Dr. Andrew Jacobs has been a sport psychologist for 25 years and has worked with all levels of competitive athletes from youth sports to the professional and Olympic level. We talked to him recently about the role of sports psychology, the mental challenges an athlete participating in *World Cup 2006 *might face, and what things athletes of any skill level can do mentally to improve their performance.
How does sports psychology affect the outcome of a game?
When teams match up the one that is mentally stronger is the one who more than likely will do better. You must be ready to deal with adversity. If you've got a mental game plan then when you fall behind you don't freak out.
Quite frankly one of the biggest issues is not dealing with success but in dealing with adversity and failure. We don't teach people how to lose but what to do when they lose and how to handle it.
Looking at the World Cup specifically--what kinds of mental challenges will the US National Team face being on the road in Germany?
One of the big things I work with athletes on is how you get yourself mentally prepared. Mental preparation involves not just focusing right before the game but also how you prepare the week before.
Talking about the World Cup team specifically one of the challenges they will face is being able to acclimate themselves. You've got to know how to deal with things like changes in time, schedule, and culture.
When I was with the cycling team in Italy I remember the guys were freaking out about things like drinking warm soda. (They don't put ice in their soda in Europe.) You've got to be able to deal with being away from friends and family and not letting cultural changes affect you.
For the rest of this interview check out our [World Cup Special Section|http://active.typepad.com/world_cup/2006/05/the_ment