Adventures from a Different Trail

It has been a long time since I have published a blog post.  Recently, I have had a few loyal followers check in, asking where I have been.  Others have been concerned because several of my last posts dealt with the riding accident I had almost two years ago now.  They worried that my recovery had not gone well.  I am happy to report that all is well.  I fully recovered from my accident long ago and my horse Revel and I are developing a stronger partnership than ever before.  I have been absent from the blogosphere simply because I have been busy with new adventures.

While there have been many adventures in the last year or so, the grandest adventure of them all has been teaching.  After almost 25 years of full-time work as a psychologist, I was hungry for a change.  I wanted to do something that was fun and challenging yet, would allow me to use the knowledge and skill I had developed over the years in a new and different way.  I also wanted to do something that would give something back to the community that has supported me and my family for over two decades.  My opportunity came when I learned that a teaching position was opening up in the science department at The Hill School in Middleburg, VA.  I had a long-standing relationship with Hill as a psychologist and parent, and I was grateful for the opportunity to join such a skilled and dedicated community of educators.  I recently completed my first year of teaching science to 7th and 8th graders.  It has been everything I had hoped it would be and more; fun, challenging, rewarding and above all energizing and life affirming.

The coolest part of the experience for me is that, in addition to giving me an opportunity to change things up in my professional life, it has made me a better sport psychologist.  Here is what I am aware of so far:

  • I have a much better understanding of how people learn.  Sure, I already knew a great deal about learning from a psychological perspective,  however, it is a different thing altogether to sit every day with the challenge of helping scores of unique individuals learn.  When I sit with my sport psychology clients now I have a broader perspective, greater awareness and a much larger box of tools.
  •  I am a much more effective presenter.  Taking time each day to carefully think through how you are going to present a lesson is fabulous preparation for presenting almost anything.  As a presenter, I am more effective and organized.  I am also more creative in developing experiential activities that enhance learning and engagement.
  • I am more connected to, and understanding of, what people deal with on a day-to-day basis.  In my traditional practice I would see people for an hour or two each week.  While teaching I see my students almost every day and not just in class.  This has reaffirmed for me the importance of life context for my clients and has allowed me to be more attuned to their larger lives and ultimately more helpful to them.
  • It has reaffirmed the importance of positive relationships and connection in the process of learning and changing.  While maintaining professional boundaries is extremely important, it is easy at times in a clinical practice to be detached and emotionally distance in the guise of maintaining boundaries.  While I have generally been good at building positive working relationships with my clients, teaching children has reminded me that solid professional boundaries can easily be maintained in warm, caring and emotionally connected relationships.

So what does all this have to do with sport psychology?  Maybe very little if we think of sport psychology as a set of techniques to enhance sport  performance in the moment of competition.  However, if we take a step back and think about ourselves as athletes, it is clearly my experience that taking the risk to seek out new experiences, especially those that offer opportunities to step outside of our usual roles and activities, can be a spring-board to participating in sport with greater awareness, broader perspective, increased knowledge, renewed energy and more solid connections with those that are important to us.



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