University of Arkansas Athletics is one of a handful of NCAA universities to provide clinical and sport psychology services for its student-athletes. This unique resource provides performance enhancement opportunities for teams and individuals (in the areas of athletic, academic, interpersonal), personal counseling, and consultation with coaches, athletic trainers, and physicians. The overall goal of this service is to help Arkansas student-athletes get the most out of their experiences at Arkansas and prepare them for lifelong success. Sport psychology sessions take on a variety of forms. Sessions range from a five-minute discussion in passing, to a brief talk at practice, to a 50-minute session in an office. However, sport psychology sessions are often slightly more instructional and solution-focused than most other types of counseling sessions.
What is Arkansas Clinical and Sport Psychology?
Services for Arkansas student-athletes are provided to address what many experience as "peaks" and "valleys" during their college athletic career. As the Director of the Department's Clinical and Sport Psychology services, I associate sport with enjoyment, excitement, and prestige, yet there are also unique pressures facing college student-athletes. These pressures include, but are not limited to, managing a rigorous schedule filled with classes and practices, traveling to competitions, dealing with injuries, physical/mental/emotional fatigue, high expectations from coaches, media exposure, public appearances, and being a highly visible member of the university community. Many student-athletes cope effectively with these pressures. For example, athletes may talk to family or teammates about their concerns. However, at times some demands can exceed an individual's resources, and meeting with a sport psychologist can be helpful.
Additionally, high level athletes are always looking for ways to gain a competitive advantage. An "in-house" sport psychology service is an important piece of the performance enhancement puzzle. In essence, sport psychology is all about helping athletes to better understand what it means to be ready to compete. Mental readiness is a combination of optimal emotional activation, positive frame of mind, and a performance focus. These mental states can be managed through proper use of psychological skills such as relaxation/energizing techniques, imagery, positive self-talk, use of focus and coping plans, and the use of pre-performance routines. The overall objective of these mental skills is to assist individual student-athletes and teams to perform at consistently high levels.
In some cases, a student-athlete's performance can suffer due to mental health issues, unfortunate life circumstances, or personal problems. Some common challenges faced by student-athletes include anxiety, depression, problematic family issues, dating problems, homesickness, injury, poor sleep habits, low self-esteem, grief issues, substance abuse, disordered eating, history of physical/emotional abuse, sexual assault, and relationship problems with roommates, teammates, or coaches. Counseling from the Arkansas Athletics' Clinical and Sport Psychologist (Dr. Michael Johnson) is available to help student-athletes deal with these types of obstacles so they can feel better emotionally and stay focused in the classroom and in their competitive domain. Successful counseling can better equip student-athletes to cope with past and current problems. Student-athletes learn strategies that help them proactively manage their lives by developing healthier ways of thinking and behaving.
- Individual, couples, and/or group counseling
- Mental coaching to improve individual and/or team performance
- Coaching consultation
- Assessment (for learning disabilities, ADHD, etc.) - this service is often done in collaboration with Arkansas Athletics' Learning Specialist
- Crisis Intervention
- Career development and testing - this service is often done in collaboration with Arkansas Athletics' Career Development Coordinator
- Workshops and presentations
- Specialized treatment and medication referral
Who Provides the Services?
The University of Arkansas Athletic Department's Director of Clinical and Sport Psychology is Michael B. Johnson, PhD. Dr. Johnson began working for Arkansas Athletics in September, 2013. He is a licensed psychologist with a specialty in Sport Psychology. He worked previously with teams, coaches, and student-athletes at Kansas State University, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, The University of Texas-Pan American, The University of California at Riverside, and Florida State University. Additionally, Dr. Johnson was a collegiate student-athlete, earning 4 varsity letters in swimming at Brown University. Dr. Johnson also spent 16 years coaching high school age swimmers.
How Do I Make an Appointment?
Student-athletes can schedule an individual appointment by emailing Dr. Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org, by calling him at his Barnhill Arena office (479) 575-5163, or by calling/texting his cell at (479) 200-8490. Individual sessions are confidential in nature, and can be worked around the student-athlete's schedule. Initial sessions last an hour, and you should arrive approximately 15 minutes prior to your scheduled session time in order to complete the initial paperwork.
Dr. Johnson is located in 207B Barnhill Arena. This is located on the 2nd floor of Barnhill and is the side of Barnhill that faces the new Fred W. Smith Football Center.
Arkansas Athletics' Clinical and Sport Psychology Services are a unique resource to University of Arkansas Athletic Department and Sports Medicine. The goal of Arkansas Athletics' Clinical and Sport Psychology is to help Arkansas student-athletes get the most from their experiences, on and off the field, while competing as a Razorback.
Feel free to download any of these documents:
- Imagery PDF
- Focus/Attention PDF
- Goal Setting PDF
- Stress Management PDF
- Self Talk PDF
- Emotional Regulation
- American Psychological Association (APA) (www.apa.org)
- NCAA (www.ncaa.org)
- SEC (www.secdigitalnetwork.com)
Campus Resources outside of Athletics (all numbers begin with area code 479)
- UA Police: 575-5003 (Dial 911 for immediate emergencies)
- Razorback Patrol Escorts: 575-5000 (6 pm to 12:30 am)
- Office of International Students and Scholars: 575-5003
- University Lost & Found: 575-4494
- Career Development Center: 575-2805
- Pat Walker Health Center: 575-4451 (24 hour emergency service:
- Counseling Services
- Women's Clinic
- Center for Educational Access (Disability Services): 575-3104
- Conflict Resolution Resources: 575-5004
- Student Support Services (1st generation college students): 575-3546
Positive Organizational Scholarship - focusing on the dynamics that lead to
developing human strength, producing resilience and restoration, fostering
vitality, and cultivating extraordinary individuals, units, and organizations.
Positive Psychology: understand and build the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.