As we work to not only strengthen our bodies, it it important to consider the work we do to strengthen our minds. Dr. Scotta Morton does just this. Similar to our running or strength and conditioning coaches, Dr. Morton works with her athletes as a mental coach. Dr. Morton is the Director of Mental Performance at the University of Missouri, where she leads a team of five mental performance coaches. Along with her team, she works to provide performance enhancement services to the athletes, coaches, and support staff inside the University of Missouri’s athletic department.
I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Dr. Morton on the phone a few weeks ago during which she shared a wealth of information! My hope with this A Layer Deeper feature is to provide a bit of knowledge to those who might consider working with a mental coach or entering the field of sport and performance psychology.
With this being said, I decided to structure this post a bit differently. I will make what will look like an outline of topics we chatted about with supporting information following each point.
Welcome to the Strong Runner Chick family Dr. Morton!
Dr. Morton’s Background
- Collegiate basketball athlete at Montana State University.
- In the four years she attended MSU, she had three different head coaches.
- Some coaches were fired, others provided the athletes with emotional and psychological abuse.
- Dr. Morton recalls that this caused great difficulties in regard to team chemistry – her team never experiences someone who fulfilled the role of a leader.
Dr. Morton’s Entry Into the Field of Sport and Performance Psychology
- After her experience as an athlete, Dr. Morton acknowledges that she has a better understanding of what is it like to be in athletes’ shoes.
- She then decided to pursue her MA at MSU and her PhD at the University of Missouri under the direction of Dr. Rick McGuire.
Stigma of Sport and Performance Psychology
- Dr. Morton acknowledges that there is a stigma in working with a sport and performance psychology consultant.
- Often athletes think that something needs to be “fixed” or that there is something “wrong” with them.
- In reality, Dr. Morton believes in a building model where the athlete has everything he, she or they needs to deliver. Dr. Morton works to enhance this and does this by pulling on the athlete’s insight.
- Dr. Morton is a full member of the team’s staff. This means she travels with teams, attends practices, and is a part of support staff meetings. Gaining a higher profile allows for a reduction of the stigma, as athletes see their mental coaches as another member of their support staff.
Dr. Morton’s Philosophy
- Dr. Morton believes that athletes are more than just athletes. She works to enhance her athletes’ mindsets to grasp the idea that each human being is a growing person.
- In order to grow, we must build and foster healthy relationships.
- Dr. Morton asks her athletes to fully express themselves to help build an identity that can’t be taken away from them.
- She grounds her work in development and well being.
- Dr. Morton works with a holistic approach in mind – she asks her teams and athletes to answer questions such as: “Who are we? Who am I?” and asks them to identify their core beliefs, values, and character strengths.
- Positive psychology interventions – gratitude and strength, risk taking
- Dr. Morton’s work is to support the individual to be the best version of self.
- Person-centered focus.
The University of Missouri Sport Performance Structure
- Mental coaches work alongside the other sport faculty.
- This helps prevent the stigma of seeing a counselor.
- Coaches model the same things that they are asking their athletes to do.
- Dr. Morton works with ALL staff members to collaborate and communicate to enhance the lives of the athletes.
Advice for those Hoping to Enter this Field
- Adapt and be flexible.
- Entering this field means that your work is NOT about you. It is important to change your approach to serving and caring for those you work with.
- Take any and every opportunity to learn.
- Take time to learn the difference between a teacher and educator vs. consultant.
- Develop your language to help athletes, coaches, and staff.
- Understand who you are in your work.
- Love the journey – the more you know, the more you don’t know.
Advice for those Looking to Work with a Mental Coach
- Be committed to the growth mindset and comfortable taking risks.
- Athletes should WANT to see a mental coach and WANT to become a better version of himself or herself.
- Mental performance enhancement only works if the athlete is willing to put in the work to grow.
- Mental strength isn’t something you can see, but it is something you can feel.
- Begin to gain awareness that life is messy and that setbacks can be reframed into learning opportunities.
- Reflect on the question, “How willing am I to change my habits?”
Sending a BIG thank you to Dr. Morton for taking time out of her busy schedule to spend some time sharing her perspective with us.
Wishing you all fabulous weeks!