A one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work. Every situation is different and requires an understanding of the unique needs of the client, whether that is an athlete, team, coach, sports administrator, sports official, or someone else. Therefore, programming must be differentiated based on needs.
Here are some general examples where I have and can assist in improved efficiency and performance. Some additional examples are presented under the Athletes, Coaches, and Others in Sports pages. Consults can be conducted either face-to-face or using web-based remote technology.
Sports administration and officiating
In 2004 I had an article published with some other colleagues that investigated the perceived roles and responsibilities of junior college athletic directors. What we found was pretty concerning: most reported being poorly prepared for their job responsibilities and felt unable to do them adequately. Many were unprepared for the ethical dilemmas that arise in the job also.
Such findings are not surprising to me: back in 2009 a colleague and myself developed and published a tool to measure stress and burnout of coaches. What we discovered as we tested it was that many coaches at all levels were experiencing stress and burnout. Being able to measure and evaluate where stress and burnout is occurring allows me to create personalized plans with the client to address those situations which they struggle with the most.
Perhaps the most forgotten individuals in sports administration are the officials. The expectation is that once officials are trained and have passed their certifications, they're good to go. Yet that's rarely the case. Have they been trained to deal with difficult situations and decisions, control their own nerves, develop cohesion within their unit, or been taught how to mentally and physically prepare for their job? More often than not, the answer is no.
Administrators and staff across sports generally lack the tools necessary to be successful over a long period of time. Stress levels and expectations are high, and without guidance and support failure is more likely than not. I work with clients to develop an overview view of the stresses and struggles experienced by these individuals before implementing specific methods to improve outcomes. Examples might include providing guidelines for resolving ethical situations, teaching relaxation techniques to an official, or evaluating personality and understanding how it affects communication and teamwork.
psychology in Sport & exercise
Many people unfamiliar with sport and exercise psychology make inaccurate assumptions about the field. Mumbo jumbo, conversations about negative childhood experiences, and other such ideas might be common. But that's not what I do!
Practical application to the setting at hand is what I do, and the focus is on the task at hand, and how to improve the situation. Areas where I can provide expert support include but are not limited to: understanding and working with different personalities, building self-confidence, managing nervous situations, controlling emotions, using self-talk and being a motivator, improving focus, using imagery, setting effective goals, building teamwork, choosing leaders and building leadership, and identifying and developing talent.
Again, each situation is different, but an initial consult usually includes a performance profile. This requires the client to provide his/her/their own interpretation of their strengths and weaknesses and what areas they perceive need help. Once clearly identified, I can work with the client to develop an individualized plan of improvement that fits their schedule and personality. For example, I once worked with a high level table tennis player who was struggling to break into the elite levels of the sport. With only limited coaching support, he had done well, but he didn't know what was missing. Using the initial performance profile we were able to clearly identify what specific challenges he faced and how we could improve them.
I was once approached by a coach whose team began the season in fine form, but their performances dropped off over the course of the season, and they performed at their worst during national championships. Why? Following a complete analysis of their nutrition it was discovered that they were not consuming enough calories, and their bodies were burning their muscle mass as fuel. They were becoming weaker throughout the season!
Understanding the client's goals and evaluating them against their current nutrition is imperative to developing a sound plan when it comes to nutrition. Typically, I work with the client to develop and analyze the current status of the client's diet before making any recommendations. Then, combining my training in sport and exercise psychology, I work with the client to develop a realistic approach to achieving nutritional goals.
It is important to understand that many registered dieticians and nutritional counselors lack first hand experience of competitive sports. They lack the knowledge to empathize with being on the road, not being able to eat perfectly, and the challenges associated with fueling the bodies during training and tournaments. My own competitive experiences complement my training to allow me to provide realistic and effective guidance.
Strength & conditioning
"I'm not going to work out hard until I'm in the NFL," I heard one Division II football player tell his teammate one day in the gym. Or how about the strong defensive back who checks out the generic workout of the day on the board and tells his weaker cornerback teammate that it's easy for one of them.
I was horrified one day to see a swim coach requiring his athletes to push a weight down the hallway as fast as they could. There was one weight for the men and one for the women. For the sprinters, it was easy. For the endurance swimmers, it was horrific. Let's not forget the golf coach who makes his athletes run six miles before practice if there are disciplinary issues. How does the run physically and mentally impact the rest of practice?
Unfortunately, these examples above are all too common. As a board member of the Oklahoma National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), as well as a certified powerlifting and weightlifting instructor, I have a wealth of experience in designing and implementing safe and effective weight training programs. Periodization, and understanding that training should be cyclical based on the time of season, is crucial to success.
Also important is understanding the uniqueness of each athlete and the sport and position they play. I work with coaches to break down their current plans to provide an outsider's view on what might or might not be more efficient and effective.