April 5, 2012
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After serving as a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 21 years, Vickie Woosley joined the staff at Vanderbilt in 2006. Last October, her office moved into the McGugin Center where she now focuses all her time on sports psychology for the Department of Student Athletics.
Woosley sat down with Commodore Nation in February to highlight the main points of her approach.
1. POTENTIAL: "I really stay away from that word because I don't think you can measure potential. Instead of a coach saying, `You're wasting your potential'--and sending the message that they've really disappointed the coach--I try to make it more concrete: `Based on your skills and abilities, I think we need to work on these things.' I like to think about it as your peak performance. I think we always know when we're clicking on all cylinders. How do we consistently get there?
2. HOLISTIC: "Athletes have a tough way to go here at Vanderbilt. The academic pace is pretty rigorous, and they don't have much discretionary time--keeping that balance can be really tough. I am a licensed clinical psychologist, which means I treat the whole person and not just their sport. Their identity is not just as an athlete, they come to Vanderbilt as young adults and have other interests and hobbies. Sometimes they have external things going on in their family, their relationships, any number of things--just like the rest of us do--and they need some support."
3. TRUST: "I hope I can reduce the stigma of mental health. The biggest thing has been people getting to know me. Confidentiality is my credibility. It has to be a trusting relationship."
4. ANXIETY: "I have some breathing techniques that I pretty much teach everyone. Inhale through your nose for four, you hold it for four and exhale through your mouth. It's something you can do anywhere, anytime. The first signs of anxiety usually are physiological, so I teach people to recognize those things. It's at that moment when you need to go into your mental toolbox and say, `Okay, I know what to do.' The other thing is: focus on what you can control, not what you can't."