JENNA: I love dancing. I always have. I grew up with a father who actually was a breakdancer, and he had like a breakdancing group in high school. And so he loved to dance and I remember growing up, he played 80s rap hip hop music, and we would all just like breakdance. And he taught me how to do the worm and how to do the moonwalk at a really young age.
And so dancing was always something that I was passionate about. And I actually was a dancer and I was on the dance team in high school. And my high school dance line was very competitive. It was a school sport. And also people are like, “Oh, it’s not it. It is. [crosstalk]
JESSE: This is definitely a sport.
JENNA: Yeah. And I was in some other sports too. And dancing for that three, four-minute routine was way harder than like a whole 90-minute soccer game. Those practices too that we had for dance line were hard. They were really tough. Our coach is really hard on us, but we were actually like the most winning team that that high school ever had.
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JESSE: Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today is a little bit in my corner, founder of her own business, founder of The Mental Clutch, a Sport and Exercise consulting company. She has her master’s in Sport and Exercise Psychology. She is a certified mental performance consultant. She’s part of the Positive Coaching Alliance, a former collegiate track and field athlete.
Also, fun fact, and I’m definitely gonna ask her about this, Zumba instructor and new mom. So, if you hear a baby in the background, don’t worry. It’s being looked after. She’s not neglecting the baby. Welcome to the show, Jenna Fuchs.
JENNA: Yes, thank you for having me. Happy to be here.
JESSE: So, you were telling me before we got going, we just got start right off the bat, Zumba instructor. So, I mean, it is still athletic-related or exercise-related. But a little out of left field from what you do for the rest of it. So, where does that fit in?
JENNA: Yeah, so I love dancing. I always have. I grew up with a father who actually was a breakdancer, and he had like a breakdancing group in high school. And so he loved to dance and I remember growing up, he played 80s rap hip hop music, and we would all just like breakdance. And he taught me how to do the worm and how to do the moonwalk at a really young age.
And so dancing was always something that I was passionate about. And I actually was a dancer and I was on the dance team in high school. And my high school dance line was very competitive. It was a school sport. And also people are like, “Oh, it’s not it.” It is. [crosstalk]
JESSE: This is definitely a sport.
JENNA: Yeah. And I was in some other sports too. And dancing for that three, four-minute routine was way harder than like a whole 90-minute soccer game. Those practices too that we had for dance line were hard. They were really tough. Our coach is really hard on us, but we were actually like the most winning team that that high school ever had. We had many state titles.
It was like rare that they ever didn’t qualify or place at states. So, that’s [??? 03:56] Emeralds, shout out to them. So, I was a dancer all through high school. And then in college, actually, I still miss my dancing days.
So, my sophomore year, I joined the LC Hip Hop Team at UW-La Crosse. And so we just, it was kind of more of a hobby. It was kind of a club. We just practiced and then we danced at halftime basketball games. And so I just did that on the side with track. My coach wasn’t the biggest fan of me doing that in case I got injured, but he let me do it. And afterwards, I just missed dancing and it’s just something I love.
And in grad school, I started doing some Zumba classes. And I was like, why don’t I just get paid to dance because I love dancing and I love going to Zumba, and I picked up the moves really easily. And I was like, this would be really fun and it’s a great way to get free gym memberships too, and gets me moving and get to dance still.
JESSE: Yeah. I mean, that’s a great way. I think it’s tough for a lot of people who did sport in high school or into college even that, it’s like, what now? I spent all this time, it’s wrapped up in my identity, and then there’s just like this hardline like school’s over and that’s it. Like there’s no more football or soccer or whatever it is, how do I still incorporate that thing that I enjoy so much into my life now? So, it’s cool that you found an avenue for that?
JENNA: Yep. Yeah. And I would agree team sports, it’s a lot harder. Individual sports, you know, a runner, you start doing road races. Swimmer, you start doing some open water races or something.
JESSE: Yeah, open water, if you can do it, there’s masters meets, yeah. There’s cycling, which there’s very few college cycling teams comparatively to like track and field, but plenty of opportunity there. Yeah, much harder with the team sports. But that’s actually something that I don’t know that you necessarily specialize in.
But something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and I wanted to see if you have any thoughts on it, or I can pick your brain a little bit. So, I’ve kind of postponed my need to deal with the reality of you can’t be a high-performance athlete forever for a considerable amount of time post-college.
As I left college and transition triathlon and tried to earn my professional license in triathlon and then… If anybody’s listening to the show, they know I was in a race where I was doing very, very well and probably going to qualify, and then got into a crash, shattered my collarbone. And that was pretty much the end of trying to do that. I was just broken physically and mentally, more mentally than physically really.
So, I’ve delayed that needing to deal with the post athlete life for eight-plus years post-college, and then kind of been wandering around aimlessly. I still train, still competing in the last couple years, obviously not this year. Well, the training part, not the competing part. Do you have people that you’ve worked with that go through this transition? Have you, I assume, probably gone through the transition yourself. Do you have tips, tricks, thoughts? Like, how did people deal with that?
JENNA: Yeah. And I definitely think most athletes go through this. I definitely went through it and I definitely have worked with athletes who’ve gone through it. And I think one of the biggest things is preparing athletes for it. Because a lot of times it doesn’t even get talked about. Like I think coaches need to be talking to their teams about it.
And there needs to be things set in place for college teams, even high school teams for if this athlete is no longer going to be in sport, if it’s their senior year and they’re done; how are you going to prepare them for that life after sport? And a lot of times, they don’t get prepared. And all of a sudden, it happens to them and it’s like out of left field, they don’t realize how big that identity was for them until they don’t have it. And then they struggle.
And then it’s even harder because sometimes they feel alone. Because it’s once they’re done with their team or their sport, and then they’re by themselves, they don’t have their coach, they don’t have practice. And they’re out there by themselves and they struggle even more.
So, I think preparing them for it, having that conversation, having a support team, reaching out to people, and talking to people if you are having a hard time with it. Because more likely other people you compete with or on your team that also are done with that sport, they’re struggling too, they’re just not talking about it.
So, reaching out to others. And I think one thing too is finding something that still lights that fire in you somehow. And so if you are a swimmer, and you can still swim and you want to do open water races, go for it. Sign up, still train, see how that goes and see if that’s still it’s that passion and fire in you. And if you’re a runner, start doing road races. And that’s what I did. Granted, I was a sprinter and I did not want to start training for the 400 by myself. That’s awful kinda like– [crosstalk]
JESSE: That’s tortuous, yeah.
JENNA: Yeah, I’m trying to like running unattached and meet. I was like, no, I’m not gonna do that. But I did miss running. So, I started training and I ran a marathon and I ran a half marathon and I really like 5K, 10Ks and that’s where I get that still, that fire still lights up in me. And for dancing, like we said earlier I became a Zumba instructor. That’s a way I can still feel like I am getting that. And sometimes if it’s not in the same sport, finding something else.
Like I know some athletes who will be in a team sport and it’s really hard for them to play that team sport because you need a team, right. Or you need certain equipment that you don’t have available for you, so what else can give you that? And so like, maybe you were a gymnast and gymnastics, it take a lot of courage, right? You’re doing some scary things and so you’re pretty brave.
And so to really get that feeling and light that fire, sometimes do you do something that scares you a little bit more. And so maybe they turn to rock climbing or something where there’s a little bit of a dangerous element there. And a lot of times, they’ll find that that fuels them and fills up their cup in that way. So, you can still keep that athlete identity. I think, thinking that you need to give it up if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. You can [??? 10:38] in a different realm and still call yourself an athlete.
JESSE: Yeah. There’s this, I’ll say, quote, but I’m gonna paraphrase from an entrepreneur, who has been, I lose track of time. So, it has to have been five or six years ago that I listened to this podcast, but this idea stuck in my head. He mentions that a lot of our stress revolves around reality, looking different than our expectations of what reality actually is. And on top of that, that our identity is based on the stories that we tell ourselves about who we are.
So, when those two things collide, and you’ve been telling yourself, I’m a field hockey player, and I no longer have a field hockey team, and then your reality crashes with your expectations of reality. And then you have that stress which can come out in different ways; depression or anxiety or whatever it is, I think it becomes tough to deal with and you don’t know who to talk to about it.
JENNA: Yep. And then another big thing I work on with athletes is recreating your identity. And so like you said, if your identity is a field hockey player, so maybe it’s not athletes specific to field hockey, and you don’t have that. If you’re like, you lost that identity, well, what else are you? or What else do you want to become? And so I’m gonna think of other identities that you have, that maybe you just haven’t focused on, or identities that you want to strive for. And then you don’t feel so empty not having that field hockey identity.
JESSE: So, if somebody came to you, I’m gonna put you on the spot. If somebody came to you and they played field hockey from the time they were three until 22. Now they’re out of school, and they have no other hobbies, they’ve never tried anything else; where do you start with them?
Like, how do you get them onto a new path and building that new identity when they know nothing– Obviously, this is a little exaggerated. But if they say, Jenna, I play field hockey, I don’t do anything else. I have no other interests. I don’t play an instrument. I don’t do art. I don’t do anything else. I just do field hockey, how do I find a new identity? Like, where do you get them going?
JENNA: Well, first would a lot of motivational interviewing skills, like do they want to find a new identity yet? Because if I’m trying to work with them on let’s find a new identity, and they don’t want to, that’s not gonna get us anywhere. So, they need to be motivated, I’m like, I’m ready to give up this identity and start something else. And so I would probably first to see where they’re at.
And if they’re not ready to move on yet, then maybe just talking about what they loved about field hockey. Like what it did for them, what it felt like when they played, and kind of coming up with like things that it gave them. And then that way, we can start finding things that also might spark that in them as well.
And so first, just kind of talking about it, and maybe even really being there, like highlights and kind of just their legacy of it. And maybe if they really don’t want to give up field hockey, like how else can they still be a part of that sport, if it’s that sport that’s so special to them. Maybe organizing pickup games with people or coaching. That’s why a lot of people go into coaching because they’re like, I can’t give up this identity yet. And if I can’t do it, that I’m going to coach it. So, maybe working on that with them.
Or if they’re like, yep, I’m done with field hockey then, like I said, starting to come up with what other things can you do that still gives you that spark and lights that passion in you. Yeah. And it might take some trial and error, they might need to go do some different activities that maybe they never even thought of, and then reflect on how did you feel when you did it?
JESSE: Yeah, I think you clearly have more professional experiences in guiding people in this aspect. But I’ve had this kind of conversation with people before and it seems like it’s tough. On a personal level, there’s so many things that interest me. I simply don’t have enough time to do all of them.
JENNA: Same here. So, my husband always tells me I have too many slices in my pie.
JESSE: Yeah, yeah. So, I’m like, yeah, I want to learn metal engraving. Yep. I want to get back to like making jewelry? Yep, I’m still playing the violin. And like, you know, there’s just too many things. So, finding passions or hobbies has never been a problem for me. And sometimes I feel like that gets in my way of trying to guide people who have a tough time that don’t necessarily feel that initial spark, with I’ll say anything.
Obviously, I’m being a little obtuse. But like, it just seems like there’s not as easy of a spark that starts with, hey, maybe I would be interested in doing that thing. You know, I think I fall back on, what is the phrase? Hobbies are pursued interests over time or something like that. Where it’s like, well, maybe you only have a mild interest in it. But if you continue looking into it over time, you find that it develops into a passion, because you’ve learned more about it, you know about it, and you become involved.
JENNA: Yeah. Yeah, that’s it. Yeah, that’s very true. Sometimes a hobby might just be a hobby, and then the more you do, it becomes a passion. And sometimes there might be things that you don’t even know you’re gonna be super passionate about until you give it a try.
JESSE: Right. That’s where I feel like the tough part is because for people like us, we’re like, I have an endless list of things I’m interested in. And then we’re obviously one side of the coin. And the opposite side of the coin is like, how do you guide those people to find a new identity when they don’t even know where to start? Do you have any better ideas than I just say you just need to try some things, just say yes to things for a while.
JENNA: Yeah. And sometimes too, you have other identities. You don’t need to create a new one. So, just because you’re not a field hockey player anymore, whatever that one was, like just sitting down saying like who else are you? You know, what other identities do you have? Maybe you are a brother, right. And that’s really important to you. And so now you have this time to build that relationship with your brother or do things with him.
And you can strengthen your other identities too, because maybe some of those that are really important to you, they kind of were on the sidelines while you were so focused on that athlete identity. And then now you can bring those other identities that are already there. So, you don’t have to go seek out a new one and seek out a new passion. They’re already there but you can strengthen those instead.
JESSE: That’s fair, that’s fair. I got off on my own issue asking you about this. I do want to back up a little bit and give you a little bit of a hard time. This comes from place of love because one of my undergrad major’s in psychology. So, this is kind of a reflective question. But why did you get into psychology or sports psychology in particular?
I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about everybody in psychology had some sort of trauma or issue themselves, and they’re always trying to fix their own problems. I find sometimes that’s true. Not always. So, I’m always curious what, as a psychology major, I’m always curious what people are thinking. So, how did you get into the field? What was your kind of journey?
JENNA: Yeah, so mine actually started in high school. And I really don’t know why I was drawn to psychology. Before I even took a class, I was just like psychology sounds really interesting to me. And I knew nothing about it. But I just, I don’t know if the word sounds interesting to me, just like the name, I don’t know what it was. So, junior year in high school, I took a psychology course and I really liked it. And from there, I decided, Well, my senior year, there’s AP psych.
And I said, I’m going to take AP psychology, and if I still like it, and still find it super interesting, and if I do well, so if I like take the AP exam, I pass it, I kind of like… This is how I told myself, I said, if all those things happen, then I’m interested and I’m good at it. I’m going to go to school and major, right, like for college that’s gonna be my major. That’s what I’m going to pursue.
So, I already like told myself this. And I signed up for AP psych, and I still love it even more. And it was one of my favorite classes my senior year. And I actually didn’t even really study for the AP exam, which was really dumb on my part, but it was like my way– I think in high school, it was like, I want to see how good I could be without trying really hard, which now it’s just not a good path to go down. If you want to do something well, you should work at it.
But I wasn’t, I was kind of stubborn, I just want to see if I’m naturally good at this. And I did end up passing the AP exam and got the AP credit. And I then decided I was going to UW-La Crosse, and I liked their psychology program. And I knew this is what I wanted to go to school for. And I was one of those odd ones that actually went to school with a degree in mind and stuck with it. I think nowadays, that doesn’t really happen. Nor– [crosstalk] always.
Yeah, because you don’t know if you’re going to like that topic or not. And I just continued to love psychology with all the courses I took in my undergrad and knew I wanted to go to grad school to pursue my degree even further in psychology, and I just didn’t know what I wanted to do.
So, it was about my junior year, I was thinking programs and thinking clinical or counseling or school psych like something like that. And never even heard of sports psych. And loved sports, like athletics was always a huge part of me. And I was kind of sad [??? 20:59] like, well, if I go clinical or counseling, like how am I still gonna have sports alive in my life, and figured I’ll just like coach my kids sports.
And then I was actually watching the Summer Olympics, going into my senior year, and they were interviewing, it was track and field and they were interviewing one of the winners. And I wish I knew who it was. But they were interviewing them and they asked them, what did you do to prepare for this event, for this race? And they said, they worked a lot with their sports psychologist.
And I was just like, what the heck is a sports psychologist? Like, are you kidding me? Like this is a thing. And I just researched it myself and stumbled across sports psychology, and spoke to my professors and they didn’t know anything about it, which wasn’t very helpful.
But then it was like the stars aligned for me because going into my senior year, we got an email with the psych department that we got new faculty who actually had a sports psychology background. And so shout out to Dr. Q. at UW-La Crosse, he was a lifesaver. I did not take any of his courses, because he was teaching all just like the intro to psych classes and I didn’t need any of those.
But I met with him many times in his office, and he told me everything about sports psychology, about the programs. He helped me kind of find my passion and like what I kind of wanted to focus on and what programs he thought would fit me. And yeah, then I decided, yeah, this is what I’m gonna do sports psychology and decided to go to Minnesota State Mankato and I got my master’s there.
JESSE: The thing that like always boggled my mind a little bit is that there’s so many coaches, it’s becoming a little more prevalent now. So, it’s not as bad. But there’s so many coaches and people in general that want to make sports out just to be like a purely physical endeavor. Or like I was just talking about kind of something similar with my last guest, we were talking about rate of perceived exertion as a good measure for stress over time. That’s obviously a very subjective measure.
It’s all about how I feel. You can make it into a number, but it’s not quantifiable in terms of like, I can run this fast or I can punch this hard or anything like that. But it just makes me a little nutty sometimes that coaches will ignore the entire brain part and like what’s going on inside your head? Because that’s what’s running– Like that’s the engine, it’s running the machine. If it’s not in the right place, you’re not going to get the entirety out of the machine.
JENNA: Yep. Yeah.
JESSE: So, I’m glad it’s becoming more of a forefront but it seems like it’s taking way too much extra effort to get there. Because of how important it is.
JENNA: Yeah. And it is really awesome. They are taking steps forward. And, yes, wish it was sooner, but definitely it’s being talked about more and more. And the NCAA just passed for that mental health initiative that all D1, programs need to have someone on staff in their athletic department for the mental health awareness piece. And I think that’s amazing for athletes to have. So, we’re heading in the right direction.
JESSE: Right, right. Well, [??? 24:25] come from a running background. Maybe that’s the thing is because I’ve always had coaches preach running is 90% mental and 10% physical. Obviously, it’s a little over-exaggeration, but it gets the point across– [crosstalk]
JENNA: Yeah, that’s very important.
JESSE: Yeah. Like hey, you gotta get your head in the right place. And even with them preaching that, there was no like coaching mental strategies. Hey, how are you feeling today? Are you dealing with any anxieties, what’s going on at home? Maybe at least in high school, maybe it’s a matter of there’s professional issues there. I don’t know.
I’m not a high school teacher so I don’t know if that becomes a gray area where like, you can’t there’s certain professional lines you can’t cross. I don’t know. But there was no coaching strategies to that effect, even though it was pointed out, hey, this is a very important thing. It was just kind of like, hey, it’s important. Hope you figure it out.
JENNA: Yep. And I really think we’re all coaches even if you are worried about ethically, like what you can and can’t do. I think you’re doing a disservice, though, for all your athletes, if you’re not at least checking in and asking them how they’re doing. Like, you’re not gonna get in trouble for asking them how they’re doing? Or what are you thinking about, what’s going on inside your head? You’re not gonna get in any trouble for that. Once you start thinking you’re a counselor, then yes.
But it’s okay for them to let you know what’s going on. And then I think it’s really important for all coaches to know if you have athletes who are really struggling, who is the counselor at the school? Like, where’s the counseling department on campus? And have those resources so that you are following the ethical guidelines of like, okay, yeah, this is out of my scope. But I know what to do now, I know who to call and how to refer them to, so that you are helping your athletes.
JESSE: Yeah, yeah. So, it a little bit begs a question since as you mentioned, now, there are more positions kind of opening up. How did you end up starting your own thing versus kind of attaching to an already made program?
JENNA: Yeah. Well, it started pretty much the last semester of my grad program at Minnesota State, Mankato where we’re all headed towards graduation [??? 26:50] and everyone’s talking about, like what are we going to do next? And then there’s me, and I really didn’t know what I was going to do. And I knew I loved working with teams and coaches and athletes on the mental side, and I love that piece. And I really like being in the field just working with them in workshops, individual sessions, and I know, I didn’t want to go back to school right away.
The research side definitely is needed. Not needed by me because I’m not best at that. But like, put me in the field hands-on like, just out there, roughing it with them. And like put me on the sidelines during a game or anything like that’s what I want to do, be at practice and all that hands-on instead of more the research side.
And so I was thinking about what could I do, and my now husband, then boyfriend at the time, he was living in Wisconsin in his hometown, a small town called Prairie Du Sac, Wisconsin. And I was in Minnesota, and he actually owns his own company, he owns an automotive shop. And I knew like he was staying there. And he actually just bought a house. And the plan was once I graduated moving there. So, I’m moving to a small town, Wisconsin, and sports psychology is not really well known. And so I was like, well, how do I do this? Like, how do I do what I want to do, what I’m passionate about in this area?
So, that’s where I was really torn because there were job opportunities out there for me, and I could apply to them but I would have to move, and I’ve had to do distance. And I didn’t know if I want to do that and so I was really torn. And that’s when I thought like, well I could just go the route of starting my own consulting company. And then I can just market myself and I can do what I love.
And my mentor, [??? 28:36] was amazing. She was definitely an advocate for me to go that route. And helped immensely because I did not know the business side. So, when I was thinking about this, I was like, I don’t know what I’m going to do, like what am I going to name it? How do I get an LLC, how to build… Like, all that stuff I was like, I don’t know how to do any of this.
And [??? 28:55] really was like you’ll figure it out. If you have any questions, call me because she opened her own consulting company in Mankato, Minnesota. And it was really small at the time too for sports psych. She was like it’s a chance to grow the field. And so when I looked at it at that lens instead, it didn’t seem so scary. And with her help, and all my cohort, they were really helpful.
I remember going to class like, okay, I’m going to start thinking about some business names [??? 29:20] like shooting around names until I came up with Mental Clutch. And yeah, so it was pretty much until I graduated. And I remember when I came up with The Mental Clutch I like googled it to see if it was available, and I found the domain and it was available. And I bought it in like March and I graduated in May 2017.
So, I was like I’m doing this. Like I’m committed to doing this. And then I spent this summer at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida as a leadership and character development coach, to just really build up my skills working with teams and athletes. So, that when I did come back then at the end of summer, Wisconsin, I really felt like I was at a place where I could market myself. And I knew more of my worth of like, yeah, like I can ask for getting paid for my services now. I’m not a graduate student anymore. Now I’m a professional, and that really built up my confidence to go for it.
JESSE: Yeah. What’s interesting is that, I guess in my own little sphere or perspective, it seems like a lot of people will go consulting, after they spent 5, 10 years or longer in whatever field, doesn’t matter. And then they’re like, I’m burnt out doing this, now I’m gonna do consulting. Versus you’re just like, right out of the gate this is how it’s gonna make it happen. Which I admire and relate to because you had a situation where it’s like, well, my husband lives here, and this is something I want to do.
And it wasn’t simply a matter of, well, there’s no opportunity for me here. So, now I need to go wait tables or insert any other non-related job. It was, how do I make all of it happen? You know, and I feel like, that’s a mentality that’s lacking in so many people that it’s like they see a barrier and set an opportunity.
JENNA: Yeah. And I mean, sometimes I did see it as a barrier. I did have to kind of change that mindset. At first I was like, well, I can’t do sports psychology in the small town. And then it took, like people being like, well grow it. And I did have to change my mindset. But it was a huge shift once I did that, and then could see it as an opportunity.
And you know hey, no one knows about this, now I can teach them about it. And then two of like, hey, no one has worked with the sport, performance consultant before like great, if I’m really bad, I don’t even know. You know, when I first started, I was like what if I don’t do very well? They’re not even gonna– Where they’re gonna compare me to?
JESSE: Right. There’s no– [crosstalk]
JENNA: [??? 32:06]
JESSE: That’s a perfect way to approach it. It’s like, well, if this goes horrible, nobody else is gonna know and it’ll be perfectly fine.
JENNA: Yeah, yeah. Like, oh, I don’t know anyone at that town yet.
JESSE: Yeah, I love that. That’s great. I mean, it’s all in the mentality. Right? And that’s kind of– I mean, that’s what you do. It’s like, why not? Instead of seeing the, I can’t, it’s, how can I?
JENNA: Yeah, that’s huge in sports too and, even outside of sports just in life, because we always think, what if it doesn’t go the way I want it to? Or what if I fail? And we always look at the negatives, and the bad what-ifs? And if we can change it and just ask ourselves, but what if it goes well? Or what if it does happen the way I want it to? Or what if we do meet our goals? And then thinking of that, instead of all the negative what if it really fuels us in a different way, in a better way.
JESSE: In your more hands-on experience with all these athletes trying to coach them, I’ll say, coach, but I’m not sure if that’s the exact right terminology. But it seems like that the downsides that we imagine in our minds often seem much larger than they actually are.
JENNA: Yes, they are.
JESSE: Yeah. It’s like we think about like you said if it goes horrible what’s the downside? Okay. I learned a lesson. Maybe I’ll get better. Maybe I’m embarrassed for a little bit. But is it that bad? Versus the upside, it’s like, well, now you get everything you wanted. You get to not make an ultimatum to your husband, where you’re like, I’m moving and you either come with me and losing the business or like, there’s that situation doesn’t have to happen. You get to follow your passion, you get all of it. And then the downside is, maybe I’m embarrassed if it goes wrong.
JENNA: Exactly, exactly. And then it doesn’t seem as bad and it always doesn’t seem as big of a deal to an outsider. So, obviously, when it’s your [crosstalk] it’s huge. If it’s someone else, they’re like, oh, well if the business doesn’t go very well then you apply for a job somewhere else.
Or you just stop doing that business and start something else. But to you, you’re like, no. And I don’t remember where it was, I don’t know if it was a podcast or who it was, but they always– They were saying that they always ask the question like but did you die? When something seems like really scary, really bad or I failed, or I messed up so bad, but did you die? No.
Okay. Was it that bad then like when you compare it to that? Okay, it’s not that bad. Like, sometimes you just need someone on your side to just ask you those questions when your mind is so thick in the negatives.
And so, as a mental coach, that’s a lot of times what I just do is just ask those questions; but what if I fail? And I just ask them, what if you succeed? And just ask them to think about that? And the more you do that, then they can start asking themselves those more effective questions.
JESSE: That’s what I was gonna ask you is whether you basically are the effective outside voice of objection, where they’re stuck on, what if it goes wrong, what if it goes wrong? And then you get to sidetrack that mental track and be like, yeah, but what if it goes right, and slowly break down that pattern? Is that what you do most of the time?
JENNA: Yeah. So, it obviously depends on the client, and their situation, and what they’re struggling with. And a lot of times it is their self-talk and it’s the story they’re telling themselves. And a lot of times it is very negative. And so I am trying to get them to see it a different way, and change that self-talk to make it more effective for them and so it’s helpful. And there are some athletes, it helps them to think of the negatives, because they can prepare for it.
And so it’s different. Instead of thinking negatively or positively, I think of it more of like thinking effectively or not effectively. So, if it’s helping you, great, if it’s not helping you, let’s change it. And a lot of times if it is a scary situation for them, or they’re thinking of the negative what-ifs, I go with that, instead of just always trying to reframe it and change it to like let’s think of the other side.
Sometimes I’ll go with it and be like, okay, let’s say you do fail, what does that mean? And a lot of times, they don’t even know what failing means. They’re like, well, I don’t want to fail. Okay, well, what is failing in your sport? Well, I guess losing. Okay, so if you don’t lose, then you didn’t fail? Yeah. Okay. All right. So, then we talk about why is losing considered failing for you? And focusing maybe on the effort like, well, what if you played the best game of your life, and you still lost, you failed in your mind? And then they’re like, wait, that doesn’t really make sense.
Then just kind of getting them to think through that. Yeah. And then working through the what-ifs scenarios. And so if they’re perfect example, track and field athlete, if they’re worried about false-starting, I might have them like, okay, let’s do some imagery and you false-started, what does that look like? And then they don’t think it’s as scary if they’ve actually gone through in their mind. And they see themselves overcome that negative what-if scenario, then it’s not nagging them constantly.
JESSE: Yeah. That’s a great way to think about it. It happened every once in a while. But as a distance athlete, it is not generally a concern to false-start. [crosstalk]
JENNA: Yeah, so different for sprinters.
JESSE: Right. I was like for a sprinter you’ve gotta [??? 38:08], especially when we’re talking about the hundred, I mean, that’s– [crosstalk] The whole race can be right there versus if we’re doing the 5,000, and I started a half-second behind everybody else, it’s probably gonna be fine so, I don’t have to worry about getting off the line, but that’s a great one. See, now I just lost my train of thought.
Where are we going? Negative self talk? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I saw you posted out, so school sports’ starting again. And I saw you post, I think it was a– or commenting on an article about the parent-coach relationship and trying to frame that in a new way. Can you speak to that a little bit?
JENNA: Yeah. So, it’s actually an article from Positive Coaching Alliance. And they’re a great resource. So, I do recommend all parents to kind of check that out. Even coaches, especially for coaching youth athletes, they have amazing resources. And they just released an article saying how, especially with COVID, but I mean, even without COVID it’s really important to have that relationship built there. And they’re looking at as a parent like what you can do to help build that relationship with your child and the coach.
And they kind of break it down into certain steps that you can do. And just really kind of keeping out those lines of open communication, knowing your role as the parents, how you can support your child without overstepping with the coach, and just really trying to be there and be that supporter that your child needs.
JESSE: Because you, and correct me if I’m wrong, you’re focusing more on I’ll say youth athletes or younger athletes; is this something you deal with?
JENNA: What do you mean?
JESSE: So, I’ll say like the negative side of like an overbearing parent or something in sports. Is that a mentality you run into that you’ve got to kind of navigate with the athlete or potentially with a parent? You know, I’m not sure how broad the scope of your consulting goes.
JENNA: Yeah. So, if I’m understanding correctly, have I worked with an athlete where there’s like an overbearing parent?
JENNA: Yes, I have. Yes. I think if you work with us athletes in any capacity, you have dealt with an overbearing parent. I think what do they call them now are lawnmower parents instead of helicopter parents. [crosstalk]
JESSE: Okay. I hadn’t heard that term but…
JENNA: Yeah. So, they’re not helicopter parents anymore. They’re not just over the kid. But now their lawnmower parents. So, they are literally mowing over any obstacle or issue that’s in the child’s way and making that path clear for them. So, yes, I have dealt with many lawnmower parents.
JESSE: [??? 41:00] I have to tell my dad about that. He likes mowing the lawn, so then we’ll be… He was never that way. He was very adamant about me being successful, but they very much stood– My parents kind of gave that gift to me and stood back and just, you like do your thing. Whatever it is you’re going to do, just– [crosstalk]
JENNA: You can overcome it yourself.
JESSE: Yeah, just go and like just do. Because I had enough drive myself. I didn’t need to be driven. So, maybe that’s part of it too.
JENNA: But they could have helped instill that in you too.
JESSE: Oh, no, for sure. For sure. Yeah. [crosstalk] No, my father is an incredibly hard worker. And that kind of runs in the family is like, always very competitive in sports, just very driven people. And then I also had my martial arts instructor, I’ve briefly spoken about on another episode, I can’t remember with who from Russia, Russian. Very like, driven kinda like make sure you get it done kind of guy. So, having those influences definitely kind of shaped me at a young age. Yeah.
JENNA: Yeah. Yeah. Awesome.
JESSE: I do ask you about something that I talked about with a lot of guests and I just talked about my last guest prior to you, Dr. Max. We were talking about injuries and I think you deal a little bit with post-injury mentality. And I think I’d seen, I’ll call it a meme or quote something about [??? 42:50] you’re still an athlete, even if you’ve been injured.
JESSE: So, can you tell me a little bit about that? You know, I’ve been injured a ton of times. So, what should I be doing if I get injured to try to stay in the game?
JENNA: Yeah. So, that quote is actually from a book, Rebound. I think I actually– Do have it right over here? No, I think it’s downstairs. I am currently trying to finish it up. But just really great book, Rebound by Carrie Cheadle. And so it talks all about how to rebound from an injury within your sport. And great read, if any injured athletes out there want to pick it up, I highly recommend it. And it really gives a lot of tangible tools and like skills and things you can go through yourself that are going to help you bounce back.
And so I think one of the biggest things is if you are injured, knowing that, I don’t know, depends on your injury, but you can come back from it. And obviously, there are certain situations where maybe you can’t, and maybe coming back [??? 43:54] very different. But I think having that mindset of I’m injured right now, but this isn’t where I need to stay. And you’re still an athlete. You didn’t lose that identity, you just need to– Your sport now is your recovery and your rehab. And you have to work just as hard in that as you did before you were injured.
JESSE: Is that– I guess I’m curious. Like, what does your day to day look? Are you dealing more with those kind of things? Or is it really just a grab bag of whatever team I’m working with, we’re gonna deal with this? You know, I guess I’m just curious about your– Because it is such a new field and I don’t have any personal experience with it. You know, whether it’s like, these are the five things I always have to coach through. Or if it’s just, I really have to take everybody individual by individual.
JENNA: Like what I do with my clients?
JENNA: Yeah. So, I really try to meet them where they’re at. So, it is very individual. So, if I work with a team, and I get reached out by a coach or an athletic director, whatever that is, I always try to meet with the coach and ask them a series of questions, trying to get them to under– or for me to get to understand them and their team. And I want to know their goals, I want to know their strengths, I want other weaknesses, I want to know the coaching philosophy, I want to know what they want to get out of these sessions as well.
Because I’m doing a disservice if I try to say every team is the same, every athlete is the same. And this is what I bring to the table, and I’m going to do it the same for everyone. I could do that but it won’t be very effective. And so I want to know a lot about the team. I may even try to go to a practice or a game and watch them.
I really liked doing that as well, because you might hear certain things from a coach. But if you watch it, you can see things that maybe a coach isn’t even picking up on, depending on the coach’s background within sports psych. And then I can really tailor the workshops to what I feel like the team needs. And so then I’ll go from that end.
And if I’m working with an individual, I really just try to get to know them. So, the first session, I always say is an intake. And I just ask them questions, like kind of like what we’re doing. I get to know them. I want to know their background, I want to know who they are as an athlete, I want to know who they’re outside of being an athlete, their struggles, their strengths as well, and what they want to get out of the sessions. And then I tailor our individual sessions around their needs. And so sometimes they’re injured athletes. Sometimes they’re just dealing with a lot of negative self-talk and self-doubts.
Or maybe they’re gearing up for a big meet or big competition, they just want to enhance their confidence a little bit more going into it and their focus. And with teams, it could be building team culture, it could be getting ready for a big game themselves. And then the coach just wants the upper edge. It could be communication, whatever they need. But I do say I specialize and teaching the clutch mentality.
And so if there is a team, or if I’m doing workshops with a bunch of different sports where it’s hard to tailor it specific to them, I do have a program. It’s either one hour session where I condense them all or I can break it down to six sessions and I call it the clutch mentality. And so the clutch is an acronym. And so each letter is a different mental skill that I touch base on, and kind of say that if you build the clutch mentality, it’s what I call like, the eye of the storm mentality. So, it’s teaching you to be the call, and the chaos of the storm that’s around you, in your sport or you performance and how you can get there.
JESSE: Okay, so that maybe answers my next question or thought in that I was thinking because it has to be so individual to hey, where’s this person in this team’s at; how do we address their particular issues, or scenario rather than issues? I was wondering, is there an ideal mentality, which maybe that is exactly what you were talking about?
JENNA: Yeah, the eye of the storm.
JENNA: So, I did start it as the eye of the storm mentality, but then when I created like the acronym, clutch for the six mental skills, then I call it the clutch mentality. But essentially, it is having that eye of the store mentality, being that calm in the storm. And if you can do that, ultimately, you’re gonna be able to have more clutch performances [??? 48:27].
JESSE: Right. So, obviously, the acronym is going to make it more succinct but is there, I’ll call it an elevator pitch, but that’s my own jargon. Is there an elevator pitch for what that looks like?
JENNA: What the clutch mentality is?
JENNA: So, I talked about it as you’re in a storm, right, and what’s the eye of the storm? And that’s the calmness. And so when you’re in a high stake performance or game, there’s the chaos going on around you, right? You have the team and the fans, whatever it is, you have the pressure, but how can you stay calm in that chaos and create your own eye of the storm? And that’s what I teach as the clutch mentality.
JESSE: Okay. Okay. It’s a really interesting field. I’ll have to keep in touch with you to see how things develop over time. I’m glad people like you are out there doing it because it is so important. Like I said, we have the whole as a culture finally kind of addressing mental health on the grand scale a little bit more, not appropriately. But giving its appropriate weight a little more maybe is what I’m after, yeah, instead of ignoring it, or you’re just saying, oh, that person’s crazy.
You know, it’s like, no, there’s something going on. But then within that dealing with the kind of, I’ll say normal behaviors that we go through in sports and in performance, and in trying to– I’ll frame it as help ourselves grow to be stronger individuals to deal with our own mental talk or mental game. So, I appreciate that you’re out there doing that.
JENNA: Yeah. Thanks. And I appreciate that you have the podcast and you’re also spreading the word and that you invited me to be on the podcast today too.
JESSE: Yeah. So, you did watch a couple of my episodes, so you may know, as we are winding down on time here. I’m asking everybody the same question this year. So, I’m asking everybody, what do you think the purpose of sport is?
JENNA: I think the purpose of sport is honestly to learn life lessons. I think that’s really what it comes down to. And you can do it, you can learn life lessons not being in sports. I don’t think you have to be in sport to do it. But I think sport is an amazing vehicle that enables you to do that.
JESSE: Very succinct answer and I think a great one as well. Jenna, if people want to keep up with you, get in touch with you. Maybe ] have you help them with their game; where can they find you? Where can I get in touch?
JENNA: Yeah, so my company is The Mental Clutch. And I have my website. So, www.TheMentalClutch.org, you can find me there. You can shoot me an email as well at MentalClutch@TheMentalClutch.org. Very redundant, but that’s the one I got and I don’t know how to change it. So, sticking with it. [crosstalk] Otherwise, you can follow me on social media. I have kind of stopped for a little bit on social media since I just had my son seven weeks ago.
But I am starting to get back into it. So, I should be more active on that. And you can find me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and it’s all The Mental Clutch. And I also have LinkedIn as well. I’m not as active on LinkedIn. I’m trying to do that but it’s just hard to do it all. So, [??? 52:08].
JESSE: You can’t do it all there. Okay, for you listening, don’t give Jenna a hard time. If you’re on LinkedIn, just find her somewhere else. Like she’ll take care of you, I promise.
JENNA: Yeah. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter I’m the most active on for…
JESSE: Yeah, good deal. Jenna, thanks for hanging out with me today.
JENNA: Yes. Thank you.