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Why we need sports psychology

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - December 21, 2020 - 12:00am

The unemployment, isolation and confinement experienced by many people have led some to believe that 2020 has been a most depressing year. Despite the lack of scientific data to show that the holiday season causes a spike in depression and suicide, it is still a widely held urban myth. It may be harder on athletes, as they feel the gradual loss of physical, competitive gains they have worked so hard for. But there is a way to deal with it.

Dr. Sheryll Casuga, a Sports Science graduate of the University of the Philippines who took up clinical psychology and sport psychology, spoke about this at the recent second Philippine Professional Sports Summit virtual edition, an initiative of the Games and Amusements Board under chairman Baham Mitra. Casuga attained her Masters degree and Doctorate at John F. Kennedy University in California, and is registrant with the US Olympic Committee. She has been based in the US for roughly two decades.

“Sport psychology is the mental side of athletic performance,” said Casuga. “And the reason why it’s important to have sport psychology for athletes is that mental toughness and mental skills required in high-level athletic performance can be acquired and honed. So if we’re working on our physical skills, we should also work on the mental side.”

The climax of her presentation was how athletes could use sport psychology as an effective coping strategy during the pandemic. While sports psychology has been a staple for US athletes (like Michael Jordan) for decades, it has only entered the mainstream in the Philippines in the last few years. Olympians like 2016 silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz are among the new beneficiaries of Philippine Olympic Committee sport psychology consultants who studied overseas.

“Now that athletes are on quarantine, they can practice their mental skills, visualize, and keep motivating themselves without anyone judging them,” she adds. “Because we Filipinos are mentally tough already, it will make us even tougher and give us a bigger advantage in international competition.”

If sport psychology were to be made truly mainstream in the Philippines, Dr. Casuga advises that it should be offered to all, be applied by true sport psychologists, be culturally appropriate, and applied with a unified approach by teams, coaches and family members, in support of the athletes.

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