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Sport Psychology

Are you looking to take your sport to the next level? Do you want to overcome performance anxiety or stress? Resolve conflicts and become more consistent in your focus?

Sport psychologist Dr. Eddie O’Connor helps athletes, coaches and parents  achieve their goals and fulfill their potential. Since 1998, Dr. Eddie has helped thousands of performers at all levels achieve excellence in their sport, health, personal and professional lives.

Click to explore how Dr. Eddie can help you:

Sport Psychology Services

About Dr. Eddie


Success Stories and Client Testimonials



Learn more or schedule an appointment:
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Sport Psychology Services

One-on-one Consultations

Imagine a critical moment in the championship game. You are narrowly focused on what you need to do and confident in your ability to do it. That’s mental toughness and it’s essential for succeeding in sport and in life.

Without mental toughness, you may find your hours of practice aren’t showing up on game day. The pressure of competition can interfere with your ability to do your best. You may lose games you “should” have won and experience a drop in motivation.

Dr. Eddie helps athletes at all levels cultivate mental toughness and build skills like determination, confidence, focus and control under pressure.

For severe anxiety and/or distress, insurance may cover these services when a psychological diagnosis may be given. For athletes who are looking to gain a performance edge, mental training is an out-of-pocket service. Please call 616.840.8070 for more information.

Mental Toughness Workshops

Mental toughness is the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to be better and more consistent than your opponent in remaining:

• Determined
• Focused
• Confident
• In control under pressure

Mental toughness allows you to perform to your potential. You can develop the skills necessary to play your best with the game on the line, and do so time and again.

Workshops are adapted to individual team’s needs and goals. Below is a list of Dr. Eddie’s most popular requests. Call 616.840.8070 for more information about how to bring Dr. Eddie in to speak to your team, school or organization.

Mental Toughness: The X-Factor in Sport, Business, and Life: Learn why commitment is better than motivation. Identity what you want your performance life to be about. Develop three powerful focusing techniques: the Circle of Control, WIN and the 4F technique to rebound after mistakes. Start a simple confidence-building habit and free yourself from expectations. Achieve control under pressure by learning how to fully engage the moment of performance.

Overcoming Barriers to Excellence: Discover why the most common performance challenges have to occur and what you can do to overcome them. You will discover the value of negative thinking and the benefit of fear. Perfectionism can cripple performers. Learn how to be the “perfect perfectionist,” using perfectionism to strive for excellence while avoiding burnout. Nothing may be more common than performance anxiety, Dr. Eddie teaches you how to get distance from it and focus on the task at hand. And finally, understand that achievement in any context requires perseverance and consistency.

Motivate for Excellence (for coaches): Learn to master communication skills that enhance the three psychological needs that must be met to increase motivation, and learn how to avoid what undermines them. Be ready for some common coaching practices to be challenged, as some rewards actually decrease motivation and some negative consequences increase it.

Raising Champions: A Parent’s Role in Their Child’s Success: Parents will leave with specific guidelines on the best communication skills and behaviors that increase their child’s ownership, motivation and success in sport – while also saving you both the stress and aggravation of pushing. Not only is your child’s performance enhanced, but so is your relationship.

For Christian Sport Organizations:

Sport and the Spirit: Three of the most challenging sport performance issues solved with both effective sport psychology solutions and the biblical verses that support their efficacy.

Christian Men in Sport: Authentic Manhood founder Robert Lewis says “a real man rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously and expects God’s greater reward.” Dr. Eddie builds on these principles and applies each of these characteristics to sport training and performance.

The Coach’s Verse: In one verse, Ephesians 4:29 provides coaches with six qualities of communication that can guide their words and actions with athletes. Coaches will leave with both the psychological and biblical words that will increase their athletes’ motivation, commitment and performance.

About Dr. Eddie

Dr. Eddie is listed on the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) Sport Psychology Registry, meaning he’s approved by the USOC to work with Olympic athletes and teams. He received his PhD in clinical psychology from Illinois Institute of Technology.

As a Certified Mental Performance Consultant and Fellow through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, and Member of the American Psychological Association and Society for Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology, Dr. Eddie has the training and experience necessary to help you consistently reach your potential.


Learn more about mental toughness: Subscribe to the Mental Toughness newsletter and watch Dr. Eddie’s Mental Toughness lecture to students at Grand Rapids Community College.

On YouTube, check out Dr. Eddie’s free “Mental Toughness in 60 Seconds” for tips you can use immediately to improve your mental game. Subscribe and you won’t miss one #MTin60sec.

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Success Stories and Client Testimonials

“Your principles helped us stay engaged and focused during contests; and we were also able to silence our own doubts and anxieties. In essence, we were able to stay out of our own way and achieve what we knew we could. Thank you for being such an excellent teacher. We look forward to working with you again.” – Lumumba Shabazz, Head Coach, Kalamazoo College Men’s Soccer

“The results were terrific! Our players found Dr. O’Connor’s instruction very practical and easy to apply. Moreover, our coaches learned lessons that allowed them to reinforce what Dr. O’Connor taught. Based on my experience working with Dr. O’Connor I strongly recommend you give serious consideration to hiring him.” – Scott Woodruff, general manager, Grand Rapids Rampage

“Overall, (the workshop was) very positive, good points of discussion. (If you are thinking of attending one of Dr. Eddie’s events) take the opportunity, (it) can really help change your view of your own thoughts. (I expect I will) improve my mental thoughts before racing as well as practice (which is) key.” – Lynsey Ardingo, GVSU, 5K/10K

“(The workshop) was great and I learned about an entirely different aspect of my sport. (I expect his information will) make me a more prepared and relaxed runner and competitor.” – Scotty McKeel, GVSU, 800-1500 meter runner

“A lot of good info for any athlete.” – Xavier Parnell, GVSU, 200/100 meters

“Amazing. More in-depth and personal than I had anticipated.” – Lainie David, high school high jump and 60/300m hurdles athlete

“The best workshop I ever went to.” – Chris Fry, sport parent

“Great content, great presenter and I got a ton out of it.” – Ellie DenBraber, high school volleyball athlete

Below are letters of recommendation provided by a variety of professionals.

CEU Concepts
Grand Rapids Christian High School
Grand Rapids Rampage
Kalamazoo College Men’s Soccer
West Michigan Youth Soccer Association

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to work with a certified sport psychologist?

Certification by and membership in the Association for Applied Sport Psychology indicates a high level of professional achievement. Certified consultants are those who have met very high standards in the practice of applying sport psychology principles.

This video explains more about the importance of holding this credential.

What is mental toughness?

It’s what you DO in life that matters more than anything. DO-ing when you don’t want to or don’t feel up to it is what makes you mentally tough.

You can succeed in exercise when you feel lousy. You can continue working when you feel tired. You can focus on your goal when you feel pressure, but doing so requires you to stop thinking and feeling.

This philosophy may go against everything you’ve heard, read or experienced. It’s true that people can accomplish great things when they’re focused and confident. But no one can be focused and confident all the time. That’s where mental toughness comes into play.

When you’re feeling nervous, angry or worried, giving in to your thoughts and feelings is your weakness. That’s when you need to “get out of your mind” and concentrate on doing the task at hand. That’s mental toughness.

Learn more about mental toughness: Subscribe to the Mental Toughness newsletter and watch Dr. Eddie’s Mental Toughness lecture to students at Grand Rapids Community College.


What are some strategies to help me to play my best?

Below are 10 strategies to help you perform at your highest level:

1. Play to your own standard of excellence, not to the level of your opponent.
2. Be committed, even when you aren’t motivated.
3. Maintain a positive focus and effort at all times, especially after mistakes. Being positive brings up your teammates. Being negative brings up your opponents.
4. Have a specific goal for every practice. Be sure to review why you are a better athlete after each practice.
5. Practice how you want to play. Give full physical and mental effort at all times.
6. When under pressure, define and focus on your specific job.
7. Know that competitive anxiety is normal and prepares you for battle.
8. Prepare, prepare and prepare some more. Nothing is better to build confidence and avoid mistakes.
9. Take a deep breath to refocus on the “here and now.” The present moment is the ideal focus for best performance.
10. Your mind is designed to warn you of danger, causing negative thinking. It’s often best to just ignore your mind when it worries.


What are guidelines for coaching excellence?

As a coach, you are challenged to develop the skills and minds of your athletes. You play the role of mentor, leader and psychologist. Dr. Eddie can teach you the specific skills needed to maximize your athletes’ development while improving your coaching effectiveness.

Suggestions to get you started:

1. Define success as:
• giving full effort
• personal improvement of skills
• execution of strategies

2. Keep winning in perspective. You can’t control the outcome. Focus on the process.

3. Identify your athletes’ motivations for playing. Structure practice to fulfill those driving forces. Fun was ranked as the top reason, followed by improving skills.

4. Set SMART goals to motivate athletes:
• Specific (avoid “do your best” goals)
• Measurable (able to track behavioral progress)
• Achievable (challenging, but realistic)
• Relevant (important to the athlete or team)
• Time-limited (set deadlines for achievement)

5. Emphasize internal rewards (fun, love of the game, personal improvement) over external rewards (fame, scholarships).

6. Create a practice environment where each athlete becomes more motivated and confident:
• Notice when athletes do something correctly and frequently praise them for it.
• Reward effort as much as outcome.

7. Create a task-focused team climate where athletes practice to get better (vs. defeat others), compete against themselves (vs. each other) and help others to reach their potential.

8. Respond to mistakes by:
• Complimenting the athlete on something well done (effort, etc.)
• Giving future-oriented instruction (technical skill)
• Ending with encouragement

What behaviors should I avoid as the parent of a child athlete?

It’s natural for a loving parent to want his or her child to succeed in sports as with all other aspects of life. Unfortunately, that love can lead parents to behave in ways that hurt a child’s development and the parent-child relationship.

Those behaviors may include:
• Coaching from the sidelines
• Yelling at referees
• Reinforcing only winning or successful outcomes
• Overly investing in sport and/or assuming too much responsibility for the child’s participation (this is known as over-identification)
• Demanding perfection

Rather than raising a champion, such behaviors can lead to performance anxiety and a failure for a child to live up to his or her potential. Worse still, this can bring anger and tension into the parent-child relationship.

It’s common for parents to invest in their child’s performance. You make great sacrifices of your time and money because you love them. Strong emotions in response to what happens to your child is natural (a process called identification). Over-identification can lead parents to focus on their own emotions and goals rather than their child’s. This can hurt and frustrate your child-athlete.

As a parent, what can I do to raise a happy and successful child-athlete?

There are behaviors you can follow to help support your child-athlete and encourage him or her to succeed and reach full potential. Below are a few positive steps you can implement.

1. Fun and skill development should be the top priority at all levels of play.

2. Jens Omli in 2006 interviewed 73 athletes, ages 3-14 years. These kids said they wanted parents to silently and attentively watch them play, breaking from the quiet only to cheer good plays.

3. Resist the urge to yell. Children can’t hear the difference between positive, negative and instructional yelling, and the action itself can be embarrassing for them.

4. Kids report the top two negative parent behaviors are coaching from the sidelines and yelling at the refs. Sideline coaching can confuse the child and undermine the coach. Kids feel badly for the refs when parents abuse them.

5. Kids need balance. As a parent, you have the unique ability to provide encouragement, support and a break from sport.

6. Reinforce effort and skills, not winning. This keeps children from learning that your “love” (e.g., positive words, hugs, treats) is dependent on an outcome for which they have no control. You can help your child to achieve more by reinforcing the process of effort and skill execution regardless of the outcome.

7. Focus on what you child is doing right. He or she is more likely to repeat these successful behaviors.

8. Let the coach do his or her job. If you don’t feel the coach is qualified, find another coach or league. Otherwise, let the coach perform without interfering. Both your child and the coach will appreciate it and perform better.