Do You Know Your Role?

I recently listened to a Podcast in which Alex Morgan talked about understanding her role on the US Women’s National Soccer Team and understanding how she could make an impact on the team given that role. 

Alex Morgan is one of the best Women’s Soccer players in the world and she discussed how she was a bench player when she first made it on the National Team. The role she was given was to come off the bench in a game (usually second half) and impact the game as needed. She didn’t play every game, and sometimes the coaches would tell her to warm up and not even put her in. Was she satisfied with being a bench player? No. But that was the role that was given to her at the time, and most importantly the role her team needed her in at the time. So when she got the opportunity to go on the field she tried to have the impact the team needed regardless of the amount of time she was on the field. 

She knew her role, and understood how to execute that role effectively for her team, but stayed hungry for more as she knew she had more to offer the team. For the last 6-7 years, Alex Morgan has been a starting forward for the US Women’s National Soccer team.

So how did she go from a bench player role to the starting forward role? 

The biggest thing was her mindset! 

She accepted what was out of her control; the role the coach gave her. And worked at what she could control. Like how she played when she did step on the field, how she supported her teammates from the bench, how she focused on improving every day in practice. She did not let the one little thing she couldn’t control consume her. 

She put the team first, and understood that what the team most needed of her was the role she was given. But she also stayed hungry for more and made sure to improve, show up on the field, and make the impact that was expected of her when she did get on the field. 

Ultimately, she was having such a big impact on a game in the times she came off the bench, that she earned that starting spot. She executed the role exactly as the team needed her to, the coach saw that and found a way to make that role develop into a starting position. 

Oftentimes we struggle with the role we’ve been given. Maybe it’s the role you have at work, the role you have in a group project, or on your team. If you want to change the role you are in, the best thing you can do is to focus on what you can control. Show up for yourself and continue to improve 1% every day. 

What is your role and how are you showing up every day to execute the role your team has given you? 

If you would like to chat about the role you’ve been given and how you can accept and own that role, sign up for an initial consult!

Going All Out to Make Mistakes

I was lying on the couch reading a book about coaching when I came across this phrase that kind of stuck with me. It was something along the lines of, “mistakes are the stepping stones to achievements.” It’s such a small phrase, but holds big meaning behind it. One that can apply to both sports and life. Since it was a book about coaching it made me think about softball, the girls I coach, and my playing career. In softball, mistakes lead to errors.

Which brings me to reflecting on my years of playing. 

Although there are many softball games that I cherish in my memory, there are two specific ones that I often look back on. So much so that I actually have the article and stats of those games printed out. One being a game that some may say is the best game I’ve ever pitch; the other is the last game I ever pitch. Both are very important to me, but their outcomes are complete opposite of each other. One led to a victory, while the other led to my career ending. However, the only one I want to focus on is the last game I ever played. So, let me just set the scene up for you:

It’s conference tournament, only us and two other teams are left. Only a few games away from winning the championship. It’s the bottom of the 12th, the other team has a runner on third, and there is only 1 out. I’m on the mound putting my heart into every pitch, like I have the whole game. Lefty slapper up to bat, hit, hard grounder to 2nd, error, runner scores, game over. Us: 4 runs, 9 hits, 6 errors. Them: 5 runs, 9 hits, 3 errors. Now, a lot of you could have predicted the outcome without me explaining the details just based on those ending stats. Which gets to my point…


Those errors led to that loss. It happens, that’s life and I think it could make a good point to the girls I coach for a couple of reasons. First, being an athlete’s reaction when a teammate makes a mistake or error. After my teammate had made that error and the run scored, I didn’t get mad at her and blame her for her mistake. Because it wasn’t all her fault we had lost, and everyone’s made an error before. Heck, there were 5 others made just in that game.

Which gets me to the next point.

Without those mistakes and errors how will we learn and grow to get better? If you’re going to make a mistake wouldn’t you much rather make one knowing you were giving it your all? I mean you’re more likely to make a mistake if you constantly worrying about making a mistake.

Oddly enough, I think that game is the best game I’ve ever pitched. I don’t look back on that game and see that we lost. I look at that game and see that I went all out and left everything on that field. Knowing that even though it could be the last game I play, I wasn’t going to be scared to make a mistake. Making the outcome of the score unimportant when reflecting back, and the experience memorable. If only you knew what the other game I had mentioned earlier was. Then you would question my thoughts on my best game. But that’s a story for another time and another blog. Until then, go all out in everything you do and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Ready to get that “go all out” mindset? Schedule an initial consult today!

From Athlete to Coach

Everyone either knows a coach, is a coach, or has been a coach. Because of this I know each one of you have at one point in time thought, “What was that coach thinking!?” Hopefully I’ll be able to answer that question. 

From someone who was an athlete her whole life up until this point, I always knew that it took a certain kind of person to be a coach. Not just any coach, but a good coach. Although many have asked me if I would ever want to become a coach, I never thought of myself as one who could fulfill those big shoes. However, here I am talking to you guys; not as an athlete, but a coach. It has not quite been a year and I already see just how big these shoes are to fill. 

Now, you are probably already asking yourself the question, “Victoria, why are you making such a big deal out of this?”

My answer to this?

I don’t just want to be any coach.

I want to be a good coach. One whose athletes will look back on the things I taught them and say, “She helped me become better.” And I’m not just talking about becoming a better athlete, but a better person. As a coach who was just a college athlete only a year ago, I anticipate the young women on my team will look up to me . They will see me as a role model. They will see me, someone who has played at a higher level, and want to learn the skills I learned to get where I was. If I want to be a good coach to the girls on my team then I need to meet all of their expectations and more. This is why every day that I step into my role as coach, the shoes I am stepping into seem so big to fill.

An athlete to coach road block.

One of the first road blocks I have faced in my journey to become the best coach I can be has been a struggle I have always seemed to face without knowing it. That struggle is my youthfulness, or in other words, how young I look. 

Again, I already know what you’re thinking at this point, “Looking young is a blessing, how could that possibly be a struggle?” However, I work part-time as a cashier at a grocery store, and the number of people that come through my lane and ask if I’m old enough to scan alcohol is just past the point of being sad. 

Being a 22-year-old who has been mistaken on MULTIPLE occasions as being a 16-year-old, you might see a problem considering I coach a 16 and under travel softball team. I knew there would be an issue when I went to try-outs and one parent asked if I needed a player sign-up form…. You should have seen her face when I told her I was the coach. 

My biggest challenge as a former athlete and new coach.

Because of my youthfulness, being taken seriously has always been a challenge. I knew that my biggest task to face as a new coach would be earning respect from players and parents. When approached with this issue I knew the only way to show how serious I was about this role I have taken on was to create a list of expectations for myself, my players, and their parents. I recently held a team meeting where I gave everyone this list and went over each point in depth. Hopefully, these expectations set a good tone for how I want my team to be and show how serious I am about my role as a coach.

One of the first things I’ve learned from just talking with Dr. Sterling, was how much athletes need and want structure in their lives. And I can agree how true that is. Anyone who knows me knows my love for making lists. This list of expectations is the first of many that I have made towards my journey to becoming a good coach. And somewhere along this journey I hope to be able to answer the question, “What was that coach thinking!?”.

Ready to take a look at your own expectations and step it up? Schedule an initial consult today!

Sport Psychology for the Season on Hold

Yesterday both of my sons’ track shoes came in the mail. A neon green pair of Nike throwing shoes and a neon yellow, green, and blue pair of Hoka distance spikes.

New shoes. New season. Let’s do this.

Should have been super exciting. They’ve been waiting on them to arrive. Regardless of age or sport, new shoes day is an awesome day.

But the day these shoes arrive isn’t happy.

Both of my sons have big goals for the track & field season.

A season that is now on hold.

When the new shoes arrived, so did the announcement. No school and no practice. And no season until…TBA

My middle schooler said, “I just need one meet.”

My high school sophomore hasn’t said much at all. Simply took his new, shiny soled, just-waiting-for-the-2-mile shoes up to his room.

That’s really tough.

It’s tough for athletes, coaches, parents, sport psychs, and even those who are a sport psych/parent combo.

Even with the uncertainty, we can focus on controlling the controllables. Right now a lot of that is mindset.

3 Sport Psychology Tips for a Season on Hold

There are so many things we could dive into, but with so much going on right now, I’d start with these and build from there.

Sport Psych Tip #1 Focus

Focus: You can only focus on so many things while practicing, during competition, or when living through a pandemic. Make sure your focus is where it matters. Train yourself to recognize what you can or cannot control and be able to shift your focus when necessary.

Here’s a quick activity to help you determine where to put your mental energy. Draw a large circle. Within that circle draw a smaller one. Label the inner circle as Things I Can Control. Label the outer circle as Things I Cannot Control. Reflect on life right now and think about what goes in each circle.

Example: You can’t control the cancellations, but you can control your level of physical activity and your self-talk.

You’ll likely find you’re focusing on some things that are out of your control. That’s completely normal, especially with the current life stressors, but it’s also unhelpful to keep your focus there. It’s unhelpful for not only your sport mindset, but for your life-in-general mindset.

Once you’ve identified the categories, you can refer back to it often. When you find yourself worrying about the uncontrollable, note it. “That’s not under my control” and reset to direct your energy to the controllable.

Sport Psych Tip #2 Training Log

Create a Training Log: You’ve got to keep moving if you want to be ready when the season resumes. But how do you stay motivated day in and day out? Tracking your progress will help you see where you’ve been and keep you focused on where you’re headed. Training logs can look different for every athlete. They don’t have to be perfect or pretty. Ideally, it’s going to include the date, objectives, and reflection.

Objectives: 1-3 things you want to focus on.

  • Can be set day of or post-training on the day before
  • May be based on insights from film review, coach feedback, or past journal entries
  • Incorporate mindset (e.g. attitude & effort) along with physical components

Reflection: Review your performance physically & mentally. Ask yourself questions like

  • What did I accomplish today?
  • Did I focus on my objectives?
  • What went well?
  • Where could I improve?
  • What did my self-talk sound like?

Sport Psych Tip #3 Imagery

Imagery: Imagery is a multi-purpose skill. It helps with confidence, motivation, and several other mental skills. When we can’t physically compete, the next best thing is to mentally compete. We often use this skill with injured athletes as a way to get mental reps. The same neurons fire in your brain whether you’re doing or visualizing.

Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and mentally take yourself through your performance. See yourself arriving at the venue. Take yourself through your warm up, the start of the contest, through the highlights, and end with a stellar performance.

Make sure to keep it positive, present tense, and detailed “I arrive at the stadium. I put on my perfectly broken in, bright, bright neon green shoes. I’m confident and ready as I approach the start line.”

When your season is on hold, you step up your sport psychology game.

You know how sports movies have the training scenes? A montage of an athlete working hard, facing, obstacles. Blood, sweat, and tears. All set to music. Leading up to their moment to shine.

That’s where you are. In the training sequence. Your own montage moment. And your mindset will help make it happen.

For support along the way, reach out to teammates and other athletes who are in the same position. At Sterling Sport Mindset, we’re here for you too. We offer initial consultations to get started. Online sessions available from any location.

Go get ’em!

Dr. Linda Sterling, CMPC

P.S. Are you a former client? Now would be a great time to check-in. We’d love to hear how you’re doing & help you navigate this unprecedented situation. Email or visit our contact page to schedule.

Grieving the Canceled Athletic Season


No meets, no double-headers, no conference tournament, no championship.

It’s going to take a while to process.

For some, you were at the culmination of your season…maybe even your career. NCAA Indoor Track & Field competitors, you were at the actual venue. So close to competing. On the brink of realizing goals you’ve worked tirelessly for. As I type, I know these words sound flat. They don’t even begin to capture what you’ve put into this season, this athletic career. And I can only begin to imagine the suck right now.

Actually, right now it probably hasn’t fully sunk in. Doesn’t seem real. What does seem real right now? Nothing is normal. No back from Spring Break social gatherings. Classes moved online. Your favorite jacket locked in your dorm room. Can’t go on a vacation. Not sure if you even want to go to the store.

The world is a little scary right now. A lot of uncertainty. Concern for yourself and those around you. Fear. Panic. Angry social media posts.

Even with all of this going on…

It’s okay to grieve your canceled athletic season.

It’s okay to grieve your season. Even during a pandemic.

It’s okay to be sad. Devastated. Heartbroken. Pissed. Furious. Bitter.

You don’t have to be happy. No need to be brave or smile in this moment.

When asked how you’re doing, I know you may feel the need to say something along the lines of “I know it’s just a game” “there are bigger concerns out there” “we just want everyone to be safe.” And I know you truly do care about the safety of others, but I also know that the following is true.

Diminishing your pain doesn’t keep others healthy and it sure doesn’t help you heal.

You’re allowed to say that to anyone who says otherwise to you.

Side note: No one knows what to say right now. And many will unintentionally say the wrong thing.

Sport psychology thoughts on grieving the athletic season.

Take the time. Feel the feelings. If you bottle them up, it gets worse. Cry. Journal. Stay on the couch for 3 days. Take a walk. Play video games all day. Take some time for you.

Rushing the process doesn’t work. Feeling through it does.

When you’re ready, do a thought download. Write down all of the things you’re thinking and feeling. Really, write it all down. Don’t censor yourself. There’s power in getting it out of your head and onto paper.

Once you’ve written all the things. Do another list. Think about why you play. Write everything you’re proud of from this season, past seasons, and from your entire athletic career. Every training goal achieved. All the practices you pushed through. The bond you developed with your teammates. Your desire to play up until it was called. You’re a badass, even if it doesn’t feel like it now.

Once you’ve given yourself some time (however long it takes), start dreaming again. Sport. Life. You’ve got goals. When you’re ready, you’ll go get ’em.

Dr. Linda Sterling

If you or your teammates are struggling or you’d like help processing, please reach out. We’re here via phone or online from anywhere. You can reach us through our website or via email at

More info about initial consultations available here:

To book an appointment:

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, please call Mental Health Crisis Hotline (24/7): 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

Five Sport Psych Myths: Part 2

Last week in Five Sport Psych Myths Part 1 we talked about the first three sport psych myths. So you’re aware of the following:

Myth #1. Sport psych is a hoax.

Myth #2. You’re either born with mental toughness or you’re not.

Myth #3. Sport psych is only for “problem” or struggling athletes.

Your wait for the final two myths ends today! Let’s dive right in.

Myth #4. Sport psych is a quick fix.

Let’s say you’d like to improve your game. You’d like to be able to refocus quickly on the field. You see a sport psych consultant. They drop some knowledge & “fix” you. You win the championship and live happily ever after. Sounds nice, but not super realistic.

First of all, you don’t need to be “fixed,” you’re great. You just need to learn some new skills.

Let’s take my first introduction to the field of sport psych as an example. I was adapting to college life, a new team, and a new coaching style. AND I was struggling for the first time in my athletic career.

After going 0-6 at the plate in my first two games, I met with a sport psychologist. Before college, I didn’t even know it was a thing! I implemented the imagery and self-talk skills she explained and I was back on track. I went on to have a record breaking season. Super easy-peasy, right?

The part I left out is that she didn’t just wave a wand & poof! back on track, I had to do the stuff. I was motivated.

  • I spent some time each night practicing my imagery.
  • I set goals for each game and each practice.
  • I worked on my self-talk daily.
  • When I caught myself being negative, I changed it.
  • I made time to meet with my sport psych for check-ins & support.

So worth the effort. You gotta do the do to get the get, right?

To truly learn and be able to consistently implement the skills when the pressure is on, you’ve got to put in the mental reps.

Like anything, it’ll take a bit to master, but once you do, look out competition!

Myth #5. My coach teaches us mental skills so I’m good, thanks.

She has you visualize your match before you take the court. She uses positive reinforcement and helps you set SMART goals. You have great team cohesion, due in part to your weekly team dinners. You’ve even done some concentration grids to help test your focus.

I’m pumped that you have a coach who gets it. That is awesome!

It’s a great way to get an overview. Since you’ve got this background, you’ll definitely be ready to take it up a notch. Just like you’d seek out specialized coaching for the technical aspects of your event or position, you’re going to want a dedicated mental game coach too.

Even if you have the best, most supportive coach, if you’re like many athletes I work with, you may be concerned about letting your coach down by expressing concerns.

You’re probably not going to say, “Hey coach, I know this weekend is the District Championship, but I’m not feeling super confident.”

This is where your sport psych/mental performance coach comes in, so don’t worry. We’ve got your back. Your coach does too, but we don’t make playing decisions and we don’t work for your organization. We’re Team You!

Now that you’re in the know about the sport psych process, elevate your game by signing up for a free initial consultation! We’ll look at the specific thoughts and feelings influencing your performance and develop a mental game plan.

Five Sport Psych Myths: Part 1

The scene is likely something along these lines:

A pitcher can’t get the ball over the plate. A basketball player can’t find her rhythm. A golfer can’t make the big puts. A track athlete can’t get psyched up enough to go for the win.

You get the idea.

An athlete faces adversity and then (sometimes reluctantly) seeks out a solution. In each situation, the athlete is underperforming.

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Sport psych isn’t just for when things go wrong, it’s great when things go right too! In today’s post, I’ll cover this and other sport psych myths.

Myth #1. Sport psych is a hoax.

Would you eat nothing but junk food and expect to perform well? How about 4 hours of sleep per night? Would you still be functioning at the top of your game? What about that nagging ankle injury? Skip the wrap and the post-practice ice? Not work out a day and then expect to be game ready?

You know what you need to perform from a physical perspective. Why wouldn’t you train your brain too?

I’ve come across skeptics throughout my sport psych consulting journey. Some claim not to believe in the mental game…well that is until there’s a loss. Pay attention the next time you’re watching a sporting event. You’ll hear it from the stands, the announcer’s booth, and in the post-game interviews. The mental game often takes the blame.

“They weren’t mentally ready. Lots of mental errors out there today. They need to stay focused. He let the fans get in his head.”

Thankfully, we have a lot of research to back us up. If you’re more into celebrity endorsements, the field has that too. You don’t have to look far to find a famous athlete embracing the role of mindset. In fact, most Olympic athletes work with a sport psych consultant. There has to be some truth to it. ?

Myth #2. You’re either born with mental toughness or you’re not.

“Champions are made not born. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

We all know stories of athletes who weren’t naturally gifted but put in the work to level up their game. Same goes for mental toughness. While of course it’s great when you don’t have to work at it; it isn’t a you either have it or you don’t situation.

You may have teammates that always seem upbeat. They can laugh and be relaxed before the game and then be fierce on the field. They take challenges in stride. A strike-out doesn’t phase them. They know they’ll get the next one.  Sometimes you’re envious of how easy it seems for them. I’ve got good news! You don’t have to be born with it or taught at an early age. All athletes, at all levels, can do this.

“Mental toughness” is actually a skill. With training, you can pick it up. Some sport psych professionals, myself included, prefer the term “mental skills” to “mental toughness” for that very reason. I’ve known recruiters and coaches to pass on an athlete because they didn’t think the player had the mental toughness it takes for the next level. This is such a missed opportunity. Just as you can develop your fundamental sport skills, you can improve your mental game. Lucky for you, this is what we do!

Myth #3. Sport psych is only for “problem” or struggling athletes.

Maybe you’re already bringing it. You’re throwing a respectable distance. You even hit a PR this season. Wouldn’t it be great if you could best that PR by the conference meet?

Maybe your game is on point, but you are a little frustrated at your roommates/siblings for not respecting your sleep schedule and need for quiet while you work on homework.

When the competition is fierce your mental game is the game changer. Sport psych skills can elevate an already great game. It helps you take things up a notch. Working on your mental skills allows you to bring your best performance to every performance no matter the conditions or the competition, because you’re prepared to handle whatever comes your way. In addition, we provide support for off-the-court concerns that may keep you from competing at the level you know you’re capable of.

Of course, we can still help when things go wrong, but it’s actually better when implemented BEFORE you’re facing difficulty. While we can start sessions at any point, the ideal time is off-season/pre-season where there’s time to practice the skills before implementing them in game situations. Just like you practice your sport before a game, it’s ideal when you practice your mental skills before a game too.

Let’s wrap up 5 Sport Psych Myths: Part 1 by looking at that beginning scenario again.

Maybe there is a struggle or concern, but maybe there isn’t.


A pitcher is playing well. Has a great ERA. A basketball player has found her rhythm. A swimmer gets pre-race jitters before every race, but knows it means she’s ready. A golfer is making the big puts. A track athlete is psyched and ready to go for the win.

They just want to keep it that way.

Athlete consults with a sport psych coach during the season through sessions, check-ins, and game day texts to get support as she implements the mental skills of successful athletes.

Athlete stays consistently great and can bounce back from any challenge. There is no slump, no need to “get out of her head.” Season is a success. Life is good.

If you’re intrigued and ready to get these results in your performance, sign up for a free initial consultation!

Train Your Brain for the Game: A Sport Psychology Overview

When I ask athletes what they know about sport psych, they usually say something along the lines of, “Not much, just that it’s about the mental game.”

When I was a professor, on the first day of class I would ask my undergraduate Sport Psychology students the same question. The answers were similar. “I’m not really sure. It’s about getting into an athlete’s head.” Every semester there was always one student who would say, “Um, it’s sports and psych,” because college students are funny.  ?  I actually do miss them!

I asked my teenage son (also an athlete) and he said (not super enthusiastically, I might add) “You do something with mindset.”

It’s understandable to not know. It’s a new(ish) field. Most people haven’t been in a sport psych/mental skills session and have no idea what to expect. Sometimes athletes are even fearful about a session. They may have a negative view of “psych” or feel like they’ve been called to the principal’s office.

At a coach’s event for student-athlete mental health one of the speakers said, “Sport psych! You’re a rare bird.” I’ll take it!

It’s become clear that people aren’t clear on what exactly we do in this field, so I thought I’d give a bit of an overview of applied sport psychology.

According to AASP, the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, the goal is to “facilitate optimal involvement, performance, and enjoyment in sport and exercise.”

First there’s the SportsCenter Top 10 side. This is geared at getting you your best performance, every performance. It’s where we develop your mental game plan. We’ll cover topics like confidence, composure, imagery, focus, goal setting (and getting), and pre-performance routines. Well meaning individuals will tell you to “focus!” but they don’t tell you HOW to focus. That’s what we do.

Next there’s the E:60, Outside the Lines, 30 for 30 side. This is about you as a person, being your best off the court, and navigating the pressure and emotional challenges that come with being an athlete. Topics like communicating with teammates, coaches, and professors, working through the mental side of injury and career transition, and developing an identity outside of sport. When you get hurt, it changes more than the game. We get this and we help you deal.

It’ll look different depending on the sport psych/mental skills professional you work with, but I can tell you what it looks like with me.

My approach is part Top 10 and part Outside the Lines. Part mental performance coach and part life coach. I know the importance of going for your goals AND I want you to love life along the way.

We’re going to evaluate your current mental skills and what you’ve tried up to this point. You’ve obviously experienced some success, because you’re here.

We’ll talk about what’s working, what’s not, and how life beyond sport is going.

Once we know where our start line is, we’ll put a game plan together.

Will we first focus on imagery? Confidence? Calming nerves? We’ll decide together.

Then we’ll start on techniques. Did you know your imagery script should be present tense, positive, and in real time? Do you have a go-to phrase to go with your re-focus routine?

Next we practice. You know that practice leads to success, but there are always up and downs.

I’ll be there for support and troubleshooting. To be a sounding board when things are tough and a coach when challenges arise. I even include gameday texts, because it’s that important.

Navigating life as an athlete has its own set of challenges, but you’re here for it and I’m here for you.

If you’d like to get an idea of what working together will be like, sign up for a free initial consultation!