He imagines. He shoots. He scores.
A psychology professor and sports coach here at LCCC has a winning combination that is reflective of a national trend, psychology in sports. The professor spoke Nov. 7 at a ‘Focus on Faculty’ event in Bass Library.
“What percent of your sport is physical and what percent is mental?” asks Dr. Vincent Granito, psychology professor and LCCC women’s basketball coach, of other coaches and athletes. “A lot of coaches and athletes answer that it’s 50 to 90 percent mental.”
“The National Basketball Association (NBA) has a whole new wing of their organization dedicated to sports psychology,” said Granito during a recent interview referring to a new ‘Mental Health and Wellness Program’ for NBA players. “This is huge going forward with a professional organization doing this.”
A growing demand for sports psychologists’ ranked as the #3 trend for 2019 according to the Monitor on Psychology, an annual publication of the American Psychological Association. Also, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has made mental health for college athletes a strategic priority.
There are five specific techniques or categories of focus in sports psychology explained Granito. Number one is setting goals. As a personal example, Granito set a goal to run 1,000 miles this year and announced he had completed 825 by early November and was on track to accomplish his goal by the end 2018.
Visualization or using imagery is another technique to enhance performance said Granito. “There have been studies that show an athlete’s muscles [physically] responding to imagery.”
With stress management Granito said, “I’ll suggest deep breathing exercises to help them relax.” It can happen pre-competition or during competition. Every person is different.
As an example of broken concentration during a game, Granito said that an athlete can lose focus if there is a parent sitting in the stands who is especially critical [of their child on the court]. “The athlete loses focus and we’ll coach them how to shift their attention and how to shift their focus.” “Final exams are next week. A couple players have jobs,” reflected Granito on the competing demands of players on the women’s basketball team. “There are two single mothers on the team. They’re not allowing other stuff to bother them [while they’re on] the court.”
Inner dialogue is the last aspect in Granito’s list of five categories of mental focus. He said to look at behaviors of the players and [how] they’ll impact performance. He said one player will look down the court and see the other team warming up and say to themselves, ‘We can’t beat them’. “They’ve lost the game before it even starts.”
Sports aren’t the only realm where psychology is finding a growing audience. According to Monitor in Psychology, firefighters, performing artists and surgeons employ psychologists. The report indicates that ‘the U.S. Army is now the country’s largest employer of sport psychology professionals’.
The lady Commodore basketball team was on the road last week with games in Pittsburgh, and Springfield, Ohio, along with a game on the LCCC campus. This combined with final exams will require significant concentration by the players.
Coming from an athletic family, being the oldest of four boys and having a fitness-consultant mom, Granito grew up with sports as daily fare. Each of the boys played at least two sports. Granito’s were football and basketball.
“Coming out of high school in the 1980s sports psychology wasn’t as clearly defined as it is today,” said Granito. “In the 1980s, tennis and golf were the only sports using sports psychology.”