As the founder of Total Wellness and Elite Performance Consulting, LLC, Conrad Woolsey, PhD, CC-AASP, CHES, director of the University of Western States (UWS) sport and performance psychology program, provides wellness and performance enhancement services to collegiate, professional and Olympic athletes, as well as to business leaders, executives and university athletic departments.
In 2017, Dr. Woolsey worked in conjunction with NxtGen sports as a sport psychology and talent development consultant, as well as with Major League Baseball (MLB) organizations to help them identify psychological factors that are important to improving player development and scouting programs.
As part of his consulting, Dr. Woolsey helps MLB organizations in the refinement of mental skills training programs and with improving evaluation methods. His focus is on the improvement of player development programs for existing players and the evaluation of future draft picks.
In professional baseball, perfectionism is a common personality trait that can develop into performance issues. In a sport where failure and criticism are large parts of the game, Dr. Woolsey aims to help players with the perfectionist personality profile develop a healthier, happier and more adaptive mindset. To do this, he uses a strength-based approach with an emphasis on teaching positive psychology techniques and by helping people make improvements to daily skills such as self-talk. As part of this process, players develop a motivational style focused on approaching challenges versus motivation based on avoiding failure.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the field of sport psychology is that mental performance consultants are just for athletes with performance issues. The reality is that sport and performance psychology is for improving and achieving optimal performance. Often those who seek additional help are already performing at the highest levels, but want to get even better.
“Sport and performance psychology is for people who want to become the best that they can be,” explained Dr. Woolsey. “It’s for people who love what they do and for people who want to have more fun. It’s for parents who want to give their kids the best chances to succeed and to stay healthy. It is for bosses who want to help get the most out of their employees without causing burnout or an unhealthy work environment.”
An example of a profession that uses mental performance consultants for enhancing performance versus overcoming a specific problem is the military. Currently, the military and special forces are the biggest regular-employer of sport and performance consultants. Some of the main goals within these organizations are teaching skills such as stress management, relaxation techniques, concentration under extreme pressure, communication skills and effective coping mechanisms.
Dr. Woolsey was first motivated to study sport psychology because he wanted to maximize his own performance as a college athlete. He later became certified in sport psychology during his time as a college and professional coach because he wanted to be sure he was doing everything he could to help those he served to be successful.
“Growing up, I was lucky to have several good coaches, teachers and amazing family support, but also had my fair share of bad sport experiences,” he explained. “Living on both sides of sport and seeing the major impact that sport can have on kids (both positive and negative) is what initially inspired me to become a coach and a teacher. Having multiple surgeries, rehabbing to get back to top shape, and then having even more surgeries also had a big influence on why I got involved with the field of sport psychology. While injured, often the only thing I could do to get better was to work on skills such as visualization and training my mind. While my body became limited on what it could do, I could still get better by improving my mental skills.”
As director of the sport and performance psychology program at UWS, Dr. Woolsey has helped design the curriculum to prepare graduates with the first-hand experience needed to serve as leaders in sport, coaching, mental health counseling and wellness disciplines.
“At UWS, we are making a big difference by training leaders, coaches and parents by giving them the tools to effectively help others have meaningful sport and work experiences. The goal of our program is to train leaders of today and tomorrow to be even better at what they do and to help communities become healthier, happier and more successful.”
When asked the question, “what is the most important thing to keep in mind before beginning a career in sport psychology,” Dr. Woolsey stresses that one must enter the profession for the right reasons and be motivated by wanting to help others first and foremost.
“You have to be dedicated to learning all you can about people and what motivates them,” he explained. “This calls for skilled listeners and someone good at empathizing with others. Helping people is both an art and a science. In this field, those who have that as their intrinsic motivation will go far.”
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