Join Latin’s Director of Athletics, Kirsten Richter, to learn about the mental approach to sports and how students can take these skills from basketball court to Wall Street.
I think athletics is such a powerful learning environment. It has the feeling of high stakes. Individuals can learn so much about themselves while also learning how to interact with their teammates.It feels high stakes. We want to win. We really want to achieve competitive excellence. But when we fall a little bit short of that, we can redouble our efforts and learn from that and get even better. A lot of times in sports will say we got to be resilient or be gritty. 100% agree. But how do we actually do that? We want the students who have learned these skills in this setting where we can take time and get better and learn and grow. And now we want that student to be able to take this forward with them when it is high stakes, high risk. Brain surgery, Wall Street trader, you name it. But they've developed this and they can use this to the benefit of their career and the benefit of those around them.
My name is Kirsten Richter, and I am the director of athletics here at Latin. The bulk of my professional background is in higher ed. I was fortunate to coach college basketball for 17-18 years. For seven years, I was an assistant at two different institutions. I spent ten years as a head coach and I got to do a lot of different administrative things and take on different administrative responsibilities, both in athletics and broader across campus, including some leadership development work.
I think athletics is such a powerful learning environment. It has the feeling of high stakes. Individuals can learn so much about themselves while also learning how to interact with their teammates. I could rattle off a whole list of things I think you can learn through competitive sports, but resiliency communication skills, giving and receiving feedback, the way in which you interact with someone, verbally, body language. There are so many nuances to it. And I think really what makes it special and unique is that it has the feeling of high stakes but with relatively low risk. So you get to practice all these skills and make mistakes and learn and do better and fail, really without too much on the line. So it feels high stakes. We want to win, we really want to achieve competitive excellence. But when we fall a little short of that, we can redouble our efforts and learn from that and get even better.
So I just think there's so much learning that can come from athletics participation. I think a big building block to the mental approach to sports, and that really fuels all that. Learning through sport is the approach outcome response cycle. So we all control how we approach a task. We don't always control the outcome, but then we always control how we respond to that outcome.
We want to win, we really want to achieve competitive excellence. But when we fall a little short of that, we can redouble our efforts and learn from that and get even better.So when you think about it through the lens of athletics, we want to think about it sort of in the smallest pieces. So not how I approach the game. Win, lose, how do I respond to winning or losing much smaller? So within a game, that cycle is happening dozens and dozens of times. So they start feeding each other. So how I approach something, the outcome doesn't go my way. Okay, now how am I going to respond? Because that's going to feed into the next approach to the next thing.
So in more tangible terms, a simple example is like a foul shot. So there's a thing called a foul shot routine. So everybody is the same thing before foul shot. That's controlling the approach outcome doesn't always go in, right? So in a big moment that's going to sting. But then what's the response? And then that feeds the next approach. So you can sort of play this out and see how this happens over and over and over. And then how a student can control that really then starts to affect their performance in a positive or negative way. And then think beyond that. I'm doing this for myself and my individual tasks. But now think about those around me. So how my approach and my response? If I'm doing that well, that's going to affect the approach and the response of the people around me.
So you start to see the team dynamics and how that's at play. And it's just a powerful concept because it can affect so much change. And I think that's important because a lot of times in sports will say how we got to be resilient or be gritty. 100% agree. But how do we actually do that, being resilient? How? So I think this is a great building block to that because this is how we can be resilient and how we can be gritty and how we can persevere. This mental approach I think has so many applications outside athletics.
So I think some of my proudest moments as a coach when I saw students really grow and learn in that mental approach, whether it was I can think of a student who sort of grew tremendously over four years and found her voice and gained confidence.Think about a student in an academic setting, the approach, how I'm studying for an exam or how I'm preparing to write a paper. The outcome. Maybe I fall a little short of my goal in that test or I didn't sort of nail that paper. How do I respond? Same concept, even smaller. Like within a class setting. I go to the board. I think I have this math problem figured out. I didn't quite get it. This happened to me all the time in high school, right? Okay, so now how do I respond? Am I embarrassed? How am I going to feel about doing the next problem? Right? There are so many applications of that. And then as students enter college and then the workforce, this certainly has applications professionally, professional, day to day setting, meetings, interactions with colleagues can go on and on. But you can see how this sort of building block of the approach outcome, response cycle can easily be put into effect in those settings as well.
And I think, again, going back to the learning environment, that's why this is such a special learning environment because as students can practice this in that setting and then 20 years from now be so well versed at it that they can take it into their professional setting. And really too, you can perform at a high level because of their ability to do this. When you're learning this in athletic setting, again, it feels high stakes, relatively low risk. So you really have the opportunity to build this and grow this skill and it translates into the workplace. So picture of student 20 years down the line now in brain surgery, super high stakes, super high risk, right? So we want the students who have learned these skills in this setting where we can take time and get better and learn and grow. And now we want that student to be able to take this forward with them when it is high stakes, high risk, brain surgery, wall street trader, you name it, but they've developed this and they can use this to the benefit of their career and the benefit of those around them.
A coach can have a profound role in teaching the mental approach to sports to students. Certainly coaches are adapted teaching sports specific skills to their students, but to really maximize students' ability to perform those skills, we want to have that parallel track of that mental approach.
So I think some of my proudest moments as a coach when I saw students really grow and learn in that mental approach, whether it was I can think of a student who sort of grew tremendously over four years and found her voice and gained confidence. And a lot of that was because of the mental approach that she developed. I can think of another student who is always confidence was not her, she was not lacking confidence, right? But it was her ability to sort of navigate team dynamics and communicate with teammates that had to grow in nuance. And she was able to do that tremendously by her senior year in the way that she knew how to sort of respond to some things one way, how to respond to something else a little bit differently, how she approach something with one teammate would be different from how she approached something with another teammate. And so much of that is just the mental approach to team dynamics in sport. And now they're young adults and they can take that with them into their professional careers.