More reviews of The Mental Athlete Book


"You are what you think. And in sports, that can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on the quality of that thinking.

I was both blessed and cursed as a young athlete with an active imagination. In the years before many people ran or anyone practiced formal sports psychology, I caught a vision of myself as a successful distance runner. I wasn't built along the classic long and lean lines of a miler, and lacked coaching help and training facilities. But because I thought I could run a mile fast, I did - winning four state high school championships at that distance.

Psychology worked for me then. It worked against me soon afterward, when I began to think that my potential was limitless. I thought if I aimed high enough and worked hard enough, no one could beat me.

Then I lost to runners with equal will to win and more talent for doing so. The losses were crushing, because the expectations were so overblown. I started thinking of myself as a loser, and stopped competing for fear of losing any more.

The problem worked itself out only during a long period of readjusting my self-image and redefining winning in more personal terms. Even after the thoughts improved, this episode left me with deep respect for the powers of the athlete's mind.

You are what you think. In sports, that can be a problem or an opportunity, depending on how you choose to use the body from the neck up.

Lack of motivation and effort aren't problems for most athletes. They're more often troubled by wanting too much and working too hard for it. Their ambitions stifle their abilities. They compete with their mental brakes on, fearing failure while not allowing themselves to succeed.

The opportunities for success in sports may not be unlimited, but they still are vast. Every athlete has untapped potential, and yet very few athletes tap a source of immediate and dramatic improvement: mental training.

"Training" implies specific, planned, preparation for an upcoming event. Physical training is standard practice in all sports. Mental training should be but isn't.

Athletes can move ahead mentally the same way they do physically: through training that accentuates positive factors and eliminates negative forces, and by preparing the intellect, emotions, and spirit as carefully as the heart, lungs and legs.

This ideal balance rarely exists. Athletes who put their physical preparations under a microscope give mental training no more than a passing glance. They can't be blamed for this oversight. Little guidance has been given on how, exactly, to train mentally.

Writing on sports psychology generally runs toward the poles. At one extreme are the cliches and platitudes that have supported generations of coaches in their pep talks. These center on the "you can do anything if you want it bad enough" theme. If it were only that easy.

At the other extreme are books by psychologists who smother readers with research data and technical jargon. An athlete without an advanced degree in this field can't translate the theoretical material into practical terms.

Thankfully, this book doesn't fit into either category. It follows a middle course between the extremes. The Mental Athlete is simple without being simplistic, and technically solid without forgetting that most readers are athletes, not Ph.D. candidates in psychology.

Porter offers her advice in the best tradition of physical training books. She gives both the "whys" and the "hows," combining theories with practices.

The writing reflects the interest of the authors, who counsels athletes professionally as well as having competed herself. Her mental training plans blend the expertise of the psychologist with the concerns of the athlete to produce specific self-help programs.

Porter involved athletes as co-authors of these programs right from chapter 1, because the final solutions to problems must come from inside oneself. Readers of this book are certain to find their own answers much faster than I found mine."

Joe Henderson
West Coast Editor of Runner's World


"When I first began working with Olympic athletes, I was struck by how many of them naturally used imagery techniques. My lectures on visualization immediately struck a responsive chord with this group of young people - we were speaking the same language. By listening carefully to athletes, I have discovered many fascinating and useful ideas concerning the use of imagery in sports. Although my role is the sport psychologist, I often learn just as much from the athletes as they learn from me. Working together, we often come up with exciting new ideas about how to tap the power of the human imagination. But often I hear the question, "I know how important visualization is in sports, but how can I utilize my own imagination more effectively?"

This book shows you how - how to relax before a visualization, how to create an effective visualization for peak performance, how to use your imagination to help your body heal. Kay Porter's book, is a shining beacon for those young athletes struggling to learn more about the psychological side of sports and to integrate that knowledge into their training. In this book, she remains at the vanguard of sport psychology and breaks new ground in several important areas. Two subjects in this book are especially exciting to me. One is the chapter on health and healing. As a clinical psychologist, I have been very excited about the new finding coming from the field of psychonueroimmunology. At last, the artificial barrier between mind and body in modern medicine is breaking down. In very practical ways, Kay shows you how to put this new knowledge to work for you. Any athlete, serious or recreational, struggling with injury or illness should read this chapter - and read it again!

The other much-read section of all serious athletes is on unsetting goals. This section offers many excellent suggestions for athletes who are facing the prospect of leaving competitive sports behind, but who may be uncertain about the future. This is a difficult period for a good athlete, but in the U.S.A., we minimize the impact of this transitional period. After the 1988 Olympics, many athletes told me how bad it was to suddenly stop training. As The Mental Athlete suggests, there is no need to stop training once competitive goals have been reached. The body needs time to "detrain," and all of us who work with athletes need to learn how to help them detrain more effectively. Once again, Kay is pointing the way.

There is something in this book for everyone. Athletes of all types will find themselves challenged and stimulated by the ideas in this book. Most important, The Mental Athlete shows you how to use your own imagination most effectively. It provides the tools for understanding the imagination. Using those tools, each of us can take responsibility for working with our powers of imagination to enrich our lives. It is a lifelong journey. This is your book. Enjoy!"

Shane M. Murphy, Ph.D.
Former Head of the Sport Psychology Program
United States Olympic Committee


"Every top athlete knows that success depends on mental attitudes and concentration almost as much as raw physical ability. THE MENTAL ATHLETE provides insights into the basis of this mental power, along with specific training techniques to help all athletes realize their full potential. I can recommend it highly to anyone who wants to break free of self-imposed limitations and to reach for excellence."

Joan Ullyot, M.D.,
Marathoner and author of
Women's Running and New Women's Running


"Only recently have most athletes become aware that they can benefit greatly from visualization and mental training. When I was running at my best, I did this naturally, and I practiced these things intuitively for years. Now others can learn to use these techniques, easily and simply by reading and applying this book."

Alberto Salazar
Two time winner of the New York City Marathon
Coach of the Nike Oregon Project


"I've read the book, used it, and found it to be very helpful to our football team. Our coaches have used the mental and visual techniques in this book very successfully with our players. The mental part of football is extremely important. The affirmations and visualization in this book are effective, easy-to-use, and powerful for team players in any sport. I highly recommend this book to coaches and athletes who want to get the 'winning edge.' "

Don James
Former Head Football Coach
University of Washington

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