Let me introduce to you a member of our team of consultants – Kacey Gibson. As an athlete she is unbelievably talented, slightly intimidating, and extraordinarily persistent. As an individual she is caring, genuine, and always willing to do more for others. All of Kacey’s qualities combine to make her a truly great consultant who is completely invested in her clients. This week we are able to learn more about Kacey as she opens up about various topics – read on to find out what!
1. Why sport psychology?
I choose sport psychology as a career for various reasons, but mostly because of the insurmountable impact that the field had on my athletic achievements. I have been a runner in the sport of cross country and track and field since the ninth grade and have always had a great a great deal of pride on my skills at the mental side of running. I used to think I was very mentally tough and could handle any adversity that practice or races threw my way. This lasted, however, until I went to college and saw what it was like to run at the Division I level at Florida State University. This drastic change at not only the physical, but mental level changed my perceptions and impacted my confidence. Sport psychology consultants would often come to present briefly in front of our entire team (close to 100 people between men’s and women’s cross country and track and field). I have to admit at the beginning, I thought it was a total waste of time. However, as they kept presenting various mental skills that could help not only my athletic life, but also my personal life, I took note. I began seeing a sport psychology consultant for individual appointments and the results I saw were incredible. I took these skills with me to Edinboro University and I believe they played a huge part in my ability to finish my career as an All-American in cross country. I believe the field of sport psychology has such a helping and humanistic nature to it. I gain a large amount of pride and joy with helping an athlete at any level reach their potential form a mental standpoint.
2. What is your favorite sport to play? What is your favorite sport to watch?
Obviously, my favorite sport to participate in is running. I am often asked why running? Most people cannot understand why running is my favorite sport since they usually describe running as “boring” or “punishment for other sports.” I think this is why I am so drawn to the sport. I think there is something so amazingly wonderful about the fact that you have complete control over your body and how fast or slow you go. I like that it is a lifetime sport and I can run till I am old. I think that it is great that I do not have to pay for leagues or make a specific time and place to practice. I personally could not imagine waiting for enough people to show up or organize practice just to play and do what I love. I can run when I want, how far I want, and as fast or intense as I want. Also, any challenges I have ever had in life, running has gotten me through. Whether this is not getting into my perfect school, a break-up, or just a bad day, running has always been a place to get out my anger and frustration, and to be honest sadness. There is certain people in life who enjoy pushing themselves to the extreme, who get a high out of the pain that comes with physical exertion, and who frankly just like to push their physical limits farther than they thought they could. I would definitely use this to describe how I approach running. The sport has given back more than I could have ever imagined through education, some of the greatest people I have ever known, and traveling all across the United States for races. My favorite sport to watch is basketball. I have been a Duke Basketball fan for my entire life and would give almost anything to meet coach K. I come from a family of basketball coaches and have always enjoyed playing and watching the sport.
3. Tell me about your absolute favorite moment in your athletic career.
My favorite moment in my athletic career was my final cross country race of college. It was my last season of eligibility, so I knew going in that it would be my last race ever in a collegiate uniform. The race took place in St. Louis, Missouri and my legs had felt like complete crap the entire week leading up to the race. I distinctly remember standing on the starting line looking out at the course and thinking how far I had come as an athlete. I remember having a complete euphoric moment and just realizing that years and years of putting in miles when no one was looking came down to this one race. The gun went off, and like the rest of the week, my legs felt like bricks instead of the fresh feeling of tapering after a long season. I tried to concentrate on each girl in front of me and not let anyone pass me. The top forty places received All-American honors and this had been my goal since day one of the season. By no mistake, I found myself between 38th and 42nd place for nearly the entirety of the race. I had just passed the three-mile mark of the 6K race, when I saw my Dad standing at the top of the hill. Anyone that knows my parents, knows they have maybe missed a total of five races out of the hundreds of races I have run. I remember him screaming, “you have to want it and you have to go now.” Any endurance runner knows that there comes a time in every race where you have to make a decision. You can either stick with your pace and continue hurting or you can push past the pain and risk what comes next. In that moment, I made the decision to not care what happens next or how much pain I was in. I remember just passing girls over and over and keeping my eyes peeled for the finish. The last one hundred meters of the race are a little blurry as I started to black out from lack of oxygen and running so hard. The last thing I remember is crossing the line, collapsing, and passing out. This race is my favorite moment not because it was my last race or because I reached my goal of becoming an All-American, but because I wanted something so bad that I was willing to give it absolutely everything I had. I can honestly say if that finish line was five feet farther, I am not sure what would have happened. Knowing that you could not give one more ounce of yourself, regardless of the outcome, is something to be proud of.
4. If you could have lunch with any athlete, who would it be?
If I could have lunch with any athlete, it would actually be a special forces U.S. soldier. I think they are the epitome of what every athlete strives to be from a physical, technical, tactical, and mental standpoint. The only difference is, they are not competing to win or lose a game, they are out there saving lives and defending their own and those around them. The mental resilience and aptitude that they display is incomparable to any famous athlete or icon that we may see on a Sunday afternoon football game. If I could sit down with them for lunch and truly understand their level of determination, fortitude, and complete selflessness in the most extreme adversity with no trophy or bonus check at the end, I would consider myself honored.
5. Do you have a favorite mental skill to work on with clients?
My favorite mental skill to work on with athletes is confidence. I think that you can have all the physical strength in the world, but without confidence, you will never reach your full potential. I also really like working with female athletes on body image and self-acceptance. Competing in an aesthetic sport for so long showed me the dark side of endurance sports. Women face a great deal of pressure to look a certain way in and out of sport and to become better at their sport through weight loss. I like managing these stresses with my athletes and helping them accept their body and how it can be a function and tool to become stronger and better at what they do instead of something to be discouraged about.
6. Which skill do YOU need to practice more often?
I definitely need to practice relaxation more to cope with anxiety. My biggest weakness is this intense fear of ever being late!! I am the person that shows up at least a half an hour early and always troubleshoots every route I take whether walking, running, or driving. It causes me a great deal of unease in my daily life and is something I can manage better. Using relaxation techniques such as deliberate breathing could go a long way for me in this area of life as well as keeping my friends and family from wanting to strangle me for always rushing them!
7. How do you want people to remember you?
Ultimately, I want people to remember me as someone who would go any lengths to help them. When I think back on my biggest influences and mentors in life, they all have three traits in common; loyalty, genuineness, and complete faith in the relationship that we have built. If people that I work with could think this of me, then I believe I have done my job well. Sometimes, as sport psychology consultants we get so hung up on the newest research or interventions, but real work and progress is made in the relationships you build with people and the confidence you instill in them to reach their full potential.