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Mind Gym – Book Review


Gary Mack presents a series of short essays describing the importance of mental preparation with regard to increased motivation and performance within the field of sports. Filled with anecdotes and stories from Mack’s career as a counsellor and consultant, this book reads as a who’s who of American sports stars and their insights into mental toughness.

Gary Mack is an American sports psychology consultant who has worked with athletes in basketball, ice hockey, American football and baseball. He is currently the team counsellor for the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury.

Chapters include: The Head Edge / Getting Over Yourself / Progress Not Perfection / Fate Loves The Fearless / Attitude Is Everything / Servant Or Master / Choice Not Chance.

As a trainer and facilitator, I have encountered many of the themes that Gary Mack presents in Mind Gym. Nevertheless, I was initially intrigued by his stories, quotes and statistics which offered new insight on well-trodden psychological principles. The book is structured as a series of short, inspirational stories from the author’s career as a professional sport psychologist. Each of the 40 bite-sized chapters begins with two quotations by sportspeople and ends with a quotation by Mack. Each chapter focuses on a different message and illustrates it with many examples from Mack’s sporting clients.

On reflection, this book for me works as one that should be dipped into rather than read from cover to cover. The book’s light size and shape makes it ideal to carry in a bag, ready to be used for some instant inspiration. As a continuous read, I soon found the book rather repetitive in structure and Mack’s excessive use of name-dropping began to wear thin, especially as I had not heard of 90% of the people mentioned. As a European, I found the references to baseball, basketball and American football difficult to access, and they cloud the key message within each chapter rather than reinforce it. It is only his references within golf that cross the pond effectively.

On a positive note, within each story there is a skill to be learned. At the end of many chapters is a question to ask yourself or a point to reflect on, but beyond that, there is no straight-forward practical advice. It is not an introduction to sport psychology or a book that can help someone learn sport psychology. In fact, there is very little theoretical psychology within the book. It can at times feel a little superficial. It is a collection of stories, yet if one is able to look within the quotations and stories there is much that can be readily applied. This is not a ‘how-to’ manual, but there is certainly a lot to be learnt and Mack’s ideas can easily be applied to other areas of personal growth and development. There is enough practical advice to elevate the book from an interesting read to a helpful guide, but one does need to be able to read between the lines.

This book might very well appeal to sports fans, interested in the difficulties of focus for major US athletes. I am not a competitive athlete, but would guess that this book would not provide a sufficient level of depth to make an impact on long-term results. There are, however, many crossover points to the generic field of personal development and inspiration and therefore this book is an interesting read for coaches, teachers and trainers. This book would also make a great read for young people as an introduction to the mental aspects of sport.

The best way for me to describe the book is as a transcript of an accomplished after-dinner speech. One in which you are entertained, regaled with anecdotes, reminded that the speaker has rubbed shoulders with big names in US sport, and yet you also come away thinking and reflecting on your own behaviour. But when on the following day you are trying to tell a colleague about the content of the speech, you cannot really remember anything about it. This is definitely a book that needs to be read twice. Once for interest or enjoyment, the second time to acquire ideas for implementation.

“The world of sports reveals many heroes. So does everyday life. It takes courage to grow up and reach your full potential.”

Book rating: D2

Written by Sander de Groot

Practical – theoretical rating

Very practical book, but based on theory 4
Mainly practical book 3
Mainly theoretical but some practice 2
Good on theory but not a practical book 1

Easy – difficult rating

An easy read D
Reasonably easy read C
Requires concentration B
Longish or requires quite a bit of effort A


Title: Mind Gym – An athlete’s guide to inner excellence
Authors: Gary Mack with David Casstevens, with a foreward by Alex Rodriguez
Published: 2001, McGraw-Hill

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