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Feb. 21, 2023

Supporting Our Young Athletes with Michael Huber, CMPC

Do you have a young athlete in the family? Join me this week for my fascinating discussion with Michael Huber, Certified Mental Performance Consultant® and owner of Follow The Ball LLC., a mental performance coaching practice based in Fair Haven, NJ. 

Michael helps young athletes ranging from 12-22 years old to optimize and prioritize the power of positive mindsets. He is also the host of The Freshman Foundation® Podcast, which prepares young athletes and families for every next step in their athletic journey. 

Join us as we discuss our young athletes and what they struggle with on and off the field, and how we can best support them to be successful later in life. 


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Hi, and welcome to Real Life Momz I'm your host Lisa Foster and Real Life Momz is a podcast that's all about connecting moms through real parenting conversations. I believe that moms have so much insight and knowledge, and together we are powerful. On this podcast, we give moms a voice to tell their stories, and share their expertise and resources through real conversations. And this week I'm joined by Michael Huber, a certified mental performance consultant and owner of Follow the Ball, a mental performance coaching practice based in New Jersey. 

Michael helps young athletes use their minds for them rather than against them. He's the host of the Freshman Foundation podcast, which prepares young athletes and families for every next step in their athletic journey. And today he's here to discuss these sports and how we can support our young athletes.

 Hi Michael. Welcome to Real Life Momz, It's always nice to welcome a dad on the show, and I'm really excited about our topic today, which is youths and sports, and how to support our athletes. 

So I know you do so much for young athletes from helping them through your mental performance coaching practice, to you're the host of the Freshman Foundation podcast, which helps athletes and their families on their athletic journey. So thank you so much for coming on our show today. 

Thank you for having me, Lisa. I appreciate it. 

So maybe just tell us a little bit more about you and maybe tell us like what even guided you into mental performance consulting. 

First off, I'll start with the important stuff. I am a father of, of two children. Uh, a 14-year-old boy, uh, and a 12-year-old girl. Um, so that's sort of my number one responsibility in the world. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, but, um, you know, I got into sports psychology later in life. I've been doing it for probably five or six years now. I, I left a first career, uh, and part of the inspiration, I would say is based on the experiences I saw my, my kids having and myself having in the youth sports world. 

Just like some of the things that were happening around me were just really, you know,I didn't really care for them and I was sort of always curious as to like, why these things happen and what we can do to make them different. So that was kind of the start of the journey, although that was probably 10 years ago now. 

And then I just kind of went through some personal things in my life where I felt like, okay, it's time for me to do something in my life that's more meaningful. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> helping others. And so I kind of put the two together, the love, my love of sport and my, the love of coaching that I developed, you know, coaching my own kids. Uh, and then, you know, did the master's training in sports psychology. I got my certification. I'm a certified mental performance consultant. So now I own and operate my own practice, or I do work with mostly high school teenage athletes and college-age athletes on their mental game. 

Can you define mental performance consulting? Like what actually, what do you do 

<laugh>? Yeah. I, I mean, simply put, you know, we help athletes, you know, develop tools and strategies to manage the thoughts and emotions that are, are really challenging for them in sport. I mean, I think the more I do this work, the more I realize it's almost every kid has some level of performance anxiety, a fear of failure, uh, negative perfectionism, um, maybe a lack of focus, lack of motivation. And, sometimes it's not them, it's the, it's the circumstances around them. 

It's a coach, it's a parent, um, what have you. It's a physical limitation. And, and a lot of kids who put so much time and energy into their sports, um, and, and parents who put time and energy and money into sports, they're not getting the results that they want. Not because the athlete's not physically able, they're not working really hard, they're not getting the results because their minds and their emotions are getting in the way. So I help them sort of work through that and try to figure out, you know, sort of more productive ways to use their thoughts and emotions and, and, and shift them so that they can perform at their best. 

That seems really helpful. I'm wondering though, like I, you know, with my kids or just watching other athletes, like at what point would a parent say, oh, we should get someone as like a mental performance coach for our child? 

That's a really, really good question, and I think the answers vary in that. Uh, so I give, I'll give you an example mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, I, I didn't think that I would work with very young children, say, elementary school-age children, you know, like 9, 10, 11, 12. Uh, I just, in my mind personally, my biases, like, they don't, they don't need somebody like me yet. They're still young. Like, let's not overcomplicate things. Probably not worth the effort of money. But then I've had parents coming to me and asking me, will you work with my younger child? 

And I said, before I completely dismiss it. I said, let me, let me try it. And what I do find is that a lot of parents have kids that not necessarily are performing at an elite level or are trying to get a college scholarship at that age, but rather they're, they're starting to develop negative thinking habits. 

They're very hard on themselves. They don't know how to cope with the things that go on around them. And so I start with kids early and it starts to sort of shift their perspective earlier. It's almost like taking them through an educational process rather than like, sort of focusing on performance. But by and large, the parents who come to me are the ones who are like, Hey, John, you're Mary is a high-level performer. We've been spending a lot of time, energy, and money. They have this really, you know, lofty goal. Maybe it's to get a college scholarship. Maybe it's to get drafted to a professional league. 

Maybe it's the whatever, right? Like they have this big kind of, uh, goal that they're chasing and we're sort of at a loss. We don't know how to help them. We've given them everything, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we've given them everything we could possibly give them, you know, coaching, strength, training, nutrition, all these things. 

And it's not adding up. And we see that not only is it not adding up on the field, but it's also detracting from their ability to really live a normal happy life because it seeps into other areas of their, you know, of their world. You know, maybe they're just not feeling good about themselves outside of their sport, or maybe they're having anxiety about their sport away from, you know, what they're doing. Um, maybe it's, it's, it's taking away from their social life, academics, what have you. Right? So like, I think I, usually the parents I get come to me are, are the ones that are sort of at their wits end saying like, I've tried everything I can do. 

I'm just a parent. Like, they figure out that the kids aren't gonna listen to them <laugh>. So like, we want to bring somebody else whose objective from outside the equation into the equation to see if that that will help. 

Yeah. I love that. Cuz you're not really working, obviously on the sport itself. You're working on basically the brain, right? The mental piece of the whole picture, which is kind of so important, right? Mental health in general is so important, but you're doing it just towards the sports or athletes themselves. Yeah. Athletic 

And, uh, yeah. And, and indefinitely. I mean, I think I would categorize what I would do, what I do is it's not, it's not therapy. Certainly we're not licensed therapists. It's, it's, it's more, it's, it's sport, but it's also life skills, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like the the things that I would work on with an athlete are not only research-based, evidence-based strategies that there's, you know, a ton of research on. And we, we, we do that as a principle in our work, but I also do combine my experiences to say, Hey, like listen, like this is something you can transfer and use outside of your sport. 

So I think the parents who come to me get that, they see it as an investment in the child's future. Not necessarily as like, Hey, I want John, you're married to be an Olympian. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But more like, I just want them to be happy in what they're doing. And if talking to somebody about that helps them, then we're willing, we're willing to try it. And I think a lot of kids, particularly young men, also res resist the therapy route. Meaning, oh, I wanna send you to a therapist to talk to somebody. And they're like, no. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. 

But they'll talk to somebody like me cuz I kind of speak their language and it's in the context of what they love. It's a little easier to bridge that gap than, Hey, go talk to, you know, somebody about your feelings, you know? 

Yeah. No, I could see them relating to you for sure. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and it's funny, as you're talking, all I do <laugh>, I just keep seeing this picture of my son's soccer game, <laugh> when he was younger. And my son is not athletic. He, you know, he plays around, he's not, you know, super athletic, but the kids on his soccer team were, and there were probably two kids that would cry at least three to four times during the game. They were very good athletes, but the emotional piece on the field, like, they would just get so upset if they, you know, maybe missed a goal or, you know, did something. 

And I could just see how helpful, like you would be <laugh> in those moments. 

Well, I, you know, listen, I, I think there's a, there's a lot in that example, and that's something I would see all the time, whether as a coach or as a spectator. I think in some cases, kids, like the ones you described have certain personality traits that are really difficult to modify, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it just is kind of who they are by nature. There's a little of that. I think the flip side of it is, is that the coaches and the parents often contribute to that sort of reaction for kids without knowing that they're contributing, right? 

So it's, a lot of times it's the language. What are they saying? How are they saying it? Um, when are they saying it right? And they think they're being helpful and they're not. And so the kid takes it very personally when they get criticized or they make a mistake knowing that mom or dad's gonna be like, oh, you should have made that goal. Right? Should is a word that I'm very anti, like, you know, why should you have made the goal? Well, let's talk about the reasons why you didn't and what you could have done differently. But stuff happens, right? Like, and, and when you make a kid feel like they need to perform like a trained seal at seven years old on a soccer field like that's gonna lead to some pretty tough feelings at times unless the kid's really, really resilient. 

So, like, in those situations, like if you could give a parent advice, right? Then, what advice would you give them? 

Yeah, I, I think in those situations, I think it's, one, be supportive, right? Two, I don't, I would never tell you I'm a parent, right? And I'm critical of my children at times about sport, but for me, it's away from a game away from the field or the basketball court or wherever it's after the fact. And it's typically based on effort, not on results, right? Hmm. So if my kids is not trying hard, or my kids making a booboo face, or my kids, um, being mean to their teammates, like, yeah, you're gonna hear it from me, right? 

Because you can control that behavior. It's up to you. It has nothing to do with your performance, but if you miss a goal, but you make a great play or you try really hard, but you trip, you know, on the way to the goal, like, those things happen. 

Like, I, I'm not gonna be critical of you because you didn't produce a result. So I think those couple of things. I also think one of the things I, I tell parents, especially the parents of older kids, is ask a lot of questions, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, let them think about, right? Like, what they could have done differently or what happened, or how can you, you know, make this better the next time. Like, so they own it, right? Because so much of our motivation, um, and, and research tell us, tells us this, so much of our motivation is tied up in the perception of autonomy or control, right? 

If, if I think I have control over my own experience, I'm gonna be more motivated to go do something about it. If, if I feel like someone's trying to control me by giving me commands or orders or criticisms, uh, and not giving me the leeway to try and fail, then I'm probably gonna resist. And ultimately, if it's bad enough, I'm gonna burn out and I'm gonna quit. That's something I talk a lot about with parents and athletes, creating the conditions for positive motivation so that they can continue to play longer and, and, be resilient. 

I mean, of course, you need that internal motivation because the parent isn't going to be, you know, pushing you through life, right? You have to have wings to fly eventually. So starting even just younger and on the field of having the internal motivation and pushing yourself is such an important life skill later on. 

Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. Right? And, and so, uh, you know, as I'm thinking about this, when I talk about motivation, um, I usually talk about why, like, why are you doing this? Like, what's the purpose of you participating in your sport? Now, I think when they're really young, right? We could flip it and say like, I might tell my seven-year-old, Hey, this is why you, you might play soccer. It's, it's good exercise. You learn how to be a part of the team, right? You explain to them why they're doing it so it makes sense to them. But when they become 14, 15, 16, and you ask them, why are you doing it? 

It, it becomes a question of, hey, like, do you really want to do this? Or are you doing it because you feel like you have to please somebody else? Or you, you feel like you need to do this? 

Because ultimately, right, I think this is the biggest challenge for a lot of parents I see is that they, they can't take their hands off the wheel mm-hmm. <affirmative> as it relates to their children's sporting career. They want to be involved, they want to be able to push them and direct them. And I, I get that, like, we all wanna push our kids to be their best, but ultimately you have to know when to back away and say like, Hey, like, I can't do anything about this. Right? Like, they need to just make these decisions on their own, and if they decide to walk away, um, they're gonna have to live with the consequences. 

Not me, it's not my life. But I don't think a lot of parents are comfortable with that. I think they, there's a lot of feelings that are interwoven between parent and child. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think in a very, very messy relationship as it relates, to athletics, 

Right? Because I think also as a parent, whatever it is a sport if you're into acting, whatever it is, right? It doesn't matter. You wanna support your kids, so you like go full on and you, and you're supporting them, right? And then when they just drop it, it's almost like you're lost. You're like, well, I don't know what to do anymore. I don't know how to support them, <laugh>. Yeah. I don't know what they want. You know? And it's a lo it's almost like a loss to you too, because you, you knew what you were doing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I think sometimes that reevaluation of like, oh, okay, they're walking away. 

That's fine. I mean, that's okay, but just so you have to reevaluate your own, like why you were in it so much with them, you know? 

Yeah. Yeah. And, and I think, uh, listen, I think that that's where parents all could use a little bit of mental skills coaching themselves as well. <laugh>. Yes. And, that includes me. I have had my own experience with mental health and seeking out, you know, assistance for people, not necessarily as a sports parent, but like, just to, to navigate my own life and make it, you know, better and manageable. But, but I think a lot of times parents can't identify, they don't have the awareness to identify those feelings, right? Like the idea that like, why am I getting so upset about this? 

Why am I so angry? Or why am I so sad that my kid's not doing this? Is it because it's really a threat to the child and the child's really hurting themselves? Or is it a threat to you? Right? And your identity as a parent that I did all these things and I had these expectations of my child and then it all went away, right? 

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it's a very complex thing, right? I'm not saying it's easy, but I think parents also need to work on that self-awareness to know like, Hey, even with my own kids, my, you know, I tell them now, I say, listen, you don't have to do anything, right? Like I do. I want my son to continue to play soccer or basketball and try to get better cuz I see potential. Sure. But I tell them, listen, the consequences are yours to manage. I mean, if you don't play basketball or you don't play soccer, or you don't do this, or you don't try harder, like, it has nothing to do with me, doesn't affect my life. And I have to convince myself of that because there are times I get really, really upset when I see 'em do things, you know? 

But it takes work. You can't just go out there and, and expect that you're gonna be able to do all these right. Parenting things if you don't work on yourself. 

Right? And I think just taking a pause, <laugh> every once in 

A while Yeah. A deep breath works. Yeah, 

For sure. A deep breath. Yeah. For parents is very helpful. So in your line of work, what do you finding is the biggest struggle that athletes are facing? 

They might be one and the same, but I would say fear of failure and or perfectionism, right? And so fear of failure is pretty easily easy to understand for anybody, right? Like, you're just afraid to fail. And so a lot of times kids are afraid to take the risks that are gonna help them be better because they don't wanna, they don't wanna look bad, they don't wanna fall on their face. So they play things safe. And I have a number of clients who regardless of sport, age, or gender go through that. The perfectionism stuff's a little bit trickier because perfectionism is not good or bad. 

Perfectionism is what I would deem to be a spectrum, right? Like from mm-hmm <affirmative> productive on one end to like destructive on the other end. And those aren't technical terms are sort of the way I came to my mind. 

But basically, the greatest athletes in the world have some level of perfectionism. It drives them to put in all the work and all the focus on, all the minutia and all the nuance to be great. But when that becomes such a heavy load that it starts to affect performance, it takes away from it and it starts to create all these negative effects like anxiety, and depression related to their sport. Well, now we have a problem. And I see more of that. And I think a lot of it relates to a couple of things. One is sort of the clock, I'll use the metaphor of a clock ticking, right? 

Whether you're a high school athlete who's trying to go to college and, and, and participate, or if you're a college athlete who's currently to go to the professional level to participate, I deal with both as well. 

That clock that metaphorical clock ticking really hangs over their head. Like, if I don't get better faster, I'm not gonna get to where I want. So now I have to try really hard right now as hard as I can. And sometimes it's counterproductive because they can't look at things in a vacuum one day at a time and say, Hey, I have no control over that result. 12, 18, and 24 months from now, I need to just focus on what I can control today to get better. That's a really hard thing for a kid to do because so much of their identity is tied up in sports, right? 

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like, I'll do an ex, I'll do an exercise with athletes. A high school kid say I had one kid that stands out to me. I say, okay, tell me, here's a circle, right? I drew a circle and I said, break up the circle into a pie chart and tell me what the different elements of your identity are and, and, and stick a percentage on it. 

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So the first thing he does is athlete and he goes 65%. Wow. So yeah, 35% left for student, son, friend, boyfriend. Like all these things that are so important in our lives, they're subordinated completely to the sport. And so of course it's gonna be hard. You're gonna make it harder on yourself because it means so much to you, right? And that's okay. I'm not saying it shouldn't mean anything to you, but you gotta find a way to put that into perspective. 

Otherwise that weight like that, that ha that the, the weight of that, uh, association that you have as an athlete is gonna come crashing down on you if you don't find ways to sort of put things in perspective. 

Yeah. Why do you think it is such a high percentage of the identity? Is it that they just are spending so much time doing it? Or what do you think? 

Yeah. Yes. I, I think that that is absolutely a big part of it, right? They're, they're saying like, I'm making these major, major sacrifices, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like, I'm not, I'm traveling like baseball, like this one kid I was telling you, most a baseball player, baseball, if you know anything about baseball, it's, it's basically all around for some of these guys, they play, they play in the spring for their school. They play in the summer for travel baseball. They play in the fall for travel baseball, <affirmative>. They go to showcases, they go to camps. Like they're playing probably nine months outta the year, uh, depending on where you live. 

And, and not only that, they're going to lift weights. They're, um, they're going to indoor training, they're, uh, whatever, right? Like they're, they're putting in so much time and energy. And then when you don't get the results that you want, you know, it's really, really frustrating and upsetting. 

So, yeah, I think it is, a lot of it is the time and energy they put into it. I think some of it is what they see around them, whether it's what they hear from their parents, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> expectations from parents, but also like things like social media. Like it's, a referendum on, on, on the person. A lot of times when it shouldn't be, because I'm comparing myself to all those around me on social media. I work this hard, I play this well, I don't have a scholarship offer, but Johnny does. What does Johnny have? Like, I feel bad about myself. 

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So there's like this whole ecosystem. It's an industry. You know, I had a guest on my podcast recently who was a, a former classmate of mine. She is a very similar mental performance coach who went back, to get her degree in sports psychology. 

And we were talking about this and you know, like, I, I always ask myself, and we talked about this, I asked myself the question of like, why do people like us have to exist <laugh>? Like, why does somebody have to go to me to help their kid, you know, get through stuff? The reality is, we've created this business, this industry of youth sports where it's become so focused on outcomes and money and all these things. Like, we're not gonna undo the system, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So we have a chance to like integrate ourselves into the system and be a buffer, right? 

To be a check in the system is the way I described it. To say, Hey, okay, we're gonna go do this. And we know that sports are this big business and we know that there's, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Potentially we want to go get that pot of gold for whatever reason, but it's really affecting our lives as a family. How can I find someone who helps with this stuff? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I think, you know, I think parents to their credit, see it as the ones who come to me anyway, see it as an investment not only in the performance and the outcomes, but they see it as an investment in their child's future. And so, uh, I'm fortunate in that way cuz most of my parents are really, really supportive 

As far as tools or strategies. Like someone with this 65% identity <laugh> just interwoven with, with their, uh, sport. What do you do? How do you work with them, I'm assuming you want to balance that a little bit more. I could be wrong, but to have them have other things that they think of themselves as <laugh>. 

Um, I, you know, that's a good question. I wouldn't necessarily try to shift it. I think the first step in that process mm-hmm. <affirmative> is to bring that awareness, bring awareness to the situation for them. Yeah. Oh, this is how I see myself. Okay, that makes sense. Now I understand how I see myself. I understand. This is why I get nervous, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like, I know, I know why I get nervous. I know why I get frustrated because it means so much to me, right? And, and, and once I know that, then I could start to think of things or try, we try things, right? 

Like for instance,, in that situation, we might try things like practicing gratitude. Like, I get to go play baseball, I get to do this, rather than, oh, what if this doesn't go, go my way? Or Hey, let's, let's develop some breathing strategies or mindfulness strategies so that when you're feeling that way, because this is so important, you have some tools, to access, right? 

A lot of the times it's also just a matter of talking to somebody about it. Cuz they don't really talk to anybody about this stuff. Even their parents, they kind of keep it all bottled up. So it's like, like part of that, the process of that in my work is really, a lot of it's just about getting things off your chest so you can lighten the load. So there's a lot of that. Now, to your point, the most extreme examples, right? Like if kids are starting to get to the point where like, they're obsessed, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> with their performance, their outcomes, their future, that they can't function in real life. Those are the situations where I might say, Hey, it's time to go see somebody. 

Oh, whose pay grades a bit higher than mine, which is a clinical professional. Or maybe you need to step away. 

I had one, I had one young man, I, I worked with a, he was the nicest kid you could ever imagine. 17 years old, respectful, smart, curious, interested, like, loved, loved baseball, but he was having some really, really challenging difficulties. He was a pitcher and he just was having a hard time, like literally like controlling where the ball went. And I worked with him for a while and we had a really good relationship and he's like, yeah coach, this is really helping me. But after a while he came back and he said, you know what? Like this is like getting in the way of me being happy right now and I'm gonna step away from it. 

And I was like, wow, man, like, good for you. Like, if this is like affecting your life so much that you can't be a 17-year-old kid and enjoy your life, like, then, then why do it, right? 

Like what's the point? And then subsequently, you know, after months, he came back to me one day with a text and he said, you know, hey coach, like, hey, I started playing again with my friends. I started throwing the ball. He was like, all the stuff that like we worked on that you taught me like has really helped me. And like now I have a different perspective on it. And I was like, wow. Like this is like the dream scenario. You know? That's what you want to hear. Like, this is a kid who processed what I was teaching him. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, he took it, he made a really mature decision that was good for him. Then he was able to step away and make sense of it and then come back and say, Hey, I can step back at this now cuz I have, I have a little bit more perspective. 

I'm like, to me that was like, whoa, 

That is, that is beautiful. Because Exactly. I think cuz sometimes our kids want breaks. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, they're, they're into a sport, they're into whatever it is, and they're going, going, going. But then, you know, they're kids so they're development like they're developing, they're changing, they're gonna change their interests and they might be wanna try something new mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I think sometimes as parents it's hard to let go, but then, but then they might come back just like that kid did. Yeah. With a new perspective, with a better perspective of that. 


That's, they, and they can always listen. They can always come back. Right. And, now is there potentially a negative consequence as it relates to the future if you step away and come back and take some time off? Sure. Right. Like, you might get behind, you might, but at the same time it actually might be productive, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like maybe you can't perform at your best now because you're so overwhelmed. Like, hey, take a step back and come back when you're ready. And I've seen little bits and pieces of that in my kids. I I haven't had my kids step away. 

Well, you know, not really like they're younger, but like I've had them say like, I don't wanna do this, you know, this spring, or I'm starting to lose my motivation. Like I'm not as interested in it. And then they decided on their own by just taking some space and saying like, okay, now I'm ready to go back and here's why. And like, that I think is important. I think giving your kids agency to make decisions on their own, especially in the teenage years when they're capable of doing it, is really, really important. Because the motivation you're gonna see from them, you know, in their sport when they make that choice is gonna be much, much greater. 

They're gonna put the work in because it was their idea versus feeling like they're forced to do it. 

Oh, totally. I have teens, you know, this and <laugh>. Yes. I mean, if I'm forcing something to be done, it's, it's not done anyway. You know, but if they want to do it, it's done. You know, it just, it's easy. So yeah, I totally agree. Allowing them, obviously there are decisions in life that need Right. A little bit more advice and guidance, but when it comes to maybe a choice of playing a sport or being participating in something, there can be a little bit more flexibility. 

And I think that is important. 

Yep. Yep. And, and, and absolutely. And, I think giving them the room to practice that decision-making is really hard for parents, right? Because mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we want them to make the quote-unquote right. Choices. And, and this is something I talk to athletes about in the context of, of participating in sport is like, there may not be one right choice mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and there may not be one wrong choice. There's a series of really good choices in a sport when you're playing and there's a series of poor choices based on everything that's going on around us and inside of us, right? 

So it's not that easy, the same goes for life, right? Like, I may make a choice that's not the ideal choice, but it's also not terrible. Right. You know, just because I I didn't do, didn't make the best choice or the perfect choice doesn't mean it's bad and I'll deal with the consequences. And giving our young people the, the room to make those choices and try to figure out that decision-making process and learning from the consequences of their actions is, to me is invaluable. Right. And I think that's one of the great things about sport is that it does give them the, canvas to get good at making decisions and r and teaching responsibility and accountability. 

Yeah. And exactly. I mean, doing it when they're younger, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> still under our roof, <laugh>, it's such a safe place that if it doesn't go well, they have such a support system Yeah. Then when they're out in the real world and that should not be the first time they're making big decisions. 

Yes, exactly. So 

With your athletes that you work with, um, since you, you work with some athletes that seem to be really into their sports, how do they balance academics and actual their chosen sport? 

Yeah. Listen, I think one of the things that parents and, and people in general don't realize is that if you have the goal of playing a college sport and getting a scholarship, you have to have really good grades. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Because nowadays like, it, it takes a lot to get accepted to these colleges, right? So, so as an athlete, like you can't just go in because you're an athlete and not have academics. Like coaches want kids who have great academics, so they don't have to worry about them, they don't have to worry about eligibility, they don't have to worry about babysitting them or, or putting them through remedial stuff, right? 

They want kids who have really good academics. So with that, by and large, like it motivates the kids who want to be college athletes to really do their work. And a lot of these kids tend to be, nowadays they tend to be, uh, very driven academically the same way they're driven athletically, right? 

They, they want to do really well. They have that desire to be like a really good student. So, they do that work and they put in that time. So, you know, I think it's definitely overwhelming. I'll go back to something you said before about wanting to take breaks. I think that part of that process of balancing academics and athletics is giving proper breaks, right? Not only like recovery, like time away, downtime, away from school, like on a Sunday when you don't have anything, right? That's important. 

But also like, you know, okay, we're gonna go on vacation, like, you know, we're gonna go away for a week and you don't have to work out on vacation. Like mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like, you know, like I had that conversation with a college athlete of mine, she's a track runner and they were going skiing in Idaho and you know, she was like stressing about doing her workouts because they're at the ski house and she doesn't have, I'm like, listen, it's a week, right? 

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, don't enjoy your vacation. Like, you need to like get away and just be a kid with your family and enjoy the holidays and not be stressing over a week worth of workouts. Right. Do what you can and it's okay. And I think a lot of times there's a requirement I think there to, to inject that perspective from the adult side or my side or a parent, whatever, say, Hey, it's okay to enjoy yourself. Don't worry about this right now. It's gonna be there when you get back. Give yourself some downtime and a break. And I think that that's really important cuz I think for a lot of these hard, hard-driving kids, they're always thinking about, I need to do more and more and more mm-hmm. 

<affirmative> so that I can compete with everybody else. And that often leads to burnout or, or mental health issues because they never stop cuz they feel like they can't take a break. And, 

And there is pressure. I mean, there is academic pressure. I know our school, you have to have a certain GPA to be able to perform in your sport. Yeah. So if you fail a test or if your grades drop, then you can't play in the game. Yeah. So I think that's also a piece that they start to stress about whether they wanna be an A student or they wanna just get by. Huh. They still have to pass, you know, which puts a lot of pressure on them too. 

Yep. Yep. Yeah. It, it, listen,  I think children, young people certainly have it harder than we did in that respect. I think there is more pressure, pressure academically. I want to go to a really good college athletically, they see all this stuff around them. They want to be recognized. You know, when I was in high school it, I put a lot of pressure on myself just because it was my nature. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but I didn't have the external pressures. I didn't have parents who expected me to get a scholarship. I didn't have parents who knew anything about sports really, you know, in, in that way. 

So all the pressure I put on myself was, was my own. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> nowadays, I think we live in a world where there's a lot more external pressure, and the ability to, to block that out or to absorb it, uh, is much harder. And it does take some work. It's hard, 

Right? Because I, I think yes, there are family pressures. Parent pressures, sure. But what I see a lot of is peer pressure. Yep. You know, having that kid who can get an A, you know, be the best on the team and they are also doing five other amazing things. Right. But also colleges will look at, there's a lot of pressure to live up to those standards and they're seeing it on social media, so they're not just seeing it in front of their face, they're seeing it like all over. Yeah. 

Right. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. And, and I think what comes to mind there, like if I relate it back to the work that I do, you know, when I, when you, when I think of your example, I think of what you, you know, I, I talk to kids a lot about what they can and can't control. So-and-so is is got a a 4.0 GPA and they're going to Harvard. Well, what goes into that? Well, you don't really know how much time they spend on their work that you don't know what they're going through mm-hmm. <affirmative> to to, to generate that, that outcome. Also, like it has to do with innate ability, right? 

Like it has to do with genetics, right. On some level. Right. There's so many factors. Right? And like, if you're focusing on other people who are completely different than you and comparing yourself to them, that's gonna lead to a lot of upset. 

Right. Like a, a lot of discomfort because now you're like, well, I'm not as good as them. Rather than focusing on, okay, what can I be doing better to be the best person I can be? Right. And I think that that's a, a concept that's really hard for kids. Forget about even social media. I think it's just human nature, right? We look around and go mm-hmm. <affirmative>, oh, like I wish I was like so-and-so, like why can't I be like so-and-so it takes work to like look inward and say, Hey, I'm just gonna focus on me on what I can control. 

And like, does that even bring you happiness? Right. If you were like, so-and-so, is that what you really want? Is that where joy is? You know. 

Exactly. You a hundred percent. 

So Well, and I know we've been touching around college, so I'm just gonna go right there. <laugh>. Right? Okay, good. Thinking about college and scholarships, you know, do you have advice or some things that these athletes should be considering? Uh, 

I don't know if I, necessarily have advice for them as it relates to obtaining a scholarship. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I, I think my advice is always think about what you could be doing one differently, right? Like if things are not working out the way you wanting want them to, you're not getting the results or feedback that you want in the college process as an athlete, start to think about what you can control, right? Are you sending emails to coaches that of, of, of programs that you want to play for? Are you, um, you know, researching the financial aid, are you sending them video clips of yourself? 

Like, are you doing everything you can do on your own to show the initiative that you want to be a part of a program? Um, that's definitely like something I'll talk to them about. I think the other thing we talk about a lot, which is this isn't necessarily kind of sports psychology per se, but it's more just like thinking about what you want. 

Like what's the, like what's your decision based on is your decision to go to a college based on the fact that you're getting a scholarship versus like all these other factors. Like if you go to school A and they give you a scholarship but you don't like school A because it's far away from home and it's really cold and there's only, you know, 5,000 students and there's no football games or whatever, like, you're not gonna be happy, right? Like, you have to live there. You know, is it better to go to school where you don't get a scholarship but you really want to be there? Is it, does it make sense to even want to play? 

Are you gonna be happy continuing to play? Why are you, why do you wanna play in college? This comes up all the time. Like, college athletes are doing a full-time job. 

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I hear it from them. And then they're not getting, a lot of them have a hard time getting the results that they want because it's very competitive. They're like the top of the top of the echelon, you know, the top level of performer and the margins are very, very thin for improvement and recognition. And like, ask yourself why you're doing it. Like why am I doing this? Why do I wanna participate in college so people could see that I'm gonna play in college or do I really love my sport that much, that I'm willing to give up 20, 30, 40 hours a week to be a college athlete and not go to parties and not travel and not go away on spring break because I'm, I'm competing. 

If, if that's what I truly want, then go for it. Go get it. But if you're only doing it for, you know, vanity reasons or you're doing it through external motivation, then you're probably not gonna be happy. So like really thinking about like what are the factors that are gonna make you happy and then researching it and going after that rather than just taking the shotgun approach of, Hey, let me see how many scholarship offers I can get to all these schools and pick the best one. Right. Which is what happens a lot of times. 

Oh yeah. I mean I see it even at, uh, my kids' high school, you know, oh, this one gets a scholarship to here. And, and in my head I'm like, that just equals pressure <laugh> to me. You know, I go straight to, wow, that's a lot of pressure. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and I know scholarships are helpful and I know parents definitely need it. Maybe wouldn't even be able to afford a college. I get that. Absolutely. But I, but I agree. Like I think we have to make sure that these kids are seeing the full picture because to hold the scholarship you need to perform at a certain way. Probably have certain grades. 

And can that particular kid even handle that? 

Exactly. You hit the nail on the head. Yeah. Lisa, you know, every kid is different. And I think that, we oversimplify that process so much. Like far be it for me to say like, money doesn't matter. That's not fair. It matters to me. But at the same time, right, like if we're only focused on the finance financial end of it, you're right. Like now it becomes a pressure cooker for the kid. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> to perform, to stay, to keep the scholarship. And now you're kind of got that, that clock ticking or that weight hanging over their head and you know, are they gonna be happy? 

Because you hear about nowadays a lot of kids in college, college athletes who are stepping away from their sport. Yeah. Because of mental health issues. I've had those calls too from parents who said, my son doesn't wanna play anymore. He's having all these mental health issues. We don't know what to do. You know, but we want 'em to stay and play cuz it's really important. And ultimately like the kid's gonna do what the kid's gonna do, but they're just so overwhelmed by the pressure that they're like, I gotta, I gotta pull the escape hatch and get the hell outta here because I, it's not safe for me. 

Yeah. Well, at the end of the day, mental health is very important, right? Yes. Of course. It's so, yeah. So what do you recommend, uh, how do parents best support like their children, both on the field, off the field, 

<laugh>? Yeah, that's a big question. I, I mean I think, I think first of all, like recognize what's, you know, what's the intention, right? I and I would, I would suggest to anybody, right? Parents or otherwise, like why, what's my intention in, in supporting them? What, why do I care so much about this? Well, I care about my kid. Okay, so the next question might be is like what's best for them? I think it's, to me, the number one piece of advice I'd give to parents is ask more questions. Try to understand your child better. 

Try to understand what they're thinking, what they're feeling, why they're doing something, and why you know this is happening so that you can then serve them better. It's not frankly, dissimilar from what I do with a client. When I get a client, a new client, I need to understand them. 

So I, I take two hours and I go through their history and I ask them what's going on and what, how do they feel about this? Tell me about this time this happened so that I can get a better sense of them. And then that way it helps me to serve them. The same goes for a parent, right? If you think you understand your child but you're not asking them questions and you have that understanding of them incorrect, the way that you're gonna serve them and parent them is probably gonna be off target. And that's gonna create friction in the relationship. Just like with a coach. 

Kids see through adults and trust me, I hear about it all the time. They do not trust coaches and I think they trust their parents because it's a different relationship. But as it relates to sports, sometime they'll dismiss parents because they don't want to hear it from them because they don't understand like, why is this sport so important to them? It's me playing. So I think it's a very, very fine line. But I think trying to understand your child and putting yourself into their shoes is so critical. 

And I think asking questions is so important. Cuz I think we forget just in anything like to ask, you know, just ask the questions. I mean, I've been in situations and I can't even remember what specifics, but, um, where someone just said, well, did you ask them? And I'm like, no. Like <laugh>, I didn't even ask them, you know? Right. And it, that's just so simple. So yeah, ask, right? Yeah. 

But, but in fairness, the parents and myself included, I think, listen, the way that we were parented, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> generationally was probably not like, Hey, our parents are asking us a lot of questions. Our parents are telling us this is what you need to do. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? Like, I'm the parent, you're the child. That's the way most of us were raised. That's the way I was raised. Now that's what we see. That's our role model. So instinctively as parents, like that's what we go to first. So we have to really be, be mindful of those patterns and work on them and try to get better at our job as a parent, parent, as a performer. 

Like I think of it that way. Like, parents are performers. They have a really important job, right? And they have to get, they have to work on it and get better. Right? Right. They have to look at themselves in the mirror. What can I do to be a better parent? Rather than just saying, Hey, my way is the right way. It's my way the highway. This is the way my parents did it, so I'll do it this way. And like, it just doesn't, it didn't work then frankly. And it's certainly not gonna work now cause we live in a different world. Mm-hmm. 

<affirmative>. And, I think also, not only do we need to practice like asking Right. Kids might, if they're not used to being asked, might need time to figure out how to answer. Right. 

Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Thank you. That's, that is so awesome. I'm so glad you said that cuz I wasn't thinking of that. But it is definitely something that comes up a lot. Like what I find when I work with kids is that they're very, very, I don't even say uncomfortable, I think they're sort of like confused at times when I'm asking them so many questions about them. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> like, why is this adult asking me all these questions? Like, I'm not used to it because people don't do it. Like they're not, a lot of times kids are not being asked the kinds of questions I'm asking. 

So they look at me and go like, do you really wanna know the answer? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like, nobody asks me these questions. Why are you so curious? And I think after a while, like with in my work, after like two or three or four sessions, they start to realize that like, I'm asking these questions cuz I care about them and I want to help them. But in the beginning, to your point, it's like, oh, did they just ask my opinion? <laugh>, did they ask, did they ask me how I'm feeling? Or like, what do I need? Like that's weird. I don't get that a lot. Like I don't know what to do with it. So it's so true. So true. 

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. So, okay. So we have to learn to ask and they have to learn to answer <laugh>. So that's, that's the something we can all work on towards, right? 


Yeah. So where can listeners find you? 

I would say the best place to go is to my website, uh, H u b e r. I have my podcasts are there, my blog posts are there. Um, I've got a bunch of free resources for parents and athletes, uh, that you could download. Um, just everything's in that spot. And then if there's other stuff that you wanna find, you can find it, get directed there from the website. 

Awesome. Yes. And is there anything else you want the listeners to know? 

I think be kind to yourselves as parents. Parenting is a hard job. I know it firsthand. You know, sports are emotional. We all get emotional when our kids play sports because for a lot of reasons. I think being kind to yourself and just knowing that it's a hard job and you know, taking the time to step back and say, Hey, you know what, like I'm doing the best I can. Uh, and then imparting that wisdom to your child and saying, Hey, you're doing the best you can. It's okay. Um, we'll get through this together. 

Be kind is always a good one. <laugh>, I feel like everyone can use just those words to hear, be kind. Yeah. And give yourself a breath, a pause. Right. If you need a 

Moment. Definitely. 

Well, thank you for coming on today, and sharing your expertise with us. It's been such a lovely conversation and you know, I love what you're doing and how you're just helping these young athletes and their parents. 

Thank you so much, Lisa. I appreciate the chance to come onto the podcast. 

Thank you for listening to this episode. Michael's work not only helps these athletes on the field, but he is also teaching them such important life lessons that they will continue to use in adulthood. To learn more about Michael or youth sports, visit his where you'll find more about his podcast called The Freshman Foundation, his blogs on youth sports, and just other resources. And if you found this episode helpful, please share it with your friends. 


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Michael Huber

Certified Mental Performance Consultant

Michael is a Certified Mental Performance Consultant® and owner of Follow The Ball LLC., a mental performance coaching practice based in Fair Haven, NJ. Michael helps young athletes ranging from 12-22 years old use their minds FOR them rather than against them. He is also host of The Freshman Foundation® Podcast, which prepares young athletes and families for every next step in their athletic journey.