How I found my calling in the field of Sports and Performance Psychology.
When I tell people what I do for a living, I often get the question:
“How did you end up doing that?”
Well, I can tell you that when I first started school going into Sports Psychology wasn’t my plan, it just fell into my lap. Once I looked into it, I knew that this was my calling…. this was my PASSION.
From a young age, I knew I wanted to help people.
Like every kid growing up, you have this idea of the perfect career, you know the ones. The normal go-tos of firefighter, policeman, lawyer, astronaut and you guessed it doctor. That was my go too and my dad is a doctor, so naturally, I wanted to do that too.
But unexpectedly, several life changes made me realize that med school might not really be the right path… plus, organic chemistry was just NOT going to happen.
The first big event that made an impact was the birth of my niece, who was born with both speech and physical impairments.
I made it my mission for the longest time to help her and others with similar struggles. My new career goal, become a speech and physical therapist to help other kids like her while using dolphins as therapy aids.
As you can guess, that changed too…
At the young age of 5, my parents started me out in diving. One day going to swim lessons, there they were, the divers flipping and twisting off of these boards. So me being me, I pushed til my parents signed me up, swimming just wasn’t enough, I wanted to flip and twist too.
My love for the sport only grew from there and turned into a 10-year career. Over the years you can imagine the injuries that occurred, whether overuse related or a minor mishap of landing wrong.
After my fair share of sprains, strains, broken toes and fingers, hyperextended knee, and more rounds of physical therapy than I can count on one hand. Yep you guessed it, another epiphany and career change idea!
“That’s it, physical therapist it is! I can help people that way!”
Then there was another change, a life-shattering and altering one… After hundreds of practices, tons of meets, several metals and one spot on the National Team later, it all came crashing to a halt. Wrong place, right time… a freak accident at practice.
At only the age of 14, I had ruptured a disc in my lower back after landing back on top of a diving board. I had to give up my career, I had to give up who I was. I was lost, angry, in pain, and for a long time not able to even do the simple things in life.
By the time I was 17, the outcome wasn’t a good one. The disc had blown out completely, allowing my spine to move in any direction it wanted, coming extremely close to pinching my spinal cord. A spinal fusion was the only option after we had exhausted all other treatment options with no success. So, the decision hesitantly made because of the risks but surgery was the only answer.
Yet again, I couldn’t walk on my own, couldn’t do things for myself, couldn’t do the simple stuff… I became my injury.
That is where one of my greatest mentors came in…
This gentleman is one of the leaders in the Exercise Physiology industry with his specialty in biomechanics and gait analysis. He helped me get back on my feet, recover, and strengthen so I could get back to a “normal” life. Though it wasn’t as easy as that, it took years and yet another surgery.
He was determined to get me up and moving, he wanted to rid me of my pain. He spent many a late night trying to figure out why there wasn’t any improvement and what solutions there may be.
Yep, that thought you are having right now… it’s right. After going through all of the ups and downs, pains, and successes, I knew I wanted to go to school for Sports & Exercise Science. My goal was to learn how to help other athletes like me. So that is what I did…
Diploma acquired! Graduating with my undergraduate degree from the University of Central Florida was a success, but something still felt like it was missing…
Helping athletes and people improve physically was just one part of what my end goal was, there had to be something else right? Then, an amazing friend of mine told me about a Master’s program that she was in at Lock Haven University.
Google here I come! I decided to do my research and found that the program was a Sports and Exercise Science degree with an emphasis in Sports Psychology. In reading the description and reviewing the course load, it clicked. That lightbulb went off in my head telling me that this was what I was missing.
Before ending up injured, I was burnt out, hated my sport but didn’t want to give up, had high expectations, struggled with perfectionism, and I didn’t want to let anyone down. Does that possibly sound familiar?
I had a mental block… I couldn’t learn new dives for fear of smacking or another negative outcome. I didn’t trust in my skills I had honed in for 10 years and had really low self-confidence. I was miserable, disappointed, and most of all, frustrated, which only added fuel to the fire on that fateful day.
After my injury, swirls of emotions and thoughts overloaded my mind. Thoughts similar to these: “What am I going to do now? I’m a diver, how can I be anything different?” I was angry, “why did this happen to me?!”. I was in pain, “I just want the pain to go away, I wish it never happened!”. With no one to guide me through all of these emotions and changes on the mental side of it all, I drowned in them instead while trying to shove them back inside.
After finding this Master’s program, that’s when all the dots connected. It was my time to be the person that I didn’t have for another athlete in need. I had all the physical help in the world but really needed the mental help to get through it all.
Two years later, with a diploma in hand stating that I had graduated with my Master’s. Now I get to be that person, the mental coach that I needed, and I know other athletes are in desperate need of. Are you one of those athletes?