Mind Games: Professor Helps Athletes, Executives and Students Overcome Life Challenges

April 06, 2010








 Gio and Camilo
Gio Valiante with Camilo Villegas

What do a professional wake boarder, an information technology executive, an array of all-star golfers and a classroom full of college students have in common? Two words: Gio Valiante. An associate professor of education at Rollins College, Valiante has synthesized two passions—golf and teaching - and is an acclaimed sports psychologist and a highly regarded author. His philosophy has inspired others to overcome their challenges . . . in sports, in business and in life.

His approach was forged from his groundbreaking research into the competitive minds of professional golfers. The study, which was conducted in 2001 and funded through a grant from Rollins College and the Critchfield Foundation, revealed a strong connection between how athletes think and how they perform. In 2005, these findings became the basis of Valiante’s first book, Fearless Golf, a mental conditioning program that established him as the “new standard” in golf psychology. Quite fitting for a guy who has loved hitting the links since he was nine years old.

Serving as a mental game consultant to the Golf Channel, Golf Digest and the University of Florida, the Rollins professor has numerous media appearances to his credit including Good Morning America (March 31 and April 4), The New York Times and TIME Magazine. He has counseled high-profile golfers such as Jack Nicklaus, Camilo Villegas, Vijay Singh, Stuart Appleby, and Chris DiMarco, to name just a few. He has also worked with other athletes - including players from the Orlando Magic and a professional wake boarder -but his philosophy of being “fearless, focused and committed” doesn’t apply only to sports. Businesses, too, have hired him to motivate employees and coach them on overcoming challenges. 

“Corporate athletes, academic athletes, professional athletes - you name it - the guiding principles of success still apply,” said Valiante. “In any ‘achievement domain’ where there is a desired score, grade or outcome, your mental state directly impacts how well you perform. I help clients manage what’s going on in their heads so they can perform at their best, regardless of their trade.”

Experiencing parallel success in two careers, he admits that his role at Rollins is the “most fulfilling.” As an instructor in educational and sports psychology, he teaches how ideas and beliefs are born and how the learning process works. He emphasizes research, which he believes is an essential dynamic of learning. 

One secret the professor shares with his classes is to “own your mornings”—noting that you can be more productive between 5 and 8 a.m. than between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., because of distractions. “I tell people to create their own momentum,” he said. “You can’t sit back and wait for things to happen - be in the moment and focus on the elements you can control.”

Closely tied to Rollins College’s service-learning mission, he instructs his students to be mindful of their thoughts and maintain a positive outlook to stay grounded. “An ‘attitude of gratitude’ is much more than just a coaching technique; it is a lifestyle - one that is evident on the Rollins campus,” said Valiante. “Once someone accepts this philosophy, it transcends their day-to-day activities and becomes motivation to excel.”


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