Knoxville sports psychologist talks mental training

(WBIR - Knoxville) So far during the Sochi Olympic games some athletes have buckled under the pressure, while others have claimed gold.

A Knoxville sports psychologist gave 10News an inside look at the mental game that plays a large part in becoming an Olympian.

Dr. Craig Wrisberg retired from teaching at the University of Tennessee in 2011. He is now a professor emeritus at the school.

As a sports psychologist, Wrisberg has provided mental training services for many professional athletes.

Wrisberg recalled his time mentally training a swimmer who qualified for the Olympic trials saying, "How do you want to feel and what do you want to remind yourself of? She started practicing those in her training sessions and then she started going to competitions and her times kept coming down, coming down."

In recent years, Wrisberg has noticed more athletes seeking mental training. During his sessions, he works with the athlete to figure out what barriers he or she needs to remove to perform at a personal best.

"They'll say, 'I don't know what happened. That's not me. That's not the way I play. I'm better than that.' And they are," Wrisberg said.

He went on to say, "Everybody wants to be mentally tough but mental toughness takes practice. And you have to commit to introducing mental skills into your practices."

According to Wrisberg, St. Louis Blues Winger T.J. Oshie showed mental toughness in those final moments between the USA men's hockey team and Russia: an eight-round shootout ended in a winning shot by Oshie, securing a 3-2 win against Russia.

"I loved Oshie's comment and I don't know if he's working with a mental training consultant but he acts like it," Wrisberg explained.

He went on to say, "He said, 'It's like me and the puck and it's just me thinking, How am I going to beat this guy?' That's all he needed to be thinking about."

Among Wrisberg's accomplishments, he has personally assisted 42 NCAA champions.

To find a performance consultant, visit the Association for Applied Sport Psychology.


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