Services > Sport Psychology > Athletes


My work with athletes ranges from teen athletes (e.g., swimmers or basketball players on high school teams) to varsity athletes (e.g., university volleyball teams) to recreational athletes (e.g., those training for a 5K race, a triathlon, or the Ironman race or those hoping to improve a golf game) to elite athletes (e.g., Canadian Olympic medal winners).

The focus of sport psychology is on helping the athlete effectively manage pressures so he or she can meet the demands of training and competition. Some of my sport psychology work includes:

• thought-control strategies (e.g., monitoring self-talk, positive thinking);
• attention-focusing strategies (e.g., concentration, creating an optimum performance zone, or facilitating the experience of “flow”);
• emotional-control strategies (e.g., relaxation, visualization, arousal control); and
• behavioural strategies (e.g., sleep, rest, routines, control of the environment).

Athletes at all levels will also benefit from consistent support through short-term and long-term goal setting and strategizing for training and competition.

Performance pressure or too much emphasis on winning and competition can undermine young athletes’ intrinsic motivation and their love for sport. When intrinsic motivation decreases, the external rewards of competition are often not sufficient enough to sustain a young athlete’s interest and commitment to sport. Many young athletes also identify other reasons for dropping out of sport, such as other interests, wanting to hang out with different friends, or not being able to meet expectations of or handle pressure from parents or coaches.

Coach–parent relationships can often complicate matters further for an overwhelmed young athlete. Parents are concerned about the trend of starting their children in sports at very early age and the emphasis on year-long involvement in a sport, which can lead to athlete (and parent) burnout. Children who start playing sports at a very young age often miss out on other social activities. Many talented athletes drop out of sports between the ages of 13 and 17 due to burnout.

In addition to athlete burnout, coaches often struggle with how to manage “problem” parents. One of the roles of a sport psychologist is to work collaboratively with parents and coaches to facilitate a healthy and balanced athletic environment, develop a “code of conduct” for parents and coaches, and establish realistic expectations for young athletes. The focus of my work is on providing support for young athletes and helping them re-connect with their passion for sport. Sports are about having fun, learning new skills, gaining self-confidence and improving self-esteem, becoming physically fit, experiencing the excitement of competition, and making new connections, and it’s my job as a sport psychologist to promote these benefits.