Welcome to my blog. My name is Dr Paul McCarthy and I work as a sport psychologist. Here are my thoughts on a few issues that arise in my private practice. If you wish to know more about me or what I do, please let me know by e-mail or telephone. You'll see my details under Contact Us.

Confidence in Golf is an Inside Job

Wednesday 22nd March 2017

Golfers who win the green jacket at the Masters tournament do not need to be a specific height, weight or strength. It does not matter whether they are 6'5" or 5'9", weigh 70kg or 100kg, bench press 50kg or 100kg - they simply keep their heads when all about them are losing theirs. Successful golfers win when it matters. But how do they prepare to win? Golf comprises different parts: physical, mental, technical, tactical, and lifestyle. The precise blend depends on the golfer's needs. Regrettably, golfers wishing to win often get this blend of ingredients wrong. When I meet golfers for the first time, we start where we are. We learn how they spend their time in golf and…

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Getting To Number 1 - Andy Murray: A Winning Mind

Tuesday 8th November 2016

The psychology of performance in sport presents itself as obvious and obscure. When Andy Murray achieved a noted ambition to reach the World No. 1 spot in men's tennis it would seem obvious that his drive, determination, commitment and confidence played an obvious role. Yet, what seems most obscure is the combination of ingredients necessary to achieve this goal. Two tablespoons of confidence, 400g of commitment, 100g of determination and 500g of drive might be right; strictly speaking, nobody knows. But on a broader scale, physical, technical, tactical and lifestyle elements combine with psychological elements to capture a jigsaw for performance excellence. Once again, we do not know the 'right' combination of these ingredients; however, we are clear that each…

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The Artificial Boundaries of Life - Do They Exist?

Sunday 30th October 2016

Many clients I see whether in sport or business make exact distinctions between their sport, work and personal time. They present themselves as though their professional and personal lives belonged to different people. By the end of our work together, they often realise that the artificial boundaries make little sense to live a good life. Managing one's time, overcoming stress and dealing with others presents challenges at work and at home. At the heart of my work with others, we are working to underscore the person of value who chooses the right strategy to make life better. What one learns to benefit one's sport often fertilises different parts of life. A tennis player who struggled to manage criticism from coaches…

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What did Padraig Harrington Learn After Winning the Portugal Masters?

Tuesday 25th October 2016

It seems strange to most amateur golfers that Padraig Harrington, winner of three majors, and multiple tournaments around the world, would have more to learn about himself and his game. In a recent interview on News Talk - Off The Ball, he explained that the psychological edge of his game was blunted by his self-talk recently. Specifically, he treated himself harshly on the golf course. He blamed, criticised and judged himself unfairly on and off the golf course. He decided to treat himself more considerately on the golf course and the result he sought, followed. It would be difficult to claim that his positive, supportive and optimistic attitude accounted for his win; however, it seems fair that it mattered to…

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Do You Understand? And Do You Care? This Is How We Remember

Friday 21st October 2016

We all wish to influence others through our coaching and teaching. We might have the knowledge to pass over; however, we need to understand better how to make the knowledge stick. The success checklist of learning (Heath and Heath) should be your ideal tool to communicate more effectively. 1. Pay attention - present something unexpected at the outset 2. Understand and remember - concrete examples of what you are speaking about 3. Agree/believe - present a credible point of view 4. Care - emotional - draw upon emotion to emphasise your story line 5. Be able to act on it - story - the material you deliver needs to be within a story in which people can act up on the information.

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Attending to the Garden of Your Mind

Wednesday 19th October 2016

A garden, when tilled and nurtured allows the garden to grow and prosper. But without this attention to the lawn, shrubs and borders, weeds soon appear alongside withering shrubs and compacted soil. A well-functioning garden needs our care and attention. If we consider our mind as a garden we can see how easily weeds (unhelpful thoughts and feelings) grow. If left untended, these unhelpful thoughts and feelings disable our actions. An unreasonable fear about driving on a motorway, for example, might persuade us to avoid travelling on a motorway altogether - despite the inconvenience to ourselves and others. In sport, we might believe that we must never fail, ever. But this belief, when it grows stronger roots, becomes even harder…

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Learn to Relax and Win Under Pressure

Tuesday 18th October 2016

Learning to relax seems like a sensible plan of action for any athlete or coach living a hectic lifestyle. Yet, for many athletes and coaches, trying not to try seems strange. To get things done,coaches and athletes are used to working. But with relaxation, we need to let our body and mind do the work for us. Our body and mind relax when we permit them to do so. So we need to 'let go' in order to 'let go'. This notion seems strange so we need to be patient as we learn to relax. To build relaxation into our lives, we need to follow at least four steps. First, plan. Plan where and when you intend to relax. You…

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Putting The Fire Back - Together

Monday 17th October 2016

John Greenleaf Whittler: "For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been' Human beings want to explore their potential. They desire to peer over the edge of their ability to find out how much more is available to them. Starting out as children, the fire to develop and explore seems ceaseless. What I have noticed working with young athletes are the myths and hearsay drowning their passion to play, move and excel. The older they get the more the "what might have been" walks around with them. It is so easy for the pessimistic story to grab hold and the optimistic story to be hunted out the door. We need…

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Working On My Confidence

Friday 14th October 2016

When I work in private practice, it seems that the world is short on confidence and overflowing on criticism, blame and judgement. We can examine confidence with perspective. First, confidence is many things not just one thing but we often see our confidence with a distorted sight line and ignore the many parts of our lives where we think, feel and act confidently. Second, confidence comes from doing. We gain confidence through our actions and learning sensibly from our experiences. Third, confidence is also about choosing. Choosing to interpret your experiences in a healthy, supportive and persuasive way. Finally, confidence depends on limiting how much you blame yourself. If you kick yourself consistently for not meeting a specific standard you…

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Holding Myself To A Higher Standard

Friday 14th October 2016

Although we play our sport to whatever level (e.g., amateur, semi-professional, professional), we are free to hold ourselves to a higher standard for all we think, feel and do. Many people who read this statement struggle to accept the responsibility and accountability it entails. The 'higher standard' seems challenging and perhaps overwhelming but you need some perspective. The notion I present here is to set one's own standards and work from that point forward. Your standards reflect what you value so your values ought to be clear. Here's a useful starting point: 1. What are my values? Write down the values that are most important to you in your sport. Spend some time writing to flesh out your understanding. 2. Write these…

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