Thursday, June 22, 2006


Sport psychology is all the rage in the media these days. Okay, so that might be a slight exaggeration, but it is making headway.

First there was on article on Cal St. Fullerton and the fact that they brought their sport psychologist Ken Ravizza with them to Omaha for the College World Series. Ravizza is very well known in the field and actually co-authored an article with Tom Osborne on pre-play routines in football. Anyway, the point of the article is that Fullerton would likely need his help given that were recovering from a 13-inning loss to North Carolina and would need four straight wins to reach the championship series.

One of Ravizza’s gimmicks is to place a miniature toilet in the dugout that the players can use to “flush” away bad plays and negative thoughts. While this sort of thing seems hokey, players really appear to benefit from it. I’ve had athletes turn their back to bad plays to signify “putting it behind them”, and others suggest picking up grass or dirt to “throw away” a mistake. All of these symbols seem to trigger the brain move beyond past efforts and start fresh with a positive outlook.

ESPN also talked about Ravizza and his toilet in their coverage of the Fullerton game. I happened to catch that while eating lunch with Lauren’s family. Lauren’s jaw dropped when she heard the announcer say “sport psychologist”. Apparently for the last year or so, she thought I was making this stuff up.

Something else I liked from the Ravizza article is this:

"These aren't just sports skills, they're life skills," Ravizza said. "It's about dealing with rejection and dealing with frustration and bouncing back, and that's why I love doing what I do.

"I see some of these guys 15 years from now and they come up to me and they say, 'Hey, Ken, I'm using this stuff more now than I did as a player.' It's beautiful. That's really what sports are about, and we forget it at times."

The second story discusses a US sport psychologist’s work with the Spain World Cup team. Spain is known in the soccer community as perennial underachievers. They always seem to have one of the most talented teams, but have had little success in recent years. They have hired Leonard Zaichkowsky, a Boston University professor to work with their team.

Zaichkowsky has worked to provide the team with positive reinforcement, has led trust-building exercises, has created highlight reels for each player, and also meets with players individually and in groups. These steps seem to be paying off as Spain has won 24 straight games and will advance to the knock-out round of this World Cup.

My favorite part of this article is that Zaichkowsky is asked about the Ukraine coach, former Soviet soccer star Oleg Blokhin, who had enforced a celibacy rule in his training camp. Zaichkowsky wasn't impressed.

“There's no good science on that stuff,” he says. “Aragones (Spain’s coach) wants things to be as normal as possible. After Wednesday's game, he said, `OK boys, you're free until Friday night.”

I vigorously applaud Zaichkowsky’s pro-orgy stance. My only question is why would there be “good science” on pre-competition fornication? On second thought maybe it's not too late to change my dissertation topic.


Blogger mom said...

Don't change the topic. Just get the darn thing done so you can get out there in the profession and get your name known. I'm smiling as I write this.

6/22/2006 7:37 AM  

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