Steve Portenga (High School Athletics)

Steve Portenga - Sports Psychologist for Youth Athletes

Dr. Steve Portenga, PhD, aka Dr. Steve, has dedicated himself to understanding the Performing Brain®, performance psychology and the clinical aspects of helping athletes perform to their best capacity.

In his sports psychology practice, he brings together the theories of human performance, neuroscience, technology and behavior change. He applies them in a hands-on setting that delivers results.

Dr. Steve’s mission is to help young and seasoned athletes alike consistently perform in the upper range of their knowledge, abilities and skills across competitive and pressure situations.

Sports psychology goes far beyond ‘mental skills and toughness.’ With a PhD in sport & counseling psychology, Dr. Steve has developed a proprietary model for how athletes can maximize their talent and mental resourcefulness to perform under pressure.

Steve Portenga is the Director of Sport Psychology for the University of Denver. He provides sport psychology consulting services to all 17 DU NCAA Division I athletic teams, student-athletes and coaches. Portenga teaches performance enhancement skills, facilitates team building and works with coaches to develop a positive team environment. These practices help develop athletes’ athletic success, and more importantly, lead to excellence in the classroom and in life.

Portenga has served as a sport psychology consultant to collegiate athletic departments since 1997. He was invited to provide sport psychology services to USA Track & Field, traveling this past summer to the Dominican Republic to work with the 2006 NACAC Under-23 Championship Team. In 2004, Portenga received the first Student Practitioner Award presented by the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology.

Portenga has made numerous national and international presentations on issues such as injury, coaching and team development, and training in sport psychology. Prior to Denver, he was at UC Davis where he did his APA Internship and a Post Doctoral Fellowship in sport psychology. After his undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, Portenga coached alpine skiing for the Vail Development Team for four years. He then earned an M.S. degree in exercise and sport science from the University of Utah and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Portenga is also the Acting Director of the newly formed Sport and Performance Psychology Program in the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology.

From his practice in Denver, Colorado, Dr. Steve is able to dedicate himself to his athletes and teams while raising the next generation of his own family.

When you are considering a sports performance professional, be sure to evaluate the breadth of their qualifications and expertise. Dr. Steve brings his studies in neuroscience and how it underpins expert performance and applies it in a very practical setting.

He is both a professor and a practitioner with a unique perspective on how athletes can maximize their talent.

Dr. Steve works with carefully with athletes to ensure their identity as performers is aligned with their own identity and values. Through his sessions each athlete learns how to manage individual moments that lead to deliberate practice and ultimately leave equipped with the tools to manage pressure.

Performance psychology is a term that is used by many, but understood by few.

Are you ready to schedule Steve Portenga to inspire your team?

Email: or Call: 1.720.507.4320

Interview with Steve Portenga - DU Pioneers Director of Sports Psychology

Steve's Testimonials

Kentucky Derby Winning Team

Thank you for all you did for me during our Derby Campaign! You’re thoughts and advice were priceless…….so helpful

Track & Field National Champion

“I finally put myself out there and took risks!! I’m so happy! Thank you so much, my mindset changed so much after our talk!”

NCAA All-American Athlete

I just wanted to thank you for all the help you’ve given me in the past couple of months.  I feel like I have a better mental outlook on running (and life!) than I did before I started.

HS Football Athlete (Senior)

“What I have learned so far should be taught to every student”

Mom of HS State Champion

Hi Steve, I’ve been meaning to email you for the last few months but when XXX won 5A state yesterday on a dive he couldn’t do last fall, I had to get it done. To set it up, he led most of the meet with his Regis team mate right behind him the whole time.  In high school, he likes to do his high scoring dives first to get in the lead.  For state, the divers compete their first 8 dives during prelims in the morning. There aren’t many people in the crowd because swimmers have their prelims the afternoon before but the last 3 dives are part of finals when it is very loud and energetic.  His twisters are big crowd pleasers but they are also his best so he chooses to compete them in the morning and saves two of his toughest dives for finals when he should be well ahead. Going into the last dive, XXX was in first by just 6 points. His teammate had a front 3 1/2 for his last dive and usually did not score too high because it is such a tough dive. This time he nailed it leaving XXX needing a very good dive on a dive that he has consistently performed but still scared him to do. His high school goal is to win state four years in a row and being the defending champion, there was a huge amount of pressure to do it again. Since he won, you know he did it and I can’t tell you how proud I was of him for diving his hardest dive under extreme pressure. You obviously gave him some great tools to deal with his fear so thank you for that.  I’ve included a link to an interview done in Grand Junction yesterday. Thanks again, His Mom

Mom of HS State Champion

XXX has been doing so well lately that parents are starting to ask who has been helping him so I hope it is ok if I shared your contact info with another diving family. The diver is XXX and her mom is XXX.  We just got back from Riverside, CA where XXX won West Nationals on both 1 meter and 3 meter.  He literally crushed the competition and bettered his personal best score on 3 meter by almost 60 points.  I’ve included a link to a YouTube video in case you haven’t ever seen him dive.  The dive that gave him the most trouble before has become one of his favorites.  Thanks for all you have done for him.

Weekend Warrior

It worked!  you da man.  my best finish by a lot. so even a moderate “beginner’s” shift in my focus at the beginning changed my race by quite a bit!

Elite/NCAA Gymnast

The psychology techniques that I learned from you have proven very valuble in my career thus far, so I thank you for that. You can absolutely say that! But I would add that it has proven very valuable in both my athletic and professional career. I try and apply the same techniques in my finance career and it has been extremely useful! I find that I am able to dial in and focus when it counts and also control my nerves during presentations.

Kona Ironman- Age Group Podium

Many thanks from the bottom of my heart. Words can’t express!!! It all worked Dr.Steve!!

Mom of Youth Athlete (age 11)

She had a good meet this past weekend. Her coach actually said to me at one point that she could see the strategies you have been working on with XXX coming together. She said she seemed to be managing her stress level, and was able to calm herself down when she needed to and not let things go off the rails – so that is all very promising.

COLLAB 2016 Teachers (Feedback from a recent presentation on Growth Mindset to teachers)

The discussion about growth mindset was helpful for working with other staff members and to help myself grow professionally.

I was interested in learning how to use mindset in the classroom to work with my students. Attending the Growth Mindset session helped me learn how language and approaching problems with an open mindset in my own career and with my students can be beneficial. I plan to use specific language cues in my classroom to help my students approach problems differently.

This class helped empower me to be more confident in my thinking and actions in all aspects of my life
Take it all in and enjoy. The workshop does a great job of level setting and providing concrete suggestions for management of fixed mindset tendencies.

Dr. Steve has brought his passion for the psychology of performance to a variety of situations and has been invited to speak all over the world.

Are you ready to schedule Steve Portenga to inspire your team?

Email: or Call: 1.720.507.4320