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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Is Federer's Wilson Commercial the Public Perception of Sport Psychology?

When you think the words "sport psychology" what do you think? How does it make you feel?
I am joking; not trying to psychoanalyze you over the web.

Sport psychology, performance enhancement, mental toughness, tennis psychology, mental skills, the mental game... whatever you want to call it is getting more attention these days. Sam Stosur credited her psychologist after winning the US Open. This is good news for the field and for me! (It's always about me!)

Being serious now, sport psychology is becoming more mainstream. However, is the public perception of what sport psychology is accurate?

Maybe you have not seen the Wilson commercial with Roger Federer and his "tennis ball couch" or the other ones to follow that star Serena and Venus Williams, but it is a funny parody of sport psychology done by Wilson. 

Federer the Sport Psych Guy Wilson Commercial

For most this would be a "ha-ha" and forget about it thing. However, I won't leave it be. As much as I enjoy this commercial and the others put out by Wilson it makes me wonder what the perception of sport psychology is in our country and abroad.

The first question I have is what do people really think about sport psychology? Do they believe that is lying on a couch and talking about your dreams and childhood? The media with amazing consistency in sitcoms and dramas spin this image of psychology. And, you have the television therapists like Dr. Phil which I believe have helped the public realize the benefits of psychology, but also it comes off as being easier to do than it actually is for patient and therapist.

In truth psychology is practiced in many different ways - not always lying on a couch talking about your relationship with your mother (sometimes, however, this is exactly the issue the people need to deal with). Sport psychology, specifically, is often done on the court, in the locker room, before and after games. And, if the sport psych professional is also a coach they are doing sport psychology on the court during practice, and in college tennis, during matches.

Still, I wonder what the public thinks...

Sport psychology is not about constantly psychoanalyzing every communication or all situations. I remember a friend that I was out to dinner with jokingly asking me to tell him what he was feeling based on his body language. I fired back that he must not be too interested in the conversation because he was leaning back on his chair with his arms crossed! This became a running joke for us, but he understood that a sport psychology consultant can have interactions where he (me in this case) is not constantly trying to overanalyze and break down the other person's behavior.

For me, and many others in the field, sport psychology is about developing trusting relationships and helping people reach their goals. And, like a coach, many times that means just being there for the athlete and not trying to do too much. And, it is most effective when it's done in the athletes' environment and when they need it the most.

Is sport psychology useful to tennis players? Please take a moment and answer the poll question. You know what I believe obviously but I would like to have your opinion.


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