Harrisburg Academy’s director of athletics, Jeane Serino, and I recently attended the PIAA District III Fall athletic directors meeting at Milton Hershey’s Purcell Hall.  One of the presenters on this day was Dr. Megan Cannon, a sports psychologist with Mind of the Athlete, LLC who presented “Mind of the Athlete – ‘Clearer Mind, Better Performance.’”

Dr. Cannon and her team travel to different schools to talk with athletes regarding a number of topics including: the importance of mental health to an athlete; understanding one’s own mental well-being; and following best practices for a clear mind to encourage an athlete’s best performance.  As a coach, myself, I found the presentation fascinating and educational.

A great analogy that she is used was comparing an athlete’s state of mind to a glacier.  Only 10 percent of a glacier is seen above water (what the athlete allows people to see) and the other 90 percent is below water (the unseen stressors and subconscious thoughts of an athlete).  Understanding this comparison is the first step in supporting an athlete and his or her mental health when going into competition.

One of the points she made was that we need educate athletes to seek assistance when stressed about factors outside of their sport.  The “old school” way of “playing through it” doesn’t maximize performance — players need to feel comfortable and recognize what triggers their stress, and learn ways to calm them before performance.  Concurrently, coaches need to realize the stressors that players have are real and understand there is a lot going on in their lives outside of the sport.  With both coach and player partnering with each other and keeping an open dialogue, play on the field, court, course, or pool can become better.

Because I coach multiple sports at Harrisburg Academy, I will be using Mind of the Athlete’s free resources, which include articles, blogs, and videos, in order to help my athletes become better performers with balanced mental health.  Feel free to explore the link yourself and be educated on the mental aspect of being an athlete.

Learn more about Harrisburg Academy on our school website.