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Lakers’ Ron Artest, his psychiatrist, reaction, & sport psychology – an insider’s perspective…

June 18, 2010

In case you haven’t heard, Ron Artest’s post-game interview seems to be getting almost as much attention as the Lakers’ game 7 win over the Celtics. Case in point, “Ron Artest” is still trending on Twitter. Artest responded to a reporter with a traditional statement about the people he wanted to thank and included one not-so-traditional individual: his psychiatrist, whom, he added, helped him relax in the commotion of the playoffs. Watch the actual interview below.

What has followed is a mixed bag of positive & negative YouTube (YT) comments, tweets (T), and media remarks (MR) such as:

YT – “He is seeing a psychiatrist??? A psychologist is the less serious one right?
So he’s really crazy?”

YT – “He worked with someone to help him control his emotions in overwhelming
situations. That’s a great idea. I don’t know why everyones ripping on him. It was
smart, and it worked.”

T – “…i think it’s great he thanked [his] psychiatrist” (via @mrbispo)

T – “You know you’re crazy when you just win the NBA Championship and you
thank your psychiatrist!! hahaha Ron Artest, you’re a fool.” (via @stephandkaeli)

MR – “Is sports therapy going mainstream?” (article by Neil Katz, with some nice
commentary by sport psychology consultant, Dr. Nicole Miller)

MR – “Ron Artest kept the crazy in check to become a champion” (article by
Paula Duffy)

Perhaps part of the uproar is because “Ron Artest” made the comment, but it wasn’t the first time he discussed his sport psychology work with the media. Just checkout this LA Times blog entry from October 2009. In contrast, we often hear, for example, top PGA pros discussing work with sport psychologists without incident. I think this dialogue provides some interesting talking points about the state of sport psychology.

First, the word “mainstream” (as in, “Is ‘sports therapy’ going mainstream?”) can have a few connotations. One is “alternative” or “new age” versus mainstream. In this sense, we might explain sport psychology as the psychological science of peak performance and athletic participation (and injury rehabilitation, coaching, and much more). There are, for example, thousands, if not tens of thousands, of studies and academic journal articles, numerous international organizations and annual conferences, offices at the US Olympic Training Centers, and over a hundred graduate programs. It is an interdisciplinary area, combining psychology and sports science, dating as far back as the 1890’s (Google “Norman Triplett”).

If we’re talking “mainstream” in the sense of widespread usage, then we may say, “yes, it’s definitely becoming more and more mainstream.” Sport psychology is following, perhaps, a similar path as athletic training, sports nutrition, or exercise physiology. Those services were once almost exclusively found at the elite and professional levels of sport. As those fields grew, especially on college campuses, the availability of the services began to trickle down through collegiate programs to high schools and even local gyms. Sport psychology is following a similar, arguably predictable, pattern.

The mixed reaction to Artest’s comments, I believe, also reflects the gap often found between the perception many people have about how elite athletes train and the real methods of elite training. This gap, for example, is frequently highlighted in the microcosm of my conversations with people when they first learn I work in sport (and high performance) psychology. Two common initial responses: (1) Sport psychology? Is there really such a thing? Hahaha, you’re kidding right? Or (2) Oh, cool.

Response number one (i.e., never heard of it, thinks it must be a joke) is almost invariably the response of someone who has either not been involved in athletics, or who has never really trained with a scientific approach or been exposed to elite sport environments. Response number two (i.e., simple acknowledgment) is usually from people who have trained at a collegiate level or higher – and, more and more frequently, high school athletes… evidence of the trickle down pattern. In fact, my clients often include junior elites.

From an insider perspective, it’s great to see the discussion, positive or negative – even though I know many to most professional athletes have worked with a sport psychology consultant at some point in their careers, and many teams and most sports governing bodies currently employee them. I’m confident the understanding of sport psychology will become clearer in time as a result.

One thing is almost certain, though…… Ron Artest’s psychiatrist’s phone is ringing off the hook with new clients.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Media professionals should feel free to quote my blog with a proper citation (please notify me) or contact me directly for interviews or my press kit. You can also get regular updates and connect with me via:

12 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2010 6:17 am

    Incredible story

  2. June 25, 2010 6:51 am


  3. June 25, 2010 8:20 am

    He hits it long. His shoulders are impressively quick through the ball. That’s where he’s getting his power from. He’s young and has great elasticity.

  4. July 2, 2010 12:14 pm

    Thank you Nikolaus and “admin”! Bollywood, wrong sport buddy…. and thank you as well to Cody Dolan for the reference to this entry in the blog of the Menninger Clinic (“a world leader in psychiatric treatment, research and education”):

    The destigmatization of mental illness is one of my core philanthropic interests:

  5. July 17, 2010 2:30 am

    Wow now thats perspective! I think we often react in agreement or disagreement because of our emotions, but hearing another side, passionately presented, really makes us think!

  6. May 15, 2011 10:56 pm

    Nice blog you might have, I came by google and over your blog, the content is great and informative: )


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