4 Tips to Help Your Baseball Player with a Fear of Getting Hit by Pitch.

I work with all types of fears in sports. A big one I see often is the fear of getting hit by the ball. Almost always I see this in baseball boys from the age of 9 to 12. For those of us who do not play baseball, this makes sense right? A really hardball is being thrown right at your face, yeah no thanks! For parents and coaches, this can be extremely frustrating as most of these young boys have been playing baseball for a few years now and never had any problems and have probably been hit more than a dozen times already. So why is this time different?

Baseball player afraid of the ball.

First the Brain on Fear!

Developmentally speaking this is a prime time for fears and worries. Between these ages, kids have very concrete thinking yet their minds have very vivid imaginations. They are now understanding the world around them better. That death is real and getting hurt is also a real possibility. They can and will imagine getting hit, going to the hospital, or even worse things. They have realized that pitchers are throwing harder, less accurate and it could really hurt. In actuality, their brain is functioning perfectly! A baseball coming in hot is scary and does pose a harmful risk. Yet, sometimes those vivid imaginations run too wild and cause major disruptions in the athlete’s ability to play and focus on what they can control.

Often, after an athlete has developed a significant fear of getting hit it isn’t because the last time they got hit was terrible even though it still really hurt. Rather because of their ability to understand that it could have been a whole lot worse and their imagination creates a whole dramatic story. Therefore the next at-bat poses a real possibility that the things they imagine might just happen.

Fear and Anxiety

As the athlete continues to think about the last time they got hit and what the next time could look like they are creating stronger fear memories and anxiety making it harder to stand in the box. For a lot of my little sluggers the anxiety that has been sparked is the main culprit. When the amygdala senses fear, the cerebral cortex (area of the brain that is for reasoning and judgment) becomes impaired. This makes it really hard to think clearly and logically. On top of that our brain is signaled to pay more attention to possible threats AKA little Tommy throwing wild heat! Unable to think clearly and focusing on getting hit their body is probably acting up as well. Increased heart rate, a sick feeling, extra sweaty, and probably shakey. With all that is going on in the game, in their head and body it is hard not to be scared. I also see common behavioral responses such as their stride leg stepping away, not swinging at all (frozen), big jerk reactions if the ball comes anywhere close, and swinging really late. So how can we help!?

4 tips to help your athlete with fear of getting hit by pitch

Here are 4 tips to help you and your Athlete overcome this fear.

Tip #1 Get the Whole Story

I have my athletes tell me what exactly they think could, might, and will happen if they get hit. Most of the time parents and coaches just leave it at my kids scared of getting hit. While yes, that’s it there is almost always a more in-depth and specific fear in there. It may sound like this: I am afraid I’ll get hit in the nose, it will break and blood will be everywhere. Then I’ll have to go to the hospital, my mom will cry and I won’t able to play anymore. Getting the whole story and all the what-ifs out is important! Then we acknowledge and validate those fears with no BUTS! Instead, take it with concern and allow space to problem solve game plan, and present facts.

Tip #2 Use the Imagination for Good!

As I mentioned above at this age their imaginations are big and powerful. They are currently using that power to play out fears. They also have the ability to do the opposite with a little help. I know you as a parent and coach have told your athlete just go up there and imagine getting a hit right? That’s wonderful but let’s help them go one step further. We want to give the athlete a base image or moment where they were successful. Have them think of a time they went up there against a hard pitcher and got a hit. Ask them to recreate everything they remember. This is the base image because it happened, it is proof of success and they can now build off of it. Once they get used to recreating that moment I want them to start collecting more and more moments to recreate that were good. This can be a simple hit off the tee that was right up the middle or solid contact made during BP that felt good. As the athlete starts collecting these great images then we can start shifting them into visualizing the upcoming game. I want them to use their collections to form their most confident self, seeing themselves handling fear and getting a great hit. What the mind creates the body acts out!

Tip #3 Give your Brain a New Job!

When fear is in control the athlete is thinking about getting hit not getting a hit lol. The hitter needs to give their brain and body a new job. The simpler the better. Help them create a new routine that involves prepared self-talk, a calming skill, and a focus point. I like to have them use and repeat as many times as needed to fight off the fear and slow the nerves down. Start this routine about 4 batters out or the whole time! Remember you have to choose your brain’s job or the fear will.

Tip #4 Courage over Confidence.

Something I hear often is the coach or parents have the athlete stand in the box while they throw tennis balls at them or dress them out in catcher’s gear and throw real baseballs at them. While I understand the logic behind this courage tactic the brain is too smart. Your athlete knows this is not real, that these exercises do not represent the actual moment. It might even be reinforcing their fear. Teaching courage as a skill can be more beneficial than the above method. Courage is knowing it is scary, knowing something could happen but stepping in any way! Cultivating a courageous approach with your athlete teaches them to accept fear and do it anyway. It stimulates problem-solving, and confidence from their ability to feel fear, feel nerves, and know that they can still survive hard moments. They are already being courageous each and every time they step in, if we can help them acknowledge that with the skills above they are one swing away from blasting fear out of the park!

ADHD Athletes: What We Need to Know About Their Emotions.

An estimated 6.1 million American children ages 2-17 years old had ever received a diagnosis of ADHD. This representing 9.4% of this total age-group nationwide as reported by the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 2016.

Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent psychology 2018

ADHD in sports is something that I think should be talked about more. There are very significant things about an ADHD brain that needs attention on the playing field just as much as in the classroom or other areas.

Most people understand ADHD’s main challenges as difficulty focusing, unable to pay attention, organizational issues, and is extremely hyperactive. However, many children (and adults) also struggle to regulate their emotions. This can be both bouts of anger/frustration or being extremely happy and excited. This tends to be concerning when big emotions do not match the situation or linger for extended amounts of time.

I want to highlight this specific area because emotional struggles are usually one of the main reasons any parent brings in their athletes to see me. It is very common to see athletes get mad, frustrated, or cry during games. Sports are emotional, they want to win, there are expectations and pressures that can affect anyone but the environment isn’t always so tolerant of big emotions or distracting behaviors. This can make it extremely challenging for an athlete that has ADHD. I often see parents and coaches overlook the diagnosis and just relate it to poor sportsmanship.

ADHD and Our Emotions.

ADHD impacts certain regions of the brain and their functions. One of those is the Limbic system that regulates our emotions and attention. When something like a small mistake happens they can be flooded with emotions due to the impaired ability to recognize their own feelings and adjust them to the situation. They have less ability to react to their own emotions using reasoning and processing. Non-ADHD athletes have a bigger window to look at the situation reason and respond accordingly. This is usually why we hear people say they go from 0 to 100 real quick!

Another notable thing about ADHD and the athlete is they tend to have trouble with working memory and needing instant gratification. This makes it hard to keep in mind the big picture of things when struggling. Since the ADHD brain has a dopamine deficiency, long-term goals of success, rewards, or one day mastering this tough skill are not enough to stop the emotional flood that overwhelms them.

This can also cause an athlete to:

  • Give up too quickly on a skill, drill, or sport.
  • Be reluctant or procrastinate on something they should be doing.
  • Throw things, say abrupt things in the moment, cry, or yell .
  • Have over aggressive playing styles, or fearlessness.
Quote about finding the right coach for an athlete with ADHD.
Quotes from a specialist on athletes and ADHD.

Some research indicates that 70-80% of children with ADHD have atypical emotion regulation. About 30% of kids had severe anger and tantrum problems, often along with elevated moodiness and anxiety. Another 40% were very active, energetic, risk-taking, and had a more positive mood, but were also prone to anger outbursts.

Joel Nigg Ph.D.
Helping Kids through ADHD

Here are some other areas an ADHD athlete can struggle.

  • Worry too much or too long about small mistakes.
  • Have more negative, repetitive and anxious thoughts around their sport or skills.
  • Have trouble calming down when they’re annoyed or angry.
  • More sensitive or take offense to criticism or yelling by coaches.
  • Feel excessive urgency to get something they want or to master a skill or get out of a slump.
  • Feel bored or distracted at practice when things are too repetitive or slow paced.
  • Seeming less mature than other athletes their age.
  • Closely related to the problems of emotional regulation, about 1/3 of children with ADHD experience symptoms of anxiety.  

Remember ADHD can look different and present in different ways. Some athletes I work with do not show the same behaviors in school or at home as they do in their sport.

Cortnee White, M.ed, Mental Performance Specialist

The Importance of Supporting the ADHD Athlete.

It is important for me to address this because sports are a wonderful place for those who have ADHD and children are more likely to join due to the positive activating effects. Sports can offer the ADHD athlete a place to excel and learn ways to regulate emotions and stimulate the brain’s needs. It is estimated that eight to ten percent of all professional athletes have the diagnosis. Some research presents that ADHD may be more common in elite athletes than in the general population.

Justin Gatlin, olympic athlete quote on having ADHD.
Justin Gatlin, Olympic Athlete with ADHD.

However, many quit or have bad experiences due to the lack of knowledge surrounding what is happening inside the athlete’s brain and what they need in order to succeed. I have heard too many stories of athletes being kicked off teams or told their behaviors will not be tolerated. Some still dismiss the disorder and relate symptoms to poor parenting or an athlete being too emotional or uncoachable.

These athletes tend to struggle in many areas and can be seen as disruptions at home, in school, and now in their sport. Research indicates that those with the diagnosis feel intense remorse more than others and up to 99% of teens and adults are more sensitive than usual to rejection. Nearly 1 in 3 say it’s the hardest part of living with ADHD. Playing sports can be an escape from the challenges they face at school and home, it can also teach them to manage the things they battle with. Without the proper tools and support their love of the game is just another area, they feel rejected, dismissed, and not good enough.

Michael Phelps quote on ADHD.
Michael Phelps, Olympic Athlete with ADHD

As teachers, coaches are on the front lines of these behaviors sometimes more than parents and can have a huge impact on supporting the struggles they may have. These athletes are not “uncoachable” they just need a different type of coaching.

Working with a sports therapist not only allows the athlete to learn critical skills in life and sport but is also a great tool for communication within the athlete’s support system. ADHD is still very misunderstood and I am so happy to be able to help parents and coaches navigate this and support the gifts of the ADHD athlete.


Have questions about the ADHD athlete?

Send me an email.

College Athletes: The Stress You Carry

Cortnee White, Performance Specialist

The demands of playing at an elite level, staying on top of course work, and managing personal life can be a heavy load to carry.

Cortnee WHite

Becoming a college athlete is the ultimate dream come true. It is a huge milestone that signifies your talent, dedication, and advancement into a career or continued athletic career. It is truly a great experience but being a college athlete is always bigger than the sport itself. Young adults step into a new world both exciting and frightening. This transition demands athletes to be their best in the game, in the classroom, and in this new world. Not to mention the added changes and disruption Covid has caused. Stress in situations like this can become more prevalent and harder to manage.

What is Stress?

Stress is defined by how the brain and body respond to any demand. The demands of practice, competition, school, work, or travel. We can experience both good and bad stress. Some stress powers athletes to perform better and hold them accountable for being on time. Stress goes away as we complete tasks or finish challenging events. However, when an athlete experiences extended periods of stress, or feels that the demands of competition, injuries, school, or life are never ending it can impair functioning beyond their ability to play well.

The Stress You Carry

I like to explain stress to college athletes as the weight they carry around in their backpacks or athletic bags. I sure remember taking multiple bags with me everywhere on campus. In those bags, we have things we put in and take out as needed. Other things stay in there, we never seem to be able to take it out, or maybe we even overlook a few things that don’t seem significant. We take those things with us everywhere, to the gym, stadium, classroom, and home. We can even continue to cram the bag, trying to pile more things and hold it together. At some point, that bag cannot hold anymore and starts to break. Like that bag, we are only able to hold so much for so long. If we don’t unpack the stress, or have the means to cope with it, our body and mind suffer.

When college athletes come to see me it is initially because of a performance decline. Something just doesn’t feel right. Most athletes believe that they must shut out all outside problems, stressors, or worries and step into practice or game mode and perform like nothing is going on. Some may be able to do that for lengthy periods of time without any significant signs but for most the stress shows up.

Squeezing a stress ball for stress.
Stress ball for college athletes.

Stress can affect people and athletes in many different ways but, there are always commonalities.

How Stress Shows Up.

Cognitive signs:

  • Worrying or negative thoughts. (What if I don’t play well, or I don’t even care anymore).
  • Trouble making decisions or concentrating. (Coach may say you are making a lot of mental errors).
  • Difficulty remembering or recalling information. (Remembering plays, or forgetting normally easy information ).

Emotional signs:

  • Easily agitated, or angered.
  • Feeling anxious, sad, or depressed.
  • Lower self-esteem, confidence, or motivation. (May feel like you want to quit, or can’t keep up with school).
  • Quicker to respond emotionally to errors or mistakes. (Crying easily or people might say they’ve never seen you react like that).

Physical signs:

  • Feeling exhausted and fatigued beyond workouts and schoolwork.
  • Increased muscle tension, tightness.
  • Stomach pain, cramping, or sick/nausea feeling.
  • Headaches or tension in or around the head.
  • Unable to eat as much or over-eating.
  • Sick more often than normal or injured/in pain more.

Behavioral signs:

  • Decline in performance (Doing uncharacteristic things in game/practice).
  • Decline in other areas of performance like school or work.
  • Sleep disturbance. (Unable to sleep or sleeping more than usual).
  • Increased conflicts with teammates, coaches and/or officials.
  • Withdrawal from normal activities, or poor engagement in practice/games.
  • Behavioral outbursts like throwing equipment, clenching hands, teeth or other.

As athletes venture into their college careers, the demand and loads tend to rise beyond their sport. In my work with college athletes, I always look for specific demands that have changed, increased, and accumulated. Their sport and schoolwork has probably always been a stressor, but what does that look like now? I check in on their nutrition, sleep, and travel schedules. How are they adapting to living on their own, their relationships with people, teammates, and coaches? Are they injured?

Exhausted college athlete doing school work.
Exhausted college athlete doing school work.

Top Stressors Reported by College Athletes.

  1. Higher level of competition! The need to perform higher and more consistently than ever before. More demand on their body and mind.
  2. Schoolwork! Heavy class loads, time needed to complete work, and difficulty increased. Many feel they like they are constantly drowning in homework.
  3. Time in general! Athletes wake up workout, go to class, go to athletic trainers, find time to eat, go back to practice, do homework, and travel most weekends. They give up sleep to make more time. Terrible for functioning and recovery they need.
  4. What about our personal life!? These athletes miss home, have relationships, possibly are not on full scholarships, need to work or are surviving on very little .

Every athlete is different, has different circumstances and tolerances to how they respond to stress. Athletes are resilient, and can absolutely thrive at the collegiate level but, they are human, they are still developing and learning. It is important to be aware of the signs of stress both physically and mentally. To take some time to open up the backpack and manage the things we continue to lug around.

Exercise and Panic Attacks.

Have you ever been exercising and felt like your heart was racing, you couldn’t catch your breath, felt faint, or dizzy to the point you had to leave the gym or step outside to compose yourself?


Exercise is the remedy for almost everything including relieving mental health concerns but, what if exercise is triggering mental health concerns? Let’s first look at our brain and one of its most important collections of cells.

The Brain Has an Important Job.

The amygdala is a collection of cells located on each side of the brain’s hemispheres that is the command center of how we process strong emotions like fear and pleasure. When needed it activates the fight or flight response. It sends out hormones to speed up heart rate, release adrenaline, and redistribute blood.

In situations that seem to be threatening the amygdala and the adrenal system are designed to override cognition and respond faster than the logical frontal cortex. This means that the instant we have an anxious thought or feeling, a flood of chemicals is pumped through the body in an attempt to protect us from whatever might be threatening us. Even when we are just in our gym doing some cardio.

Exercise Mimics Panic Attacks.

When exercising we feel physiological stress very similar to anxiety. Essentially exercise mimics panic attacks. Shallow breathing, a racing pulse, chest pressure, sweating, dizziness are all-natural reactions of exertion; and they’re also symptoms of panic attacks. Those who may have a panic disorder or an anxiety disorder can be highly sensitive to those physiological changes making working out a not so great experience.

Exercise mimics panic attacks.

What If I Don’t Have an Anxiety Disorder?

Exercising for the first time in a while or pushing yourself to the limit might accidentally trick your brain into thinking you’re in trouble and induce panic. If you are new to working out or it has been a minute your brain and body are just not used to these drastic changes and elevated nervous system arousal. Being out of shape does not mean we are likely to have a panic attack but if our responses to the moment of being unable to breathe or see straight are extremely anxious it could happen.

People who also have exercise-induced asthma may also be more likely to experience panic attacks. I myself had exercise-induced asthma when playing basketball and football. At times I would reach overexertion start wheezing and then feel worried about how I couldn’t catch my breath. Though, I never reached full panic I can see how easily it happens.

I have also had athletes who had minor performance anxiety with no reports of ever having panic attacks have one in the middle of the game. With high and long-term exertion levels that sports produces paired with the seriousness of that event and the anxious thoughts that come with it can absolutely kick in panic.

Exercise is still the number one remedy for mental health concerns.

Exercise Is Still The Remedy.

The funny thing is that long-term exercise decreases cortisol levels and the nervous system’s overall arousal levels. If we as athletes and gym-goers can learn to tolerate and manage the symptoms during and after exercise, over time there will be a reduction of stress hormones and the arousal of the nervous system.

So, take it slow when needed, remind yourself you will be okay, and come up with an action plan for if it ever happens again. It is also important to go talk to someone if it keeps happening to learn more about your body and brain.

The Power Of Pressure

Pressure to perform, pressure to succeed, and pressure to stay physically healthy are just a few pressures athlete face daily. Pressure for most becomes overwhelming and zaps athletes ability to be great. What if we could use pressure to power us up?


Pressure is any factor or multiple factors that can increase the importance of performing well. It is an internal experience or a feeling that we create.

We create this internal experience or feeling by our perception of the event or events in our life. Our perception is everything. As athletes we tend to feel on edge about every competition, every play, and every practice. That at any moment our careers will be over, that we will disapoint someone, or not make it at all.

We get consumed by the pressure we feel. Pressure causes us to choke, become stressed, anxious, tense and makes the things we fear real.

For example: We hear our coach say “we have to win this next game!” From that statement we create pressure, our mind translates that into a threat. This game is life or death, I have to be perfect or else! We then become overwhelmed and under perform. We choke due to the fear of failure that pressure ignited.

A blurred image of a sports stadium.

Pressure Is Power

Pressure is not always our enemy. It can wake us up, keep us alert and motivated. Pressure like nerves is energy, energy to succeed, to win, to focus on the things you want. It can get you pumped and fuel your tank. It can power up our performance because we want to win and succeed.

We have to monitor our perception of events. Like the example above, you may have to win the next game to stay in the playoffs or win a national title, and that is EXCITING! It does not mean you as a person or player will be nothing if you don’t win. Yet, our athlete brain goes straight to that outcome. Managing our perception of events is crucial for athletes to succeed and feel powerful. More importantly we have to monitor the pressure we put on ourselves. Most athletes report to me they are their biggest sources of pressure.

I want athletes to get out of their own way and re-evaluate what pressure means to them.

Next time something pops up that you feel pressure from ask yourself if you see it as a challenge that powers you up or a threat that is draining your power.

Here’s four things to look at:

  • Identify the threat: This is usually not losing the game or under performing but who you think you’ll disappoint or what you could lose personally. Write them all down!
  • Truth check: Will those people truly be disappointed and for how long? Personally will your name be tarnished forever or will you never play again? Are your anxious worries that true? Keep them in check.
  • Find the Power: There’s no doubt your event is big and comes with pressure. This doesn’t mean bad. What perception can you change. What can you learn from winning or losing. Pressure can mean you love what you do, you want to win, want to succeed and that is exciting. Fill your tank with the power of possibility and perseverance not doubt and fear.
  • Take control of your pressure: Pressure has become a bad word, a word that means choke, fall apart, or can’t handle. You can handle the pressure, manage it, and use it. Pressure is power that is actually a wonderful thing to have.

I am no longer a competing athlete but pressure never goes away. I monitor it, keep it in check and use the power it gives me to succeed.

Cortnee White, M.ed

How Do I Talk To My Athlete About Therapy?


Cortnee White, Mental Performance Specialist

Parents: How can I approach my athlete about what you do?

Athletes from a very young age are faced with unique challenges and pressures. Then you pair that with pubescence..yeah, things are complicated. My biggest population is around the adolescent age. Whether these athletes are just coming in for sport specific help or more mental health reasons there is usually some hesitation. Something I get asked on regular basis from parents is “How do I approach my athlete about what you do?

For some context, I am a therapist who works in sports. So, I offer counseling for athletes struggling with anxiety, stress, and family or team conflicts. I also help athletes with performance-enhancing mental skills. It can be confusing for parents, coaches, and the athlete to know how to talk about this and what it will even look like. “Am I going to counseling or a mental coach?” “Is there something wrong with me or my skills in sports?” 

I go by many names like mental performance specialist, mental strength coach, sports counselor, athlete therapist, and so on. While there is a pretty big difference between a therapist and a mental skills coach, I can be both. I don’t want to mask or hide who or what I really do but using other terms can be helpful in getting your athlete some help. I hope I can make Athlete Therapist sound cool and exciting one day but for now I’m open to changes. I am a mixture of a sport psychology, therapy, and athlete. 

Baseball player using mental skills while in play.
Baseball player using mental skills while in play.

A few examples of what that means.  

  • I use counseling skills like listening, validating feelings, and positive regard.  
  • I use therapy techniques like CBT which means I believe the way we think has a direct affect on our mood and performance. So, my therapy looks like “what was the thought you had right before you stepped up to the plate?”
  • I use sport psychology techniques for goal setting, focus and concentration. 
  • I use my athlete knowledge and love for sports to connect and understand the culture. 
  • I am licensed, I am supervised, I am trained for the athletes who are maybe struggling on a deeper level that reaches beyond the sport. That licenses and training does wonders for those who just need a little bit of help too. 

Parents, this is for you.

Parents, I know you are still trying to understand what this is too. I am an expert in the field of helping athletes heal, grow, communicate, set goals, get to know themselves as people and athletes, build confidence, and manage the pressures that come with being elite. I am a safe non-judgmental space for your athlete to step away from competition, from perfection, from expectation, and have an hour of conversation, exploration, and hopefully relief. A bonus is I can help in all areas of performance like school, sport, job, and relationships. For the athlete I am much like their coach in that I help them learn new strategies, learn new skills, and work with them in their athletic journey. I am an athlete who helps athletes with the things we cant fix physically. 

Team work on the field and in the home.
Team work on the field and in the home.

Here are some of my tips on talking about it. 

  1. Everyone knows this can be an uncomfortable topic to present and teens can smell fear a mile away. If you’re uncomfortable and unsure they probably will be too. Explore it together!

2. Express your concerns while focusing on specific mood or behavior changes. “I’ve noticed you’ve been coming home from practices looking upset” or “We know you have been struggling with your performance and feeling worried about it” Empathize with them about what you have been noticing. For example: “It can be so frustrating and upsetting to be struggling and not know how to fix it. 

3. Express your limitations and the coaches limitations for helping. Most of the time the athlete has been struggling for a while and parents and coaches just don’t know how else to help. It’s okay to tell your teen this is out of your scope BUT that you know someone who can help! “I wonder if talking to someone that is an expert would help you?” 

4.  Presenting the expert of athletes! You do not have to say therapy or counseling at all. Here’s an example “Miss or coach White helps only athletes including professional ones (that always helps) with things like slumps, mental blocks and even those pre-game jitters. She was an athlete and coach so that’s pretty cool. She could probably really understand and help all of us out. 

5. Teens want to be respected, included and feel like they have some control. Give them options on someone they might like to meet with or maybe even have them do their own research and ask questions. 

I hope this brings some clarity or maybe more questions I can answer. In summary what I do can cover a lot of bases or just one base. Coming to see me does not mean you are crazy, broken, or weak. I hope you can line me up next to the position coach you see weekly, the nutrition coach you check in with monthly, or the strength coach you see every day. We all specialize in areas that the other one doesn’t, all working together to help an athlete stronger in skills, body, and mind. 


Are you an athlete or a parent of an athlete that is struggling with performance declines, anxieties or mental blocks?

Head over to CWSportsCounseling.com

Challenge The Challenger

Cortnee White, Performance Specialist

Are you up for a challenge? Ready to compete? Willing to do what it takes to win? I hope so because this challenger is the toughest one you might ever face…


The Challenger

Of course I am talking about thoughts. Most of the athletes I work with are elite in their sport and discuss their thoughts as if it is the toughest opponent they face daily. Self-criticizing, what if thinking, I should have done this or I should have done that. These type of thoughts are the driving force behind low confidence, poor self-esteem, and performance issues. We can attribute poor self-talk and the thoughts we have to many aspects but that is a step we will have to skip for now.

Self-defeating thoughts run rampant through the minds of athletes, some more than others of course and some sports more than others. A recent study suggests we have around 6,000 thoughts a day, 85% percent are negative and 95% are repetitive. Yikes right!? If this is true imagine the mind of athletes who’s life is surrounded by trying to be perfect, achieving greatness, and keeping their outside life just as in order. Well, I can imagine it because it is my job to dive into the mind of the athlete and the study seems pretty legit to me. I hate for this to sound extremely harsh and that being an athlete is terrible because it’s not, but I feel it is my job to share that harsh reality that is true for so many.

The Challenge

Thoughts and emotions are scary, we try to hide from them, run from them or just ignore them. We hope they will go away, fade and never come back. Unfortunately, they usually don’t and just keep coming back bigger and stronger. Athletes do incredibly scary things every day like flip and twist through the air, dance in an arena full of eyes watching every move they make or stand in a batters box with the game on the line. Now that’s scary. Why can’t we do the same with our thoughts?

This is where I place the challenge. I challenge you to challenge your thoughts. I challenge you to confront them. I challenge you to not run from them, hide from them or ignore them. Your thoughts are always challenging you why not challenge them back.

How do I challenge my own thoughts you ask? Well, we as people like to make up stories, we like to assume, predict outcomes and fortune tell. Most of the time we are terribly wrong or we were right but it wasn’t as bad as we made it out to be. Instead of allowing those stories to be true, or consume us let’s take a breathe, stop the thought and ask a few questions.

  • Do I know this to be true?
  • Has anyone said this or am I just assuming?
  • What can I do in this moment to help me move on from this thought?

We have a lot of power and a lot of control if we choose to step up to the challenge. It is scary it is uncomfortable and hard but it is worth it. Like I mentioned above we skipped a step and that step is exploring where the thoughts stem from. This is where speaking to someone is so important. Let’s get to know the challenger, understand the things that make it so strong. That way we are more than prepared to take on whatever is in front of us. Whether that may be a competitor on the other side of the court an audition or maybe the thoughts that hold you back. These things are not weaknesses, or failures just challenges. Do you accept the challenge?

Cortnee White M.Ed

Let’s talk!

Are you an athlete or a parent of an athlete that is struggling with thoughts, emotions or performance issues?

I specialize in stress and anxiety management as well as mental blocks.

Email me at cortneewhite@tinssp.com

Do I Have Performance Anxiety?

Cortnee White, Performance Specialist

Do I Have Performance Anxiety?

Where is it coming from? How do we help?

All athletes at one point in their careers experience performance anxiety. Some athletes experience it all the time or in specific moments of the game.

Performance anxiety is a fear about one’s ability to perform a skill. When the body and mind react to danger or a threat, a person feels physical sensations of anxiety. Our body and nervous system are always assessing for danger and when that is tripped our body starts preparing to fight or flight.

Now, when we talk about sports we really don’t think of it as something to be fearful of or a true danger. The danger athletes feel is most of the time a perceived threat. The thought of failure, disappointment, embarrassment, and the thought of injury. Our thoughts and perception of the game can induce feelings of stress and anxiety that tells our body to prepare for battle or get the heck out of there.

What does Performance Anxiety look like?

Performance anxiety can come in many forms and what one athlete may feel and think will be way different from what another may experience but, here are the most common symptoms.

Performance anxiety physical symptoms may include:
  • Racing pulse and rapid breathing changes
  • Dry mouth and tight throat, and tight chest
  • Trembling hands, knees, lips, and voice
  • Sweaty and cold hands
  • Nausea and an uneasy feeling in your stomach
  • Vision changes or headaches
You may also experience psychological symptoms, such as:
  • A sense of mental numbness or dissociation
  • Memory slips
  • Worrying for weeks (or even months) in advance of a performance
  • Full-blown panic attacks at the mere thought of performing
  • Inability to perform (freeze response or mental block)
  • Jumping to conclusions or assuming failure will happen.

What Athletes Notice About Performance Anxiety

I am going to share a few examples of what performance anxiety can look and feel like from the athlete’s perspective and then I’ll give more insight into what could have caused those symptoms.

Baseball pitcher with Anxiety
The Athlete Mind

A 16-year-old baseball player starts recognizing his pitching is suffering. He really has no idea what’s going on. He recalls feeling nervous before games even the night before, but that is to be expected. He is usually very consistent and can come back from errors but now he can’t. His parents tell him they have seen him sweating more and doing unusual things on the mound like messing with his shoelaces after a walk or error. He really doesn’t notice any of that. He states he has no negative thoughts and can’t even remember anything when he’s on the mound other than feeling angry about a bad inning or hoping he doesn’t get pulled. So, both the baseball player and his parents really can’t figure out why his performance is declining.

After a session, we discover there have been two coaching changes, a highly recruited pitcher moving onto his team as well as him being looked at by colleges. He knows his parents want him to succeed and does not want them to be disappointed. He does have thoughts about not being good enough and tries to always be his best at everything he does. Yeah, there are some performance anxiety symptoms that are being fueled by change, by fearing he will disappoint the people that matter most and possibly not being as good as the pitcher that just moved in. When he steps on the mound that is the place that everything matters in his life. He may not be thinking about being recruited in the moment of game play but he knows every pitch weighs heavier than before.

Gymnast scared to do a skill.
The Athlete Mind

A 12 year old gymnast states she is extremely nervous doing specific skills. She feels sick and jittery before going to the gym, she is thinking about falling and getting hurt as well as balking when attempting the skills. Her mom notices her becoming extremely frustrated with herself and upset after most days in the gym. They both know gymnastics is a scary sport with falling and getting hurt being pretty common. They both recall not really ever worrying about this type of fear or nerves before.

After a session, we discover there has been previous injuries that really scared her and she has seen her best friend fall and break something on the skill she fears the most. Experiencing an injury and watching someone else experience an injury can cause trauma to the body and the mind. She also spoke about the embarrassment and frustration she feels from herself, the coaches, and other girls in the gym. Her wanting to do the skill so bad but not being able to has also caused anxiety to spike. She is worried about getting hurt, being embarrassed, and disappointing those around her.

I could tell story after story and some sound the same and others sound very different but there are common themes when it comes to performance anxiety. Stress, worry, fear, and disappointment always seem to play a huge part in causing it. Sometimes it’s only perceived stress, perceived disappointment but it is real for the athlete. It takes some time, takes talking about, and takes understanding what it is and where it’s coming from. Athletes want to do well, they want to win, they want to perform that scary skill. Sometimes our body and mind will not allow it. No coaching, no pushing, no get over it will be enough. It may cover it up for a while but without proper tools and knowledge it will come back or spread.

I want to listen to you, understand your fears and build a foundation that you can recognize the anxiety and have the tools and knowledge to conquer it.


Athletes Are Always One Step Away From Failure

Athletes work so hard to get away from failure and yet feel so close to it at every moment.


Athletes seem to always be one step away from failure. When I ask athletes why they get upset after a bad shot, strikeout, or bad score they usually say “I’m better than that, It doesn’t meet my expectations or others, it’s embarrassing or I don’t know, I hate messing up”. Making errors is apart of the game, shooters miss shots, hitters strikeout, and golfers slice the ball, it happens to everyone every game.

From my experience of both playing and talking with athletes, I have concluded that there is reasoning we tend to overlook and that is the fear of doing it again. That once that bad shot, that sliced ball, and that strikeout happen you are now in a downward spiral. One mistake must mean I am not on my game. I am no longer a robot of perfectionism, that one shot has now determined the rest of the game, and yes, leads to embarrassment and someone being disappointed.

Not only do athletes do this in the middle of play but on their way to the game or in warm-ups. “I had a bad warm-up and now the rest of the day will most likely be bad.” That one mistake or a second mistake has now closed off all possibilities and set the future in stone. It will happen again…

Why are athletes always one step away from failure? Athletes work so hard to get away from failure and yet feel so close to it at every moment. Almost as if they hold their breath and with every good moment, there is a bad one coming. Athletes bring the failure with them, they pack it up and wear it on their shoulders. After that missed shot the failure stands taller and it takes over. But, what did they fail at?

There is no easy or quick fix and a lot of times it is more to do with the ecosystem of the athlete than the game itself but, I ask you to look at your failure, what is it and why do you feel so close to it. Why does that missed shot or one strikeout dictate the rest of your performance? Is it possible to have a great game and not be perfect? YES!


That one missed shot or strikeout has such a huge impact in the mind of an athlete because it invites the reality that it can happen again. Now, you couple that with high expectations, stressors, pressure, and we have a player who is always one step away from failure. This is something coaches, parents, and athletes all need work on collectively. It’s our mindset, expectations, self-worth, the words we use, the thoughts we have, and the perspective we have been given. What if you could change the way you saw the game, the mistake you made, and not turn to failure?

What I want athletes to know at all times is they have power. Power in the belief of possibility, the belief that one, two or three missed shots are just missed shots that will lead to greater shots. The perspective that it is possible you are not one step away from failure but are one step away from success.

“Every at bat or new hole or race is not the same and comes with a new experience, it might be you who is the same. So, I say choose to experience it differently and open the possibility of success!”

Athlete Mindfulness: 3 Tips To Get You Started

Cortnee White, Performance Specialist

Practicing mindfulness as an athlete can actively relieve stress and anxiety. It can improve focus, attention and allow you to better regulate emotions before, during and after competitions.



Mindfulness simply means a person has achieved full awareness on the present moment. While being able to calmly acknowledge thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. Whichever sport you play being able to stay in the moment, actively be in tune with your mind and body can be a powerful tool in performance and overall health.


We mindless eat all the time. We eat out of boredom, or for comfort, or for no other reason than the food is just there to eat. For athletes this is a great tool because nutrition is extremely important to your lifestyle. You eat to fuel your body and enhance your performance.

I would like you to take it a step further. Pay attention to not only what it will do for your body but what it can do for your mind. Engage your senses. Try to pick out flavors or spices as you chew. Are your senses saying you are hungry or is it something else. Set down the phone, turn off the TV and practice eating mindfully for it can bring you a sense of calmness and focus.


We spend majority of our time lost in thought. Some researchers say that roughly 50 percent of our day is spent thinking about something not in our immediate environment. Other research shows that we have thousands of daydreams every single day. That is a lot of time not being in the now. While being lost in thought can absolutely be a wonderful thing, it can also not be so great. Athletes being in the moment is critical for focus, reaction time, but most importantly for their well being.

Athlete Mindfulness: 3 Tips To Get You Started

Let’s say you are in a car on your way to practice. Thinking or imagining what that practice might be like. It started out positive then the what ifs come. You start feeling anxious about the conditioning you will have to do or the skill you have to try. Those thoughts turn to emotions and now you are dreading practice. Then before you can gather yourself you wake up and it’s time to get out. We have all had that moment where we wake up from being lost in thought and go oh wow.. how did I just get here. Kind of scary actually but, it’s a great example of how out of it we can be. So, practicing bringing that attention back to you sitting in that car and in the moment and allowing those thoughts to come and go. Being a now-ist takes conscious effort to say hey brain wake up and come back.


To prevent from drifting away in thought to help wake up the brain and gain some control, bring your attention to what you can see. On your way to practice look at the world around you. Notice the buildings, the colors of the cars passing by, look at a drive you’ve taken a million times in a new way. Look for that wow I never even noticed that was there moment. Take a look at your field, how green the grass is, how the gym floor was pieced together so tightly or notice how high the scoreboard stands.

Being mindful doesn’t mean we never have bad thoughts or anxious feelings, it means we have the ability to say hey thought or hey weird feeling i’d like to know more about you. We can become less caught up in worries about tomorrow or the regrets of yesterday.

“I talk mindfulness with all my athletes as it is a tool they can take with them into every situation in their life”


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