Is Mental Therapy Helping Oregon Athletes Up Their Game?

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When you are an Oregon athlete, there are bound to be some ups and downs that you will face. You may feel great when you are meeting your goals and succeeding, but other times you can feel crushed. While this is typical and happens to most athletes, I have often wondered about the amount of mental therapy available to the athletes at University of Oregon and how often these services are utilized. It seems to the typical fan that the differences in conference competition are so close that any edge, (especially mental) could be the winning difference.

This spring we’ve noted how one pitch can make-or-break our Baseball Ducks, and I began to think about this component in relation to what appeared to be the mental collapse of Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough this last fall. His decline was not based on one throw, and I wonder if his transfer Texas Tech was influenced one-way-or-another by the counseling he was receiving? (or not?) Therapy can provide the additional tools for an athlete to become stronger and improve his/her overall performances, but what if that help is declined?

Do we Really Need Therapy?

You may not understand how therapy can help you or athletes, but the truth is that therapy may be able to help just about anyone. If you experience stress, anxiety, depression, or other symptoms that cause disruptions in your life, (like COVID protocols) chances are that talking to a therapist could improve your mental state, and hence your own results.

Amazing Photos

Marcus Mariota ran Oregon’s offense beautifully, resulting in Oregon’s first and only Heisman Trophy.

This is also the case with athletes as they feel pressure to succeed and perform well, however that pressure can intensify whenever they don’t live up to the fans’ expectations. I have to assume that the pressure cooker of being compared to prior quarterbacks at Oregon in addition to facing the mounting concern of teammates could bend anyone’s mind in the very short season Tyler Shough experienced in 2020.

It is beneficial to talk to someone about these pressures whether you are the Oregon quarterback or a fan enduring trying times in her/his life. There is a theory that the mind and body are related, so you must keep both healthy if you want the best life and athletic outcomes. This is necessary to address for athletes and fans and is the main reason that all of us should consider talking to a counselor to achieve the best overall health. This BetterHelp article talks more about the mind and body connection.

Would it Have MATTERED?

We have no idea what happened in the QB meeting rooms and the discussions that took place with Shough, but his loss of confidence in his passing game was apparent to everyone. Did he reject receiving the therapy or was it ineffective in the counseling process from Oregon? I have to assume that with all the strength-building and healing apparatuses in the Athletic complex–the mental game is addressed as well with the football players. Was it even offered to Shough? Could that be a reason why he left?

UO Athletics

Anthony Brown came in cold and performed well…

The way that Anthony Brown was inserted into the game-plan of the Pac-12 Championship and the Fiesta Bowl was a multi-layered statement to Tyler Shough about the staff’s confidence in him and his progress in defeating his own demons. Since Offensive Coordinator and QB Coach Joe Moorhead was a college quarterback himself–it is assumed that he would be able to relate well with his starter. Yet the decline at key moments by Shough was puzzling, and could raise questions if another quarterback at Oregon acquires confidence problems in 2021?

Is this something to watch for at Oregon?

If you feel like you could benefit from seeing a therapist, there are options available to you, although not as specialized as an Oregon athlete might receive. Online therapy is popular and there is evidence that it is also effective. With this election, you will be able to talk to a therapist whenever it is convenient, and in a place where you feel comfortable. Moreover, a therapist can help you and Oregon quarterbacks learn techniques to keep anxiety at bay and lower the stress levels. Consider it a way of working out your mind, like you work out your body as many UO athletes do.

Tom Corno

CJ Verdell, Tyler Shough and Alex Forsyth.

Most observers will pin the losses last year to the quarterback as this leader must have no-memory of mistakes in a similar way that defensive backs can be burned for touchdowns, and yet make the saving interception at the end to win the game. The talent is there with Tyler (as the Red Raiders will attest to) and if he unlocks it at Lubbock, what does that say about the player development at Oregon? I am troubled by this whole situation, as it is so unusual; typically the problem is the lack of talent, and rarely do you see what occurred in Eugene this last season.

It is a long off-season and a great time to be reflecting on the last campaign. Do you have concerns about what transpired with Tyler Shough?

Lakeside, Oregon
Top Screenshot from Pac-12 Video

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Great Article!!


Back in my draconian upbringing in sports therapy consisted of added push-ups, laps, and tackling drills with a veins popping out red-faced coach screaming “baby”, “wimp” and other not-so-endearing words of endearment at me that his “grandma could play better”.

It worked with me, but wasn’t for everyone.


My name is Matt Foley and I am a motivational speaker….🤷‍♂️🤣🤦🏻‍♂️

Here’s the ONE thing you MUST remember about mental health;

If you don’t KNOW you’re crazy, THEN you’re crazy.

Tyler threw three or four balls in the early games that should have been picks. He made bad reads and threw it to the other team. They dropped those balls. But the team won and he continued to start. He didn’t improve.

He got replaced by a more physically capable man with more experience.

If Tyler had the confidence and mental strength to believe he could still be the starter at Oregon he’d likely be at Oregon competing to be the guy.

He chose not to stay in the pocket with his eyes downfield looking to be the man. He ran with open receivers. Best of luck.

Santa Rosa Duck

Tyler Shough was an enigma to me. He has the skill sets and body to do it all but maybe it was the confidence or the loss of confidence. I have done therapy and it is amazing when you discover that people were not out to get me but I was sabotaging myself. Oh well. I wish Tyler the very best unless he happens to play our DUCKS!

I expect that Anthony Brown with his seniority, confidence and a great supporting cast will have an outstanding year.


The only problem with Anthony Brown, with all his experience, he didn’t beat out Shough last year. We now have the second string qb leading a talented qb room. I just don’t see this lasting.

I mean really, Anthony Brown came in last year with more experience, confidence, and couldn’t beat out Shough.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

The article refers to the confidence of Tyler, but the confidence of the coaches in Tyler is another massive component in all of this. Perhaps they lost confidence in him and actually conveyed it to him beyond his benching at times?

Shough did make reference in a tweet to having coaches at TT that, “have his back.”

Yet you cannot blame the coaches for being up-front and honest with him about their feelings of his potential to play as a starter.

Imagine how complicated the QB room would be if he stayed! There is so much talk about future QB transfers–imagine another quarterback in the room!


I wonder if Tyler will still feel that the TT coaches “have his back” if he gets benched for a better performing qb.

As a generality…the nature of most youth is to be insecure to some degree. Did we not all have some measure of insecurity in our formative years?! Self doubt can be the hard-to-cure devil in an athlete whose performance greatly affects team results.

I think a coach has to be honest about expectations and what is getting done on the field. Your website has highlighted some of his mistakes and weaknesses. Some kids don’t want to hear what they need to work on. I hope he has success at TT, but if he doesn’t grow, and push himself he will end up struggling again.

Coaches may have your back, but expect a lot once your back is through the door.

Jay MacPherson

in my view, this is an issue that makes or breaks all players. As a team sport, the best counseling is group counseling. The interpersonal issues on teams are typically more common than one’s own issues in play, and more difficult to resolve using one-to-one counsel versus a group approach. Such group work MUST be voluntary.

It must create safe/brave space before getting down to tackling the core issues and finding a healing path to resolution. It must be facilitated by someone outside the hierarchy (i.e. not a coach). M. Scott Peck, with others, borrowed existing ideas to develop an effective process to do so.

Having first hand experience with that process, I have seen nothing as powerful for exemplary teamwork other than being thrown into a dire and unexpected crisis.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

A superb ponder-point that I did not see coming, and now I will be contemplating it for days… Great stuff-thanks.


You bring up some good questions, and I for one am interested in whether or not mental therapy is even offered to athletes, and if so under what conditions?

To me, the concern is the transfer portal itself, and why so many capable starters are choosing to leave. Football players, men and women in basketball, softball, and probably baseball after their season wraps up. Why do these kids want to leave? Is it coaching? Facilities? Culture? Team dynamics? Is it a lack of investment into the psyche of the players?

We have some great coaches and awesome facilities, I hear we have built outstanding team cultures, and there is no doubt the U of O invests a ton into the student athlete experience.

Are other schools having similar experiences? I find this to be baffling, and look forward to learning more from my fellow FishDuck fans. Go Ducks!


Sports psychology is a large deal. As far as I know, most D1 athletic departments buy into it. Here is something from the NCAA …

But some athletes simply don’t have ‘it’. All schools have athletes that don’t perform up to expectations…regardless of institution, coaching, or performance counseling. (And some over perform.) Skills can be easily taught by coaches. Drill sergeant conditioning can hone technique. But an individual’s doubt is another animal to treat, altogether.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

And I think you make a good point; not everyone is “curable” in that you have the numbers game playing out; a percentage will simply not respond to treatment for a variety of reasons.


As a bit of an insider, I’d generally qualify counseling as a dash of juju mixed with listening skills and stirred with an already fixed desire from the patient to overcome some activity, thoughts or behavior.

Nevertheless, this is a fun article. Thanks, Reigns. I’m reminded of watching a young San Diego Padres catcher back in the early ’70s…a fellow named Mike Ivie. He lost all confidence, and the ability to throw the ball back to the pitcher. It got so bad that at one point he was forced to ROLL the ball back to the pitcher. In baseball we call that these kinds of repetitive blunders the “yips”.

And many, many players had/have it. It manifests a serious lack of confidence. Ivie did receive counseling and …. was switched to first base, never to catch again. A fine Cubs pitcher named Jon Lester could fire the ball with pinpoint accuracy everywhere except 1st base.

(It’s a surprisingly common issue with MBB pitchers. Lester to Ivie…what a picture that draws in my mind!) At one point, when he could, Lester was forced to begin throwing the ball INSIDE HIS GLOVE to 1st base. Sometimes the best treatment for unwanted behavior is to avoid the causative circumstances.

A change of teams might just have been what Shough needed…or…a change of positions. I wish him the best at TT. The best cure for lack of confidence is success.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

As I read your post–I could not help but think of the times in life I had the “yips” only not in sports. You know–the task you’ve done a hundred times, but mess up once, now you’re thinking about it and cannot do it correctly for-the-life-of-you!

There is so much that can be learned and applied to sports, and I imagine we are only just beginning…


Classically in football a concussion was handled by shaking it off. Self doubt was also something that was never talked about.

Football is such a tough guy sport it is a miracle concussions were even dealt with. I suppose it was the lawyers, and calling them a miracle is a stretch.

As for therapy it will be an interesting day when announcers talk about a player going into therapy like they do conscussion protocols. ‘Wow with that interception lets see if Marvin goes into the therapy tent?’

Maybe we should, WSU had a back-up qb commit suicide. It isn’t just about performance, sometimes it is about saving a life.

As far as Tyler I just looked at that as competition. He was making mistakes, in competition, Moorhead couldn’t let that continue to happen. I do think a player should be checked on, and there shouldn’t be a stigma. Right now therapy would probably be interpreted as a weakness, and signs a player doesn’t have what it takes to be a leader.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I think this is a concept that is great to ponder, and I had not thought of it and you might be quite right. We could be on the path of making therapy for mental health less stigmatized, and that would be very, very helpful for society at large.


This is a nice little thought provoking article on a Saturday!

There is a whole body of published literature on sports psychology for sure (for which I am no expert), but it’s mostly from professionals and olympic level athletes.

I wouldn’t doubt that every D1 school that invests heavily into major sports has a few on staff.

At the end of the day, you have to really believe in yourself – like in any job, task, or life skill – but to overcome a perceived “major failure” one always should consider help or it can eat at you.


Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

It does make me wonder how many are on staff to help with this area. At Oregon, I see only one person on this list that overtly deals with mental health/behavior. And that is for ALL the sports?