L is for Lessons Learned

        L is for Lessons Learned.  One of the greatest but challenging parts of my journey into the field of sport psychology over the past four years has been the forced reflection it has caused me to do.  It would have been impossible to not be reflective as I have learned about topics ranging from brain functioning to effective coaching.  It's been a difficult process, but I am better for having gone through it.

        The transformation process can really be split into two different stages.  The first stage was the Exploratory Phase.  This is when I first started to learn about sport psychology.  I wanted to try everything and believed everything, and it was a bit overwhelming.  I wonder sometimes if I was creating more for players to think about rather than less.  Between the first and second phase was a lot of observing and questioning of the way I had done things.  There were times I doubted almost everything I thought or said as I found myself caught between pre-sport psyc and post-sport psyc Coach Ehrlich.   There was a great deal of cognitive dissonance, and I have to say I didn't like it very much!  Finally, I moved into a Discovery Phase.  I'm not sure the exact moment, but at some point things clicked.  I was far enough along in my degree program, had read enough books, had talked with enough people both in and out of sport psyc, and had enough opportunity to try some different things with athletes where I felt good all of a sudden.  This second phase allowed me to create a solid philosophy for how sport psychology is best applied.  To think my philosophy is complete would be very short-sighted.  What I can say is I have learned a great deal and look forward to many more phases in the future.  With that, I've decided to create a list of Lessons Learned over the last four years.  Hopefully you can relate to at least one, and you can use them to help your sporting experience be just a little bit better.

Lessons Learned:

1. Most people in Sport Psyc are awesome.-  The degree program I chose and the career path I hope to make my way into has forced me to branch out to try to make contacts with people.  The overwhelming majority have been incredibly helpful and generous with their time.  A list of a few who have had a great impact on me are Geoff Miller, Justin Su'a, Dr. Jack Curtis, Dr. Robert Troutwine, Dr. Rob Bell, Dr. Charlie Maher, Chad Bohling, Chris Pasarella, Dr. Taryn Morgan, Bob Tewskbury, Tami Matheny, Dave Williams, Dr. Alan KornspanStu Lierich, and Dr. Rob Seifer.  I feel bad for not listing every single one, but these people have gone above and beyond in one way or another.  They are Givers.

2. Some are not, but that is OKAY!- I'm certainly not going to list any.  While we disagree on some major principles and methods, I am grateful for them too because they have helped me to reevaluate what I think is the right way to do things.

3. Comparatively speaking, I was a REALLY bad coach when I was younger.- I will never forget the first unit we had in my very first Sport Psyc class was on coaching.  Coaching?  I thought we were going to learn how to help athletes.  It hadn't even registered to me that effective coaching was such a major component to sport psychology.  Needless to say, I realized very quickly how much I had to learn.  That was tough!

4. I'm still not anywhere near as good as possible.- One of the greatest things I think sport psyc has done for me is completely changed the way I experience sports.  I am always observing, and that has been very helpful.  We learn something every single day and all have such a long way to go.  I look forward to a continual path of improvement.

5. Learning is fun.- Going to college as an adult is completely different than when you're going straight out of high school.  It's an experience I would recommend everyone have even if it is for one class.  Try to take something you are genuinely interested in learning about.  Knowing exactly what I wanted to do and being able to keep that vision throughout the degree process was helpful.  Beyond the classes, I have grown to love reading and really forcing myself to think through ways of doing things..

6. Learning is hard.- As much fun as learning new things is, it also can be incredibly difficult.  Like I touched on in the beginning, sometimes learning can make you worse before it makes you better.  In many ways, it's similar to that process hitters go through as they make a significant change.  It can be tough, but it is worth it.

7. Every quote is an opportunity to learn.- Sport psychology completely changed how I watch sports.  I am now a "++ Dork" for the coaching interviews and post-game interviews of any kind.  I love seeing what people say and thinking about how sport psychology has influenced them.  It's fun..for me at least.

8. Quotes themselves are not enough.- Quotes are excellent opportunities to learn and see how different concepts are applied.  Some people like them for motivation too.  Quotes themselves are not enough though.  They're nice, but experiences and finding what motivates YOU are better.

9. Information is great.- Knowing your stuff, regardless of your field is important.  You've got to know what you are talking about for people to take you seriously, and it can't be just repeating sayings you have heard like a doll on a string.  Having knowledge is great for increasing your toolbox to help athletes.

10. Too much information is not great.- Sometimes we talk too much.  In wanting to help athletes, we may give 5-6 different suggestions.  That can be overwhelming for the athlete.  This is something I know I've been guilty of as I have wanted to share everything I know.  Maybe I've done that with this blog too!  Being able to pick and choose what will help the most is something I look forward to learning more and more with experience.

11. It's important to take time for reflection and to see how you can get better.- I'm not sure how many of you have Sirius Radio, but I LOVE the MLB Network station.  I heard a great interview with Indians GM Mike Chernoff, and the host asked him about how they have kept a group together in the front office for so long (other than guys getting promoted to higher positions elsewhere).  He said something to the effect of always looking for ways to get better and never getting complacent.  What great advice regardless of your field.  For me, genuine reflection is helpful for creating a plan for improvement.

12. I have some great friends.- Something you are not aware of as a reader is the amount of time several of my friends have spent proofreading and giving me feedback on the blog.  They don't get paid nearly enough (or at all), but they do it to help without anything expected in return.  I can't thank them enough.  Jeremy Plexico (college teammate and friend), Brent Walsh (HS teammate, coach, and friend), Chris Carrrara (college teammate and friend), and David O'Neal (HS Teammate and friend),
THANK YOU.  In addition, thank you to all of the people who have given me feedback.  This includes coaches and players from different levels who send me emails with their thoughts or asking questions (Dudley!).  You make me think further, and I appreciate that.  It also includes people who have nothing to do with sports.  The applications to regular life are a huge part of why I love sport psychology.  Thank you all too.

This is really just a start to a list that could be much more expansive.  Depending on the reaction, maybe we can revisit in a Part Two at some point.  I hope you're enjoying the ABC's as much as I am!  Thank you to everyone who has given me feedback so far.  Please keep it coming!

L is for Lessons Learned Song of the Day- Dave Matthews Band's Ants Marching
The reason I chose this song is I like it.  I also like sport psychology.  I want you to like them too.


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