PAC Psychology

PAC Sport Psychology Program 2017-18

Sport Psychology Portland Oregon PAC Brian Baxter          

Brian Baxter is back for Year 4 of Sport Psychology Institute Northwest’s partnership with PAC!


June 16, 2018

Preparing for Champs season
For the past 3 months, most of my work has been with swimmers individually.  Today we were back to a team environment, and we follow up on a few topics:


-Managing Anxiety

-How to best support your teammates

This time I introduced a specific type of visualization called mental imagery. It's where, instead of visualizing the race or skill you are working on, the athlete uses a mental image to supplement and strengthen your performance.  An example that I used was a hummingbird.  I showed a video of a hummingbird in real time and in slow motion.  This animal illustrates moving it's wings extremely fast while keeping it's head and body still.  That image was used in visualization to keep the athletes' heads calm in the midst of choas and extreme effort.

I encourage athletes to continue to use visualization to help them prepare for competition.  They should also try adding an image, whether a hummingbird, or one that they choose.


February 3, 2018
Managing Pre-Race Jitters
We are continuing to explore how to deal with the anxiety that is inherent in sports, especially swimming. Last year I introduced the formula:

Thoughts + Emotions + Physiology = Performance

Basically, how you swim is a combination of how you manage your thoughts, how your thoughts impact your emotional state, and ultimately, how your body reacts to both.  The major emotion we focused on during this session was anxiety.  We have discussed anxiety many times in the past, this time trying to get to a deeper understanding of what causes anxiety, and how it affects our physical state.  Anxiety is primarily thought of as a negative emotion, but PAC swimmers know that anxiety is neutral, and only becomes negative when mixed with negative thoughts

I broke down 6 thoughts that turn anxiety into a negative:

1) The "what if?" game

2) "I have to _______"

3) Comparing myself to others

4) All eyes are on me

5) Perfectionist

6) I should be nervous, because I don't put in the work, I'm out of shape, and I hate swimming

Each swimmer picked one and worked with their group on how to not let this line of thinking make the anxiety turn negative.

The solutions for each can be specific, but in general, here's how to manage pre-race jitters:

-Know your tendancies.  Which of the 6 lines of thinking is most likely to trip you up.

-Awareness.  Be in-tune and aware when this line of thinking begins to arise

-Circle Breathing.   Breathe deeply to relax and re-focus your thoughts

-Positive Self Talk.  Here are some  examples of positive self talk that we came up with for each category

1) The "what if?" game ->  "What if something great happens?! If I do ______ , I will have success."

2) "I have to _______"   ->  "I get to ____."  "I can _____"  or "I want to _____"

3) Comparing myself to others   ->  "What works for one swimmer doesn't work for everyone. Focus on me and what I can do"

4) All eyes are on me (none of the swimmers picked this option)

5) Perfectionist ->  "There are a million ways to get the result you want. It doesn't have to be just one way."

6) I should be nervous, because I don't put in the work, I'm out of shape, and I hate swimming - (this one was originally included as somewhat of a joke, but several swimmers picked this one. Even if these thoughts aren't true, they can come up for swimmers mentally, and that's really important to know).  --> These athletes can use journaling as a way to take ownership of successes in their everyday training and competition.

Looking forward to next month's sessions,



2017 is off to a great start!  I have worked with the Senior team doing team building, and have had some several one-on-one sessions helping those swimmers with specific strategies to deal with:

-pre-race anxiety
-managing stress from the demands of school and swimming and social life
-how to deal with the ups and downs and plateaus of a young swimmer's carreer.

I have also been able to get to Dishman, Mt Scott, and Columbia already this year!  For those younger swimmers, I talked to them about how your thoughts affect your emotions, and how your emotions affect your body, and how the combination of the 3 affect your overall performance.  Each swimmer should be reading over the worksheet they filled out at our session before each practice, and "mentally training" on one of the sport psychology skills I taught them.  Parents, you can help re-enforce these techniques by asking your swimmer to explain them to you, and how they work.

The techniques are:  positive self-talk, circle breathing, positive body language, and visualization.

Hope everyone has a great holidays and I look forward to continuing the program in 2018,


This year you will see me at Dishman once a month, doing team-building, mental game training, and available to swimmers individually for short, personalized sessions.

I will be at SWCC, Mt. Scott, and Columbia for a joint parent/athlete session, as schedules align with the coaches. Each year, I bring brand new content, so even if you have attended before, there will be something new.

As always, if you want extra mental game training, I will have my book and visualization program available for sale at a discounted rate for PAC members.  Also, if you want more personalized sport psychology consulting, sessions with me are offered at 20% discount from normal rates for PAC members. For more details on this, contact brian@spinw.com or 503-309-3347.


October 2017 - team building with the senior team



PAC Sport Psychology Program 2016-17


Brian Baxter is back for Year 3 of Sport Psychology Institute Northwest’s partnership with PAC!

March 2017

2016 - 2017 Sport Psychology Update

Click HERE for PDF version of update with photos
As this season heads into the home stretch, I wanted to send a re-cap of what we’ve been doing
in the sport psychology program, and how athletes can continue their Mental Training on their
own through the end of the season.

Site Pools
At the site pools, I worked with athletes on re-learning and managing anxiety. Swimmers did a
short breathing exercise to quiet the mind, and that related to being able to quiet the mind in the
most intense, noisy, competitive environments. “Circle breathing” is one of the most effective
re-focusing cues to quiet the mind.
To mentally train, athletes can practice their re-focusing cues until they become ingrained as

Senior Group
(Photo: Senior Group doing “The Human Knot”)
For the senior group the focus was more on team building than in previous years. The mix of
interactive activity and classroom-style mental game training was a nice change of pace from
previous years, and really helped the team bond and get to know each other better.

Our premise for mental training is to improve performance, no matter where you are in your
swimming. The goal is to swim up to your potential consistently, especially at the bigger meets.
We have centered the work on the equation:
Thoughts + Emotions + Physiology = Performance.

For mental training, visualization was the first sport psychology technique I taught, as it
addresses all 3 elements of performance. We have incorporated visualization and team
building into every session since.
(Photo - Visualization) (Sports Mindset Audio)

Additional sport psychology techniques have been added throughout the year: Managing prerace
Anxiety, Self Talk, Motivation (team and individual), Positive Body Language, and

Focusing on the Controllables.
To mentally train, athletes can continue to implement these techniques into their daily lives,
training and competition. Each athlete has different needs, so it is important to be self-aware
and disciplined in the process.

The mental game doesn’t start and end with the athletes though! I enjoyed being able to
facilitate a discussion at all the pools this year for parents. To be the best sports parent ever,
we talked about the 6 Cs: Commitment, Clear Consistent Communication, Controllables,
Comfort Zone, (Don’t) Coach, and the Car ride home. Thanks for everyone who attended,
asked questions, and shared their stories.
For more mental game training, remember that PAC athletes and families get 20% off individual
services from SPINw. Contact us if you are interested: brian@spinw.com | 503-309-3347

February 2017

In February I visited all the site pools and spoke with athletes and parents.  

Most athletes have experienced the pre-race jitters, and how they can effect performance.  In our discussion, we talked about looking at anxiety as a neutral feeling - not negative or positive.  How anxiety shows up mentally and physically can be directly related to how it effects you - whether it helps you swim faster, or slows you down.  We also discussed using re-focusing cues to keep it positive and use it to improve performance!

Athlete tip - remember to practice these mental game skills every practice so they become second-nature.

For parents we discussed How to Be the Best Sports Parent Ever.  Lots of great discussion and questions on how to support your athlete before and after the big race, and over the course of the season and their athletic careers.

January 2017

"Time flies when you are having fun!"

In meeting with individual swimmers in November and January, a fairly common theme was dealing with pre-race nerves and anxiety, especially in the bigger events.  The bigger the meet, the bigger the expectations, the more swimmers, the higher the stakes, that's when the anxiety levels can shoot through the roof.

This can lead athletes to being stressed as they wait for their event to begin. Many athletes waste a lot of much needed energy worrying; energy that would be much better used in the actual competition.  The storm of emotions can lead to negative self-talk, tightness in muscles, and self doubt - where is the fun in that?   As the old adage goes: "Time flies when you are having fun."   

We have been working this year, and will continue to implement strategies like circle breathing, visualization, and positive self talk (among others), to make sure that athletes are calm within the storm, and can find the fun in what they are doing.  Afterall, where would you rather be than that exact meet at that exact time.  Be positive, have fun, swim faster.

December 2016

PAC Parent Meeting: "How to be a Great Sports Parent". 

Thanks to Brian and over 30 parents representing all of our site pools for joining us early Saturday Morning for an engaging discussion on sports parenting.  Click here for a copy of the handout.

November 2016

Our topic for November was managing the ups and downs of big events.  What an athlete wants in every meet is to perform up to their potential for that given point in time.  We used this "formula" for perofrmance:

Performance = Thoughts + Emotions + Physiology

I had each athletes look at their performance through this lens. Each athlete came up with their "optimal anxiety level" and a couple strategies to manage that anxiety, whether they need to pump themselves up or calm themselves down.   We ended with visualization, a technique that incorporates all 3 elements of performance.  

October 2016


Our first session with the senior group was an amazing start. A sunny day outside was helpful as we did a few team building games and I introduced the group to visualization.  I am looking forward to continuing to help athletes work toward their Vision of "Elevating our team to excellence"

Fall 2016

I enjoyed meeting a lot of you at the club kickoff event, and am looking forward to another great year at PAC.  This year I will meet with the senior group for 5 team building and mental game sessions, each junior pool group once, and speak directly to coaches and parents once each.

June 2016

Our final session for the year was goal setting for a shorter season.  Key points to remember:
1- When setting goals, make sure to have both long term and short term goals

2- Short term goals should connect with your long term goals,  but they should not equate to them. 

3- For a shorter season, what is the ultimate goal, and simplify what you need to do to give yourself the best change to achieve them.

For many of the individuals I met with, we talked about taking the focus away from the time and result of the race, and onto the process - what are a couple "controllable" factors you can do to give yourself the best chance to succeed?  Define those factors and focus positively on them while preparing for the race.

The "Controllable" factors for athletes are Effort, Attitude, Preparation, and Present Moment.  When you set goals around these factors, focus by saying "I swim my best when I focus on technique."  or  "If I give this race 100% effort with a positive mindset, I'm going to do well."  and "I have worked hard, and I'm prepared to the best of my ability.  There's no where else I'd rather be right now than here!"

It was great seeing you all again.  Have a great finish to the season.  Go out there and go for it!

January 2016

Key points from the "Mental Game Subtleties" presentation:

sport psychology subtleties

December 2015

Key points from the "Re-charge your goals for 2016" presentation:
1 - Take time to reflect back on your goals from 2015. Celebrate the successes and learn from the setbacks.

2 - Set some preliminary goals as to what you'd like to accomplish next year in these 4 categories:

     *Technical - what skills do you need to improve to get to the next level?

     *Tactical - how can you grow your "sports IQ" to have better races?

     *Physical - athletically, where is there most room for improvement?

     *Mental - training habits, self-talk, emotional control - how can you build confidence even more? 

3 - Once you've set those goals, think of at least one "how" - action steps you can take to achieve your goals.

Bonus - For those of you that have the book from last year, take an hour to re-read what you wrote last year. It will be a good gage for growth.   If you haven't read it, click on the icon below for the amazon link.

Sports Mindset Gameplan - sport psychology workbook

I'll see you again on January 30, 2016.

November 2015

Last year I enjoyed getting to work with the athletes, coaches and parents of PAC on the mental aspects of athletics:  confidence, mental toughness, focus, managing anxiety, mindset and more.

This year’s program will look a little different, as I will do less big group talks, but instead will be available more for short individual athlete sessions.  Stay tuned for more information about how you can get personalized sport psychology sessions with me through PAC at a discounted rate.  Additionally, each time I come out, I'll have copies of my mental game workbook The Sports Mindset Gameplan available for a special PAC rate of $10/copy.

I will also be writing an article for the PAC website every month or so with article and mental game tips.  Have a question for me? Or want to know more about a particular topic?  Please email me at  brian@spinw.com and I will include your question and my answer on the site.

As a re-cap of sorts from last year, here are some basic definitions for sport psychology and the mental game:

Confidence - belief in yourself and your abilities

Mental Toughness - the ability to remain confident and re-gain confidence over time

Focus - selectively concentrating on one aspect of the environment while ignoring other things

Mindset - habits of mind formed by previous experiences that determine how a person perceives, interprets, and responds to situations

Want more sport psychology tips and skills, team motivation techniques, and more?  Please click here to sign up for Sport Psychology Institute Northwest’s monthly email newsletter.


PAC Sport Psychology 2014-2015

Greetings PAC community,

I am very excited to be working with not only the athletes, but the coaches and families of the Portland Aquatic Club, to help provide a well-rounded experience.

As young athletes develop technically, tactically, physically, and socially, a high performance mindset must be developed and strengthened accordingly. As the level of competition gets higher and higher, what separates the good swimmer from the great is mentality. The goal of this comprehensive program is to give athletes exposure to and help them implement strategies to cope with the pressure, emotions, and frustrations that can come with high level athletics. This mental conditioning program will strengthen performance by giving these young players tools to build and maintain confidence.

I have been working with athletes and teams in the Portland area for over 9 years now.  I look forward to meeting everyone, sharing my experience, and helping the swimmers and their families have the best experience possible in their athletic careers.

In addition to group presentations, my book, The Sports Mindset Gameplan will be made available to PAC members for half of the retail value -  $10.  Additionally, for those who would like a more personalized consulting, Brian will offer a 20% discount to PAC swimmers for individual sessions. For more about me, please check out www.spinw.com

Brian Baxter, MA Sport Psychology
Director, SPINw

Highly Recommended for All PAC Swimmers & Parents: Listen to Brian talk about Elite Mental Training with Isaac Byrd - Click HERE to access the podcast

www.spinw.com  /  www.baxtersports.com
(866) 300-1515   /  (503) 309-3347

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PAC Sports Psychology 2013

PAC Community participated in Coach, Parent, Elite and Developing Swimmer workshops by Dr Alan Goldberg in our first Welcome Back PAC event.

As a Sports Performance Consultant and internationally-known expert in peak sports performance, Dr. Goldberg works with athletes and teams across all sports at every level, from professional and Olympic caliber right down to junior competitors. Dr. Goldberg specializes in helping athletes overcome sports fears & blocks, snap out of slumps, and perform to their potential.  

Keep up to date with Dr. G's latest insights - sign up for his newsletter at https://www.competitivedge.com/newsletter