Contact: Meredith Amor
Director of Communications
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 28, 2021
Barry University Sport and Exercise Performance Psychology Expert Available to Comment on the Difference Between Mental Health and Mental Performance
(MIAMI, FL) With the world watching Simone Biles and cheering her on in her pursuit of wellness, Barry University Assistant Professor of Sport and Exercise Performance Psychology Dr. Kimberly Shaffer notes there is an important distinction between mental health and mental performance.
“What we see with Simone Biles, when she did that vault you can see it in her eyes, that is a mental block. Something is telling her brain she can’t do this,” Dr. Shaffer said. “When you think of mental health, oftentimes people think of illnesses like schizophrenia and depression. Mental performance is suddenly not being able to do a skill you need to do. All the pressure, the expectation that you will be phenomenal, that can affect mental performance.”
Dr. Shaffer applauds Biles for taking a step back and notes that in a sport like gymnastics ignoring mental performance concerns can be catastrophic. “I think it’s important to acknowledge that she felt strong enough to recognize she needed to withdraw. If you throw a wild pitch in baseball or have a bad swing in golf, you’re going to be ok. If you have this type of block in gymnastics and you do a bad flip, you can break your neck.”
When athletes struggle with mental performance, Dr. Shaffer says there are grounding techniques they can use to stay present and focus on the moment, including mindfulness. “These are techniques that take an athlete a long time to tap into,” she notes. “You can’t flip a switch and turn mindfulness on. It is so important that athletes work on them throughout their careers so when these rough patches come up, they have the tools they need.”
Dr. Shaffer is available for interviews to discuss the difference between mental health and mental performance, and the techniques sport and exercise performance psychologists recommend for athletes to get back to a state of automaticity and peak performance. Her bio is available here.