Sport Performance

Feel Good About Your Sport Performance

Many great players have pursued honing a perfect technique in order to improve their consistency and improve results. Players like Tiger Woods and Serena Williams are perfectionists. They have learned how to get away with the “perfectionist mindset.”

Sport Psychologist Patrick Cohen noted perfectionists have an intense work ethic. They are driven. They have desire. They are motivated. Perfectionists have a great practice mentality. They are always on time. They have a love for practice. They are comfortable in their practice routine. They want to get better. And, they are coachable. In fact, coaches love them, because they hang on everything they say. Great things can happen with being a perfectionist.

However, the problems of perfectionism seem to emerge during competition. Suddenly, it begins to influence how an athlete plays and thinks. Why does this happen? “At its core are the setting of unrealistic goals, a self-focus on performance, and self-criticism over flaws and mistakes,” wrote Jeff Elison of Adams State College and Julie Partridge of Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The athlete tries too hard to be perfect. The perfectionist carries a high, often unrealistic expectation during competition. Outcome focus results rather than process focus. Suddenly, the athlete worries too much about what others think—coach, parents, friends, competition. Over thinking interferes with performance, a “paralysis of analysis” syndrome induces underperformance by over thinking. Confidence becomes fragile, and emotions oscillate. The athlete becomes easily upset. “Shame is one of the many emotions that can result from an athletic performance,” noted Elison and Partridge.

When perfection interferes with competition, the athlete needs to trust in his skills and be free to perform. As Bob Rotella said, “Train it and trust it.”

We need to understand the difference between skill and technique. Technique is an efficient way of performing a task. Skill is the ability to get a task completed, irrespective of style or technique. Skill is a feeling and more freedom focused; technique is rigid and compartmentalized.

Most athletes who strive to be perfectionist have some level of skill, but in their quest to improve their consistency, they over focus on technique and as a result their skill diminishes.

The desire to play perfectly, consistently, and mistake-free (like a machine) is an emotional one. Mistakes become painful.

Athletes, who attach their self-confidence to playing abilities, need to first trust in themselves, second trust in their skills, and third trust their technique.

So do we abandon technique and focus on skill? No way! Just as we want to improve skill, so we want to improve technique by focusing on improving technical competence while avoiding perfection. “Ultimately,” wrote Lynda Mainwaring, “a positive and perfect performance is about doing one’s best, feeling good about the performance, and feeling good about one’s self. This is about adaptive performance perfection, or mastery, not adaptive perfectionism.”


Dr. Kevin Goddu, Ph.D.
Head Golf Professional
Butter Brook Golf Club
Westford, MA




Athlete’s Ups and Downs

Athlete’s Ups and Downs

Sports & Performance Psychology – Athlete’s Ups and Downs

After European Championship of Brazilian Jiujitsu, I talked with some athletes about the ups and downs experienced after losing a contest, and how to get back on track with the right perspective. 

I wanted to write about this particular subject, because I’ve seen up close how harmful and damaging can be for athlete’s self image, the emotional impact of a lost fight or when things are not going accordingly with the plan.

I’ve been studying the complexity of feelings and emotions felt by the athlete in this situation because I wanna give you inspiration and power to go forward with your dream, knowing that what you feel is perfectly normal and it is a part of the process to your success.

Definitely being an athlete has its benefits, you get to train and play the sports you love while competing against the best in your league. In sports, there are times you win and there are times you will lose. It is important to keep an open mind and not get too down or get too excited.

Some people will get into a depression state when they lose, on the other hand, others will desire to work unstoppable until they hurt themselves, thinking that losing has only to do with training harder.

Others will tell themselves that if they could have done this, or that, then they wouldn’t have lost. But isn’t true, sport is like life, we can’t control everything. But we can learn and grow by experiencing bad days, and really enjoy it and be thankful for the good ones, keeping in mind that not always is going to be a smooth ride.

What’s really important for you, is to learn from mistakes, but you shouldn’t let it consume your energy or spend time over thinking and over analyzing. If it happens to be the athlete that gets down, which is perfectly normal time to time, there are several healthier and better ways to cope with negative feelings after a lost contest.

You should try to:

 👉 Focus on the Present ( vs past /future), go back in training, body and mind.

 👉 Focus on the Positive ( vs negative / mistake), and remove the negative from your mind. There are going to be ups and downs for everyone in their journey, even for the best of the best.

👉 Focus on the Process ( vs. outcome / results ), at this stage you my think about your next game and plan out how you will not make the same mistake twice. You should remember the times that you excelled / and helped your team win.

👉 Be Grateful and enjoy the moment, don’t look ahead, it is a time for everything.

Agree ?




What is Happiness?

More then often we are so consumed with our daily lives that we forget to take a look at the larger picture of who we are and what we need to be happy.


We work, raise our children, and manage our chores, but it takes an extraordinary event such as a life-threatening illness, or the death of a loved one, to focus our attention on the meaning of our lives.

Pleasure theory has been around since the days of ancient Greece and is well-represented in modern-day society and academic psychology. Socrates pondered the idea that pleasure is the basis of morality; he wondered if pleasure indicates moral good and pain indicates evil.

Epicurus, the greatest of all pleasure theorists, believed that the key to a happy life was to minimize stomach distress, or anxiety, by changing one’s attitudes and beliefs. His rational emotive philosophy was popular for 700 years in ancient Greece and Rome.

More recently, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner used pleasure theory to justify the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Psychologist N. M. Bradburn said that the quality of a person’s life can be measured by the excess of positive over negative feelings. So is maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain the ultimate key to human happiness? No. When I was in the hospital analyzing what made my life satisfying, I didn’t focus on the parties. In fact, pleasure and pain were not even considerations.

If pleasure is not what drives us, what does? What desires must we fulfill to live a happy life? To find out what really drives human behavior, a study was made on graduate students and other 6,000 people from many stations in life which values are most significant in motivating their behavior and in contributing to their sense of happiness. After the findings ware analyzed to learn how different motives are related and what is behind their root meanings.

The results of research showed that nearly everything we experience as meaningful can be traced to one of 16 basic desires or to some combination of these desires. So was developed a standardized psychological test, called the Reiss Profile, to measure the 16 desires.

Happiness defined



Harvard social psychologist William McDougall wrote that people can be happy while in pain and unhappy while experiencing pleasure; To understand this, two kinds of happiness must be distinguished: feel-good and value-based.

Feel-good happiness is sensation-based pleasure. When we joke around or have sex, we experience feel-good happiness. Since feel-good happiness is ruled by the law of diminishing returns, the kicks get harder to come by. This type of happiness rarely lasts longer than a few hours at a time.

Value-based happiness is a sense that our lives have meaning and fulfill some larger purpose. It represents a spiritual source of satisfaction, stemming from our deeper purpose and values. We experience value-based happiness when we satisfy any of the 16 basic desires–the more desires we satisfy, the more value-based happiness we experience. Since this form of happiness is not ruled by the law of diminishing returns, there is no limit to how meaningful our lives can be.

Malcolm X’s life is a good example of both feel-good and value-based happiness. When racial discrimination denied him the opportunity to pursue his childhood ambition of becoming a lawyer, he turned to a life of partying, drugs and sex. Yet this pleasure seeking produced little happiness–by the age of 21, he was addicted to cocaine and sent to jail for burglary.

He had experienced a lot of pleasure, yet he was unhappy because his life was inconsistent with his own nature and deeper values. He had known feel-good happiness but not value-based happiness.

After reaching rock bottom, he embraced the teachings of the Nation of Islam and committed himself to his most fundamental values. He led his followers toward greater social justice, married, had a family of his own and found happiness. Although he experienced less pleasure and more anxiety as a leader, he was much happier because he lived his life in accordance with his values.

The 16 basic desires make us individuals. Although everybody embraces these desires, individuals prioritize them differently. Al Gore, for example, has a very strong desire for power. This desire makes him happy when he is in a leadership role, when he gives advice to others, or when he shows how competent and smart he is.

George W. Bush has a strong desire for social contact. This desire makes him happy when he socializes and unhappy when he spends a lot of time alone. The two politicians place very different values on the basic desires of power and social contact, which is reflected in their personalities–Gore tends to be overbearing and overeager to get ahead, and Bush tends to be a good ol’ boy.

Although everybody wants to attain a certain status, individuals differ in how motivated they are to obtain it. Jackie Kennedy Onassis, for example, had a passion for status–she needed to be wealthy to be truly happy. By obtaining wealth, she thought that she could satisfy her deep desire for respect from her upper-class peers. She spent much of her life pursuing wealth by marrying two multimillionaires.

In contrast, Howard Hughes did not care much about status-he didn’t care about what people thought of him and spent little time trying to earn their respect. While Jackie Kennedy Onassis placed high value on gaining status and the respect of her social peers, Howard Hughes had both but neither made him happy.

Revenge is another goal that motivates people differently. Now that Regis Philbin has hit the big time with his show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” why does he keep reminding us of the times he had been passed over earlier in his career? By embarrassing those who lacked faith in him, Philbin is gaining a measure of revenge.

In comparison, John F. Kennedy Jr. did not go after people who criticized him or his family. Revenge can be fun, but it is more motivating for some than for others.

The 16 basic desires

You cannot find enduring happiness by aiming to have more fun or by seeking pleasure. What you need to do, as the 19th-century philosopher J.S. Mill observed, is to satisfy your basic desires and take happiness in passing. First, use the test to figure out who you are.

Find out which of the 16 desires provide the most meaning in your life. How strongly are you motivated to obtain a successful marriage, career or family? Do you love a good meal and dining out? Must you be physically fit to be happy? Fortunately, you do not have to satisfy all 16 desires, only the five or six most important to you.

After you identify your most important desires, you need to find effective ways to satisfy them. There is a catch, however. Shortly after you satisfy a desire, it reasserts itself, motivating you to satisfy the desire all over again. After a career success, for example, you feel competent, but only for a period of time. Therefore, you need to satisfy your desires repeatedly.

How can we repeatedly satisfy our most important basic desires and find value-based happiness? Most people turn to relationships, careers, family, leisure and spirituality to satisfy their most important desires.

Since we have the potential to satisfy our basic desires through relationships, we can find greater happiness by finding new relationships or by improving the ones we already have. After looking at the 16 basic desires and estimating the five or six most important to you, do the same for your partner, or have your partner take the test. Compare the two lists-the strengths of your relationship are indicated by similar desires, and the weaknesses are indicated by disparate desires.

Shelly and Sam are a good case in point. Before they married, both placed value on romance, fitness and socializing, but they differed on whether or not they should have children. Shelly secretly thought she could change Sam’s mind. When Sam still did not want children after a few years of marriage, Shelly did not take her birth control pills one night and ended up having a baby boy. Sam loved his boy, but he didn’t enjoy raising him.


What can Shelly and Sam do to improve their relationship and regain happiness?



Counseling is worth a try, but even with the best counselor it will be difficult for them to resolve their differences.

Their problem is that they prioritize the basic desire for family differently-one enjoys raising children, the other doesn’t.

The desire for family, which is not easily changed, has pulled them in different directions, turning a happy marriage into an unhappy one. Their best bet to improve their relationship may be to set aside time for activities that satisfy the desires that bind them. If they set aside time to put the romance back in their lives, maybe the strong points in the relationship will outweigh the weak ones. Ultimately, that is the judgment we all must make, because few relationships are perfect.

Our basic desires can also be satisfied through work. Steven Spielberg, for example, honored his Jewish heritage when he made the movie Schindler’s List, the Academy award-winning film about the Holocaust. When Spielberg thinks about this accomplishment, he feels a sense of loyalty to his Jewish heritage, an intrinsically valued feeling that satisfies the desire for honor.

Rocky Graziano also found valued-based happiness through his career. Graziano was a fighter–that was who he was and who he wanted to be. He was an unhappy juvenile delinquent who got himself into fistfights. But when he became a boxer–rising to the rank of middleweight champion–he finally found work that provided a socially acceptable means for him to satisfy his passion for vengeance. Fighting had gone from a source of displeasure to a source of happiness in his life.

One way to become happier is to find a job or career that is more fulfilling than the one you have now. To do this, you need to analyze how you can use work to better satisfy your five or six most important basic desires. If you have a high desire for acceptance, for example, you need work that exposes you to little evaluation and potential criticism. If you have a high desire for order, you need work that involves minimal ambiguity and exposes you to few changes. If you are a curious person, you need a job that makes you think.

Our basic desires can also be satisfied through leisure activities. Watching sports, for example, provides us with opportunities to repeatedly experience the intrinsically valued feelings of competition, loyalty, power and revenge. When Brandi Chastain kicked the winning field goal and the United States won the 1999 World Cup in women’s soccer, a surge of power went through the nation like a bolt of lightning–the crowd roared and people thrust their fists powerfully into the air.

Sports produces more or less the same range of intrinsically valued feelings in fans as they do in players, which is why so many people watch.

One of the deepest ways to satisfy our desires is through spirituality. We can satisfy the desire for honor by embracing the religious denomination of our parents. A psychologically important attribute of religion is the emphasis given to the desire for unity, or to open one’s heart to God. At least for some, faith is a path toward greater value-based happiness.

Value-based happiness is the great equalizer in life. You can find value-based happiness if you are rich or poor, smart or mentally challenged, athletic or clumsy, popular or socially awkward. Wealthy people are not necessarily happy, and poor people are not necessarily unhappy. Values, not pleasure, are what bring true happiness, and everybody has the potential to live in accordance with their values.

Reference (and really worth reading): 

Who Am I: The 16 Basic Desires That Motivate Out Happiness and Define Our Personalities, Steven Reiss, Ph.D. (Tarcher/Putnam, 2000)

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D. (Riverhead Books, 1998)


The 16 keys to happiness

  • To increase your value-based happiness, firs read the following statements and mark whether they describe you strongly (+), somewhat (0), or very little (-).
  • The ones that describes you strongly show the keys to your happiness-you should aim to satisfy these to increase your happiness.
  • Some tips to help you do this can be found in article, and more can be found in author’s book, Who Am I: The 16 Basic Desires That Motivate Our Happiness and Define Our Personalities.


Legend for Chart:





  1. CURIOSITY I have a thirst for knowledge. —–
  2. ACCEPTANCE I have a hard time coping with criticism. —–
  3. ORDER It upsets me when things are out of place. —–
  4. PHYSICAL ACTIVITY Physical fitness is very Important to me. —–
  5. HONOR I am a highly principled and loyal person. —–
  6. POWER I often seek leadership roles. —–
  7. INDEPENDENCE Self-reliance is essential to my happiness. —–
  8. SOCIAL CONTACT I am known as a fun-loving person. —–
  9. FAMILY My children come first. —–
  10. STATUS I am impressed by people who own expensive things. —–
  11. IDEALISM Compared with most people, I am very concerned with social causes.
  12. VENGEANCE It is very important to me to get even with those who insult or offend me. —–
  13. ROMANCE Compared with my peers, I spend much more time pursuing or having sex. —–
  14. EATING I love to eat and often fantasize about food. —–
  15. SAVING I hate throwing things away. —–
  16. TRANQUILITY It scares me when my heart beats rapidly. —–




Yoga Breathing Techniques for Weight Loss

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Is Winning-at-all-costs Everything ?

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” — Henry Russell (Red) Sanders, former UCLA and Vanderbilt football coach.

Is a “winning is everything” philosophy supported by research? No, not according to  Dr. Ron Smith, and the article published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology.

Contrary to what one might expect in a highly-competitive society, studies indicated that young athletes find playing for mastery-oriented coaches is far more important and has a bigger impact on them than a team’s won-loss record.

In fact, in terms of athletes’ ratings of how much fun they had and how much they liked playing for their coach, results showed that a mastery climate was about 10 times more influential than the team’s won-loss record.

Mastery vs. Ego Climates

A mastery climate is a learning environment that emphasizes skill development, personal and team success, maximum effort, and fun. 

This approach to coaching contrasts with an ego climate, in which the main goal is winning, and success is defined as being better than other players. Studies found that a win-at-all-costs ego climate was negatively related to athletes’ enjoyment and liking for their coach.

Research Supports a Mastery Climate

Many adults believe winning is the most important thing to kids. But our research provided convincing evidence that refutes this myth.

The study surveyed 268 boys and girls who participated in basketball programs operated by Seattle Parks and Recreation. The sample was predominantly white and middle class. The results indicated that players’ attitudes toward their coach were positively associated with the athletes’ perceptions of a mastery climate and negatively associated with perceptions of an ego climate.

Young athletes who perceived that their coach created a mastery climate:

  • Liked playing for their coach more.
  • Rated their coaches as more knowledgeable about the sport.
  • Thought their coach was better at teaching kids how to play basketball.
  • Had a greater desire to play for the coach again the following year.
  • Enjoyed their team experience more.


It’s particularly important to note that winning is relatively unimportant when it comes to youth sports. Athletes who played on more successful teams (those with better won-loss records) believed that their coach was more knowledgeable about basketball, but a winning team record was far less influential than a mastery climate.

The study replicated research we did with Little League Baseball back in the 1970s. This suggests that some things haven’t changed, because kids’ internal makeup and core values are still the same when it comes to playing sports.


Practical Implication

The results can be used to teach coaches a powerful lesson:

  • Winning isn’t everything, nor is it the only thing.
  • The key to a positive athletic experience rests solidly on the ways coaches relate to athletes and on the achievement standards that they emphasize.