April 13, 2009

Dr. Bob Rotella

When elite athletes need to find their mental games, this psychologist often gets the first call

A lot of golfers who swear at the game swear by Dr. Bob Rotella, a famous sport psychologist whose clients include football and basketball players, even coaches. No writers?

Grillroom: After he won two majors in two months last year, Padraig Harrington praised you.

Rotella: It's nice but not necessary. I don't identify athletes I'm working with, and I don't go around looking for athletes to work with. If they come to me, there's a better chance they'll be ready. When they're ready, they come to my house for two days to get started.

Is your profession stigmatized?

It shouldn't be. I don't deal in abnormalities or clinical problems. I deal with the psychology of greatness. Most people in the world aren't trying to have the best state of mind every day to compete against the best of the best.

And even the great ones lose confidence or concentration?

Tom Kite once told me, "Doc, if you see me shoot over par more than one day in a row, call me. Because with my skills, I shouldn't do that unless my head isn't in the right place."

How did you get into this?

I was a coach, basketball and lacrosse, before I started coaching minds. Before that I caddied some for Bobby Locke, one of the best putters ever. But he regarded Ben Hogan as the best, which I mentioned to Mr. Hogan when I was fortunate enough to spend a day with him years ago.

Compare golfers with other athletes.

For one, the challenge for golfers is they're alone. Also, at this level, they play against the best all the time. The Boston Celtics don't play the Los Angeles Lakers every day. Golfers pretty well have to shoot under par, or else.

__A top golfer, asked about seeing sport psychologists, said, "What are they going to tell me? Breathe?" __

How would that guy know what I'm going to tell him if we never talk? Obviously, he can try it by himself, but it's tougher than ever now. Hogan got canonized for practicing hard. Look at how hard these guys work now.

Could you help me write better?

Like Satchel Paige said about mind over matter, "If you don't mind, it don't matter." Do you have the guts to write something half your readers won't like ... but you don't care?

Only half?