Waksman holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Arizona, a Master of Arts in Sport Psychology from Argosy University, and is a Certified Consultant through the Association of Applied Sport Psychology. He has worked with and presented to numerous groups, from a practitioner roundtable at the Nike World Headquarters to the golf team at Portland State University to the women’s basketball players at Grant High School.
Psychology-Careers.com recently caught up with Waksman to learn more about his sport psychology career.
P-C: You were once recognized as a Portland Interscholastic League three-sport athlete. Which sports did you play and why did you gravitate to these sports?
EW: I grew up playing competitive baseball, basketball, and soccer. But my parents can attest, as a kid I would chase after any sports ball! I gravitated towards team sports, loving the social connection. My fondest sports memories are of team thrills, like team bus rides, locker room pranks and teamwork plays on the field.
P-C: What drew you to the field of sport psychology and to complete an MA in Sport Psychology?
EW: Dr. Jean Williams, past president of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and a top selling author, introduced me to the field. Her college course sparked my interest. As a graduate student, I then worked with Dr. Angela Breitmeyer and Dr. Bart Lerner, two other well-respected AASP members. They helped guide me in practicum working with athletes and teams for the first time. I am fortunate to have had outstanding mentors; they cemented my passion for the field.
P-C: As a sport performance consultant, who do your clients tend to be?
EW: My clients tend to be high school and college athletes. Individuals come into the office for weekly sessions and I also present team workshops on school campuses. However, I have worked with kids as young as ten and adults as old as seventy.
P-C: What techniques / practices might be part of one of your individual sessions?
EW: One technique clients often benefit from is reframing. Reframing is a tool for dealing with negative self-talk. It involves transforming what initially appears to be a weakness or difficulty into a strength or possibility, simply by looking at it from a different point of view. Sounds terribly easy? Regrettably, its not!
P-C: What is an example of one of your clients’ success stories?
EW: The common denominator for all my success stories is when the client takes action by changing their mindset. I credit the client when goals are reached. One of my favorite quotes from a client was, “I am actually looking forward to next week’s competition. I never would have said that last season.” He was a high school wrestler who built self-confidence and self-worth, which sparked a passion for competing again. His newfound passion and enjoyment led to better performance.
P-C: What’s an example of a team workshop you led that stands out?
EW: Working with teams is fantastic for a variety of reasons. When I present team workshops, the goal is typically performance enhancement. But recently, an athlete’s comment served as a reminder of how impactful team workshops really can be. He said, “You helped me open up to a group of guys that I thought would never understand me as a person or athlete. You let me see what my teammates are about, too. That was invaluable. I felt like before these workshops the guys would not listen to me; they thought I was crazy. Now they look up to me. They listen. I listen back. We all respect each other more. You helped bring this team together.” It is incredibly rewarding when clients report statistical, emotional, and social progress.
P-C: What is your workbook (Waksman’s Sport Psychology Program) all about?
EW: Waksman’s Sport Psychology Program is a practical mental skills workbook for athletes. It provides 28 worksheets to serve as learning tools. Most sport psychology books provide only text. The philosophy behind this workbook is much different. It provides the athlete opportunities to write down his/her own experiences and learn in a fun process. The workbook is wire bound, making it perfect for car rides, sidelines, and gym bags. It is available for purchase on Amazon and my website.
P-C: What makes someone an effective sport performance consultant?
EW: Being able to connect well with different people is the most important trait effective consultants share. Athletes’ values, styles, and communication patterns are all different. Knowing your audience and building rapport is key. The “cookie-cutter” approach just doesn’t cut it! Tone of voice, energy level, word choice, body language, and an understanding of child development are all important factors to consider when building that connection with athletes. An effective consultant, for example, is able to connect well with a shy high school female swimmer by making her feel comfortable in an intimidating office setting, as well as being able to present a dynamic team workshop to a macho college football team.
P-C: Is there anything you would like to add?
EW: Thank you for the opportunity to shed some light on the field of sport psychology. I hope your readers find this conversation helpful.
I would also like to add that sport psychology lessons double as life skills that every student-athlete can apply to develop sport performance and improve quality of life. Sport is a vehicle for life. The wonderful life lessons sports teach help shape more well-rounded people.
To learn more about Elliott Waksman and his practice in Portland, visit: PortlandSportPsychology.com
More from Elliot about sports performance & psychology can be found here: