Psychological Skills Training Program

Psychological Skills Training Program

The psychological skills training program should be made a compulsory undertaking in sports activities. Sporting is accompanied with a great pressure arising from the demand coming from the fans, the couch, and the participant’s personal desire to perform well. This pressure if left unresolved will lead down to a series of events culminating in mind block, which is a description of mind’s inability to make fast and accurate decisions and moves, which will ultimately result in the athlete’s poor performance. This condition has befallen Na and is leading him to a great downfall from a bright career perspective. Na’s condition can be explained using the behavioral, cognitive, and rational emotive therapy, which also offers fundamental solutions to the mind lag. While diagnosing and accepting the condition is one piece of the puzzle, the remaining part involves the setting of goals towards remedying the condition and exercising therapies such as intentional control, progressive muscle relaxation, and systemic desensitization to stabilize to regain stability.

Case Summary

Kevin Na is an outstanding golf performer with a disturbing psychological problem that has greatly slowed down his race to the top and his speed in the field (Links Magazine, 2018). Na has worked hard up in his career from his childhood practicing until late in the night and even quitting his school at the junior level college to take golf to a professional level (Links Magazine, 2018). As though this was not enough, Na admits that he had missed social events, meetings with friends, partying, which is a common thing in the college and even had no girlfriend (Links Magazine, 2018). From his earlier philosophy, Na held that to be perfect one had to live like a monk: one has to cut off ties with the external life and commit to the pursuance of the mastery in the art of sports was the maxim he long held. Such ambitions, hope, courage, and motivation seem to have paid less if not nothing for the young golfer. Na has been close to winning tournaments but crumbles emotionally because of the psychological trauma (Links Magazine, 2018). Na has displayed on several occasions symptoms of great stress ranging from his nightmares to the long times taken to hit the ball some up to 15 seconds (Links Magazine, 2018). Psychological stress has also been manifested in his decision to quit Twitter in early 2012 because he perceived it as being full of negativity (Links Magazine, 2018). The negativity may have been caused by negative comments rising from the fans and other interested persons as well as enemies. However, the psychological trauma problem is huge affecting golfers at different levels as well as other athletes and needs a comprehensive psychological skill management. Na is still young and has a career to develop and advance. He can win many tournaments but his psychological disorder is the only enemy standing between him and the victories. Otherwise, Na is skilled with some of the greatest swings that many golfers admire to execute.

Psychological Skill Training Program

Education Phase

Several theories have been advanced to explain the psychological distress and training skills necessary for the elite and regular athletes. Psychological trauma occurs in athletes and other people. It should not be dismissed as belonging to a category of people. Stress need not be expected from the field alone but also in other quotas of life such as social life and even personal life outside the field. As such, three theories will be reviewed: cognitive, behavioral, and rational emotive theories.

Behavior Modification

Na’s psychological trauma started when he lost a game that he expected to win (Links Magazine, 2018). Since then, the trauma has not left him and he has transformed gradually from a good performer to an annoying golf player. The change in behavior occurred in the field and the field becomes the most favorable place to begin the restoration path. Behavior theorists such as Pavlov et al proposes that behavior modifications are possible when measures such as training are conducted regularly in the field where circumstances are conditioned to mimic the real world scenario or the actual field play (Lawless, 2013).

The environment often influences sport’s personnel in terms of physical and social factors. For example, an athlete may grow nervous when the crowd boos at him or be more confident when the fans give him a round of applause. In turn, this will shape the athlete’s behavior and ultimately their performance. In the case of Na, we find him growing nervous on several occasions at the thought of the fans wondering why he is taking so long to hit the ball (Links Magazine, 2018). Moreover, the nature of the environment in terms of field and infrastructure also influences the athlete’s performance. Na’s history is filled with records of constant practices and acquaintance with the field and the golf stick. This changed his performance to that of an outstanding golf personality quite early in his life. In order to help Na improve his performance and overcome his performance inabilities stemming from psychological stress, a regime of regular field training with staged fans expressing different responses will make a good start. As the fans boo and some give applauses, Na will learn to develop a wall and a firmness of mind in meeting the varied outburst and become stable in the field (Lawless, 2013; Cogburn & Scott, 2017). A continuous practice in such a stage-managed field will help Na change his behavior.

Cognitive Evaluation Theory

 Cognitive evaluation theory deals with the psychology or the process going on in an athlete’s mind as they make critical decisions such as when and why to hit a golf ball (Lawless, 2013). Na has undergone a series of lessons from his father and his coach. This process of coaching brings with it a list of instructions that the player must put into practice in order to perform well. Moreover, the player’s personal psychological processes related to confidence play a significant role in determining the overall performance of the player (Lawless, 2013). Therefore, the player’s performance is controlled by a stream of thoughts that may be disturbing in most cases resulting in an underperformance. This problem lies deep in the mind known or unknown to the player and requires an elaborate dissection and treatment.

In order to conduct a cognitive evaluation, one needs to go through several stages until a positive outcome is achieved. First, Na needs to conduct a self-evaluation test to create awareness and acceptance of the reality that he has a psychological problem manifested in the nature of his performance (Lawless, 2013). He must distinguish this from mere style or consideration of options before he hits the ball. Secondly, a comprehensive plan is to be laid out articulating every step of the therapeutic measures to be taken in changing the condition (Lawless, 2013). Thirdly, Na has to commit himself to the rigid schedule passionately as the only means, for the time being, to solve his problem (Lawless, 2013). This stage should not be carried out blindly but monitored and feedback given on Na’s progress.

These three steps are to be coupled with other two strategies such as management of the environmental factors using support staff, fans, and infrastructure and the generalization, which involves incorporation of the learned skills to other levels of life (Lawless, 2013). Environmental management enhances the performance of many athletes including those in the dancing industry who have to perform with great synchronization of every member of the dancing team (Taylor & Estanol, 2015). The process of generalization into other life aspects is vital because they affect how Na processes his performance. They can only be overcome through a change of thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

Rational Emotive Therapy

Life is like an unstable mass comprising of many activities requiring the attention of one’s mind. The pursuance and fulfillment of this activities bring with them joy and sadness which affects our psychological life and the whole life fabric. Na’s condition should not be viewed as an isolated case being impacted by the field environment and the fans; his condition goes beyond this to his personal social life in a world outside the golf course. An understanding and acceptance of this fact are inevitable if a positive change is to be achieved. According to Ellis (2013), the pursuance of life goals and ambitions is always counteracted by what he terms as activating the event (A) which is one instant in a person’s career or experience that becomes the turning point. activating event results in a cascade of events such as choice (C) of feelings such as being sorry, sad, depression, and anxiety besides the outplay of belief (B) in succumbing or overcoming the activating event(Ellis, 2013). Therefore, the downward steps taken by Na have a cause and effect relation. The activating event, which was a failure in one game, led to the making of a poor choice of regret and self-condemnation. Na has been unable to overcome them despite his promises to do so due to a lack of strong belief in his ability to overcome it finally (Ellis, 2013).

Ellis lists some of the preconditions resulting in the activating event. They include the Ego that demands an outstanding performance in all tournaments regardless of the experience and the skills of the opponent (Ellis, 2013; Turner, 2016). Na must be suffering from this condition, which has been natured by his childhood thirst for the mastery and perfection. He has come to believe that he must do exceptionally well under all circumstances which may not be practically realistic.

Another factor resulting in activation is the contribution made by the need to satisfy the ego of other people. For example, Na may desire that fans and other people view him as the best, treat him kindly in every occasion and so forth. When this does not happen because it has not in several Na’s cases, he crumbles down under the weight of such unreasonable guilt (Ellis, 2013). The third dictum requires that environmental circumstances must be favorable to Na so that he can appreciate life otherwise the world be not good and worth it (Ellis, 2013). This will become an endless pursuit and self-recrimination

Such a cycle of attitudes can only be productive of the worst performance. Na must overcome his ego and the outrageous obsession with being the best and accept that his best is the best. Secondly, he should not expect others to treat him right if he does not treat himself right and thirdly, he should accept the circumstances under which he finds himself, such as playing in a poor field, with highly or lowly experienced opponent and rowdy fans, and take mastery of the circumstances to make things better.

Acquisition phases

After diagnosing the mental problem and identifying its main cause, it is important for Na and the couch to take measures geared towards remedying the disorder. Goal setting becomes an important tool towards practicing to improve Na’s condition.

Goal Setting

The understanding of problems and the structuring of methods to achieve the desired end is indeed nothing without making the achievement of the goal the goal and purpose of your career. In other words, goals are nothing without a thorough compliance with the requirements stated for its fulfillment. Goals cannot be set blindly, the set goals must be specific (Team FME, 2013). A general goal cannot be suffered to stand as a goal worth changing the career of Na. the goal or goals must be stated from the onset and all efforts directed singularly towards its achievement. In addition, the goal should be measurable (Team FME, 2013). Quantifiable goals make it easier to estimate the progress path and the effectiveness of the remedial.

Measurable standards can include position. For example, Na may take note of his position in every tournament beginning from the point of therapy. The goals will be meaningless if they are not attainable (Team FME, 2013). It is not enough to create goals; the major question is “Are they attainable?” The attainment of the goals should be progressive in nature, building block by block towards the attainment of the final goal, which is the larger picture (Team FME, 2013). This means that the breakdown of a goal into workable subunits will make it easier for Na to beat his psychological problem and soar to great heights.

Moreover, the goals should be relevant to the problem at hand (Team FME, 2013). That is the only way they can be helpful and meaningful in solving Na’s predicament. Finally, the set goals should be time bound (Team FME, 2013). There is no point in working on a single goal the entire life. A time limit must be set if the goal is to be achieved, otherwise the whole process will turn into a repetitive process of resolutions now and again.

 While planning and working on the goals, Na should engage himself in a series of personal questions such as Am I committed to achieving my goals? Are all my efforts exerted towards the fulfillment of the goal requirements? In my heart, attention, and love attached to the goal? Will I gain any personal satisfaction in the event that I achieve the goals? Finally, are my expectations for the goal realistic or do I expect more than is obtainable from the goals? (Wicker, 2008). Conducting such personal assessments will help Na, in the end, to achieve his goals through focus and love for a realistic dream.

Practice Phase

After the diagnosis and establishment of the goals, important undertakings should follow to facilitate the achievement of the goals. Na should learn practices such as intentional control; engage in progressive muscle relaxation therapy and systemic desensitization.

Intentional Control

The art of sport is at its best when the athlete displays an impeccable mastery of his strength, focus, and physical constitution while performing. Like no other field, performance before a crowd of people may throw the athlete into a trance of psychological disturbances transforming into poor decisions and lack of mastery. There are two kinds of controls often displayed by athletes under stress and peaceful concentrations. An athlete may display an automatic control or an intentional control. These two can be demonstrated concurrently, which gives rise to control flexibility (Athanasios & Papaioannou, 2014). The automatic control system is developed when an athlete repeats a task to the level that it becomes engrained in the brain such that it is readily executed when necessity demands (Athanasios & Papaioannou, 2014). Intentional control cannot be independent of automatic control. It can only arise from a well-established automatic control so that the athlete can eventually turn his attention from the obvious automatic control to intentional control, which involves focusing on the environment and making important decisions based on the information gathered from the environment (Athanasios & Papaioannou, 2014).

Na seems to have a mastery of the automatic control but this is being interfered with due to his inability to let go of the focus on the obvious to the stressing environmental factors and this hinders him from making proper decisions. Na’s undeniable ability to make extraordinary swings is the result of a repeated training but he is taking too long to hit the ball due to his inability to balance his automatic control and intentional control. All these factors occur within the mental representation realm before they are executed into action (Athanasios & Papaioannou, 2014). This means that, the shaky decisions characterizing Na’s performance are due to a mental representation outweighed by concerns about the environmental factors.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation, hypnosis, and other mental treatment tools have been applied with some degrees of success in helping athletes cope up with the depression resulting from mental stress (Keilani et al., 2016). Anxiety has proven the fall of many athletes as it consumes the energy and attention that is very necessary for competition. The muscles are regulated by the nervous system, which implies that muscle activity cannot be separated from the intricate processes taking place in the brain. They receive communication from the brain, which determines the contractions and relaxations of the muscles. Na has developed high muscle control efficiency. This affected by the psychological trauma he experiences while on the course which is manifested in the inability to move his hands to strike or unintended body movement sending the ball in wrong directions. This is a stressing moment to him but the stress worsens the condition rather than alleviate it. It is therefore paramount that measures be taken to help him get full control of his muscles and avoid acting through impulse as he has done in some scenario, which includes progressive muscle relaxation techniques as a remedial path (Keilani et al, 2016).

Systemic Desensitization

Systemic desensitization obtains its name from the fact that it is a systematic approach towards overcoming trauma and fear. The procedure involves the listing of the worst scenarios that cause trauma or fear in the phobic person (Dubord, 2011). This list is further narrowed down to the worst scenarios of the ten listed scenarios or any other list depending on the patient (Dubord, 2011). Systemic desensitization can be combined with other techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy, reprocessing therapy, and movement desensitization (Triscari, Faraci, Catalisano, D’Angelo & Urso, 2015). The amalgamation of these procedures have been tested on agoraphobic volunteers phobic to flight and found very effective.


The lack of psychological skills training can lead to a great disappointment in the career of Na. One may start out with great performances but a single failure may result in a deterioration that may see the sportsman sink into oblivion as in the case of Na. This has been demonstrated by the case of Na who had a bright beginning outshining his colleagues in his early high school and college levels. Such an outstanding performance led him to pursue a path that was contrary to the expectation of some and that is golfing. His passion for golf led him to believe that he must be the best, must satisfy the desire of the fans and other onlookers but this is extremely dangerous as it has resulted in him losing focus and developing great psychological distress termed by some as a “demon”. This notwithstanding, his situation is not entirely hopeless but can be improved through diagnosis and acceptance and revamping on a path to make his skills pay through therapies such as Intentional control, Progressive Muscle relaxation and Systemic desensitization and sticking to the goal to stabilize himself.


Athanasios G. Papaioannou, D. H. (Ed). (2014). Routledge Companion to Sport and Exercise Psychology: Global perspectives and fundamental concepts. Routledge.

Dubord, G. (2011). Part 12. Systematic desensitization. Canadian Family Physician, 57(11), 1299-1299.

Ellis, A. (2013). Better, deeper and more enduring brief therapy: The rational emotive behavior therapy approach. Routledge.

Keilani, M., Hasenöhrl, T., Gartner, I., Krall, C., Fürnhammer, J., Cenik, F., & Crevenna, R. (2016). Use of mental techniques for competition and recovery in professional athletes. Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift, 128(9-10), 315-319.

Lawless, F. J. (2013). A profile and training programme of psychological skills for track and field athletes (Doctoral dissertation, Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch University).

Scott, H. K., & Cogburn, M. (2017). Behavior Modification.

Taylor, J., & Estanol, E. (2015). Dance psychology for artistic and performance excellence. Human Kinetics.

Team FME. (2013). Effective Goal setting, productivity skills. Retrieved from

Triscari, M. T., Faraci, P., Catalisano, D., D’Angelo, V., & Urso, V. (2015). The effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy integrated with systematic desensitization, cognitive behavioral therapy combined with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy combined with virtual reality exposure therapy methods in the treatment of flight anxiety: a randomized trial. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 11, 2591.

Turner, M. J. (2016). Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), irrational and rational beliefs, and the mental health of athletes. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 1423.

Wicker, D. (2008). Goal Setting: Confidence + Goals = Success.

Links Magazine. (2018)

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