The old days of psychotherapy involved passively lying on a couch while talking about the past. For Dr. Jim Taylor, those days never existed. The bay area sports psychologist keeps athletes off the couch and helps them focus on a successful future.
Dr. Taylor has consulted for the U.S. and Japanese ski teams, the U.S. Tennis Association, and USA Triathlon. Individually he has worked with world-class athletes in tennis, skiing, cycling, triathlon, track and field, swimming, football, golf, baseball, and many other sports. Taylor has authored The Triathlete’s Guide to Mental Training and Prime Sport: Triumph of the Athlete’s Mind,
A former alpine ski racer who competed internationally, Dr. Taylor is also a 2nd degree black belt and certified instructor in karate, a marathon runner, and an Ironman triathlete.
byteclay.com recently spoke with Dr. Taylor about how he helps athletes perform better.
Mark Davis: What does a sports psychologist do to help athletes?
Jim Taylor: A sports psychologist works with mentally healthy athletes who have big goals and want to train their mind the same way they train their body. I help provide a mental toolbox, a set of tools to help them deal with the many challenges they will face as athletes. Some of the most common challenges are motivation, confidence, anxiety, focus, and emotions.
MD: Do you have any particular exercises that you do with these clients?
JT: The common ones are goal setting, mental imagery, and positive self-talk routines.
MD: Do you have them do visualization during a race?
JT: Not during a race, but before a race.
MD: You mentioned that you work with mentally healthy athletes. Have you met mentally unhealthy clients who are doing a race for the wrong reasons? Have you referred them to other therapists?
JT: Yes. No doubt ultra-distance endurance sports can attract some mentally unhealthy people. There are other sports psychologists who do that kind of work. It’s not my area of interest.
MD: Do you have any anecdotes about using positive self-talk?
JT: I worked with an Olympic athlete who despite a lot of success had been his own worst enemy. He was negative, he worried a lot, he was an over-thinker, and he didn’t trust himself. I helped him make a shift in his thinking, to a more positive way. To see himself and feel himself through imagery performing the way he wants and to develop a set of routines in his training and his races that enabled him to be much more consistent.
Next up: Dr. Taylor discusses how to conquer a fear of open water swimming. Stay tuned…