An Interview with Mitchell Greene, Ph.D.

Mitchell Greene Sport Psychology

Since opening our shop in Haverford, we have met so many inspiring and interesting members of the community. One of our neighbors is Dr. Mitchell Greene of Greenepsych Clinical & Sport Psychology who recently began rolling as “Psych on a Bike”. Naturally, we had to know more. We asked Dr. Greene about setting goals, failing goals, and his personal challenges. Read on for his responses.  

Coaching Challenges

Mitchell Greene Sport Psychology

College Coaches Corner

When There’s Only So Much Playing Time to Go Around

By Dan Cohn, M.S., M.A. and Mitchell Greene, Ph.D.

One of the greatest challenges coaches face is managing playing time. Of course, the best players typically play the most. But, for athletes who were stars or key contributors in high school, the deep disappointment, frustration and confusion from not playing can be disruptive to them and the entire team. Coaches may observe these athletes losing motivation in practice, and taking a negative attitude with them wherever they go. We know athletic trainers often are the first to hear from these frustrated athletes. Some, we are told, are so upset they will spend extra time in the training room with strains and pains whose origin, the trainer might feel, is more psychological than physical. 

At Greenepsych, our coaching consultations tend to always include discussions about how to manage player complaints about playing time. The bottom line is that coaches who just ignore the problem or hope it goes away may be shortchanging these athletes and the team.  

Here are 3 important suggestions to consider with your “role players”:

1. Start your conversation with an athlete by emphasizing that their contributions to the team may not bring all the glory, but can be the backbone of the team’s success. Hard work, encouragement of teammates, and a positive attitude under difficult circumstances is a mindset you can encourage them to embrace. However, your message won’t get through unless you also meet the athletes’ frustration or sadness with an empathetic statement that shows you get it. For example, before you try to pump them up, make sure to say things like, “I can imagine this is frustrating for you; I know this probably isn’t how you imagined your role on this team. I get that and realize this is difficult to accept.” Finally, we have found it helpful to directly and encouragingly let players know what the positives are that he or she is bringing to practice and to the team.  As college football great Lou Holtz once said, “I’d say handling people is the most important thing you can do as a coach. I’ve found every time I’ve gotten into trouble with a player, it’s because I wasn’t talking to him enough.”

2. Teams function more smoothly when each athlete’s role is as clearly defined as possible. In one on one meetings, articulate what action steps can be taken to fulfill their role and potentially lead to an expanded set of responsibilities. For an athlete, having clarity about their role is an important piece towards accepting how they can contribute to the team’s success. Finally, as a coach, it is also important to be willing to listen to the input of athletes about their own sense of their strengths and weaknesses. NBA coaching legend Phil Jackson is quoted with saying, “”I knew that the only way to win consistently was to give everybody, from the stars to the number 12 player on the bench, a vital role on the team.”

3. Sometimes, it can be best if the feedback given to a player who isn’t receiving much playing time comes from the leaders of your team, perhaps the captains and more senior athletes, and not necessarily the coach. In some cases, the upperclassmen/women will have gone through similar situations themselves when they first joined the team and can offer a shared perspective that a coach has not directly experienced. Creating this culture of communication amongst players can create more team unity and lead to a consistent and clear message that we are all in this together.    As college football coach Jeff Hecklinski is credited with saying, “Culture doesn’t change when coach tells a player he’s wrong. It changes when players tell other players: no that’s not how we do things here.”

Did Brandon Brooks Have a Plan B on Gameday?

Mitchell Greene Sport Psychology

Just a few weeks ago, in our own backyard, Brandon Brooks, a Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman, left the field in front of 70,000 thousand fans because of his struggle with anxiety (For the espn.com article, click here). Brooks has been open about his pre-game routine for anxiety, which includes vomiting the morning of the game, presumably to relieve feelings of pre-game tension and nervousness. However, on the morning of the Eagles-Seahawks game, vomiting didn’t relieve Brooks’ symptoms, which he spoke about openly in the article linked above. Brooks commented on his Twitter page that he still felt exhausted and nauseous, and tried to ride it out through the first offensive series, but wasn’t able to reduce the feelings of anxiety and nausea enough to be able to continue to compete.


On most game-days, Brooks does his pre-game routine with his best friend on the team, and the other half of the right side of the Philadelphia Eagles offensive line, Lane Johnson. Interestingly, Johnson vomits right alongside Brooks before each game (read more about that here). As it turns out, Johnson has anxiety as well, and the two provide support for one another. However, on the day of the Eagles-Seahawks game, Lane Johnson did not suit up due to an injury. It is likely that Brooks had to endure this pre-game routine alone, without the support of his fellow blocking mate. Possibly, Johnson’s absence may have been a trigger for an increase in Brooks’ difficulties on the day of the Seahawks game.


It makes us wonder, if Johnson was to miss another game unexpectedly, how would Brooks handle this? If we were working with an athlete in a similar situation to Brooks, our approach would be to help this athlete develop an alternate (Plan B) routine, for situations when some aspect of the primary (Plan A) routine was not possible or available due to circumstances outside of the control of the athlete.


For example, if a tennis player warms up with their friend before every match, and then their friend gets sick the morning of the match, and they lack a Plan B routine, their mental game (and physical game) could suffer. In this case, a Plan B routine could include hitting against the wall, calling a back-up partner, or using imagery to imagine themselves warming up with a partner. We wonder if Brooks had a Plan B, and if so, what it could look like to help him when the next unexpected situation arises.


We realize we are speculating here, and don’t have any direct contact with Brooks to know if our assumptions are correct, but the bigger point is that any athlete needs to be prepared for the unexpected, and knowing your Plan B can help you find your way through difficult and uncertain situations.

Psych on a Bike

Mitchell Greene Sport Psychology

This “Psych on a Bike” Wants to Help You Finish the Philadelphia Marathon

Hitting the wall at mile 21? Not if Mitchell Greene and his team of bicycling psychologists have anything to do with it. Read more…

Philadephia Coaches Conference

Mitchell Greene Sport Psychology

Dr. Greene is proud to be this year’s recipient of the “Coach’s Call Back” Presentation awarded to the speaker who received the most positive feedback from 2018 Philadelphia Coaches Conference He will again present coaches with tools to teach their players (and themselves) how to “Manage the Mind Chatter”.

At some point in every season, players will doubt and second-guess themselves to the point where their game-day performances won’t meet expectations. In Dr. Greene’s presentation, coaches will learn practical techniques to help players manage their “mind chatter” so they can perform despite negative self-talk and sabotaging self-statements.

For more information on Dr. Greene and this year’s conference, go to https://www.thecoachesconference.com/session-speakers-1

Winning the Mental Game of Sports

Mitchell Greene Sport Psychology

On the evening of Friday, January 25, Dr. Mitchell Greene, a sport psychologist based in Haverford, spoke to a group of Haverford student-athletes in an event sponsored by the Haverford SAAC inside the Stokes Auditorium. Read more…

running_therapy

Boost Your Brain: Make Running Your Therapy

Mitchell Greene Sport Psychology

Most triathletes know that a 3-5 mile run a few times a week can help prevent emotional overload. Post-run, you feel a boost of energy, a sense of accomplishment, and a belief that you will survive the day’s e-mails, child tantrums, and last-minute deadlines.

But, according to the latest research on running and the brain, consistent running gives you psychological benefits you didn’t even know existed (but should definitely care about).  Read more…

CrossFit Coach Cassio Oliveria on an Athlete’s Mental Mindset

Mitchell Greene Sport Psychology

At Greenepsych Sport Psychology, we work with athletes from practically every sport, including CrossFit. Thanks to Daniel Davidson and Crossfit Mainline I’ve had the chance to learn from some of the best, including coach, and personal trainer, Cassio Oliveria. He understands how an athlete’s mental mindset is directly tied to his/her ability to meet their training goals. A great read here on how Cassio applies psych training to the work he does as a CrossFit coach. Any coach and athlete will benefit from Cassio’s article. #courageoverconfidence #crossfitmainline