Sports Psychology Provides Mental Edge For Student-Athletes
Josie Nicholson visits football practice.

Aug 14, 2013

This is the second in a series of stories related to the Health and Sports Performance Division of Ole Miss Athletics.

Part 1: New Facility, Staffing For Ole Miss Athletics Nutrition

By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com

OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss is one of just three Southeastern Conference athletic departments with a full-time clinical or counseling sports psychologist on staff, along with Vanderbilt and LSU, and one of less than 25 Division I programs in the nation.

Josie Nicholson, Ph.D., is the department's sports psychologist. A native of Oxford, Miss., she joined the University Counseling Center staff in 2011 and began her work with student-athletes at Ole Miss.

In 2013, she transitioned into a full-time role within the athletic department as part of the Health and Sport Performance area and is now housed in the FedEx Academic Support Center, where she is better integrated into the department and more accessible to student-athletes.

"Josie is not only a certified sport psychologist, but she is also a counseling psychologist, which means that she can help screen and assess our athletes who have anxiety and depression, as well as issues that may be affecting them on the field, or on the court," said Shannon Singletary, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Health and Sports Performance.

"In her day-to-day, she participates in team functions and does team-building and leadership exercises. For example, she takes our rifle team and teaches them breathing and mental focusing. She takes our individual-sport athletes and she works with them from a mental standpoint of how to block out the crowd and block out everything you are thinking about, so you can focus on your sport."

Nicholson has a master’s and doctorate in counseling psychology and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Sport Psychology with the University of Florida Athletics Department. A licensed counseling and sports psychologist, Nicholson said it was important to be trained clinically as a generalist because student-athletes come in with a wide variety of issues and then benefit from her specialty in sport performance.

Nicholson is also a Certified Consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology and is on the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) Registry of sport psychologists approved to work with Olympic athletes and national teams.

Her specialty training also includes EMDR, a specialized psychotherapy treatment developed for post-traumatic stress, and clinical hypnosis.

Although much of Nicholson’s work with athletes focuses on performance enhancement, many student-athletes also seek support for other concerns. For Nicholson, her function as both a clinical psychologist and sports psychologist are not separate.

"If you have something going on in your life, it's going to affect you on the field," Nicholson said. "If you are dedicated to your sport and that's not going well, it's going to affect you personally, so the two go hand in hand."

Nicholson said two of the biggest things she encounters in her work with student-athletes are depression and anxiety, as well as mixing up aspirations with goals, which Nicholson said can lead to anxiety.

"An aspiration is something someone wants," Nicholson said. "A goal is something that's within your control. These are things that are measurable. These are things that are obtainable. These are things that are within your control. Making all-conference is not within your control. Doing everything that you can so that you're a candidate for all-conference is: that’s a goal.

"I think that because they mix them up, there's self-blame, there's pressure, there's performance anxiety. Typically, if they're having performance anxiety on the field, they're also having anxiety over tests and more anxiety in other situations as well. And that comes from a lot of pressure, a lot of displaced pressure."

Nicholson said one of the unique mental challenges is for individual-sport athletes, such as golf, rifle and tennis, because they grow up competing in their sport individually. Then when they come to Ole Miss, there’s a sense of team and community, and there’s an added pressure, compared to team-sport athletes who are better acclimated to dealing with that pressure.

“It's so internal compared to the external,” Nicholson said of the pressure for individual-sport athletes. “At this level, for golf, for tennis, for rifle, the mental game becomes the ‘make-it or break-it.’ That's the same for all of the sports, but it's more pronounced for the individual sports.

“There's a lot of concentration. In those sports, the coach is not necessarily in their ear their whole time. The other thing is, they may go to a tournament by themselves. That creates an internal pressure, where there's no diffusion of responsibility. Everyone is looking at you. That's a different kind of pressure”

Women’s soccer is a team sport Nicholson works closely with, helping players with performance enhancement, team dynamics, injury recovery, and personal concerns such as handling stress, whether it’s academic, athletic or personal.

“Josie has been a huge addition to our program,” head coach Matt Mott said. “She spends a lot of time with our team. She travels with us at times. She is a great resource for the girls, from a psychology standpoint.

“She has done a lot of team bonding stuff with us. When she's on the road, she has individual meetings with players. Her ability to comfort and relate to players has been fantastic. She understands the psyche of the athlete.”

As she moves into her new office, Nicholson’s professional charge remains the same: the overall well being of the student-athlete, on and off the field.

“I was born a Rebel, and this is my hometown. I’m proud to be part of this amazing program, working with some of the best athletic staff in the nation, supporting some of the most amazing athletes in the country,” Nicholson said. “It’s all about helping student-athletes be the best possible versions of themselves, on and off the field.” 

Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller


 

 

    • Game 3: Ole Miss 8, ECU 6

      Sunday, February 19, 2017 - Baseball

      p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 16.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica; color: #333333; -webkit-text-stroke: #333333} span.s1 {font-kerning: none; background-color: #ffffff} span.s2 {font-kerning: none} For the second-consecutive game, ECU held a lead in the late stages of the game. ECU... read more

    • Game 2: Ole Miss 3, ECU 2

      Saturday, February 18, 2017 - Baseball

      p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica; min-height: 17.0px} Ole Miss rallied from a two-run deficit in the late innings to knock off ECU 3-2 and clinch the... read more

    • Ole Miss 5, ECU 4

      Friday, February 17, 2017 - Baseball

      p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px} In a game that had the feel of an SEC Friday night showdown, baserunners were difficult to come by... read more

    • 2017 Ole Miss Baseball Walk Out Music

      Thursday, February 16, 2017 -

      With the 2017 Ole Miss Baseball season beginning tomorrow at Swayze Field (4 p.m. CT vs. No. 6 East Carolina), check out the always much-anticipated walk out music list. Which song is your favorite? Let us know on Twitter by... read more

    • Four Rebels Invited to the NFL Combine

      Monday, February 13, 2017 - Football

      p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica; min-height: 17.0px} Four Rebels will head to Indianapolis to take part in the NFL Combine in hopes of bolstering their draft... read more

    • What They're Saying: Men's Golf Sophomore Braden Thornberry

      Monday, February 13, 2017 - Men's Golf

      The breakout college golfer of the fall is trying to prove it wasn't a fluke. (@OleMissMGolf) https://t.co/S1IgwNJxmJ pic.twitter.com/p0IezRH1ul-- Ryan Herrington (@GWcampusinsider) February 6, 2017 .@tberrygolf enters the mix for this September at LACC.#WalkerCup Watch List: https://t.co/UPkkcOD3lX pic.twitter.com/0Sprbl7Qv4-- Golfweek (@golfweek) February... read more

    • Rebels Focus on Defense on Signing Day

      Wednesday, February 1, 2017 - Football

      p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica; min-height: 17.0px} Ole Miss' defense needed a shot in the arm after a 2016 season to forget. It began by retooling... read more

    • Engram Named a Top Performer by NFL Network's Mike Mayock

      Monday, January 30, 2017 - Football

      The Senior Bowl always offers players a chance to improve their draft stock by performing well against some of the best players in the nation. Evan Engram took advantage of that opportunity. NFL Network's draft expert Mike Mayock named Engram... read more

    • Know the Opponent: Texas A&M

      Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - Men's Basketball

      p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica; min-height: 17.0px} Know the Opponent: Texas A&M (10-8, 2-5) KenPom ranking: 64 Best win: vs. No. 50 Virginia Tech Worst loss:... read more

    • Rebels Impressing at East-West Shrine Game

      Thursday, January 19, 2017 - Football

      p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica; min-height: 17.0px} p.p3 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Arial; color: #222221; -webkit-text-stroke: #222221} span.s1 {font: 14.0px Helvetica; color: #000000;... read more

    • Former Rebel Coach Ron Aldy Honored at Kirk Academy

      Tuesday, January 17, 2017 - Women's Basketball

      Former Women's Basketball Head Coach Ron Aldy and his family at gym floor dedication at Kirk Academy today. pic.twitter.com/Ruyc9TFui5-- Holmes Athletics (@holmesathletics) January 14, 2017 p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px... read more

    • Tunsil Named AFC East Rookie of the Year by ESPN

      Monday, January 16, 2017 - Football

      p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica; min-height: 17.0px} Miami Dolphins offensive lineman and Ole Miss' former blind side protector Laremy Tunsil was named AFC East rookie of... read more

    • Three Rebel Coaches Among Top-20 Recruiters Nationally

      Friday, January 13, 2017 - Football

      With the hiring of Jacob Peeler as wide receiver coach, #OleMiss now has three asst coaches ranked in @247Sports '16 Top 20 best recruiters.-- Brad Logan (@BradLoganCOTE) January 10, 2017 Ole Miss football bolstered its coaching staff by adding coaching... read more

    • Know the Opponent: Georgia

      Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - Men's Basketball

      p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica; min-height: 17.0px} Georgia (10-5, 2-1) KenPom ranking: 61 Best win: at No. 103 Auburn Worst loss: at No. 79 Oakland Ole... read more

    • Know the Opponent: Auburn

      Saturday, January 7, 2017 -

      p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Helvetica; min-height: 17.0px} Know the Opponent: Auburn (10-4) KenPom ranking: 105 Best win: No. 28 Texas Tech Worst loss: No. 172 Boston... read more

OFFICIAL STORE

GET SOCIAL

Twitter

  • Loading Tweets...
    1 second ago

Instagram

Facebook