Dr. Zito’s sport psychology interventions are appropriate for professional, Olympic, elite, collegiate, high school and youth athletes as well as coaches and teams. Sport psychology interventions reflect the art and science of maximizing athletic performance, but does not lose sight of the person within the athlete or performer. This means that an athlete needs a balanced perspective about sport performance which accounts for their personal needs as well. Sport psychology techniques reflect the interplay of mental and physical aspects of sport and the subsequent effect on performance. The techniques are also applicable to non-sport performers (i.e., dancers, musicians, business personnel, military and special operation forces). Dr. Zito has worked with a variety of sport and non-sport performers, teams and coaches. He worked with a skater who qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Sport psychology assessment and intervention can occur on an individual, coach-athlete or team basis.
Athletes can improve their performance by developing the mental skills of elite athletes. Here are some mental skills quotes from some elite athletes:
“Practice is 90% physical and 10% mental, competition is 10% physical and 90% mental.”
-Mark Spitz, Olympic Gold Medallist
“To be a champion, you have to believe in yourself even when no one else will.”
-Sugar Ray Robinson, World Champion Boxer
“Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.”
-Michael Jordan, Basketball Great
“I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you put the work and time into it. I think your mind really controls everything.”
-Michael Phelps, Olympic Swimmer
Professional and elite athletes often have the mental skills listed below and usually only need to refine what they already have. Athletes not at that level likely need to develop elite mental skills by improving one or more of the following:
- Positive self-talk
- Attention and focus
- Consistent intensity
- Emotion management
- Composure under pressure
- Relaxation techniques
- Goal setting
- Decision making
The goal of sport psychology intervention is to create an optimal psychological mindset that leads to automaticity in executing an athletic task. This is also referred to as “being in the zone.”
One of the most common reasons athletes seek sport psychology interventions is for performance anxiety that contributes to under performance. Dr. Zito has developed the 3 Ps model of performance enhancement to address this. He teaches the following:
This Cognitive-Behavioral model promotes productive thinking and has been helpful to many athletes to reduce their performance anxiety. In working with athletes, Dr. Zito teaches them that the pursuit of excellence in sport develops skills that can be used in life.
Coaches can be helped to understand how much power they have to influence athletic performance. Coaches can learn how to develop a high performance team climate and deliberate practice routines, and provide feedback in a way that promotes consistent and maximal performance. Dr. Zito has conducted intervention research that shows how coach perception of athletic proficient can be enhanced by using sport specific statistics. Coaches can also be taught how to incorporate psychological skills into their regular training routines. At the youth level, strategies to manage parents can also be discussed.
Teams can receive mental skills training sessions to enhance performance. Team building workshops can also be conducted. Leadership training is also available.
Parents can learn how to be a good sport parent by developing a realistic approach to sport that fosters the understanding that 95% of athletes end their competitive sport careers in high school. Therefore, for most athletes the purpose of sports should be to develop healthy exercise habits, sense of community, self-esteem through achievement of age appropriate benchmarks, and teach important life skills. Parents can promote continuation in sport by keeping the enjoyment in sport by providing a supportive and positive feedback. The number 1 reason why kids play sport is for fun not winning.