27 year old “what if” story

You ever hear about somebody’s story, or maybe listen to them tell their story first hand, and think to yourself… like what if just one person intervened? What if ONE single positive adult stepped in and said, “Hey, you’ve been through a lot. I can feel that. I can see it’s affecting you still today. Let’s figure out how to process this and deal with this together.”

The story of Reuben Foster is one of many that give me that feeling.

If you haven’t checked out FlemLo Raps on youtube yet, you should probably do that before you do anything else today. Or tonight. Whatever time you’re reading this. You can start by watching this video…. ’cause we ’bout to talk about it. (Please read that last part to yourself in my Chicago accent.)

I think when most people think of sport psychology, they probably think of imagery skills or self talk or performance anxiety – all valid because yes, we address those things. However, we forget about the pieces of sport psychology that incorporate overall health and well-being, positive character development, navigating life outside of sport, coping with loss, and processing trauma.

Maybe you are asking yourself, what does any of that have to do with sport?

My answer to you would be that it has everything to do with sport.

Our lives outside of sport IMPACT our performance. Whether we want to believe that or not. It’s not enough to just nurture the physical aspect of sport. It’s not enough to only focus on the development of mental skills for performance enhancement.

I feel pretty fortunate in that I have a fairly diverse background of work experience in mental and behavioral health outside of my work in sport psychology. I’ve had the opportunity to work with kids coming from situations that don’t seem fathomable to most of us. Although I could talk for hours about these experiences – the main take away is that trauma impacts all of us. And it impacts us at VERY early ages.

It can be pretty easy to look at someone’s situation from the surface and see countless opportunities thrown away, poor choices, toxic behavior cycles and it’s FRUSTRATING to see that. But how often do we look at someone in that situation and say, “Man, they are really going through a lot. I wonder if there is some way we could get them connected with some resources to get help.”

Can you image a world in which trauma-informed care was the norm? A world in which we looked at others who are struggling and ask “What’s happened to you?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?”

What if somebody asked Reuben that question when he was in elementary school? Middle school? Even high school? Would things be different for him today?

Hearing about Reuben’s story served as another gentle reminder to me that sport psychology has the potential to make a massive positive impact for athletes far beyond what we see on the surface of a performance.

If you’re in a position to recognize an at-risk kid and put them in the way of an opportunity for success… do it. If you work with athletes in any capacity – coaches, athletic trainers, doctors, chiropractors, teachers, instructors, professors, parents – check in with your athletes and provide resources for support even if it isn’t asked for. We certainly can never have enough of it.

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