Brief excerpt from interview with Lindsey Hamilton discussing the important of resourcefulness for college student-athletes
Doug: Welcome to The Freshman Foundation podcast, helping you make the jump from high school athletics to the collegiate level MBA. With your host: Michael Huber.
Michael: Hey everyone. I’m Mike Huber, CEO and founder of The Freshman Foundation. Welcome to The Freshman Foundation podcast, a podcast geared toward how to prepare high school student athletes, mentally and emotionally for the transition to college athletics. My guest today is Lindsay Hamilton, assistant head coach of mental conditioning at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
You can find Lindsay on: Twitter at “Lindsey08H”, and also on Instagram at that same handle. Hey Lindsay! What’s going on today? How are you?
Lindsay: Mike! I’m doing so well, thank you so much for having me today for this conversation.
Michael: Thank you! Lindsay and I talked a little bit last week about this, and I said to her that the first time I was exposed to Lindsey’s expertise was at a conference a couple of years ago, I was just so impressed with her energy and creativity, how she teaches her athletes, and how she thinks about things. So, I just thought she’d be a great guest for us to talk through today.
To get started Lindsay… Why don’t you tell the audience listeners about your background?
Lindsay: Absolutely! I am currently the assistant head of mental conditioning at IMG Academy and I work with the athletes here on training a high-performance mindset. Helping them build confidence and focus on the right things. I also have the privilege of doing that with corporate companies and business professionals as well. But I think with regard to my background, I was an athlete myself in college and it’s funny because I was a psychology major at the time as well, and somebody told me that I should consider pursuing sports psychology when I was a senior in college. Without hesitation, I said: “absolutely not”, “I’ll never do that”. And here we are, all these years later, I’m doing applied mental conditioning work in the very space that I said I’d never do.
So, yeah! The first lesson of the day is never say never, you never know what’s coming, you never know where life will take you. I ended up pursuing more of a research path after that, and then, after a little bit of travel, a little bit of time away in other industries, I found myself back in a master’s degree at the university of Utah pursuing exercise and sports science with the emphasis in psychosocial aspects of sports.
So, once I was almost complete with that degree, I had the privilege of joining the full-time team here at IMG Academy as a mental conditioning coach and have been here for the last six years.
Michael: Excellent! So, now I have to ask you: How come your reaction was absolutely not the sports psychology?
Lindsay: Oh! I think it is just because some of the intensity of being an athlete and whether that’s just the commitment level, the dedication, the emotional commitment to the work and all of the effort that you put into really brings your best self every single day; I did end my career on an injury, so, it was a bit unfortunate. I was still going through that process and trying to navigate how to still contribute as a captain on the team while I was unable to play sideline to it’s been an ACL tear, unfortunate standard protocols sometimes in women’s soccer, but I think it just all felt too close to home at the time.
Now in the work that I do, I think that having had those experiences allows me to sit with those who have them also, and to really understand that for the people who pursue this work in pursuing their best self on or off the field, that it’s important to them. And it’s something that they care about and it’s a part of who they are.
And so, I think all these three years later it’s actually quite a benefit, but certainly back then, I think I was too involved in it. It was too close to home.
Michael: I mean, as somebody who got into the field later in life, I can definitely see that because having started later in my career, I was away from competitive sports as an individual, and I had a little bit of perspective on things from the perspective of parent, or being a youth coach or, whatever… I could see things a little bit differently, but when you’re 22, 23, 25 years old, and you’re so connected to that from an identity perspective, I could see how it might be really confusing to sort through all of that.
Lindsay: Yeah! And I do recognize that those transitions occurred throughout my career, after I was a player, I did continue on coaching… I was a soccer coach for almost 10 years and there were so many times, especially in the beginning where it was like: “I just want to put my boots on”, “I just want to play”, “I want to get out there!”
And then, I transitioned out of coaching and into mental coaching. So, by the time I became a mental coach, I wasn’t as focused on wanting to play, but I still had to make sure that I was creating boundary between being a mental coach and a sport coach, because obviously we want to preserve those boundaries and so forth.
You know, it’s interesting, but now that I am sufficient time away from both of those things and really identify with my role as a mental conditioning coach, I can see the length of perspective that I’m allowed through that. So, yeah! It’s been a quite a transition into where I am now. Not very much a straight and narrow path…but here nonetheless.
Michael: You use the word transition a couple of times. You’re kind of doing my job for me because that’s what this is about, right? That’s what this is all about…transitions are omnipresent in our lives, whether it’s within sport or with outside of sports.
So, maybe just to kind of stay within the theme of the podcast… Can you tell me about your transition from high school to college athletics, what that was like for you?
Lindsay: Certainly! I was very lucky to plan a super competitive team when I was in high school and my club team. We won two national championships, and I was on a team where every single player on my team went division one, most of them scholarshipped. Two great programs that my teammates were heading to ASU, Michigan and FSU, and all kinds of stellar programs. And I think the difficulty of my transition started before I even determined what school I was going to.
And that was feeling like I wanted to keep up with where other people were going, and the status of those other schools and what that looked like. I was lucky to be recruited by a lot of really top programs. And then, at the very last minute, decided to go to a small D 3 program in Southern California where I was determined to never have gone.
So yeah, I think that the transition really started beforehand, trying to manage expectations or perceived expectations of others wanting to be socially appropriate and accepted in a lot of those ways, and trying to make a decision through that lens really was not leading me in the direction where I needed to be.
And once I made the decision, I went to Chapman University down in Southern California. That transition felt sleepless. When I really decided that I was going to a place that was the right fit for me, it was seamless; it was just easy to make that transition and knew that I was in the right place.
And of course, in transitioning into college, there are certainly things that you need to make adjustments to, whether that’s living arrangements or managing your own schedule, or the stress of just learning where your classes are. Different things like that of course… But I think, really the beginning parts of that were probably some of the hardest things I had to deal with and heading into it.
Michael: Yeah! That’s a great point and it kind of makes me think when we talked last week, you had mentioned that something like 98 plus percent of the athletes at IMG Academy go on to participate in athletics in college. And I would imagine that kind of keeping up with the Joneses, “quote unquote”, mentality with social media being what it is now, and all the emphasis putting on the recruiting process. I would imagine that your experiences are coming to play in terms of helping athletes manage that process… Is that a fair assessment?
Lindsay: You know, it’s funny that you say that because, I wasn’t really planning on sharing like that… No one’s ever asked me why I didn’t want to go into sports psychology and what my transition was going into college, and I never really pieced it together until just now… That my experience is a lot of what I’m seeing here in the athletes that we have the privilege of working with.
In fact, prior to this call… I was chatting with some of my colleagues and I said: “Well, what are the challenges that you see?” And one person says: “Social media! And one person says: “Meeting expectations of keeping up with where everybody else is going”. So, I think it’s really relevant, especially in today’s world and especially with how much of a commodity the college sport is, and what that means about people, about families and about how good you are and what you have to contribute to the world.
Even though that might be misplaced, is a reality of the conversation. And so, I hadn’t quite pieced together that my experience was really aligned with that. I would say I’m lucky that social media wasn’t a part of my life when I was in high school and college, but certainly all contributing to factors. So, I think maybe some of the challenges that high school athletes and even their parents in support of that transition go through.
Michael: Yeah! So I mean… Being at IMG and having that population that you work with, that’s a really high-level caliber athlete, right? IMG clearly has in-house resources to manage the mental conditioning process, the coaching process in that respect…Can you just tell me a little bit about how the program is structured at IMG from a mental conditioning perspective?
Lindsay: Yeah! So as a mental conditioning team, we have a team of 11 people and mental conditioning coaches here. Also, we currently have 1100 student athletes, and each mental conditioning coach has placed with a program, whether that’s a number of teams in a sport or whether that’s a number of groups, and tennis or golf.
They have the opportunity to do weekly mental conditioning sessions. Now… sometimes those sessions are done in the classroom. Those are the formal sessions a lot more times, especially now with the constraints of COVID, we do a lot more of those sessions out on the field of play, but that’s where we’re really trying to help train them in how to have confidence in uncertain situations, how to be able to focus on the right things at the right time regardless of distractions, or how to just be able to manage their internal self with the chaos that’s going on around them.
And that formal training is where we really do a lot of the work. In addition to that… informally, we’re out at trainings, we’re meeting with the student athletes in a one-on-one place, because as with transitions, everybody’s mental game is a little bit different, everybody, whether that’s because of the demands of their sport, their position, or just because of their own lens of the world.
And so… Being able to connect with people on an individual level is a priority as well. We do work with the athletes in a formal and informal capacity throughout the course of the week. When it comes to things like transition and providing the support that we can to the student athletes, whether that’s in the Academy setting or whether that’s in preparation for moving on… One of the privileges we have is collaborating with our other departments here. We also have a leadership department that focuses a lot on: “What is?” “Who are you?” “You are more than an athlete, right?” providing coping skills, life skills or different things like that. How to communicate with others again? More of these transferable skills that they can take into other domains, whether that’s into the classroom or onto the next phase or into college next.
So, the mental conditioning work that we do as well as in our collaboration with our leadership department and these other supportive resources are really where we kind of help to bridge the work that we can do on the field, into their life, into the areas that they’ll find themselves as they move on to college too.
Michael: Yeah! That’s tremendous! I mean… it sounds like I had never been there or have it. I think a lot of people now are very familiar with IMG Academy. It’s become a very high profile brand, but its just sounds like an amazing place in where these young people really have an array of race resources and as a professional.
I could find myself kind of having a tinge of envy about being in that collaborative environment where you’re really trying to build strategies and solve problems for young people by giving them all these integrated resources which is a really cool thing. Now that you mentioned COVID… and I didn’t bring it up, obviously. It’s omnipresent. It’s everywhere right now. I mean… Can you talk about you’re session there? The athletes are there, you’re coaching, and they’re going to school… Can you talk about what that looks like and what kinds of lessons you’re kind of drawing out of the experience for the athlete?
Lindsay: Yeah! I think a lot has changed obviously for everyone. So, yes! We are doing live sessions and those sessions are primarily happening outdoors where we’re keeping kids six feet apart, where we’re restructuring how we can bring some of these sessions to life in ways that are different than before, simply because we can’t share equipment and the activities that we want to do. We’re really trying to stick to protocol as best as possible for the safety of everybody involved.
And in many ways that’s been really challenging. Of course, as a practitioner, it’s also been incredibly evolving, I think. Because we’re not able to hide behind just some exciting activity that we want to use to make a point, we’re diving into these conversations that are really empowering people to bring their voice, to applying the topics and the concepts that we’re really trying to work through.
I’m certainly not opposed to an activity, but I think sometimes when we’re challenged to think outside that box and apply in different ways, it’s really beneficial. When it comes to how that might be influencing our work because of course… We’re seeing that student athletes are in a stress cycle that they don’t even realizing they are in.
They haven’t moved through the cycle, they haven’t managed the emotions of what it was like to be in quarantine, they are now so excited to be back into the mix of it, that they haven’t quite processed what the difficulty is before.
We’re still have very constrained environment here on campus… you have to have certain roommates; you have to roommate with someone on your team whereas before you didn’t have to do that, and you would meet different people. And so, your circle of friends would be larger, your interactions would be more versatile, more diverse, and I think, with the social interaction piece and how essential that we know that that is, even in mental conditioning work, how important we know social support is in building confidence, in developing resilience, in making you feel you like hole in your identity.
People think like: “Oh yeah! That’s cute, right?” “Give me the skills!” And now we’re in COVID and people are like: “Oh no, I need to talk to somebody”, like: “I just want to high-five my friends again” and so… it’s actually allowing us to bring in some of these really powerful reminders and tools and points of emphasis that I think previously get washed over, because they don’t necessarily have the life experience that would lead them to understand how essential those things really are.
So, it’s been a really interesting transition for some of those other elements that are creating space for us to talk about them.
Michael: I love that point. It’s interesting too, cause my approach to mental performance coaching or mental conditioning is more of that conversational kind of style. Where it’s drawing things out in a conversation versus sometimes working at getting better at the activities, or getting into the idea that if I’m an athlete: “Teach me this”, “I want to learn this”, “I want to apply it so I can get better”, “Don’t give me all this”… Talking nonsense! Let’s get down to the point!
But for you, in a normal environment, if you’re doing an activity, what’s an example of something that you might work on with an athlete? It could be anything, any skill or just talk about what you might do to transfer knowledge in that mental skill setting.
Lindsay: Sure! So… if I give an example of just an exercise that I did just this week… I was working on confidence with a basketball group, and the primary emphasis was a concept that I pull from Dr. Russ Harris “Competence gap” book, which I just love. If you’re interested in looking at confidence through an activist lens, it’s really interesting.
And his golden rule of competence is “The actions of confidence comes first, the feelings come later” and that is really a mind work for a lot of athletes who have never heard that, because we’re initially led to believe that if we feel confident we’re going to play well, but if I don’t feel confident that’s a problem.
So… when you bring in this other lens instead of focusing on our feelings about it… What are some of the actions that we can take In this particular environment? We weren’t able to be on the court itself, which would probably lead me to design a training session that would include shooting drills or full handling of some kind, but we didn’t have that capacity. So, I actually did an exercise where I split the team up into groups and I would call out a letter, and as a group, everybody had to participate in creating that letter.
I would say: “A” and they would get on the floor, and one person would be the leg over here, another person would be the leg over there, and they would create the “A”… and the first team to finish wins. We go through a number of them, to give them some reality of doing it, but what happens in the beginning of that exercise is that you give them a letter, and all of a sudden they were like… they hesitate, they slowed down. They’re like: “Well, how should we make the “A”?” “Who wants to go where?” “Where are you going to go?” and it’s a really slow process.
Then, they get their feet under them and by the time we’re on the end of the letters, when I call a letter, they’re just dropping to the floor and they’re figuring it out as they go. And so, instead of being caught up in feeling like they don’t know, and feeling like the uncertainty is bigger than their actions… by the end, we get to this point where: “Let’s take action and then we can learn from it and build from it and we’re there”, and that is a fun exercise that allows them to make those connections as opposed to me just talking to them about it and seeing how powerful that reality shows up in their life if we don’t address it.
So, that’s one example of how I might bring an activity into teach one of those concepts. And of course, the intention would be to then, take it under the court towards the field depending on the sport that would put you in a situation in which competence might be uncertain, but then, really identifying the actions that we want to take either in the shooting drill or this ball handling experience, and build from there.
Michael: Sure! That’s a great example of some of the things that a mental performance coach might do, right? Creating activities and drills to kind of draw a connection between something that’s not related to their sport performance and being able to show them: “Hey, this is what this is about!” It gives you a different way to drawing the connection for them to go: “Oh, now I get it right!”.
But I can totally imagine that being in a place like IMG, where there is a high… what we would call in our field: “Ego orientation”. In terms of like: “I want to be recognize”, “I want results”. There might be perfectionism; there might be fear of failure, and what you just described… kind of hits on some of that. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do”, so “I’m not going to do it because I’m afraid I’m going to look stupid” and getting to them to the point of saying that sometimes you just got to try and fail first and then figure out.
That’s really what you’re describing? is that a fair way to kind of characterize it?
Lindsay: Yeah! It really is! And I think by designing a session in that way provides a lot of opportunities for that thing. One, is you see that so many people actually have that approach… you weren’t the only one who didn’t know where to start, your team also didn’t. And I think that creates sort of like a common experience. You don’t have to feel like you’re the only one that’s not sure what to do.
Then, we can branch out into applying that conversation and into other areas… but what it really allows us when you create an environment in the cases where you create an environment that it’s not related to the sport. Now, it really opens up that conversation even more to say: “Well, this is how these skills can transfer even off the field in general”. So, if we’re looping this back down to transition and this being able to sort of take action or jump in… or maybe it’s emotional management thing that we’re working on… ¡Yes! This works on the field, and ¡Yes! This works in this activity we just did, but look at how it can apply to you transitioning into next year, look how it can apply to what do you anticipate your fit being either in this new class or with this new social group, or on this new sport that you’re in college.
How do you make the most of that when you’re feeling uncertain? When you’re feeling like you don’t know which way to go…How do you allow yourself to engage in action and that transition as well? It presents an opportunity for us to really enhance the transferability of those skills into places that might be relevant in their life.
Michael: Yeah! Definitely! I think that the other thing that kind of jumps out at me about it as too… is when you do it in that setting. It’s much less threatening because it’s not their sport. If you try to apply that concept or that idea or teach it to them in the context of their sport, there might be more defensiveness because there’s just this attachment to it, versus detaching from the sport and kind of then drawing the connection back. You get them to invest in it a little bit more without feeling like I don’t want to be a failure at this.
Lindsay: Yeah! It’s very true… And it gives us the flexibility to be able to go in either way… cause I can also say that a lot of the work that I do actually is out onto the field, and out on the court. Because from a mental conditioning standpoint, if we’re looking at most effective ways to transfer the more representative your training environment is to competition, then, the more transfer those skills you’re able to have. So, I do a lot of this stuff out onto the field, which then presents opportunity for us to touch on other things.
When they’re feeling that cling to the way, something has to work out, and if it’s not working on the field… How are we managing that? Then, we can even draw experiences from that in terms of transferability. When you feel like you’re not getting the looks or you’re not getting the recruitment, or you’re not getting the interest from the schools that you really want to go, we can draw on our sport experience and say: “Well, what are effective ways to manage this?” “How do we process this?” “Where do I go from here?” And I think that regardless of being an IMG Academy or not, I can imagine for some of the athletes that you work within the high school level, they are likely experiencing many of these same things.
Michael: Absolutely! Especially with kids who want to be recruited and are not being recruited, like: “I want to go play in college, but I don’t have any offers, or I’m not getting the looks” And then it becomes a control the controllable conversation, right? What can you control to put yourself in the best position to get that offer? Take the emphasis off what you can control which is somebody reaching out.
Sometimes that’s a really hard thing to talk about with a high school age athlete, because they don’t want to hear that a lot of the times, even though logically… it makes sense to me.
Lindsay: Yeah! It’s very true! I think oftentimes we have the privilege of being raised to believe that if you work hard and if you do what you’re supposed to do… then, you’re going to get what you are hoping to get.
And the reality is that there are just so many things outside of our control… If you see that on the field even, or if you put yourself in the right position and you’re fit and you’re open…you’re going to score that goal… but the reality is there’s keeper there, right? ¡That is trying to stop you! And there are so many other things too…
There are others players, there are other recruiting classes, and there are so many things that are influencing how the little control they actually have. And so, that’s definitely a conversation that we have all the time with regard to the recruitment process and the transition into college.
Michael: Can you tell me a little bit about… (in terms of the transition, specifically from high school to college with the athletes that you’re working with) What do you see as some of the biggest challenges for them as they beyond recruiting, as they prepare mentally and emotionally for the jump from high school to college? What are some of the things that you can observe?
Lindsay: I would say in addition to what we already touched…in terms of feeling like you have to go to a school… That means something, right? A lot of people are really focused on going to the right school instead of finding the right fit for them. That’s one of the biggest challenges.
If you’re looking specifically…you’ve made that decision where you’re going. I think one of the biggest things that people all across the board struggle with, is really the imposter syndrome, right? They’ve worked this whole way to get to this spot and now… a lot of our athletes don’t feel relief when they get recruited. They feel: “¡Oh, no! ¡Now I have to measure up!” and all of a sudden they feel like they have to be someone different than the person that got recruited in the first place, or their gain has to be different. It has to meet some standard that wasn’t previously there, which is an erroneous thought in and of itself, that all of a sudden.
Now you have the coach that recruited you is going to expect you to be someone different. Like they’re pretty aware of whom they’re recruiting regardless of how good your tape is. But I think that the imposter syndrome is something that our kids really struggle with to a certain extent, it pushes them to continue to develop it, pushes them so that they don’t get complacent, but then it creates this real sense of anxiety whether I’m measuring up.
“Am I good enough?” “Am I who they thought I was?” And that is something that they don’t think that they’re prepared for. I think they feel like once they get recruited everything’s going to be okay… ¡And it is! It is going to be okay…but they have a perception of it that makes them feel like they are someone they’re not, and that’s a real struggle for them into the collegiate space.
Michael: Are there things specifically that you’ll work with athletes on? In terms of preparation or just in terms of them performing at the high school level?
Lindsay: Yeah! You mentioned control the controllable, which is really an essential part of that conversation, but I think really just simplifies it.
I think there are a couple of strategies that you can really head into, but simplifying sort of… What do you need to do in order to excel in training camp when you get there? Because a lot of times what the athletes will see… they’re like: “Okay, I got recruited to this college” “How do I be the starting athlete of the week?” And the first really go in, and blow the whole program up in my first season… which is great aspiration, but if the aspiration is making it, so, you’re feeling anxious… and it’s making it so it’s like prohibiting you from actually doing the work to get there. Then, we want to pull it back a little bit.
We want to say: “Okay… well, what are the things that I need to do in order to be prepared on my arrival In order to be prepared? whether that’s okay, “I know that I have this fitness regimen that I have to work on and one day at a time, these are the things I’m going to do…”
Or… “I know that I want to be able to connect with the team once I get there, because I knew, I won’t know anybody. So, “let me focus on ways that I can create those relationships and simplify it.” Or instead of feeling like in the middle of the game, you have to be all things to all people. What are the few areas that you need to bring to the table once you make that transition and let’s shore those up.
So, really… simplifying what their focus is on, instead of feeling like they have to do all the things all the time has been something that the athletes here can really appreciate, because it not only is it effective, but it allows them to take the edge off the tension that they’re feeling as well.
Michael: Yeah! How much of that is done in a formal goal setting versus kind of anecdotally day-to-day?
Lindsay: Well, I’m probably one of the few mental conditioning coaches that don’t do a lot of goal setting, but that’s for which the research largely demonstrates that it’s an effective tool.
And for many athletes… ¡it really is! But our conversations center more around just what your process is, which you can tie into both setting for sure. I think for the athletes that are already feeling overwhelmed, that sometimes the setting of the goal feels like it’s on top of the stress that they’re already experiencing.
So, if we can drop back into more of like: “Who do you want to be?” “Who do you want to be on the field?” “What kind of player do you want to show up as?” And then that helps them to direct their intention and their value into something that can show up every day, because it’s also who they can be right now.
So, it allows them to be both in the present as they. Fire toward what that looks like in that transition. But instead of feeling like: “Why do I need to keep working for something that’s outside myself right now?” they can actually harness the strengths that they have and use those strengths to prioritize the process they’re engaging today.
To your initial question of like: “How that looks like, whether that’s in like… One-on-one goal setting sessions… or whether that’s sort of on a day-to-day process… I would say all of the above with extent that some of those conversations are being had in formal settings.
Especially when I work with groups that are primarily seniors and they’re all transitioning at the same time where you can really direct the conversations to those skills that most of them are feeling. But at the same time, I think again, to your point about making the environments, non-threatening a lot of these kids like to have these conversations in a one-on-one, they tend to be a little bit more open about it.
They tend to be a little bit more transparent about some of their challenges where, some kids don’t want to tell other people they’re afraid, they’re not going to make friends, but they’ll stay here in my office and share that. So, I would say it’s a little bit of both .
Michael: That raises actually a question that just kind of came up in my head…
Of the 1100 athletes… if you had to venture a guess… what percentage of those 1100 are active and engaging in individual mental?
Lindsay: Oh, that’s an excellent question! And that’s excellent because all of our programs do it a little bit differently. For example, our entire golf program this year has initiated individual sessions for every athlete.
And that’s something that we haven’t done in quite a number of years here at the Academy, because we’re really built around group work and that’s an interesting piece. So, there’s a couple of hundred athletes right there that as part of their program are getting individual where I would say that it’s hard for me to determine that.
I guess I could go back and look at our stats of how many one-on-ones and who’s doing one-on-ones…but one of the contributing factors to that, is that a lot of our sports are really culturally diverse. Demographically, but also sport wise. So, if you look at golf and tennis… for those kinds of programs it’s not uncommon for them to have private lessons, “quote, unquote”…skill development, training sessions, and they fly a private lesson on mental conditioning as it’s just another private lesson to have.
So it’s really common for our golfers and our tennis athletes to have private mental sessions and individual sessions. Transition over to some other sports, potentially like soccer, where I have a really large Latin American population that has very different perception of what mental conditioning is.
“How closely is it related to mental health?” “You only have to do that if you’re weak”. And if those perceptions come in, that makes it so fewer of them are engaging in those individual sessions. So it’s challenging for me to say, but I can say confidently, hundreds of athletes are doing individual sessions in some capacity or another.
Michael: Great. It’s like anything else, right? So much of our work is tailored to the individual, even in groups, we’re trying to sort of account for all the different types of people who are involved, different sport, all those things. So, it’s great to hear that’s happening.
I think it’s becoming less stigmatized, eventhough we’re not counselors or therapists, we’re doing performance work, it’s still has that kind of connotation to it. So, the fact that these athletes are reaching out and trying to really get the most out of their mental conditioning program by doing both sides of that group and individual is good to hear.
I’d like you to talk a little bit… and I wasn’t sure I was going to go here, but you mentioned just about the different types of sports, right? Like, the soccer players versus the golfers versus and the baseball players or softball players. The different types of sports and the different genders: males and females.
So, it’s kind of an open-ended question, but I don’t do a lot of work with females right now and I work with males and they tend to be… I find the males can be difficult to kind of get to open up. Can you talk about some of the differences? I think you work with females. On a large level there, can you kind of talk about that just in a general way? I’m not asking you to kind of get into the weeds.
Lindsay: Yeah, sure! I think that, if you strip the mental demands of the sport, if you strip the person outside of the mental demands of the sport, then you have a really non-contextual picture of what’s really happening.
And as a working in the youth space with high school athletes, we’re looking at not only the mental demands of the sport, but developmentally where our athletes in this, where is this person growing? So, as an example, I have worked with both males and females and even males and females in the same sport, which opens up a lens in its own way.
But for the females, let’s take in a high school setting. Like they’re experiencing low levels of confidence, even if they’re not athletes, right? And so then you have, adding the athletic confidence side of it. And so, I deal a lot of the athletes. They want to focus on confidence… “How can I become more confident?” “How can I be more sure of myself?” and the opportunities to transfer those skills outside of the field or court is incredible. On the male side, I see a lot of “quote unquote”… mental preparation. They want to know how they can get their focus, where they need it to be when they need it to be there.
And they are less attached potentially to some of the feelings you might see a lot more emotional management on the male side, not to say that they don’t have it or they do, but they feel like where they get derailed is when they get super angry about something. And so, they: “How can I be prepared mentally in advance to focus on what I need to focus on?”
So, from a mental perspective, I think some of those developmental things are important. It’s also interesting when working with males and females, because males, they want to know how good you are and then they’ll build relationships with you. They want to know: “Can you play? Okay! Then we can be friends.
And on the girls, oftentimes it’s the opposite. It’s like: “Are we friends? Okay! Then I’ll play with you”. And so like that juxtaposition there, it makes for a really interesting dynamic, both in terms of presenting the mental game, but also in terms of how we building our relationships, and how are we building relationships outside of the field.
“How are we?” “What’s our team chemistry and our ability to work together effectively?” Based on those lenses that the different genders are coming from. So, there’s certainly the variation that… you’ll see all throughout the high school level, and that really impacts the work that we do or their approach to it.
Michael: Do you ever, in terms of… I wasn’t clear on this and I wasn’t sure if you said it or not, but just from a mental conditioning standpoint to males, boy, and girls, males and females, Do they do sessions? Kind of inter gender, or is it always separate?
Lindsay: So we do, Sport dependent.
So like our girls soccer teams they’ll have their sessions together.
And the boys soccer teams, like the team itself will have their session, but we have mixed sports. So, you know, you take track and field, that’s a mixed gender sport and you have males and females in the same room, or you could the same for tennis or golf. And they might change that. Like sometimes our track and field program, they they do do the female sessions together.
We actually have. Specific curriculum that we do that is like empowering female athletes. And so obviously it’s the females that are coming in there. We have, we have sessions on becoming men of character. Right. And kind of, what is it like to develop character as a male, as a male athlete, as a male athlete going on to college, again, going back to that transition space, how are we giving them the skills that we need and what does that look like as a female?
What does that look like as a male? So we have. I would say both. We have groups that are, co-ed for sure. Work dependent. And then we have males only, and females only as well. And we also have female coaches that work with male groups and male coaches that work with female groups and the data that we’ve collected… it doesn’t really matter that much.
It’s not like the boys only want to work with male coaches or the girls only want to work with females. So, it’s nice to see that diversity accepted.
Michael: Just anecdotally in my own life…. I could see that being effective to sort of do it that way, because I think there’s something non-threatening I think about.
A young man working with a woman because it’s cause of the nature of the relationship, versus working with another man or vice versa. So, I think exposing athletes to all these different things is just preparing them for the next level, is preparing them for life, right? You’re going to have to do all these people in different contexts. You’re not always going to deal with the same people all the time and you’re going to have to be uncomfortable.
Lindsay: Certainly! And it’s even advantageous for them. There’s research to suggest that females working with male sports that particularly come from certain backgrounds have single-family homes.
They’re used to the mom where they want to seek your information from. And it’s all intersectional. There are so many things to relate to that, but you’re totally right. The more exposure we can give them, not only are they going to be more familiar with it, but they’re. Seeking out that diversity of thought and experience is going to enhance their ability to transfer at those different levels as well, or transition into them.
Michael: I’m going to ask you…do you see certain attributes or characteristics in the athletes? They’re like the most successful ones are the ones that the highest performers, but also the ones that really do the best when they make that jump from high school to college .What are some of the… are there common themes maybe… or skills that you see kind of stand out amongst those highest level of performance.?
Lindsay: Yep! I would most definitely say as we have talked about like those who actually choose a school that’s right. For them not a school that’s right in the eyes of other people, that is absolutely a factor in the transition and the success of that transition.
One of the other things that I think is really obvious for us in our environment are those who are most resourceful. And what happens is… here, at the Academy, we are so privileged to be able to offer a holistic training approach that includes athletic trainers, body management, strength, conditioning, leadership, nutrition, mental conditioning and perceptual cognitive training.
The list goes on and that’s just an athletic and personal development department that doesn’t include the sports that are also providing recruitment help, and that are providing other individual health and teaching kids how to write emails to college coaches. All those things, not to mention the school and campus life.
How much time do we have? There are many resources… And I feel very grateful that these kids have access to it. The most successful people in the transition are the ones who made use of the resources. And that doesn’t mean that they had it all together before they got here. That doesn’t mean that they knew the answers, that doesn’t mean they were too cool. Not to admit.
They recognize there was something that could give them an edge. And not only did they invest in that for themselves, but they developed a sense of finding the resources.
So, I have often talk to our parents here as part of our parent education. And one of the things that I say is there’s a difference between knowing the resource and being resourceful. It’s not about knowing exactly what the answer is of the resource, but also knowing where to get it and who to ask. Or how to ask how to advocate that you need something that you think that there’s a way that you could improve.
Again, like one of the things that we often say is you don’t have to be bad to get better. So, How do you advocate that you would like to continue to develop when you’re not struggling? How do I get that resource? And the people who are seeking out the availability and the resources for them, regardless of what that resource might be.
We see extreme success in that transition at the next level.
Michael: Okay. So I’m going to ask a hard question and maybe you don’t know the answer, but can you draw a line or can you make a connection between the resourcefulness of the athlete and the nature of the parent?
Meaning the parents who are more involved.
Maybe if there’s a negative correlation, parent involvement goes up and then resourcefulness goes down or is it just case by case and random? Like: “I don’t want to put you on the spot”. It’s kind of a tough question to answer, but that’s my instinctive hypothesis.
Lindsay: Sure. That’s a great question because I think it’s something that is sort of unspoken about in terms of parent involvement and what does that look like and what should it be?
I wouldn’t necessarily put it in terms of parent involvement because parent involvement can look so differently, right? There’s a difference between parents calling or an athlete calling their parents and the parents like: “Tell me, how was your day? I want you to know whom are you hanging out with and how was practice today? Very involved with the life of their child.
And then there’s parent involvement where we may or may not have had this on our campus. Where the son overdrives his socks in the laundry… and mom’s now calling saying: “You need to get my son new socks!” It’s completely different. In fact, we heard one of our headmasters a long time ago, sharing a story about all of these college professors sitting around and saying: “My gosh, you won’t believe how many parent calls I got this semester from my kids’ stuff, this, that, and the other”. And the professor saying: “Oh, I can beat that. I got 12 calls this semester from different parents. Blah blah blah and they’re going around”. And all of these parents are calling on behalf of their kids who are now in college, right over 18. Theoretically supposed to be managing and learning how to manage that stuff for themselves.
But then the headmaster went on to say, these were the graduates professors? These are the professors who, their kids are now 22, 23, 25 maybe. And they’re still having these conversations. So to a certain extent, the involvement I think is probably a less fair term to use because you know what we know about parent support, parent conversation of endeavor and all these things, parent investment, both financially and personally makes an important part of the athletes.
Evolvement as a person and their ability to understand how to advocate for themselves and support themselves. But it’s when we start doing things on behalf of our athlete and don’t give them a chance to learn those skills. That’s where we really see that negative resourcefulness occurring that they they don’t know how to do it.
They don’t know how to ask for themselves. They don’t know where they’re going. And why would they? I mean, if my mom and dad did those things for me, I would be like: “Yeah! I’m not doing my laundry either”.
Michael: You made a really good observation and a great point sort of saying that the definition of parent involvement matters, right?
The context matters, right? It’s almost like the image I had in my head was: “I’m a parent, I have younger children being at soccer game where there’s one parent yelling: “Great hustle Johnny!” And there’s another parent yelling: “You need to get back track! You need to be here!” coaching from the sideline, right?
There are two levels. Both are involved, but one is maybe a little bit more adaptive. And what is maybe not as helpful.
Lindsay: Yes It’s very true! And we have these conversations with our parents at least once a year, and which is probably not enough, but it’s one of the reasons why parent education is so the key.
The research has demonstrated that when an organization provides parent education, that it actually facilitates the communication between the organization and the parent and the kid. And we see that the kids have finding more enjoyment in their sport because when the parents exhibit certain behaviors and they, at the end of the day, parents want to do better, they just don’t know better.
And if we can support them with the tools that they need to better, more effectively enhance their child’s experience; we talk a lot about parenting, the high performance mindset. So, how can parents assist in developing a mindset that’s going to be effective for their athlete?
But we also talk about being high-performance parents, which are two different things. One is how is the parent acting in and of themselves? How are they interacting with and collaborating with their child and creating that parent child relationship? and the other is supporting the child’s development and their mental approach to life. And so, I think both ends are really essential in the parent piece in the transition.
In the youth space at the college level is essential in the development of the student athlete and the experience of the child in any of those domains.
Michael: I love that, Yeah! I think it’s really important as well, and I think it’s probably something that’s under resourced, right?
Parent education… and I don’t know what we’re not going to solve that problem here today, but, it’s good to know that I M G is sort of doing its part, as we’re kind of.
Winding down on time here… I wanted to ask you a question you brought up before the confidence gap…Is there a book that you would recommend to your athletes to read that is maybe a beneficial mental performance, kind of a resource?
Lindsay: Um, gosh, where do I start? So, I would say that “The confidence gap book” is actually not written for practitioners. It’s written for anybody!
Who’s having an experience with confidence and helps them understand their confidence. There are actually a lot of exercises within the book that helped them navigate their own confidence from the lens. And they’re sitting in, which is great when it comes to mental performance, depending on where you’re at, if you really want a foundational book, “The mind gym” has long been a fan favorite, but if you’re looking at sport specific with heads up baseball by Kenner visit his rate. Cause it’s really applicable to the mental work in and of itself. It’s like work oriented. And then…we talked a little bit about gender differences and if you’re interested in sort of what confidence looks like, specifically for females… One of the really great options is The Confidence Code. That one is really nice to help females understand the neuroscience a little bit about where competence comes from, and how it shows up, but also the socialization of it as well as strategies that allow them to sort of invest in their own confidence.
So, you can go on all sorts of different directions depending on what you’re interested in. But, those are a few resources that I really prefer.
Michael: I love that one book I read recently at the recommendation of a college coach on a podcast he gave it was: “Chop wood, carry water”. I don’t know if you’ve read that book.
Oh my goodness. I loved it! And I just feel anybody who wants to go through that process of being a high performer going, being great, right? The idea that it doesn’t comes overnight. You’ve got to exhibit patience and you have to sort of love the process of doing the work, because if you don’t, you’re probably just going to be disappointed.
And I just, I I’ve shared it with some of my athletes and I think it goes a long way. So, that’s one of my favorites, but those books are confidence. Code is definitely one I need to read. I know I’m familiar with it. So, I appreciate you sharing that.
So as we finish up here, I guess the last question I’ll ask you is if there’s one thing that you could suggest to a parent, and if there’s one thing you could suggest to a student athlete like taking away today.
There’s one thing you just said… if it’s absolutely the most important thing that you need to know. From our discussion, what would you say that that is.
Lindsay: So one thing for each group or one thing for the two audiences?
Michael: One thing for each group.
Lindsay: Okay. I would say to the athlete themselves is to remember to have fun. And when we start talking about transition, when you start talking about getting to the next level and high performance, it’s easy to think that the grind and the dedication and the commitment and the red lining is the only way there, but that level of the sustainability of that commitment and dedication and that grind is only as strong as the joy you have for what you’re doing.
And so, a lot often in youth sports, the reason people leave is because they’re not enjoying it anymore. Now that doesn’t mean that every part of it’s fun. Getting on the line, getting on the baseline for running those up and backs. That’s not necessarily fun, but when you can keep in touch with the joy of what you’re doing and your purpose for what you’re doing, I think we find a lot more success, not only in the transition, but in the sustainability of the work and being present and really helping us find that high-performance too.
So it’s one of those things that get overlooked and it’s one of those things that are really powerful. Once you can tap back into that, when we think about being young, nobody thinks about preparing for that one game on Tuesday night that they didn’t play well in. You think about the big moments and the pressure moments and how much you enjoyed wanting to just engage in the game.
And I think tapping back into that joy is really essential for the transition process, but also just sustainability of high performance in general for parents, especially thinking about the transition, one of the most valuable questions. That we can ask ourselves as parents is: Why do I want my child in sports?
Why do I want my child participating in the way in the sport as they are? It’s partially asking themselves that question, because one, if they have asked themselves that question, they haven’t asked it in a long time. And here we are in the youth space, in the high school space, where now we’re thinking about next steps.
You know, we maybe forgot that originally we wanted them to play so that they can like making new friends and learn from coaches or other people and learn social skills. And of course you get into high school and that might not be the emphasis anymore, which is totally reasonable. So, it’s asking themselves that question and then also asking their athlete that question and really listening to what that answer is.
Because when we know what those answers are, and we are aligned in that. The support is endless! Limitless because we know where we’re headed. We know what’s important to the athlete on our child. We know how we can support them, where we know that our support is, is well intentioned. If that conversation happens and they’re not aligned… ¡Good! Because now’s the time to continue to say: “Oh, not what I would’ve thought”.
So all of my really well-meaning intention to make sure as a parent that you’re getting into that division one school that I thought you wanted to be out because you’re the best second basement here in the conference. Right. Oh, you mean you want to go so that you can be able to get into a really strong academic program and you think baseball is going to be the way to get there?
Oh, right now we’re heading in a different direction. So asking that question and really being willing to listen so that we can see where is that alignment and how do we support each other effectively?
Michael: Both of those points are amazing. And I’m going to, I’m going to take the opportunity to just ask a couple of follow-ups because we do have a couple of minutes here.
Okay. So, on the first part about the student athlete, right? Reminding them to have fun. And I think you kind of answered the question, but I’m going to ask it for the benefit of the audience. We all know what that looks like… Everybody has their own definition of fun. As a mental performance coach though… How do we teach? Coach, athletes to have fun or to understand what it looks like for them to have fun so that they can put their finger on it and then do the things that they need to do to have fun.
Lindsay: Sure! I think that there are so many different ways that we can go about it. I mean, as a mental performance coach I’ve had athletes that simply asking them: “What was your favorite game you’ve ever played?” Or: “Walk me through what it was like when you were a 12 year old soccer player? Were you still wearing Jean shorts then? Where your shin guards on the outside of your socks, what was fun about that? What did you like? Remember when you played goalie that one time, but you’re really a forward and then they start rooming reminiscing and that enjoyment and you know, all of us who get past college, we look back and, we might’ve had those good games and we won those national championships, but I remember the van ride… And so when you bring that joy and allow them the space to remember that joy and those conversations is really powerful from a coaching standpoint, we can set up our environments that create.
High levels of challenge with high levels of support and knowing that it’s fun to do both right. That we can, make sure that we’re constantly striving and getting after it, but creating either opportunities within practice to be able to have a little bit of fun, maybe that’s in the warm-up, especially for females.
It’s really great for them to have some social opportunity in the beginning. So can you structure a warm-up in a way that allows them to have that fun to get the giggles out, to laugh and make connections. Okay! Now I’m ready to play! We actually see a lot of benefit from a focus perspective for the males too.
Cause the boys just want to run around. And if you try to get them to focus right off the gate, they’re not even paying attention, let’s be honest about it. But we can have that good time or we finish the practice in a way that’s like, you know, next goal wins and it should be, it becomes more playful and creating an environment in which fun is welcomed, helps the athlete to remember their joy for the participation as well.
Michael: Awesome! That was great answer. So on the parents side of things, the one thing that jumped into my head when you were saying that, because I agree…If parents and kids are aligned and I try to do this as a parent. Forget about being a mental performance coach, and maybe I’m influenced by that, cause I’m trained, I’ll ask my kids, like: why are you doing this? What is it about this that you like? Because if I don’t understand your motivation, we’re going to be butting heads.
The question that kind of came into my mind was especially as kids get older, is how many parents are afraid to ask that question, because they’re going to get an answer that they don’t want.
I guess I’m just asking your, your opinion more than anything. Cause that might be not, might not be something that you know, or have experience with.
Lindsay: Yeah! I think that what I see is, is twofold. One is we don’t want to ask the question because it’s like: “Oh, I have a vision for where I want my child to go!
And we forget that when we honor where the child is bringing the child, right. That could be 17 years old. But when the kid is bringing their full selves and their interests to the conversation, we can actually get them to where their highest and best self is. But as parents, we feel like, well, no, cause I don’t want them to have too much.
say In that, right? Like I know what the path is and I want to make sure they’re on it. So that is, that is an area of difficulty. But if we can, we, if we can remember that, like when we collaborate on this, our two heads and always going to be better than any one idea I could have come up with, and that’s really what we want to tap into.
And so by asking ourselves as parents, what is it that why do I want them doing that? And really causing out reflection is huge. The other thing that I find when having, I mean, I have done a workshop around this very thin multiple times, and, you know, I had a, I had a situation one time where it was .
A parent workshop. And there was one student athlete actually in the session because of course it was orientation and the dad was like, please come. Like I only get to spend a half an hour more with you. And then you’ll, I’m leaving to the airport and you’re gonna stay here. So she came and she filled out the exercise too, of why do I want to be playing in sport while her parents were filling out why they want her in sports.
And I will tell you the answers for why he wanted to be playing in sport where, you know, learn new skills and to challenge yourself. And what happened was he ended up sharing. This is why I want my daughter to be playing in sport, but my daughter sat here and filled out this paper. And the number two reason why.
She wants to be in sport is to make her parents proud and his whole life, her whole life, he’s raised her to say, this is your life. Like, I, we love you. You go out and do what you want to do. But as parents, our kids still want to make us proud. And so asking that question is not only, not only huge when you are afraid of the answer, but it’s huge when you think, you know the answer because he has spent years knowing.
Oh, my daughter, I told her how many times it’s okay. I love her. It doesn’t matter. It’s not about me. And she still puts that. Right. And so I think like that is so essential to have that conversation too, when we are confident. Right. And let me tell you, right. Parents saying the same thing, but louder doesn’t make it any better.
Our kids, whether we wanted to or not. Apparently sometimes they just don’t hear what we’re saying. And so again, when we think we know what this answer is, wow. Asking it anyway, that’s where the magic happens.
Michael: Good stuff right there. Really good. That’s probably a good place to, to finish up. I think it probably could turn into another podcast down the road, cause there’s a lot to talk about. I love that. I mean, everything that you’ve shared is extremely valuable. I just, I really appreciate, I appreciate your time. I appreciate your expertise and thank you for coming here and sharing with us. It was really a pleasure.
Lindsay: It was, it was a total pleasure for me to be a part of the conversation. I know we went in lots of different directions, but, you know, I commend the efforts. here toward really providing a resource to youth athletes and their families and this transition because it’s such an integral part of our life at this time and the development.
And, and while,thank you for sharing this information and for the remainder of the podcast that you’re doing. And I really appreciate being involved,
Michael: Thanks, Lindsay, take care. I’ll talk to you soon.
Doug: Mike Huber is the founder and owner of follow the ball coaching located in Fairhaven, New Jersey. He is a mental performance coach. And business advisor dedicated to serving athletes, just like you reach their full potential on and off the court. The Freshman Foundation is all about helping you get to the next level. For more information follow along on Instagram at The Freshman Foundation, please subscribe, give us a like on iTunes, Spotify, leave a review. Tell a friend and most importantly… come back in two weeks. Ready to get better.