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Youth athletes improving mental health to have the ‘Best Season Ever’

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 10:30 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Young athletes are learning the power of belief, confidence, and courage to achieve mental, and physical, prowess.

Jenn Starkey is a former college softball player, speaker, and mental performance coach. She put on an interactive training section on Tuesday and Wednesday, called “Best Season Ever”. She said confidence can be a small but impactful difference in the play of young athletes. For Starkey, success mentally can make the difference on the field and in life.

“If we don’t understand how this part (your head) that sends the electrical signals to our heart, to our body, that creates feelings of anxiety or frustration if we don’t understand how that plays a role then it doesn’t matter what you do physically than you’re never gonna reach your optimum level of performance,” she said.

The message extending to the coaches in the audience, including Jodi Stepanek, a coach with the Junior Cougar Organization who helped organize the event

“With coaching mindfulness needs to be part of it, but also care and concern, combining fun, fundamentals and then that competitive piece,” Stepanek said.

Starkey has been doing this for years, she said mental fitness today is harder and more important than it’s ever been.

“There’s a lot of expectation on young people in order to perform and because of that they’re always comparing themselves,” Starkey said. “If I log into social media, people always post their wins, they don’t post their strikeouts. So you’re comparing your reality to somebody else’s highlight reel,” she said.

Kids at the event had a lot of fun, but also said they took home important lessons.

“You have to be your own advocate for yourself, you can’t let what people say get your down and you have to be your own advocate and keep yourself high,” said Excelsior Middle School student Katelyn Schaul.

“You can control your mindset no matter what position you’re in,” said Coe College junior second baseman Keera Ball. “Just knowing that you’re in control of what you do, what you say, who you’re around can just change your life basically that’s my biggest takeaway.”

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