Center For Cognitive Therapy

Sport Psychology

Sport and Performance Psychology is an approach that includes a collection of techniques designed to provide the athlete with a set of mental skills to maintain and enhance focus during performance with competitive intensity.  Sport Psychology is a completely different endeavor from the general field of Psychology and, in particular, Psychotherapy.  Athletes who seek consultation from a Sport Psychologist are typically high functioning individuals with no significant problems psychologically or emotionally.  In fact, a psychologist who is working with an athlete while focusing upon emotional difficulties (athletes are human of course) is not doing Sport Psychology.

Sport Psychology, a sub-category of Performance Psychology, involves acquiring a specific set of mental skills that optimize performance in competitive circumstances. Some of the key elements of these mental skills are outlined below:

  • Maintaining and maximizing high levels of quality practice.
  • Maintaining high levels of motivation (coping with frustration & disappointment).
  • Mental Skills of Focus.
  • Understanding the role of self-talk in performance.
  • Developing effective skills to address self-talk.
  • Relaxation Skills (finding the optimal level of energy to compete with effective intensity).
  • Accountability ( Assuming responsibility and recognition that attitude is a choice).
  • Imagery as practice and a tool for optimizing performance (including coping with adversity).
  • Goal Setting: Learn each day/every practice.
  • Learning to emphasize the process (work ethic and quality practice) and not the results, which will be optimized by focusing on the process.
  • Coping with adversity…turning threat into challenge…challenge into opportunity.
  • Managing the stress of competition and life.

Topics addressed with coaching staff include:

  • Developing a Mission Statement for the team and players.
  • Team building.
  • Developing leadership.
  • Clariying roles for individual players.
  • Outlining problem areas and goals for individual players.
  • Coaching the Mental Game.

Mental Skills require regular practice. The Mental Skills Scoreboard (Oakley & Ravizza, 2013) is designed to provide accountability for the practice of Mental Skills that are required to attain mastery. (Downloadable Form) The Mental Skills Scoreboard may be used as a daily log (recommended) or as an assessment tool for coaches and athletes to determine skill levels and identifying areas needing improvement.

“If you are looking for magic dust…this is it.” Cyndi Gallagher: 2013-2014 UCLA Head Swimming Coach (speaking to the team at the end of a Sport Psychology Consultation on 12/18/2014).


Mark E. Oakley, Ph.D. is the founder of the Center For Cognitive Therapy in Beverly Hills and has over 30 years of clinical and research experience in the field of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Over this same time span, Dr. Oakley has also been active as a Full Clinical Professor in the UCLA Psychology Department, where he has taught advanced graduate students of Clinical Psychology to administer Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. This UCLA Clinical Psychology program has consistently been rated as the #1 Clinical Psychology Program in the United States by U.S. News and World Report over the past 20 years. Cognitive-Behavioral principals comprise the core of all Sport and Performance Psychology approaches.

Dr. Oakley has worked closely with the legendary Sport Psychologist, Dr. Ken Ravizza, providing Sport Psychology consultations to the 2013 UCLA and Cal Sate Fullerton Baseball teams. The UCLA 2013 Baseball team won it’s first National Championship in the history of UCLA!

Dr. Oakley has also participated in Dr. Ravizza’s “Sport Psychology Think Tank”, which was comprised of Major League and Division 1 coaches as well as other prominent Sport Psychologists who meet periodically to discuss ideas for advancing the effectiveness of Sport Psychology.

Dr. Oakley is also grateful to Dr. Ravizza for his introduction to me of Markus Rogan, a professional swimmer who has competed in four Olympics, a previous world record holder, winner of two Olympic Silver Metals, and who has most recently carried the flag for his native country of Austria in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Dr. Oakley has previously partnered with Markus, an extraordinary motivational speaker, as a paid sport consultant to the 2013 UCLA Swim Team, 2013 NCAA Finals Team, and the 2014 UCLA Swim Team. We were proud that the 2013 UCLA Swim Team improved their national ranking from 37th to 17th, following our Sport Psychology intervention that year.

Most recently, Dr. Oakley has drawn upon his decades of clinical experience to develop an innovative approach to help pitchers and position players to improve command and performance under pressure. He has consulted with coaching staff and/or players for UCLA, Cal State Fullerton, USC, L.A. Galaxy, Colorado Rockies and the Seattle Mariners as well as aspiring Olympic athletes.


We all mourn the passing of Ken Ravizza. He has inspired and helped countless numbers of athletes, coaches, and Sports Psychologists around the world. Those fortunate to have known him personally lost a dear friend and miss him deeply. As legendary as he was as a pioneer in Sports Psychology, he remained a humble, warm and kind person who had a way of saying hello that lit up your day. It just felt good to be in his presence. There is not a day that goes by that Ken does not enter my thoughts and his concepts help me to be more effective in helping others from all walks of life. While he is profoundly missed, all those lives he has touched continue in their own way to carry his torch. This is the greatest tribute that can be offered and I know Ken is smiling.

More about Mark E. Oakley, Ph.D. & Sport Psychology: