Sport PsychotherapyWarwick, Warwickshire and Harley Street, London

Feature image

Sarah Steventon
High Performance Psychotherapy & Neuropsychology
Anxiety & Stress Expert
Specialist in Extreme Pressure Environments
Creating winning teams


I am often asked by managers, what the implications are of stress, anxiety and pressure on player's performance.

What research shows us, is that when someone is experiencing stress, they can't and don't perform at their best, and what we see is that when we resolve the issues, the individual starts scoring more goals, taking more wickets, scoring more tries or consistently setting better lap times – that’s the simple answer.

As a Psychotherapist, who specialises in extreme pressure environments, I often work with individuals who are under immense pressure, and if they aren't getting the right psychological support, it really can impact their performance.

I work with clients across every aspect of their mental game. This style of working isn’t about giving advice or telling you how to do things differently – this is about creating the ultimate mindset, utilising a unique combination of Neuropsychology and Neuroplasticity, the brain's natural ability to change, to achieve it.

Much research has been devoted to understanding how stress can affect sport performance in competitive settings.


What can Psychotherapy Achieve for the Individual

When things aren’t going your way, you can start to really feel the pressure. You may begin to experience a low in confidence and once this happens it can be a slippery slope, and if fear and anxiety set in, this can have a huge impact on your game - and due to the way the brain works, this can actually just become a vicious cycle.

In professional sport, the pressure is immense – and this is often not appreciated by others around you.

The pressure comes from both external and internal influences. External pressure, such as from the manger, or other team members, agents, sponsors and of course the fans. And internal pressure, from you yourself - which is actually often the most significant - and If you're a perfectionist too, it can be absolute torture.

So how do you fix it?

Well you will no doubt, already have a Performance Coach, who will work with you on some of these areas, but that will only be working at a conscious level. They may just be talking to you about how you feel, or they may utilise techniques to help you try to manage the pressure and your feelings – but obviously this is purely just that ‘managing’ it - so it won’t actually stop it happening.

Anxiety is just another word for fear, and it is common in sport, because essentially fear drives everything.

Fear of losing, fear of looking stupid, fear that you aren't as good as you believe you are, fear of getting dropped, fear of messing up, fear of failing, so fear of letting people down - the common theme here is pretty obvious.

If you don’t deal with these feelings, or 'fears', it can lead to a feeling of anxiety across the board. And anxiety has a tendency to spread. It can get so bad that it starts to affect all areas of your life, and it feels like it is starting to take over, and obviously this causes real problems.

So this is where I come in. We work together and stop any issues in their tracks.

We work with the natural brain processes - and that is a really important distinction here, in that we are working with the brain, not the mind, and this way of working is based on neuroscience, and it is actually quite a simple process.

Many sports professionals already employ coaches and sports performance psychologist to support their mental game.

In general, a sports Psychologist will usually work with you using a number of techniques including visualisation, NLP, CBT and other different techniques.

This work is different. It utilises a unique combination of Neuropsychology and Neuroplasticity to create new pathways in the brain that allow you to respond differently to any given situation, in particular the high-pressure environments.

This regulates emotions, which in turn optimises brain function to operate more effectively.

Working closely with every player, to ensure understanding of their objectives and priorities.

Whether the desired outcome is to build confidence, remove ‘Imposter Syndrome’ or limiting self-beliefs, dissolve anxiety, improve focus and concentration or create the ability to control emotions in the key matches or 'big moments' - the work is uniquely tailored to the individual's goal.

At every point, the results can be felt instantly. Tangible differences are immediately obvious for the client and continue to show through into daily lives.

The impact is seen not only in the player's performance, but in their personal life too.

If you are distracted, over-whelmed, over-thinking your game, unable to recover from mistakes, trying too hard, or you are just lacking in confidence, then this is how you can change that, and get yourself in the best mental state to achieve your personal best when it matters the most.


What can Psychotherapy Achieve for the Club

Team cohesion
More focus
Better results.

This is what the club will achieve.

The majority of the time, players don't realise they can improve their mindset. They feel that unless they have a real problem, the stress they are under, the pressure that they feel, or the negative feelings they often experience, is all just something that is part and parcel of playing professional sport.

All of the above, can and does affect their performance.

Spending millions on a player, and then not looking after their mindset, could mean the investment is wasted.

But this can be fixed.

Having a Psychotherapist, or "Mental Coach" (this can sit better with the players) permanently on the team, or working alongside the team on a regular basis, normalises it.

It makes dealing with the psychological easy to do because it feels like it is just a fundamental part of their coaching.

Having someone who is 'on their side', someone who is just there to help move all of the team forward to a winning mindset.

Due to how our lives have changed over the last decade, with social media and other factors, it has actually created a very different environment to survive in, particularly as a sports professional. In the world we live in now, there is actually more pressure and more stress and every sports person needs psychological support to thrive.

It is well known that sport has the potential for high levels of stress and anxiety, and evidence also suggests that anxiety can play a role in sport injury prevention, occurrence, rehabilitation, and the return to sport process, so this impacts both the player and the club.

So much time and focus is spent on a player's physical health.

The mental side or mental health should be as high a priority as physical health. Teams have a permanent physio - someone constantly looking after their physical health, so it really doesn't make sense not to have a permanent specialist looking after their mental health too - It should been seen as 'Physio for the brain'!

It is an outdated strategy to focus purely on the physical health of players.

The FA 4 Corner Model suggests that player development needs to be looked at from a technical, physical, psychological and social point of view – and that no corner works in isolation from the others - but are clubs actually missing that 4th corner - the psychological aspect.

Everyone knows that sport is over 50% mental - so if players don't have the right support they are only operating at 50%...just think what they could do at 100%

Having the Psychological edge is how matches are won.


click
©2020 Sport Psychotherapy — powered by WebHealer
Cookies are set by this site. To decline them or find out more visit our cookie page