Mind Games

Mind Games

Mind Games 1280 800 CWESN

By Kamasha Robertson

Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan was once asked during an interview which one of the skills he was more proud of: his athletic skills or the mental skills and which one was more difficult to keep up? How do you think he would have responded to such a question? There is no doubt that becoming a professional athlete takes tremendous physical work, endless hours of gym work, specialty training, diet and recovery work…Yes even recovering takes work!

Very seldom, however, does one think about the ‘Mental’ side of sports and the major part that it plays in the holistic development of an athlete. Many a time as it turns out, I have found that not even the athlete is aware that certain aspects of their training that they engage in are actually psychological techniques and strategies. Who can blame them though? The field of Sport Psychology is a relatively new one that was first introduced as a University Course in 1923 at the University of Illinois by American Professor Coleman Griffith.

Since then Sport Psychology has slowly trickled its way down to the Caribbean, and to a greater extent, Trinidad and Tobago. Sport Psychology is an interdisciplinary science that combines knowledge from the fields of Kinesiology and Psychology and analyses the effects of psychological factors on performance and how participation in sport and exercise affect psychological and physical factors.

Today applied sport psychology is widely accepted by many professional athletes worldwide who have seen and benefited from the positive effects that building psychological strength has on the athlete. So why is it that locally, there is still a stereotype that when one uses the services of a ‘Sport Psychology Professional’, they are seemingly “crazy”? As a Sport Psychology professional and athlete myself, this question has definitely awakened within me, a yearning to edify and inculcate the aspects of a profession that are so very relevant to the modern day athlete.

Though nothing but a fledgling taking flight in comparison to many others in this profession, I embrace this as it brings forth the possibility of gaining new knowledge with every task even as I teach others. Sport Psychology, is indeed the unsharpened tool in the shed full of sporting professions such as Managers, Coaches, Physiotherapists, and the like that are better understood and in constant demand in Trinidad and Tobago. This nonetheless, makes it any less significant.

Why not chat with the athlete who experiences severe anxiety before competitions, or unable to cope under pressure or the athlete who was denied a spot on his Varsity Basketball team, but later grew up and rebounded to silence critics and become ‘basketball royalty’? Yes Michael Jordan was not always the strong and confident MVP he became; he attributed learning mental skills and how to apply them to his game as one of the major components of his success, which brings us back to his reply to that reporter:

“The mental part is the hard part because you have to take everything you’ve learned and tie that back into the physical part of the game, physically it is a little bit easier, but the mental part is the hardest part and I think that is the part that separates the good players from the great players.”

Perhaps its quotes like these that will help inspire the upcoming talent in not just basketball, but rather, the multitude of athletes worldwide in diverse sporting disciplines who thirst for success. Hopefully it will also urge them to tap into that “Intangible Resource” known as the mind and explore beyond the limits and boundaries of the ordinary athlete, to eventually become something much greater than they could ever have imagined.

Kamasha Robertson B.Sc., M.Sc. is a Sports and Exercise Psychology Consultant (Kamasha Robertson & Associates). At present she is a Sport Psychology Officer at the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) she is also a long time High Performance Badminton Player and Pan American Certified Umpire in her sport.