BU grad student helps tennis team prepare mentally

The following article was originally written by Evan Sporer for the Berkley Beacon.

……..assistance he said he never received in his playing days.

“My dream job is to work with high end Division 1 athletes or professional athletes,” Lushkov said. “It’s a challenge. These guys are the best — can I make them better?”

While Lushkov couldn’t elaborate on specifics because of confidentiality between him and student-athelets, he did provide an outline of what he does at Emerson.

Lushkov said he observes players and generates suggestions of how they can improve their mental game.

Men’s tennis coach Mason Astley said Lushkov’s help has been noticed.

“I think that it’s really great for me as a coach to have someone else to be a resource for the players,” Astley said.

Lushkov, who will stay at Emerson through May, has worked alongside Astley, a graduate of the same sports psychology program at BU.  Lushkov said Astley has been a big help to him in his time with Emerson.

“If [my players] have something specific they want to talk about, they have someone to talk to,” said Astley.

The coach cited a recent practice in which he put players in competitive situations. While they participated, Lushkov watched, taking note of their energy in between points, and offered suggestions to keep energy high.

“He would come up to me in between points and talk about what was going on in my head,” said Will Abeles, captain of the tennis team, who was participating in the drill. “He keeps us focused and gives us new ways to stay relaxed.”

For Astley, Lushkov provides a level of relief, allowing the coach to allocate his attention elsewhere.

“It wasn’t something that I couldn’t keep an eye on,” Astley said of the practice drill. “It’s just that as a coach, I have other things to do.”

According to Astley, a high school career in athletics led him to later understand the importance of sports psychology.

“Growing up as an athlete myself, I didn’t have any real coaching, [or] people that understood mental game stuff,” Astley said. “A lot of people become frustrated and quit their sport, or find a lower level of commitment.”

Both Adam Naylor, Lushkov’s program coordinator at BU, and Astley estimated that most students in BU’s graduate program were involved in sports at some level.

“Sometimes, it’s saying, ‘I had a bad experience, I don’t’ want others to have the same experience,’” Naylor said.

For Lushkov, a career in sports psychology is not about the fame or glory, but the challenge of helping someone and making him or her better.

According to Naylor, this mentality epitomizes the field of sports psychology.

“Some people come in and say, ‘I want to work with the Celtics, I want to work with the Lakers,’” Naylor said. “That’s not what it’s really about. It’s about how you can impact someone, when it’s people helping people.”

Naylor said BU’s program is unique in that it offers a chance to do hands-on work, something uncommon in some masters programs for sports psychology.

“It’s often a challenge to gain access to athletes and learn how to do sports psychology,” Naylor said. “In hands-on work, you gain a depth of knowledge that you can’t get from a textbook.”

The program coordinator said Lushkov is exactly what he hopes for in a graduate student, as he has watched him both in the classroom and as an aid to Emerson’s men’s tennis team.

“He struggled a little bit in the fall,” Naylor said. “He’s had to learn so much, but he has worked hard. He’s cooking. Now he’s ready to kill it.”

Along with working with Emerson students, Lushkov is also currently working with a student-athlete from his high school, and said he has seen promising results.

“I’m trying to help him find enjoyment and place things,” said Lushkov. “I think I’ve been seeing good results.”

And while Emerson’s tennis team has only played five matches so far this season, Astley has seen results in Lushkov’s work, and is confident he will continue to make strides.

“Matan’s gotten to know the guys, and the results will come,” Astley said. “He is a great resource.”

Naylor agreed.

“It seems like there are a number of open-minded guys on [Emerson men’s tennis] team,” Naylor said. “It’s a statement to the culture of the team.”

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