How I Help Athletes | Q&A with Coach Rich

Today’s Topic: How I Help Athletes, Meet Coach Rich


About Me

Hey everybody. My name is Rich Killen, and I am one of the new high performance coaches at Complete Performance Coaching. I just wanted to take a few minutes to get on here and introduce myself to all of you, let you guys know a little bit about my background.

I am brand new to Complete Performance Coaching, but I have been working with athletes. I started back in 2008. I got my Master’s Degree in Sports and Exercise Psychology, and so I have been working with athletes off-and-on since then. I’ve worked with baseball and football, tennis, swimming, I’ve done high school, I’ve done college. Pretty big variety there. I’ve also got a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. I actually live in Arizona, and I work for a outpatient mental health counseling center where I specialize in anxiety and OCD. I spend a lot of my time doing that. That’s kind of I guess where I’m at right now.

Q: How Did you get Into Sports Psychology?



One of the questions I get a lot of times is what led me to get into sports psychology. For me, it started kind of in high school. I played baseball in high school, so I remember having this kind of conversation with myself. “The goal is always to play professionally,” like most kids in my position. When I got to high school, I remember thinking regardless of how good I am, the chances of me actually playing professional baseball maybe aren’t that great, and I should probably have kind of a plan B.

I began thinking about it, and I knew that I loved sports. All kinds of sports, not just baseball. Then I started to learn about psychology in high school, and I really got into that. And I remember thinking, “I wish there was a way that I could just kind of combine these two.” And at the time, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as sports psychology. And so when I got to college, I found out that this was an actual field. I wanted to get into it.When I graduated, I ended up moving out here to Arizona for grad school, and I got my degree.


My Athletic Background

I will tell you guys a little bit about kind of my athletic background. It all started when I was about six years old. My brother is 10 years older than me, and he played baseball in high school. I remember going to his baseball games when I was five or six years old, and I would kind of walk around in his old baseball cleats that were two or three times bigger than my feet. And so, I kind of just sort of fell in love with that. As a family, me and my dad and my brother, we would watch baseball all the time.

When I got to about six years old, I was finally able to play, and I was hooked from the beginning. Growing up, I played baseball and other sports, too. I played basketball, I played football. Interestingly, I played one year of Pop Warner Football. And after that, I basically swore that I would never play football ever again, it just was not a good experience for me. I did not have fun.

I ended up getting to high school, and my baseball coaches were also the football coaches. They talked me into playing football, and so I ended up playing three years of football in high school as well, which I actually really enjoyed. My dad would always tell me that he thought I was more talented, had more natural talent with football than baseball. But you know, baseball was always my love, my passion, and so I spent most of my energy there. When I got to high school, I played on varsity all four years.


Scouting and My Scholarship

About my junior year, I got noticed by some scouts. I had some scouts coming to my games. When my senior year rolled around, there were a lot more. There was one scout in particular that spent more time with me. Once a week, I would go and work out with him, and some of the other local prospects. We would work out, and he would give us pointers.

I remember after one game in high school, he sat down with me and my parents, and we had a conversation about what it would take for me to sign – in the event that they would draft me. To make a long story short, basically I decided that I’d end up going to college, because in my mind I figured if I go to college, I’d probably get better. I’d get drafted higher, and I’d make more money. That kind of played a role in that decision.

I got a scholarship to play baseball in college. My freshman year there, I was one of three catchers on the team. I was a freshman, and the other two were upperclassmen. They had me redshirting for half of the year, which at the time I was okay with, because they were upperclassmen and I was a freshman, so it made sense. Well, about halfway through the season, they decided that they needed to take me off of redshirt, because the other catchers were either injured, or they just weren’t playing well. They took me off of redshirt. I ended up playing and starting pretty much the rest of that year, and on into playoffs. I felt like I had a pretty good season that year.


How I Help Athletes | Q&A with Coach RichThe Snowball Effect

The next year, I had a great fall, I had a great summer. I think I hit over 400 that fall. And then, this other catcher that they brought in just had an unbelievable year. I think he hit like 18 to 20 bombs that year, which for college and for where I played, that’s a lot. I was okay with it at that point, because I knew that that wasn’t my game. I wasn’t a home run hitter or anything like that, so there wasn’t really anything I could do about that. I totally understood that.

Then the next year, I ended up getting hurt. I actually shattered my hand playing baseball, and I had to have surgery. I still have a plate and screws in my hand. I was a catcher, so I broke my left hand. Just the idea of having to catch a 95 mile an hour fastball with a surgically repaired hand, that was kind of a difficult thing to grasp.

The rehab went well, and I came back the following year. At that point, I kind of felt like I was playing catch-up. I just didn’t get quite the opportunities that I wanted, or that I felt like I needed. And when I did get those opportunities, I just put so much pressure on myself. I always tell people that I’m a head-case, and that was definitely the case in college, because every opportunity I got, I put so much pressure on myself, that I usually didn’t do that well.


Mental Blocks

I struggled with the mental game, even as a kid. I was the kind of player where if I had two hits in a row, the next time I’d come up to bat, I would just think, “Well, what’s the chances of me actually getting three hits in a row? I’m probably going to get out here.” I’d just totally psych myself out, before I even got up to the plate.

The last few years in college, I just didn’t get the opportunity. And when I did, I just didn’t perform like I knew I could, and I knew I should. So, it was frustrating. It was frustrating, to say the least. And so, I guess that’s kind of my athletic background.

When I meet with athletes, I really try to spend a lot of time with them to understand them. Knowing what their strengths and weaknesses are. I actually speak a lot from personal experience in a way, because I’ve experienced a lot. I’ve experienced the highs, I’ve experienced the lows, and just the frustrations in sports. I’ve experienced injuries, and having to deal with it. Also in college, I had all kinds of just nagging injuries, whether it was an arm, or feet, or legs, or back, or whatever. My file in the athletic training room where I went to college was really thick, and it was probably thicker I think than any other athlete in the entire school. A lot of nagging things that wore on me.


How I Help Athletes

The way I sort of approach athletes, I try to focus on their strengths. I worked with one athlete in particular who was actually a second baseman, and he had a hard time just throwing the ball to first base. Which, on the baseball field, that’s probably one of the easiest throws you’re going to make. It’s definitely one of the shortest throws. Every time the ball was hit to him, he had this automatic thought of, “Don’t screw this up,” or, “Don’t throw the ball away,” or something like that.

As I worked with him, one of his strengths and things he really enjoyed was music. What we did was reframed or restructured that automatic thought, so that instead of as soon as the ball is hit to him, he’s thinking, “Don’t screw up.” Instead of that, he was now thinking of whatever song just popped into his head. We changed that for him, and then by the end of the year he was actually able to make those throws, because blocked out those negative thoughts that were bothering him so much before.

That’s a lot of what I do and how I work with athletes. If any of you have any other questions, feel free to ask them, and I look forward to hopefully speaking with a lot of you here in the future. My name is Coach Rich.

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