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Athletes Must Depend On A Strong Mind As Well As A Strong Body

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CHAPEL HILL — The mental health of athletes plays as much a part of winning as theirphysical well-being.

Bill Chamberlain knows the psychology behind the pressure the teams in theFinal Four are feeling. He played in the 1972 Final Four forUNC under coach DeanSmith.

"Coach Smith was a master at knowing each person's personality, andthen blending them, probably the best ever in the history of the game ofbasketball," he says. "He knew all the things that were about you. He knewyour family. He knew how you were off the court, so it wasn't that youwere just a basketball player, you were a person to him first."

Even though Smith had a great grasp of thepsychology of sports, being a sportspsychologist is a medical specialty.

A doctoral degree in psychology, knowledge ofexercise science and experience in applyingpsychological principles in sports settings arejust a few of the qualifications needed to be a sportspsychologist.

Sports psychologists help players learn toblock out outside expectations, distractions and personalproblems to get their head back in the game.

They also teach teams tactics for staying together through tough timesand focusing on enjoying the game rather than the pressure. As a coach andplayer, Chamberlain knows it is the love of the game thatdrives the minds of great athletes.

"You play it for the love of the game. I don't know any guy, eventplayers who make millions of dollars at the professional level, whodoes not still love the game," he says. "If you don't love the game,you are not going to play it at a high level."

Two important things great athletes do is setgoals and use imagery to improve their game.

Goal setting provides long-term vision andshort-term motivation. Imagery includes practicing the game inyour mind to build confidence and gainfocus.

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