Interview with Mental Training Coach Chris Covert

Updated: Sep 5, 2019

Bio:Chris Covert is the founder and CEO of Peak Performance Consulting and has spent 15 years working with elite level athletes and organizations in the fields of coaching, leadership, organization, motivation, and mental/physical training.

A graduate of California State University, Fullerton and a student of Ken Ravizza, Covert has worked with athletes in high school, the NCAA (baseball, softball, football, soccer, cross country, and track & field), MLB, PGA, and NFL. As a former Head Coach at the NCAA level, he has worked with over 175 First Team All-Americans and over 250 All-Conference Athletes, along with being named a 9x Conference and Regional Coach of the Year. Covert obtained a Master’s Degree in Sports Psychology from Southern Connecticut State University. 

Athletes that Covert hasworked with have gone on to win both team and individual high school State Championships, NCAA Championships, Team & Individual Conference Championships, competed at the Olympic Trials, and won NFL and MLB World Championships.

***anyfollow up questions were asked over the phone. Those answers are marked and are not direct quotes from Chris Covert***

· What is the most common theme you have seen working with your athletes and teams?

- I believe that every level has unique challenges. From pros to college to high school, culture really dictates what themes exist throughout the club. However, there are two things that all bad teams have and two things all good teams have that I frequently see:

o On bad teams, you don’t see anyone make sacrifices to get better, and that includes the coaching staff. They are content with who they are and aren’t willing to be honest with themselves and others in order to succeed. Secondly, ego rules the team. Whether it’s the ego of an overbearing coach or athlete, teams that fail have egos that get in the way and destroy the environment.

o On good teams, there is a culture of selflessness. Everyone is trying not to only get themselves better, but also their teammates. Secondly, there is a leader who is there to lessen the stress of those around them. It could be the coach or the captain, but someone is there to play the calming, comforting, and confidence building role for the rest of his teammates or players.

· If you were working with a selfish player how would you go about showing someone that they are being selfish? (follow up)

o The most important thing is that a team buys into the unselfish culture. It has to be established in the culture. On an individual level there has to be relationship and willingness to communicate with that specific person you are trying to talk to. Some guys with big egos won’t listen. One way to target those guys is through other guys in the club. If everyone holds selfish players accountable, it becomes very hard to continue being selfish.

o Another strategy is to focus on the player’s strengths that aren’t detrimental to the team and amplify them. Figure out what they are doing that is helpful and then highlight those qualities and make those the center of how that player communicates and interacts with the team.

· What do you recommend for an athlete who is trying to improve their mental game but has not worked on it before?

- The first step is being honest with what your issues are. If you are scared to get hit by a pitch, admit it. If you are nervous to throw a specific pitch, just say so. Self-awareness goes a long way.

· What is the biggest mental difference you see between the successful athletes you work with compared to those who aren’t as successful?

- They are willing to put their ego away and admit their faults. Secondly, they understand the importance of working on their mental game routinely, that its just as important as any other training they do. Players who aren’t successful do the opposite.

· What is the single best thing a baseball player can do to improve their mental game?

- Play the game one pitch at a time. Don’t worry about what just happened 10 seconds ago or what could happen 10 seconds from now. Focus on the pitch you are about to face.

· How would someone go about training their ability to stay 100% in the moment? (follow up)

- Being personally responsible and accountable is everything. If you want to play one pitch at a time, you need to train one pitch at a time. During tee work, bullpens, side toss, or any type of practice, you have to focus on doing everything one pitch, play or rep at a time. There also needs to be an understanding between coaches and leaders and players that you are working one pitch at a time. Make that part of your team culture. That means allowing players to move on to the next rep immediately and not forcing a player to dwell on the past by confronting that failure in an unproductive way. EVERYTHING is about taking the game one pitch at a time.

· Why do you think having a routine in the batter’s box or on the mound is so important?

- It gives you something to go to when you get frustrated. That routine provides an opportunity (when done right) to examine how you are doing physically and emotionally. That gives you a big advantage in comparison to just getting angry or giving up then reacting irrationally.

· If someone has never thought about having a routine, where do you recommend they start?

- Examine how long you are taking in between pitches and how you are spending that time. Are you doing a routine for the sake of having a routine, or are you examining yourself and getting ready for the next pitch? Once you answer those questions, I think you will find some answers.

· What is the biggest mental weakness you consistently see in baseball players?

- Lack of ability to stay in the moment. Their emotions just take over after failure and the ability to re-focus and get back to a routine disappears.

· Do you recommend visualization? If so, what do you think is important to visualize? Should it be game speed? How long? How often? Etc.

- Yes, I do. If possible, visualize as much as possible. From the trip to the park, to warm ups, to sitting in the dugout, to the at-bat. I would also do it off the field, once a day for 15-20 min. It should be game speed and include the idea of thinking about feeling specific movements and emotions.

· I had a lot of mental weaknesses while I was playing, but one was that I struggled with visualization because at times I would struggle with self-doubt and would have a hard time visualizing good things happening. What would you recommend for someone who has doubts and at times has a hard time visualizing success? (follow up)

- Every player must find out what works for them. Sometimes doing visualization alone can be hard. Self-guided visualization can lead to subconscious thoughts getting in the way. Doing guided visualization with someone can be good because they can help get you to a place where your negative thoughts are gone. They help drown out your own negative voice and replace it with their own positive voice. Have someone who knows what they are doing guide you through visualization.

- Guided meditation can be a good way to train your mind if you can’t do guided visualization. “Mind Yeti” and “Headspace” are good apps to help with this. Guided meditation will calm your mind and teach you how to breathe, which is the most important part of your mental game. Breathing correctly is a huge part of being able to perform in a competitive environment and learning how to do this under pressure can help your performance in incredible ways.

· What are your favorite books/podcasts about the mental aspect of sports or life that would be useful for a high school athlete to read or listen too?

- “Heads Up Baseball” & “Heads Up Baseball 2.0” are the best books on the mental aspects of baseball you can get. I would also recommend the podcast “Finding Mastery”, with Dr. Michael Gervais of the Seattle Seahawks.

· Why do you think so many young athletes ignore the mental part of the game?

- They are embarrassed to admit that they are mentally struggling because friends, parents, coaches, or whoever tell them that it’s not good to struggle mentally or that they suck if they do. Because of that, those kids think more training is the answer when most of the time it’s not.

· What percentage of college athletes do you think train their mind?

- It’s becoming more popular across college athletics, but I’m going to stay it’s no more than 25% that are doing it and doing it correctly.

· If you could give one piece of advice to a high school athlete trying to play baseball in college what would it be?

- Play one pitch at a time and don’t be afraid to admit when you are struggling. In those times where you struggle, you can really find out a lot about yourself because you are either going to ignore it, do something that hinders performance, or find ways to address it

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