Minnesota sports psychologist helps athletes deal with mental rigors of Olympics

Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen recently said this about kicking in the NFL. "90% of it is mental, and the last 10% is mental."

It’s always been there, the mental aspect of sports. But only recently has it risen to a level where everyone is taking notice.

"I think we all got a great window into that with Tokyo and Simone Biles and then certainly even Naomi Osaka and just sharing the realness of being a human - that there's there is stress and there's down days and there is self-doubt," said Dr. Carlin Anderson with Premier Sports Psychology.

Dr. Anderson is a Minnesota-based sports psychologist. She works with everyone from student-athletes to pros to Olympic competitors. Right now, she’s in Beijing, with the USA Curling teams – including gold medal skipper John Schuster.

"This is his fifth Olympics and he had had several Olympic Games that had had a lot of adversity to them that hadn't gone the way he had wanted," said Dr. Anderson.

In 2018, we remember Team Schuster’s gold medal-winning performance, but what we didn’t see was the mental fortitude it took to battle back from a slump to win it all. Schuster later said a quiet moment with his family between competitions was the game-changer.

"Yes, outcome and winning is important, but really it was about the legacy he wanted to leave for his children and his boys in the story he wanted to share with them," said Dr. Anderson. "And they were there at the games and that was very meaningful to him."

Dr. Anderson has been traveling with Team USA for eight years, but this is the first time she’s seen a heavy shift from body to mind. "Even from last games to this game that it's visual visible. It's in, it's in your environment. I know I can speak for U.S. athletes. They all have access to just tremendous resources that are at their fingertips while they're here and even when they're home that they didn't have in the past.

The U.S. Men's Curling team finished in Beijing in 4th place, just shy of a medal. But in an interview Saturday, skipper John Shuster said: "I don't think it had to do with winning gold. My approach to curling tournaments now is I'm just out there enjoying the process with my teammates, trying to do everything we can to win and not living and dying on the results. That started halfway through Korea, and it's something that hasn't left me, and it's not going to leave me for the rest of my life."