UM Sports Psychologist Josie Nicholson stands in front of her office in the FedEx Center on Tuesday. Photo by Alexis T. Rhoden

Classes, relationships and identity struggles fill the everyday lives of college students across the country. The American College Health Association found in 2013 that 57 percent of female college students and 40 percent of male college students reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety” within the previous year. That same study indicated that roughly 30 percent of college students reported symptoms of depression.

But there are students – those with all the aforementioned responsibilities – who also wake up early each morning for training and stay up late at night watching film. There are students who spend every weekend on the road or flying to their next match.

Student-athletes make up less than 2 percent of the roughly more than 20,000-person Ole Miss student body, but they have their own full-time sports psychology staff. It’s no surprise why. Continue reading

There are few who have given more to the Irish cause in recent seasons than Ciara Cooney. Despite suffering ankle ligament damage in the opening game of the Six Nations in Toulouse, Cooney fought her way back into contention and was introduced from the bench against the English in Coventry.

Despite taking an obvious knock within moments of entering the fray, Cooney had put too much work to give in to what ultimately proved to be an injury to her other ankle. Once again, she limped away at the final whistle.

“I’m not the kind of player who can sail through a match,” Cooney states. “It’s all or nothing with me and unfortunately it has resulted in an injury or two during my career. It’s just the way I play my game and I’m not going to change that. It’s like anything that I do. It has to be fully committed, or else, why bother?” Continue reading

Aaron Chang Photography

Brent Frei, the co-founder of Smartsheet.com, a project and software management company, looks for people who are “mentally athletic and agile.” He prefers attitude and aptitude over experience. I like his perspective, a lot!

As a Sports Psychologist and Life Coach I constantly help people improve their mental game and develop a great attitude toward life and everything in it. This is not easy. Sometimes, as we all know, life has a way of knocking us down. That’s why good decision making and perseverance are so important. The more we learn from our mistakes, get tougher mentality, and learn to take consistent action toward our dreams and goals the greater the chance we will eventually succeed!

Make a difference in people's lives!

This morning I was working out at the Equinox in West LA and this guy next to me asked me why I was taking a picture of my television screen on the workout bicycle. I turned to him with a smile and said this interview will Bill Gross is fascinating! He laughed.

Bill Gross had a celebrated career at PIMCO only to be forced out. At seventy, instead of walking off into the sunset as a billionaire, he chose to start again at Janus Capital, a smaller asset management company. His reason: the desire to fulfil his competitive nature! He compared the new job to a game of HORSE, a basketball game played against a fellow competitor. He wants to beat the market and beat his fellow competitors no matter what his age and since it’s not basketball or golf, he relishes the second chance!

I watched Mr. Gross in fascination because it was clear he is businessin touch with his nature enough to know who he is and what’s best for him. The idea of retirement never made sense to me either. Retire from what? I love to make a difference in people’s lives and the world. This can be done for a lifetime. Yes, things will change as they always do but there is no substitute for finding and doing what you love. The more you do so the less you need to retire from anything!

Take time and meditate!

This morning I played 18 holes at Palos Verdes Country Club in beautiful Southern California! Lately I’ve been playing golf 1X per week but managed to shoot 72, a fantastic round especially since I’ve had little time for actual practice. The key to my success today and on many other low scoring rounds is the mental game! I spend a great deal of time off the course eliminating the dramas and distractions that are such a normal part of living for most of us. This allows for greater focus on the course and greater potential in general. I also spend a fair amount of time meditating. Meditation is a process of learning how to better focus the mind and to train it to be more still, a wonderful aid in business, life, and sports!!

Learn to harness the power of your minds!

Yesterday, I met with Greg Mathews, a former St. Louis Cardinale pitcher, who is now the pitching coach at both Glendale College and Compton College. He is helping young boys become better athletes and better pitchers, in particular, through a combination of strength and conditioning and technical expertise. We talked about Sports Psychology and the importance of the mental game, especially as kids are developing. Good mental and emotional habits lead to better performance, period. For instance, if we learn to harness the power of our minds to focus more and more on what we want and to let go of the myriad of drama and distractions then we will dramatically improve our game in life, business, and sports! I proved this last year with a minor league player who hit .208 and .212 his first two years in professional baseball without mental game coaching and with the assistance of Dr. Brett he hit .272 and is now well on his way to the next level!

Another Successful Story of Women in Male Dominated Careers

The new leader of the M.B.A players union, Michele Roberts, is impressive to say the least. In an organization dominated by men, she beat out 300 hundred others to earn the honor and job of replacing a man who mismanaged funds and failed to deliver in recent years. With an economically impoverished background and an experience as one of the few African American woman to earn a private school scholarship to the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, she worked as a public defender at San Quentin after graduating law school in 1980. Later, she became a successful criminal defense attorney before joining a large prestigious corporate law firm.

Without knowing much about her personally, professionally Ms. Roberts is clearly not someone to underestimate. As she stated in her interview in the New York Times Sports Sunday section: “My past is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.” Wow!

I’m a huge fan of people who work hard, refuse to roll over, and earn success. Too many of us are willing to give up or let up when we need to persevere. One of the challenges of life is to know when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, and when to walk away. Becoming super diligent and thorough often gives us more information upon which to make these decisions. I have no doubt this is the way Ms. Roberts has lived her work life. As the first woman to represent the M.B.A players it should be interesting for us to follow and likely great for the players. Good luck Ms. Roberts!

Learn how to value people

Adam Bryant interviews Kate Cole, the president of Cinnabon, in this week’s Corner Office! Her perspective is worth knowing. For instance, when business is going well she tends to ask more questions to be certain of the why and to be prepared for the downside. She likes to encourage feedback and communication and even disagreement though in respectful ways. Ms. Cole also encourages coach-ability, curiosity, and commitment to others. I like her perspective because she seems to genuinely care about others, is intelligent and very interpersonally oriented values I teach and value myself.

There are many ways I can express what I do for living as a sports psychologist and business and life coach. One playful way is to say that I teach self and other. We live in a society that does a fair amount of self. In other words, lots of people are self-absorbed. I liked Ms. Cole’s perspective because she clearly values other. If you want to be truly happy you must know how to love and value people! The ability to feel, create, and express love is essential for happiness and makes for greater success as an athlete, businessman, or parent. To cultivate love, show a genuine interest in other and learn to be generous with your body, mind and spirit!

Thoughts on happiness

The New York Times Sunday Review feature article on happiness by Arthur Brooks concludes that we must learn to love people not money, power, status, or sexual pleasure. This seems pretty evident to some and yet it’s super-challenging for many in a culture addicted to Facebook, Twitter, Reality TV, and video games to name a few. The challenge with happiness is that we must cultivate good habits over long periods of time. Essentially, I teach non-avoidance, a way of living that means we live and express out truth! Wow, that’s not easy. I often tell clients that if they are ready I can teach them how to be happier and more fulfilled but it requires substantial work on their part. The majority of people I’ve coached in over two decades of working with people have quit well before they graduated. In other words, they didn’t want to work that hard.

Depending on how we were raised (conditioned) and our genetics, happiness is something we must learn and cultivate over time. In addition to avoiding nothing, I teach presence, honoring thyself, integrity, and intuition as a basis for success in life and business. Presence, for example, means a commitment to live in the here and now as much as possible. This means learning how to observe and pay attention to the mind without getting caught up in self. Again, not easy and yet like the other principles, it is a foundation for well-being!

Spend time in nature

I’ve been working hard for months and months with very little down time. This weekend my twin brother and I went on a three day golf and fishing holiday. Getting some sun, time away, twin time, and especially time on the water was just what the doctor ordered! Occasionally, I take clients for walks on the beach or to fish and even to hit golf balls. Sometimes, I take clients to my parents’ island where I walk them out over bridges and do a session looking at the water below or the pond in the back. There is something truly amazing about the water and the elements of nature I tell them, especially when it comes to letting go. Many of us are too busy; busy doing, doing, doing and spend very little time just being. Fishing and any activity involving water is a fantastic way to help the mind release and just be!

I mediate a lot, far more than most of the people I know and yet there is nothing like a few days of exposure to the elements to facilitate peace and a feeling of rejuvenation. I recommend time in nature every week to most everyone I guide. If you can find a few days in a row every so often, all the better!!