April 20, 2005


LEWISBURG, Pa. — Joel Fish, director of the Center for Sport Psychology in Philadelphia, told Bucknell student-athletes that they face the same kinds of sport issues as name stars like Charles Barkley and Donovan McNabb.

Temper and nerve issues, for example, he said, are common problems dealt with by players at all levels and on all teams.

Fish, who has worked with athletes from youth sport to the Olympics and professional ranks, spoke about team-building, motivation, and the importance of understanding individual differences. His goal, he said, was for student-athletes to "walk out of here and say, `I learned something that's going to help me as a student, an athlete, and a person and help my team reach its full potential.'"

Fish used several exercises to spark discussion. The first was asking the audience to see how many different images they saw in a set of ink blots. Different participants saw a different number. The point Fish was making was the importance of "embracing diversity and individual differences. … You respect each other, trust each other, and learn to recognize that what you see in the ink blot might be different from me."

Another exercise involved counting the number of times the letter "f" appeared in a sentence. Answers ranged from three to the correct answer of six. When it comes to perceptions, he said, "What you see isn't always what you get." And when it comes to assumptions and pressures, he said, different people deal with them in different ways.

The sport psychologist reinforced the concept of perceptions and individual differences by presenting a personality chart with four basic personality types. Challenging the audience to think of their style and a teammate's style, Fish emphasized the importance of getting to know a teammate's personality in order to know how to better help that teammate.

Fish then asked for a volunteer to balance a pole on his hand for 15 seconds. For the first try, the volunteer was asked to look at the bottom of the pole. It fell. On the second try, the volunteer was asked to look at the top of the pole. He succeeded.

"The key to really being a team, and not just throwing on a Bucknell uniform, is keeping your eye up on the top of the pole," Fish said. "The top of the pole represents hope, respect, the big picture, and seeing the cup as half full."

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Lindsay Hitz, a first-year student majoring in political science, is a Presidential Fellow in the Communications Office at Bucknell.

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