Sport Psychology in the NBA
A few weeks ago, I was so happy to read about my favorite NBA team, the Indiana Pacers (yes, wherever Larry Bird goes, I follow), having their own sport psychologist. The article from Indystar.com is pretty much about Chris Carr, the team sport psychologist, and the kind of work he does with the Pacers.
I love the article because I can relate to it so much on a personal level. Carr was a student athlete (college football in the States) who had a strong background in counseling before establishing a solid career as a sport psychologist in the NBA. While I never reached the collegiate level as an athlete, I did play high school hoops at the varsity level and continue to actively play different sports up to now. Coupled with my formal background and experience in counseling, I’ve pretty much followed a similar path as Carr.
Aside from our similar backgrounds, I could relate a lot with his actual experience applying “sport psy” with the Pacers. The article brought me back to those two years I worked closely with the FEU men’s basketball team when we nearly won the UAAP title in both those years. It was a good walk down memory lane remembering the team activities with players, the locker room camaraderie, the game-time experiences, and the solitary nights analyzing individual sessions and splicing inspirational video clips.
More than the personal connection, the article plays a very hopeful and positive tune for the field of sport psychology. Not only does it show how much more sport psychology has been widely accepted in mainstream sports (you can’t get any more mainstream than the NBA, and half of the teams have a sport psychologist already!), the testimonials of high-profile players such as the all-star Paul George show that it actually helps the players a lot. You’ll read about how Carr teaches players mental techniques not just for game-time performance, but for other not-so-glamorous areas such as coping with injuries (and getting past the trauma) and acceptance of roles.
The article is also a good reference for people who want to know more about the subject. I’ve come across athletes, athletic directors, team managers, coaches, and parents asking me what a sport psychologist does. One of my older posts describes the “textbook” roles of a sport psychologist, but this article gives a a more in-depth look at the varied activities and tasks of a sport psychologist. It also dispels the notion that sport psychology applies only to individual sports like golf, tennis, or swimming. As in my experience with FEU and even the national boxing team, I conducted team sessions and group activities often aside from my individual sessions with players.
I’ve been practicing sport psy for around six years now and it’s so uplifting to see how it is also becoming more widely accepted now in the Philippines. I’ve been getting more inquiries lately compared to before, signifying a slowly but surely increasing demand for the service, and articles such as this only helps the field further.
Toward the end of the article, Chris Carr says, ““If a player utilizes me and I help them, then that’s awesome.” For me, if just a few more people within our sporting industry discover and understand more about sport psychology, then that would be awesome.