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Advocating For a Written Sport Psychology Curriculum for Youth and School Sports Teams
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The athletic directors speak...

February 4, 2007, The Hartford Courant, High School Sports by Steve Phelps, Athletic Director, Rockville High School, Vernon CT, "Mind Working With Body -- A Work In Progress"

"For the past two years, the Rockville High School athletic department has been engaged in a program called Our student athletes learn about and practice the mind-body behavior/performance connection.

They are learning how to be mentally tough enough to control their thoughts, evaluate situations, and make the right choices in their lives. While in just two years, we cannot claim success in all cases, we have definitely noticed a growth in understanding from both our coaches and players as to what it takes to exhibit self control. But we are a work in progress and still learning."

January 6, 2007
Steve Phelps, athletic director for Rockville High School in Vernon, CT, forwarded the following email from an IAABO official to me. How many athletic directors would love to get an email like this?

To: Rockville High School Administrators,Teachers, Coaches, Members of the Boys Basketball Team, and Basketball Parents

I had the pleasure of officiating the boys varsity basketball game between Wethersfield High School and Rockville High School on the evening of Friday, January 5, 2007. I have never officiated a game that included such a polite and well mannered players as the members of the Rockville Boys Basketball Team. The players never whined about any close calls, and respected their opponents, their coaches, and the officials. They seemed to be playing for fun, something that I don't often see in the high pressure atmosphere of many high school basketball programs.

There were several instances that come to mind from the game that I would like to share with you:

During the pregame warm-ups, one of the Rockville players gave me a pat on the shoulder. He didn't say anything to me, but the pat seemed to imply, "Welcome to Rockville High School. You're going to see some great basketball, and we're all going to have some fun tonight". No player has ever done that to me before.

During the pregame meeting between the captains, coaches, and officials, it appeared that I had missed shaking hands with one of the Rockville captains. He sought me out, said "Don't forget me", shook my hand, and gave me a chest bump. I'm fifty-three years old, and this was the first chest bump that I've ever received.

On a few occasions, after players dived on the floor, some sweat made the floor slippery. In one case, I asked the Rockville team bench for a towel to wipe up the sweat from the playing surface. As I was about to bend down to wipe up the sweat, a Rockville player said to me, "I'll do it for you", and proceeded, on his hands and knees, to wipe up the area.

After a Rockville player tried to steal the ball from a Wethersfield player, his hand became entangled in the opponents jersey, and he hung on for a second. I had no choice in this case but to call an intentional foul. Most intentional foul calls are made against players in the act of shooting, where the defender pushes the shooter from behind, so some of the Rockville players seemed to politely question my call. One of the Rockville players immediately said to his teammates, "One of you must have grabbed his shirt", which was not only the correct interpretation, but also calmed down his anxious teammates.

There were several instances, where after a close call was made against the Rockville team, one of the players would say to me, loud enough for his teammates to hear, "Good call".

Somebody must be setting great examples for these young men. As a former middle school basketball coach, and a veteran official, I would like to thank the Rockville High School administrators, teachers, coaches, and the players' parents, for teaching these players how to have fun, possibly win some games, but in all cases, show some class on the court.


William H. McKernan, International Association of Approved Basketball Officials, Central Connecticut Board # 6

October 20, 2005

Gary Doherty, athletic director and head football coach for Framingham High School, is implementing a written curriculum on his team. He writes:

"I am talking to them differently than before we implemented this mental skill training. It is helping me and it is helping them. We had three incidents last Saturday that bothered me: a block in the back resulting in a penalty, a slap to the head of the opponent as retaliation, and an insult thrown at one of our players by his own teammate. I told them that these three things showed mental weakness and that we cannot come out of the game feeling good about ourselves when we are mentally weak. I told them that we needed to be stronger mentally. That means thinking about what we are thinking about and making changes to our mentally weak thoughts. We know when they happen. We need to get control of them."

October 18, 2005

Steve Phelps, the athletic director for Rockville High School in Vernon, CT, who, with his coaches, just started to implement the full curriculum with teams this Fall, says:

"I feel we have been successful this year because we are making progress -- progress in our work ethic and how we relate with each other in a positive manner. I think our kids are wonderful people, this year, I've yet to have a disciplinary problem. I've gotten compliments from other schools and parents about what we are doing at Rockville High . I want to see something that is continuous, where our effort is being made throughout the days, months and years ahead. That's when we can judge whether we were truly successful. But there is no question, we are making progress with this concept of being aware of our thoughts and how they affect our behavior, on and off the field."

January 12, 2005

Written to a coach from Athletic Director Steve Boone, Lunenburg High School, Lunenburg, MA.

I wanted to congratulate you on your win last night. You demonstrated how a class program operates. You could have blown that team out of the gym. Instead you put in your bench players early and often. Thus, allowing them to gain valuable game experience and be part of a positive educational experience. I was impressed with the way you handled to game. I think that you were right on track with the curriculum. We are moving in the right direction. This was an all around great win.

November 22, 2004

Written by Khari Roulhac, Athletic Director for Cathedral High School, Boston, MA,wrote about how, after four years of workshops, he is now giving workshops to the new kids.

What I began doing in the fall is pulling out new kids and doing the workshop with them. All the kids get the curriculum and questions, goal setting sheets etc, including older kids. I put the responsibility on the coaches to reinforce with the older and the new kids daily thought provoking buzz words and practices. I think I am all set without your coming in. I'll let you know if I need you. Feel free to tell the NCAA that the program continues at CHS.

November 8, 2004

Written as the Foreword to Lunenberg High School's Curriculum & Text, Players' Edition, by Mike Barney, Principal of Lunenburg High School.

To Coaches and Students:

If we want to improve as administrators, coaches or players, learning and practicing how to think to succeed is a good place to start. Teaching and practicing mental skills represents an additional fundamental shift in what we stress in sport because, at Lunenburg High School, we now will have a written curriculum that points out clearly what and how to practice the mental side of sport.

By following this curriculum, we can improve our focus, improve our self-worth, and create a positive environment for others and ourselves. By doing these things, we will all win!

T.J. Williams, Athletic Director, Newton North High School, Newton, MA,

In Fall, 2000, we started using the workshops with many of our athletes and teams. In Fall, 2001, we put in the written sports psychology curriculum for all our sports teams. In Fall, 2002, more and more coaches are enthusiastically supporting this program to the point that the culture of sport in our school is much more mentally- driven and far less outcome-oriented. Without hesitation, I recommend this program to you. This is a wonderful resource for any student, athlete, coach or administrator. I urge all to take advantage of this excellent program.

We have been searching for some time for something to rejuvenate the athletic program here. Morale had been low in students. The workshops offer something of great value; students can learn how to motivate themselves.. Through goal setting, practicing the skill of maximum effort, and being supportive of their teammates, student/athletes are able to see results and are able to identify a link between their sports life and their life in the classroom and beyond.
Khari Roulhac
Athletic Director, Cathedral High School, Boston, MA

What did do for us? It psyched us. We originally went after this program to bring the mental aspect of sport to our kids. After the coaches and athletes went through the session with Mitch, we could see a change in how both approached practices-- how the little things became habit-- how attitude and positive thoughts brought about better performance. The program became more important not only from an athletic viewpoint, but in its carryover value to the classroom and beyond. We expect our athletes to be exemplary role models both in their behavior and work ethic. We are looking forward to continuing this program and adding the layers to the foundation that was built this fall. The written curriculum makes the program easy for the coaches to follow. The reinforcement techniques enhance our athletes' ability to work on focus and concentration. Get psyched with Get Psyched Sports. It will pay great dividends for your athletes, coaches and program."
Joan Dautel, Athletic Director, Fairborn High School, Fairborn, Ohio interested me because they have a real plan that makes logical sense. Mitch Lyons, the founder and President of, came to speak to all of our coaches at our pre-season meeting. Now three of our programs have begun using a written curriculum based in sports psychology which teaches valuable life skills such as goal-setting, positive attitudes toward self and others, and learning to pay attention to details for increased chances for the best possible outcome. Focusing on these skills, as what we are learning in athletics at this school, enhances our program tremendously. The evaluations of the workshops by coaches and students who have taken the hour-and-a-half workshop have been outstanding. I'm very excited about the future of this program in Reading.
Phil Vaccaro
Athletic Director, Reading High School, Reading, MA

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