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Sport Psychologist Advises Jazz, Athletes On Championship Runs To Reduce Tension, Relax

Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz stands for the National Anthem prior to the start of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on February 12, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Intermountain Healthcare sport psychologist Dr. Tony Kemmochi advised that players on the Utah Jazz or any athlete on a championship run try to reduce tension and relax to improve their mental health.

Dr. Kemmochi spoke about the mental health of athletes during a conference call on Wednesday, June 9.

During the call, Dr. Kemmochi was asked the “unique stressors” that athletes, like Jazz players, are under on a championship run.

“My advice for those athletes in the situation like championships, something big, is to remember to just try to reduce that tense a little bit and relax,” Dr. Kemmochi said.

He explained that the most common mental health struggle for athletes is the expectations they are under.

“The most common struggle that athletes express is a expectation. They are under such a heavy expectation both from outside and from themselves, that their mind gets trapped in a lot of anxiety, apprehension, ‘What if what if I fail? What if I make a mistake?,” and it’s really difficult to overcome that.”

Dr. Kemmochi added that social media plays a role in expanding the spotlight athletes are under and creates more fear.

“Things like social media creates greater exposure, so that creates even more fear so they’re up against a lot of fears to overcome. In those situations, I tend to advise athletes to find a way to optimize their level of arousal and anxiety. We don’t want to necessarily push them away or ignore it, which some people choose to do. You know they say, ‘I just tried not to think about it.'”

He explained that if athletes push those fears into the back of their minds, they will eventually resurface and potentially in the biggest moments.

“When we do that, it doesn’t just go away, it just stays in the back of our mind, and when it finds a chance it just comes out and you don’t want that to happen at the crucial moment of your play.”

Rope Analogy

Dr. Kemmochi pulled out of piece of rope on the video call and used it as an object lesson about the mind.

“Imagine this rope as your mind, mental state, and being tense,” Dr. Kemmochi said as he stretched the rope. “This… may make your mind kind of feel strong right because it’s tense and tight, but this also means that this rope is more likely more likely to snap, and we don’t want that. So if we can relax just a little bit, just tense enough. This state is actually more optimal because if something hits you, you can still stay flexible to absorb the shock but if it’s tense, and something hits you, it’s more likely to sever the fiber, and that’s how our mind gets injured.”

Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz are currently playing the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Semifinals of the NBA Playoffs.

After advancing from the first round by defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in five games, the Jazz are up 1-0 in their series against the Clippers.

Game 2 of the series will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, June 10 at 8 p.m. (MDT). The game will broadcast on ESPN and 97.5 FM.

If you or someone you know is struggling, help is out there on the National Lifeline’s website.