should work with athletes early in development compared to more mature athletes but Nathan explained that such a third-party (i.e., not a parent or a coach) also can make an adolescent comfortable with being reflective in addressing the cognitive and emotional issues in skill development and sports performance.

Nathan provides sports psychology services through Mental Training Inc.  

Listen to other episodes about Sport & Exercise

Listen to episodes from the first season, entitled "Science in the Wild."