The Life of Ken Ravizza, Sports Psychologist

A Tribute to Ken Ravizza

Ken Ravizza finished his education with a Ph.D. in Sport Philosophy at USC. He then taught at Cal State Fullerton as a professor. He taught classes in sport philosophy, stress management, and sports psychology. He started his career as a mental coach at CSUF when working with the Men’s and Women’s Gymnastic teams in the late 1970s to early 1980s.

Cal State Fullerton baseball coach, Augie Garrido, learned of his work with gymnasts, and asked Ken to work with the baseball team. He helped the Titans baseball team and women’s gymnastics teams become national powers in the late 1970s and 1980s. And the rest is history…

He was always interested in Peak Experiences in sports and did his Doctoral dissertation on the topic. He learned sports psychology by observing athletes at practices and games. Ken approach was to learn by experience.

“This has always been my approach: have the athletes learn from their experience in sport and through this they learn about themselves, their teammates, and their sport,” said Ravizza.

Ken did mental coaching with Joe Maddon and the California Angels for 15 years, from 1985 to 2000. He followed Joe Maddon to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006 and the Chicago Cubs in 2015. Many Cubs players said Ravizza’s worked helped them win the 2016 World Series.

In addition to working in baseball, he also worked with U.S. Olympians, the New York Jets, USC and Nebraska football teams and the Cal State Long Beach and UCLA baseball teams.

Ken retired as professor of Applied Sport Psychology at the California State University at Fullerton. He was one of the top Peak Performance Consultants in the world.

I studied with Ken Ravizza for my masters degree in sports psychology while attending CSUF from 1985 to 1987. My professor at SUNY Buffalo heard about the work he was doing in sports psychology and suggested I go to study with Ken. I contacted Ken and applied to CSUF.

I had many conversations with Ken over the years about Peak Performance. Here I’ll share with you some of the conversations I had with Ken.

In 2007, Ken Spoke at our Mental Training Bootcamp, and of course was a hit. Below is a video of Ken discussing how the zone is overrated. His thinking about peak performance in sports changed over the years I knew him.

Early on in his career, it was about about learning from athletes who had peak performances and then trying to help athletes find this state more often. But he changed his thinking about peak performance later in his career by stating, “The zone is overrated. The zone is way overrated. What percentage of the time are you in flow states?” Classic Ken!

Video 1 | Video 2 | Video 3 | Video 4 | Video 5

Video 1: The Zone is Overrated

Watch the video below about Ken’s view on concentration and the zone. Note: Sorry about the quality of the audio–this was 11 years ago! Hope you enjoy! Check back as I’ll post more videos here.

“It’s About Having That Good Bad Day”

YouTube video

“It’s About Being Comfortable Feeling Uncomfortable”

Video 2: 2007 Interview with Ken Ravizza

In this 2007 interview with Ken Ravizza, we discuss a variety of topics that Ken is well-know for. This is one of the best interviews I’ve done with Ken–he was at his best. We talk about how the zone is overrate, being comfortable when you feel uncomfortable, controlling yourself before you can control your performance, being ready when the garbage hits the fan, and many other topics. The video is 40 minutes long. If you prefer, you can play the MP3 audio of the video instead.

“It’s About Being Comfortable Feeling Uncomfortable”

YouTube video


Video 3: Ken on The Meaning of Life

Today, in video 3, Ken shares his favorite Greek mythology story and ties it in to athletics and the meaning of like. This is another 5-minute clip of Ken speaking in Orlando in 2007.

He wants athletes to know “Why do you do what you do?” You can watch the video my website or YouTube channel…

“Why Do You Do What You Do?”

YouTube video

Video 4: 2011 Interview with Ken Ravizza

Ken and I discuss a variety of mental game topics for athletes, parents, and coaches in this 2011 interview including:

  • The zone: You’re only in the zone a small part of the time. What are you going to do the 85% you are not in the zone?
  • You need to dig, claw, grind, battle, compensate, and adjust
  • Commitment and passion in sports
  • The importance of the breath
  • Adversity will be hitting again, be ready

“Athletes Need to Dig, Claw, Grind, Battle, Compensate, and Adjust”

YouTube video

Listen to the audio interview: Ken_ravizza_Apr_28_2011.mp3
Download the transcript

Video 5: Problem Solving in Gaining Entry

This video is from the AASP 2017 Conference. Ken talks about:

  • How to gain work with athletes and teams
  • Knowing the sport and the type if athlete
  • His view of what the mental game is, “Simplexity”
  • Knowing the history of the team you’re working with
  • Keeping up with the current sport psychology research

Ken begins speaking at the 5:00 minute mark until 27:00 minutes.

“Why Am I Here Doing This?”

You can watch the video on YouTube…