Foreword for “Gymnastics Psychology: The Ultimate Guide for Coaches, Gymnasts, and Parents”


Dr. Len Zaichkowsky


I am pleased and honored to have this opportunity to write the foreword for the book “Gymnastics Psychology: The Ultimate Guide for Coaches, Gymnasts, and Parents” authored by Drs. Joe “Doc” Massimo and Sue Massimo.  My association with “Doc” and “Dr. Sue” goes back quite a long time.

While at Boston University in the early 1970’s, I discovered to my chagrin that I was not the only one doing sport psychology in the Boston area.  There was this Harvard educated clinical/school psychologist who, in addition to working with school children in Newton, Ma., also worked with world-class gymnasts.  At that time the field of sport psychology was beginning to emerge and few faculty members and graduate students had heard of Dr. Joe Massimo-except of course those in the gymnastics community.  But the gymnastics community was blessed because they had in their camp the very best sport psychologist in North America, bar none.  In my opinion “Doc” was right there with the very best early pioneers in sport psychology such as Bruce Ogilvie, Bob Nideffer, Bob Singer, and my mentor Murray Smith at the University of Alberta.

Joe’s teaching and writing about psychological concepts in gymnastics were brilliant, taking complex psychological concepts and simplifying them so coaches, athletes, and parents could understand them.  Although Joe’s work often flew below the radar, primarily because he was not in the world of higher education, it did not escape me.  He was most gracious in sharing his ideas and writings with me and of course I generously shared them with my students at Boston University as well as with coaches and athletes I worked with world-wide.  So it was no surprise to me when Joe was elected to the Gymnastics Hall of Fame, for he was already in my “hall of fame.”  When Joe retired as a school psychologist I hired him to work with me at Boston University as an adjunct professor so that he could share his wealth of knowledge with the next generation of sport psychologists.

Dr. Sue came to me as an enthusiastic graduate student in the early 1980’s, after studying with one of those early pioneers in the field of sport psychology, Dr. Bob Singer, and completed her doctorate in 1986.  Her dissertation research was titled, “Identifying specific cognitive and affective attributes of female junior elite gymnasts.”  Some of her research findings are presented in this manuscript. To this day, I tell those in the field, that based on Sue’s research, elite gymnasts have extraordinary short term visual memory skills and extremely high internal locus of control.

Although I have read earlier versions of the extraordinary chapters in this book, most of you have not had this privilege.  Those of you that are coaches (experienced or novice), gymnasts, and parents of gymnasts will derive extreme benefit from reading this very thorough handbook.  In fact, the topics covered in the twelve chapters deal with the essentials of performance psychology and as such are pertinent to coaches, athletes, and parents that have interest in high performance outside the sport of gymnastics.  As well, students interested in learning about true “applied” sport psychology will also derive great benefit from reading this book.

Nowhere will you learn more practical information about such concepts as the psychology of fear, anger, motivation, stress, mental preparation, ethics of coaching, coaching commandments, eating disorders, recovery from injury, transition to elite sport, or the unique aspect of leaving home to train, than in this book. With each topic, Joe and Sue were careful to provide a brief theoretical overview of the concept, but quickly deal with case examples, practical suggestions or “tips” written in point form, and a concluding summary in an easy to read format.  Although references are provided at the end of the book, the chapters are not cluttered with citations.

One of my research interests is to better understand how individuals become “experts” or “extraordinary” in their field.  The Drs. Massimo are truly experts in the psychology of performance, particularly in gymnastics.  Dr. Joe has more than six decades in the field, and Sue is approaching four decades.  This incredible time frame of experience as performers, educators, researchers, coaches, judges, and sport psychologists, far exceeds Anders Ericsson’s “10 year/10,000 hours of deliberate practice” rule for becoming an expert.  In reading about the psychology of gymnastics, rest assured that you are learning from two of the very best in the world of gymnastics psychology.

Leonard Zaichkowsky, Ph.D.

Boston University, Professor of Education and Graduate Medical Sciences

Past President-Association for Applied Sport Psychology

Dr.  Len Zaichkowsky is a licensed psychologist who specializes in sport, exercise, and performance psychology.  He has made more than 300 professional presentations world-wide and makes frequent expert commentary on television, radio and the print media such as the New York Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Edmonton Journal. Dr. Zaichkowsky has also consulted with the U. S., Canadian, and Australian Olympic Organizations, the NBA (Boston Celtics), Major League Baseball Players Association, NFL, NHL Players Association, New England Patriots, Calgary Flames, Sydney (Australia) Swans, and most recently with the Spanish World Cup Soccer Team, and Real Madrid soccer club and former Director of Sport Science, Vancouver Canucks (NHL).


 Get Your Own Copy of “Gymnastics Psychology: The Ultimate Guide for Coaches, Gymnasts, and Parents.” Realize Your Peak Potential!  Doc & Dr. Sue