Psychologist helps put Raptors' minds at ease
They are provided help with their bodies and their diets, their jump shots and their dribbling. Now the Raptors can get assistance for something just as important: their minds.
The team has hired noted sports psychologist Dr. Dana Sinclair as a consultant, giving the players, coaches and staff access to an expert to help improve performance at every level.
"You want to give your players the best tools possible to put them in a situation to succeed or maximize their talents and that's what this is about," said Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo.
Sinclair, an Ottawa- and Cambridge-educated partner in Human Performance International – a firm that specializes in human resource management and performance enhancement, according to its website – has been working with the Raptors for a couple of months now, spending time at practices and games (she was seated behind the bench in New Jersey on Tuesday night) and being available to anyone who wants to take advantage of her expertise.
"We exercise for peak performance and this is about mental and emotional exercises and it's something I think is important," said Colangelo. "The mind is so much a part of what we do in daily life but it's clearly performance-related."
Sinclair is the first full-fledged sports psychologist the Raptors have ever used. Paul Dennis did some work with the Leafs and Raptors in the past but Colangelo jettisoned him soon after assuming his role with the basketball team and was looking for a consultant before hiring Sinclair earlier this season. She was not immediately available for comment on specifics of her role with the Raptors.
The decision to hire her wasn't a difficult one, given her background. She's worked with a handful of professional sports teams for years and is acutely aware of Canadian athletics, having worked with a wide variety of Olympic athletes and teams over the past decade. NBA vice-president Stu Jackson was the first to put her name in front of Colangelo, who met with Sinclair late last year and hired her.
"There's a familiarity there," said the general manager. "She's been working with the Portland Trail Blazers for the past two or three seasons, the Cubs, Dodgers, the Indianapolis Colts. So it's multi-sport. Let's say she covers a lot of areas."
Her work with the Raptors varies and is entirely voluntary on the part of the players and coaches. She attends full practices and games, and is anything but intrusive. She's just around if they want to talk. About anything.
"It's about performance enhancement," said Colangelo. "It's about dealing with things in pressure situations. Sometimes a player wants to talk about other things (and) it's good to have someone to talk to with respect to things that are generally affecting their performance on the court and the pressures that the players in our league go through.
"It's sometimes the unwritten aspect of our game. Why guys are playing bad? It's not always about what they're physically not doing right or wrong, sometimes it's issues that are affecting their performance."
Raptors coach Jay Triano has long been a proponent of having resources like a sports psychologist available to his teams, dating back to his tenure as the head coach of Canada's national team.
It's unclear precisely how many Raptors have taken advantage of Sinclair's expertise since she's been around but sources say a few players and members of the staff have had at least informal discussions with her.
Gone are the days, Colangelo said, of any stigma being attached to the need for a sports psychologist.
"I don't think so," he said. "It's kind of like, you want to put the right nutritional opportunities in front of the players, you want to put the right physical training opportunities in front of the players. This is another tool."