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“People who are winning medals are motivated by the people who are making the final. The people who are making the final are motivated by people who are making a threat to make the team. And if you can just continue to provide deeper resources, you’re going to elevate the performance of everybody. So in my head, it makes so much sense. The wider spectrum of people that you’re able to help in terms of delivering sport psychology services, You reduce stigma, you kind of help mental health. It just has this huge trickle-down effect.”
This week’s guest is Lennie Waite. After competing at Rice University, Lennie had a successful professional track career for Great Britain and competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2017 world championships. Now Lennie’s second career is as a Ph.D. certified mental performance consultant working with the world’s top performers to “train your mind to get the most out of your body.”
In our conversation, we discuss mental strategies for athletes who are struggling with a mental barrier, Lennie’s journey from athlete to Sports Psychologist, and her passion for the sport.
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– “I think it’s super important for the person who you’re working with to have an understanding – they don’t necessarily need to have been a professional athlete in the sport that you’re doing – of what elite performance is like. Especially when it comes to emotional pressures: the demands or the rollercoaster that wins and losses can play on your heart and make you feel so amazing and yet so awful. Being able to put so much into one singular passion and really understanding that it does feel like life and death in some really intense performance situations. That’s central for a really good sports psychology consultant. All of my troubled relationships were when people would say, ‘It’s just running. It’s not that big of a deal.’ That would immediately make me be like, “You don’t understand!”
– “Someone recently asked me if I could have a superpower, what would it be? I said ‘injecting my clients with future perspective’ because I know talking to most of the athletes that I work with that they will be OK and this situation will be a very rich life experience. No matter how much trouble it’s causing them right now, it is possible to make it a great narrative if they’re willing to just ride out the storm. I wish I could play them just a clip of what their life would be like in two or three years to just give them that motivation.”
– “I think there are there are these certain characteristics that like higher intensity, high-pressure environments require out of people. Whether you’re walking into an Olympic arena and it’s that one moment where you’re supposed to maximize your performance and minimize any type of errors or you are a warfighter that is in battle and you really cannot afford to make a mistake. There are certain types of personality drivers that are predictive of success and the way that people handle to handle those higher pressure, high-intensity environments. But, I am now going to flip in all say like the opposite: I also think people can perform well in those environments with very different traits.
So if you think about your cross-country team or your track team that you’ve been on, there are probably some athletes who were so nervous before every single competition and running back and forth to the bathroom, maybe throwing up and they competed really, really great. And then there are some people who were unbelievably calm, patting everybody on the back, organizing everybody and they performed very, very well. Those two people are on very different ends of the anxiety spectrum. Those can both channel into great performances. It’s like being able to translate who you are as a person into what that looks like for you to perform well and almost being authentic to who you are instead of trying to shift it. So if you are super nervous and you’re only trying to be like the person who’s super calm and cheerful, you’re going to spend so much energy trying to do something that you’re not. That doesn’t come to you naturally. It’s going to take away from your performance. But overall, I think that each person has to have a capacity to handle a higher pressure, higher intensity environment.”
– “Some people are super emotional and those emotions can be positive drivers for their performance. Some people are very low on their emotional reactions and that stability can be a positive driver in their performance. As long as they are able to embrace who they are and find a way to channel that into their performance environment, they’re going to be successful. Where I feel like specifically high school athletes struggle is they see somebody who is successful and they want to be like that person. So then they’re trying to shift the way that they’re wired and do something that’s not natural to them. That actually is going to make their performance suffer way more than just embracing who they are and finding a way to have it help them in that competitive situation.”
– “People who are winning medals are motivated by the people who are making the final. The people who are making the final are motivated by people who are making a threat to make the team. And if you can just continue to provide deeper resources, you’re going to elevate the performance of everybody. So in my head, it makes so much sense. With the wider spectrum of people that you’re able to help in terms of delivering sport psychology services, you reduce stigma and you help mental health. It just has this huge trickle-down effect.”