A new Women’s Premiere Soccer League team (WPSL), the Salsa Women’s Soccer Club, was recently welcomed to the city of Torrance. Following last year’s initial season in the WPSL, 6 of their players were recruited to play for professional leagues overseas. On the local television show The Sportsdesk, Head Coach Aaron Rodriguez stated that Salsa is currently a very young team and, due to its prior success, already in a rebuilding stage.
CBT SoCal’s Dr. Jason von Stietz recently joined Salsa as the team’s sport psychology consultant. During the 2019 season, Dr. von Stietz met with the team on a weekly basis. During each week’s sport psychology session, the team engaged in team building exercises in which they learned to work together better in order to solve problems. For example, one team building exercise involved passing a marble to each player on the team using only four PVC pipes (see the picture above). Dr von Stietz also taught the team improvisational comedy exercises, which required them to think on their feet while cooperating on a fun and novel task. One improv comedy exercise involved one player standing in the middle of a circle of players. The players creating the circle silently chose a “leader,” whose dance moves they mimicked. The player in the circle was tasked with figuring out who was leading the dance (see the Tweet below). Team building exercises such as these required the players to strategize, communicate, focus, and stay committed to their plan in order to successfully complete the exercise. Practicing teamwork in exercises such as these helped the team to work together better during practice, and subsequently, to work together better during games.
Sometimes you get locked out of the soccer field and you do team building exercises near the parking lot! Thank you @salsawomensc for having a great mindset!@WPSL #SportPsychology #CBTWorks #SoMePsychs #Soccer pic.twitter.com/ULeS6p8XkR
— Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Southern CA (@CBTSoCal) July 5, 2019
At the end of the season, Dr. von Stietz provided the team with an anonymous survey evaluating the helpfulness of the sport psychology sessions. Many of the players reported that the sessions helped them to perform better by keeping their attention focused on what they can control (i.e., breathing, positive self-talk, and communication) instead of what they cannot control (i.e., bad calls by the referee). Players reported that sessions helped their performance in soccer. However, more importantly, players reported that the sport psychology sessions helped them in their lives outside of soccer. In the anonymous survey one player stated that the sessions “Helped with how I took things and managed personal life (to not let it affect me on the field.” Another player stated that the sessions helped in regard to “Staying positive when there is a lot of negativity.” A third player summed up what she learned by stating that the sessions helped her to have “Better focus on and off the field.” Coach Rodriguez agreed that the sport psychology sessions were helpful and stated that the team’s performance and ability to work together improved beyond what was expected over the course of a season.
Although Salsa’s 2019 WPSL season has ended, Dr. von Stietz plans to continue working with the team and hopes to expand his role as the team sport psychology consultant in helpful and meaningful ways.
Dr. Jason von Stietz specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Sport/Performance Psychology in Torrance, CA. He is available for a free initial phone consultation. Dr. von Stietz works with individuals from Long Beach, the greater Los Angeles area, and the South Bay including Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and El Segundo.