Simone Biles: Nothing But Strength

Cortnee White, Mental Performance Specialist
Cortnee White, Mental Performance Specialist

Over the past few days myself and my team have been contacted by numerous news and media stations, friends, and others wanting to know our perspective on Simone Biles pulling out of the Olympics after some mental health concerns.  

For me in this moment as an Athlete Therapist I would like to first address the fear and anger people have expressed about her decision. The fear that we are raising and promoting weak minded athletes. That her choice and other athletes’ choice to take care of themselves is selfish and soft. That she is a quitter and choked under pressure. Simone has 36 medals, 27 of them gold. She spends 7 hours a day 6 days a week training.

Nothing about Simone’s journey of greatness is weak or soft. Her training would cripple most, the trauma she has experienced in her sport and in her life would cripple most and yet she has shown nothing but strength. She had a small moment in her incredible career where she didn’t feel right and did what she thought was best for her and her team. 

Simone Biles addressing her mental health concerns.

Every day I sit with athletes some as young as 9 who come in for mental health concerns or just in need of support while they devote their life to a sport that can be incredibly harsh. Riddled with anxiety, pressures and injuries. Ashamed and angered that they feel the way they do. 

Yet, most continue to show up, break their bodies and be ridiculed by armchair experts over every little thing. Everyday I am amazed by athletes’ struggles and their ability to still be successful and hold it all together. 

Our own fears and uncomfortability with seeing athletes struggle or what happens if we address it has only caused more fear and harm. People’s anger only promotes that medals, perfection, and physical output is all that is important. 

Simone has not been the first nor will she be the last to put her health and safety first over winning a medal.

I am extremely grateful to be in a career that allows athletes to be human, to be broken, to be strong and to be empowered to step back out there or walk away. 

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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


The Athlete Mind


We are inherently motivated to better ourselves and move towards our full potential. However, this does not mean we always are motivated or reach the goals we set for ourselves.

Cortnee WHite

I have been fascinated with human behavior for a long time. Especially in the world of health and fitness. The work I do is helping people and athletes change. Change the unhelpful thoughts, routines, and behaviors. To help move and support them to become their best and healthiest versions.

The idea of change is simple right, stop eating ice cream, just go to the gym, just leave that toxic lover, or go get some help. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Change is uncomfortable, even change that will better our health or make us more successful is a daunting task.

Working hard to make changes in business.


Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist left an interesting theory that we fear our best just as much as our worst. He coined the “The Jonah Complex” describing our tendency to evade our own capacities. He observed that for us to have standards and a mission in life is a really scary expectation. As it implies that we must put aside all our excuses for not living up to our potential. As a result, we don’t answer the call to greatness and instead practice what Maslow called mock humility.

He highlights that when we set low targets for ourselves and do only as much as necessary to be satisfactory, that we might be setting ourselves up for unhappiness.

Now, this is just a theory but what I can relate to is that sometimes it’s not about what we will gain from change but what we will lose. Of course if we set aside all of our excuses to be fit, to quit bad habits, to live our best life…heck yeah I’m all for it. But, food is comforting, smoking has become a coping skill, changing teams or work means I’ll lose connections, if I leave a bad partner i’ll lose all the time I spent on them and be alone.

What comes after change is great and rewarding but the process of change is where we stumble. I have found confronting the behavior that needs to be changed is more about what that behavior has provided you and what losing it uncovers.

I love finding balance, being content and eating my ice cream but sometimes we need to ask ourselves if we are practicing mock humility in order to not feel the discomfort of change?

Some food for thought…

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

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”


Mentally Tough Athletes: What Separates The Good From The Great.

Mentally Tough Athletes: What Separates the Good from the Great

Mentally tough athletes are unbothered, unshaken, and perform in clutch situations flawlessly. They aren’t perfect but those imperfections only make them stronger. Becoming mentally tough needs a foundation and that foundation is your emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence

Being an athlete means winning some, losing some, getting injured, being pushed mentally and physically. In order for us to handle tough situations, perform at our best in the clutch moments, and work well with others we have to have some capacity of emotional intelligence. What is this you ask? Emotional intelligence simply put is the ability to identify and manage your emotions and the emotions of others.

When you miss the shot what happens? What do you do, say, and think? When your teammate makes an error how does that affect you? What’s your body language like, do you comfort them, correct them, or say nothing at all? Are you blaming others or making excuses? How do you handle stress and expectations?

Mentally tough athlete training


What do you struggle with? Are you able to admit faults, and accept you are not perfect? Being able to identify errors in your sport, your thinking, and your actions are key in building self-awareness. We have to be able to identify what is going right and what is going wrong to change and grow.


Self-regulation is the ability to control your emotions. The first step is being aware of your emotions and the next step is being able to control them. Staying calm and in control of you when things get tough is sometimes the only thing we have. If we lose the ability to control our emotions our physical ability soon will follow.

Athletes that can self-regulate typically don’t allow themselves to become too angry or upset, and they don’t make rash or careless decisions. They are able to assess the situation, their feelings, and think before they act.
If you are wanting to work on becoming a mentally tough athlete start by self-assessing and self-regulating. The way you think, the way you behave, and the way you feel has a direct influence on your game. There are millions of talented athletes that get beat and get beat because they have gotten in their own way.

“What separates the good from the great comes down to how you let your mind and emotions either enhance or disrupt your physical ability.”


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