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Premier Sports Psychology

Updated: May 8, 2019

Marissa Norman reflects on the importance of sports psychology and how injuries affect athletes mentally and emotionally.

Premier Sports Psychologist, Dr. Marissa Norman, is from South Kingstown, RI. She attended the University of Rhode Island, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with minors in both kinesiology and sociology. She earned a master’s degree in sport and exercise psychology from Barry University in Miami, FL. Norman will be finishing up her doctorate degree in clinical psychology this August.

Norman knew she wanted to pursue sports psychology in high school, after her track coach had their 4 x 100 sprint relay team participate in a visualization exercise. She would have Norman and her teammates “close their eyes and visualize passing the baton ('stick') to the next runner.” For Norman, that was her first experience with psychology, and she was instantly hooked. Since then, visualization has become an exercise that she still uses today. Norman mentions that this technique is something that can be used during an athlete’s recovery process. She says, “By visualizing the area of injury and it’s recovery, that draws blood to the specific area, activating the muscles, resulting in a quicker healing process.”

In today’s society, there is such a stigma around the term “psychology” or “mental health.” However, sports psychology is so much more than just helping a person during difficult times. For example, Premier Sports Psychology, focuses on each athlete individually, depending on the injury and his or her goals. The techniques athletes learn aren’t just used through sports, but everyday life. Norman clarifies that “athletes aren’t immune to sport psychology.”

Young adults and teenagers handle adversity and injuries in different ways. For some, it affects their resiliency as an individual because it triggers anxiety, depression and isolation. Many athletes look at sports as his or her sense of identity, so an injury becomes detrimental to their overall psychological health.

Norman says using “self-talk” is a great way to accompany athletes throughout the injury process. She says instead of using the word, "positive," use self-talk. They are similar, but take slightly different approaches. Trying to be positive makes it seem like everything is okay, when in reality, you know it’s not. Instead, Norman says to ask yourself questions like, “what can I say that will make myself feel better” or “what kind of thoughts would be more effective for me?” Tell yourself, “I have overcome more difficult challenges than this.” By accepting what has happened and focusing on how to make yourself feel better mentally, it curbs the negative emotions and allows more optimistic thoughts to enter the brain.

No one ever said life would be easy and from personal experience, I know that bouncing back from an injury is by far not that. However, if you are feeling alone, depressed or anxious during the recovery process, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Norman states, “There is no right way to grieve for anyone. Find your role on your team and remember that sports psychology is always out there.”

For more on coping with injuries and learning new mental skills, listen to the injured athletes club podcast here

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