Why You Should Always Check Your Supplements Are Third-Party Batch Tested: Siobhan Milner's Minis – Total Performance with Siobhan Milner
As athletes, we focus so much on our bodies that we at times can neglect our minds and well-being. So, how are you truly feeling? What do you enjoy doing outside of sport? What makes you deeply happy? And lastly, who are you without sport?
That last question is the hardest one for most, but it is also the most important. It encapsulates so many questions you can ask yourself all in this short sentence. Take a listen to this episode as Julia Eyre breaks it down for us.
In today’s episode, I am speaking with Julia Eyre of White Lion Performance. She coaches, teaches, researches, and advocates for athlete well-being in the sports system. Julia founded White Lion in order to offer athletes accessible and accurate information about health and performance. She works as a strength coach, sports scientist, and psychologist, and is based in Giesen, Germany.
We discuss a myriad of topics in this episode but our main focus was athlete well-being and health. Julia gave some tips for athletes to be proactive in optimizing their well-being, and we also talked a little bit about some of the things that need to change within certain systems and certain sports in order to prioritize athlete well-being. Because, as Julia mentioned multiple times, happy, healthy athletes are always going to perform better and live better.
How do you define your mountaintop? Let me know over on IG!
About Julia Eyre:
Julia Eyre coaches, teaches, researches, and advocates for athlete well-being in the sport system. She founded White Lion in order to offer athletes accessible and accurate information about health and performance. She works as a strength coach, sports scientist, and psychologist, and is based in Gießen, Germany.
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Connect with Julia on her website
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Transcript for Beyond the Game: Nurturing Athletes as Whole Individuals with Julia Eyre M.Sc, CSCS
Siobhan Milner: Hi everyone. I’m Siobhan Milner, and this is Total Performance, a podcast dedicated to all things athletic performance and injury prevention. Join me in my guests as we explore the many aspects that come together to build our total performance picture. Let’s get into it. In this week’s podcast episode, I’m speaking with Julia of White Lion Performance.
Julia coaches, teaches, researches, and advocates for athlete well-being in the sport system. She is a sports scientist and psychologist who founded White Lion in order to offer athletes accessible and accurate information about health and performance. She works as a strength coach, sports scientist, and psychologist, and is based in Giesen, Germany.
I feel like as is on-brand now for this podcast, we talked about a lot of different things, but we are particularly focused on athlete wellbeing and health. Julia gave some tips for athletes to be proactive in optimizing their well-being, and we also talked a little bit about some of the things that need to change in certain systems, in certain sports in order to prioritize athlete well-being because as Julia mentioned multiple times, happy, healthy athletes are always going to perform better and live better.
Julia Eyre: Hello. I’m very excited to be hereon. Thank you for the invitation for sharing your mic with me today. Oh, you’re very welcome. How are you doing today? I’m good. The day is ending for me and starting for you because that’s how the world works. It’s very small, but also very large with lots of time zones,
Siobhan Milner: It’s wild. It’s wild. And, I actually didn’t tell you this, but yeah, so I’m in California right now, and the time zone changed, but I didn’t take that into account and Europe has it a couple of weeks before, so I thought I was gonna meet you a little later. So now I am up bright and early, but I’m excited to be up, bright and early to speak with you at 6:30 am.
Julia Eyre: Wake-up call came earlier than you expected! I’m really glad that the time zones are going back to 6, 7, 8, and nine hours. Cause I also work with a lot of American athletes, but from Germany, that’s so much easier to calculate than like, okay, it’s five to eight and somewhere else it might be nine because we switched before, uh, the US does.
I hate that period of three weeks in the year, but yes, now it’s done. So yeah.
Siobhan Milner: I also work with athletes in North America cause I’m usually based in Europe but also in New Zealand. Over the summer New Zealand is cuz Yeah, I’m from New Zealand. New Zealand’s way harder to organize. Like I’ve gotta get up really, really, really early or really, really late.
So now it’s just 12 hours. So it’s a lot more simple.
Julia Eyre: I was also working with some Australian footballers in 2021 and was also like, look, it’s gotta be one or the other. I gotta have the Californians or the Australians. I can’t do them both. like. Either you got me really early or really late, so I can’t do both of these.
Siobhan Milner: Yeah, the Australia time zone in particular is really tough cuz I have a few, I do some group coaching stuff as well. So for them it’s more like every time I try and find something it’s 2:00 AM for them compared to me. So, totally.
Julia Eyre: It’s awful. I mean, planning with time zones is really, really difficult.
So respect that we have figured it out somehow after several weeks of trying to plan and I’m proud of us, the world we live in, that we can. Wow. Hey, sports scientists are so flexible.
Siobhan Milner: Adaptable. One thing I wanted to ask you just kind of came up, uh, when we were chatting before, I’d love to know why your business is called White Lion Performance.
Julia Eyre: She’s saying that we talked about this. Before, because I said everything, like every social media handle, every website, everything is named White Lion Performance because I can’t remember anything. So it has to be all White Lion everything or else it will be forgotten. So white lions are literally just a genetic mutation of normal lions, but it makes them albino.
It’s the same thing in humans. Um, it’s just a little genetic mutation, but they look really different and they’re labeled the kings of, kings of the jungle, and. The athletes that I tend to support, advocate for and work with over long periods of time, they come to me because they are different and looking for something different.
And I am very, uh, nonconformist, let’s put it that way, in my approach to sports science, coaching and psychology and science period and practice. And so it kind of just worked. And I identify very, very much with the lion being, uh, not just a conqueror, but also being able to be very gentle that there’s like multiple sides of somebody who takes care of the whole pack and leads for the front, but can also lead from the back and be gentle and caring and not always have to hunt the whole time.
So that resonates with me and my athletes.
Siobhan Milner: I love that. I actually was interviewing, um, a strength coach out of a hire last week, Jason Harrison. And, we had a very similar discussion around this, like especially around how there can be a tendency to be kind of still, which surprises me cause I feel like there’s been so much discussion about like, How authoritarian coaching is not the only way, but like that’s still often what we see and still from a very macho standpoint.
So yeah, I love hearing that.
Julia Eyre: Yeah. I’m not somebody who lives by striking fear in my athletes to force them to respect me. I don’t feel like that brings us any further towards my goal or their goals or their health or their success or anything like that. I feel like it just makes us both really pissed off.
So, um, yeah, that’s not my method and it’s not because, you know, you’re also a female strength coach and sweat scientist, so we will also. Often get told like, oh, of course, because you’re a woman, you’ll be more nurturing. No, it’s because the athletes need it and deserve it. They don’t really get it from anywhere else.
Like it’s within the, um, like the frame of my job to nurture them and help them socialize and help them speak about themselves and help them to open up. That’s definitely within the realm of our job description. It has nothing to do with being male or female or nurturing or not. It’s just most people tend to forget that because they’re down to the hard science and getting it done, and I’m.
I’m in, I’m into the whole process.
Siobhan Milner: Yeah. And I think as well, I work with development athletes too, so they’re young and, and I think often the system treats them, even though there’s so much emphasis on long-term athlete development and everything, they get treated a lot like they are the same as the elite level athletes who are already developed adults and expected to kind of rationalize and make decisions in all of.
Uh, ways that a fully developed adult is, and I’m like, Hey, their brains are still developing.
Julia Eyre: Yeah. Like you’re talking to a 14-year-old who is not gonna have a fully developed prefrontal cortex for at least 12 years. Like, what are we speaking about? And like, the level of pushing as well, I find to be totally not confounded for younger athletes as well.
We have athletes who are like 15 or 16, who have totally broken bodies and can’t play any further or don’t wanna play any further because they hate their sport, their coaches, their lives, their teammates, whatever, because. , they’ve been pushed around in a system that doesn’t actually develop. It just forces like, um, especially in football here in Europe.
I know you know how this is as well. Like as soon as you hit the switch from a development athlete to a, like a, uh, performance level athlete, you’re expected to start dishing out. And if you can’t, sucks to suck because there’s nowhere else to go. You can’t go back to like a development team, or something like that.
So, my job, I feel like is to definitely further develop the athletes who are not developed anymore, so to speak, because it’s not done when they’re 15. Just because the head coach says now you can play on a performance team. Like what are we even talking about? That’s a child. Yeah. That was my rant.
Siobhan Milner: No, I was just about to say we’re already going on the first tangent and I love it.
Julia Eyre: First, fourth, whatever. Yeah.
Siobhan Milner: Yeah, exactly. I also wanted to know, cause I know you’ve got a background in both sports. and psychology. So did you start in one of these areas first and move into the other or did you, you know, start out with a double degree?
Have you always worked in tandem in both disciplines?
Julia Eyre: So basically I have a double degree, which is nice. I studied at George Mason in the States. That’s why I have like an American-ish accent. I did my Masters in neuro sports psychology or sport neuroscience, essentially here in Germany. And so I work also as a psychologist, I guess more specifically these days as a sports psychologist.
But I also love working in neuro and development psychology period. I also lecture at the university and stuff like that. So psychology is definitely very fun and we can’t really approach sports science, especially in the practice without having a good grip on psychology or at least human behavior.
Like how do people think? How do people behave? Learning how to ask the question, why do people do that? Where does it come from? Where’s the source of that coming from? Otherwise, even as sports scientists, I feel like we very, very often, um, just treat symptoms of things. Like, to give an example, I was definitely a, I come from sports, so I, so riding sports, equestrian, I swam for a very long time and then I played soccer.
And so coming from a sports background, it was pretty clear what I was going to be doing. I started going actually the direction of theology and politics. And that switched very quickly when I realized that America is way too conservative for that shit. I won’t ever be doing that in America. No thanks.
And switched to sports science psych very quickly. And I had always, always had problems with like recovering enough and not getting these incredible, like repetitive motion injuries or just over-training injuries like shin splints, like ankle problems, like just that, uh, nagging back and knee pain and looking at that from a bio-psychosocial perspective.
We would say, okay, so it’s not just about the overtraining, it’s the lack of being able to recover. It’s other stressors in life. It’s maybe having a family who’s not supportive. It’s maybe having to work all the time and play and study stuff like that. And so running that through my brain myself was like, okay, there has to be more to this than just a training plan.
Or like the data, cuz the data was there in 2011 and 2012, but the psychological perspective on the data was not there at all. It was just the internal load. How are you feeling? How many hours a night did you sleep? Not. How are you actually doing? How is everything else? So that’s when I started to crack into this.
Athletes have a whole life outside of being an athlete. That might just be like five hours of their day and the day is 24 hours long. What are we missing by not taking a psychological look at the data or at our science? Um, so for me it’s like the balancing act, the checks and balances of you got the one and then the other.
Make sure you don’t go completely off the deep end with the other one and vice versa. I find it to be really important.
Siobhan Milner: What then inspired the slogan for your business? Kind of seeing that, uh, athletes weren’t being cared for, uh, in that regard?
Julia Eyre: Definitely. The slogan used to be different. The slogan used to be, leave it better than You found it.
And then I decided I was old enough to not be politically correct anymore and just start taking shots at the sports system. And that’s specifically meant for the sports system, unfortunately, which commoditizes athletes really fast and really young, like you said, with developmental athletes as well. We have eight-year-olds striving across Germany in order to play professionally.
Tournaments like this..this is a child, like what are we talking about? And realizing, after 10 years of practice as well, that a healthy and happy athlete is going to be able to play for much longer than an unhappy, unhealthy athlete because they love what they’re doing. They’re having fun, they’re learning along the way.
They’re invested, they’re even able to invest cuz they have the resources to invest. As opposed to an athlete who isn’t happy and healthy and just performing for the sake of performing. That athlete’s going to quit a lot sooner than somebody. Healthy and happy. So if I can be the voice and advocate for the healthy, happy athlete and put them first over the performance, the performance will come.
I’ve never seen it not come and show up, unfortunately. That also means we’re having a slogan like that, that uh, I get a lot of beef and grief from clubs and federations where it is about like data and performance and money and power. Because at the end of the day, that’s what sports are. , but it’s totally worth it for me to like sacrifice any connection to people, clubs, federations, or athletes who can’t put health before anything because they’re also gonna have a life after sports.
And that was really important for me to understand.
Siobhan Milner: And I feel like, yeah, having, so Julia’s slogan is we put healthy athletes over everything, period. So I feel like it’s also. This thing. I mean, this is kind of just from a business perspective, but when you’re really clear on that, you’re also gonna draw the right kind of people to you who, who would work with you, you know?
Julia Eyre: Totally, a hundred percent. And I want athletes who are motivated as well and want to learn and want to develop and want to get better and aren’t just a hundred percent like. , my data says this, my performance says this. You have to trust a process as well. The process of development is long and rocky.
And I’ll never forget, I always tell my athletes that it’s rented space on top of the mountain. Once you get up there and that’s your peak, somebody is coming right behind you to rent out the space after you and push you back down. So, if you can see it as rented space and enjoy the time when you’re up there.
You can also learn to enjoy the time going back down the mountain in the valley and working your way back up because it is a long process and it’s rocky. But if you’re happy and healthy while doing it, you’re not going to have the extreme issues of my whole worth as a person hanging on my performance
So if I’m not at the top of the mountain, then I suck and everything is terrible. I just got sick of seeing athletes, especially my own athletes, suffering like that. So that’s my job.
Siobhan Milner: So I’m thinking, I’m thinking of certain athletes and also sometimes my own tendencies when it comes to being at the top of the mountain for anything or getting there and wanting to stay there.
What tips do you give to athletes to be able to maybe be a little bit more flexible in their mentality around those things?
Julia Eyre: It depends on what you define as the top of the mountain. If it’s only like peak everything success, like the best performance of your life, you’re gonna have a really hard time with that.
So like defining what a mountaintop is for yourself is really important. Obviously, as a psychologist, the first thing people think of is that you set goals and you do motivation. Yes, unfortunately, but that’s like the minimum of what we do for the job, right? Everything else is way more exciting. But when we say, okay, your goal is the mountain.
Don’t forget that there are also smaller mountain tops in the middle as well that take you on your way there, and you’ll have to come back down from those as well. But they’re helping you work up to that one. You’re not just in the valley alone. Shadow of death by yourself the whole time. Right? So clarifying things like where have you invested tons of effort, like where have you put skin in the game and where have you noticed a difference?
Where have you made noticeable progress? Have your lifts gone up? Are you getting faster? Are you sleeping better? And then we can talk about successes that lead. that one big success, like the small steps that you need in order to get to, I don’t know. Um, currently I have a lot of athletes who wanna be starters on their collegiate teams or on their national teams, and we say, okay, so if that’s the mountaintop moment for you is that you wanna start with your team, let’s look at every single minute that you get on the pitch or whatever your sport is.
That you didn’t start, but you still got minutes in the game like you got substituted or you did incredible in trading and really showed out. All of those things pay off and all of those are little mountain tops on top. It’s not the peak, not Everest, but it definitely peaks on the way, and that keeps motivation up.
It helps them also recognize I’m making progress. It doesn’t have to just be this one huge jump. It will never be that way, and there’s no such thing as ‘overnight success’, right? You make the cl, the little steps, and the little climbs, and so that definitely helps, especially if it’s a goal over an Olympic cycle, which also happens that, I know you know this as well, or every two years with World Cups or four years, whatever it may be, that’s a long time to hold motivation
And so we cannot do that, so we have to look for the smaller peaks as well, and enjoy the time there and celebrate those just as much as we celebrate the mountaintop.
Siobhan Milner: In some of the countries that I’ve worked in, sports psychologists are not really a thing.
Julia Eyre: Also the countries I work in. Amazing how that works.
Siobhan Milner: Yeah, which is kind of wild for me, coming actually from New Zealand originally, and then I worked in Canada for a while. It actually took me a while to realize this wasn’t the case. So some organizations just don’t really have embedded sports psychologists or even mental skills trainers.
I’m thinking both from the perspective. Kind of prevention because, you know, in, in other systems, like you would have access to a sports psychologist regularly, but also just general maintenance and, and maybe optimizing the questions, getting really big, proactive. What tips would you give to athletes themselves who maybe don’t have access to someone all the time to kind of keep themselves in a better mental condition.
Julia Eyre: Let’s break it down into three parts.
Siobhan Milner: Yeah, I know. So many questions.
Julia Eyre: But don’t let me forget, right. Like I said, I’m a psychologist. I know how to talk. The first one is the clubs and federations and finances. The second is for athletes and the third is for coaches. Okay, so the first one, it’s incredible that they don’t have.
We have to con, I mean, it’s incredible that they don’t have psychologists in the year 2020, the year of our Lord. Like we could all scream, especially here in Germany, where it’s like, uh, a requirement for some like teams in the second league and above, um, in football, for example, and also the national teams and stuff like that.
Fantastic. I love that. And even those clubs that we know to have billions of dollars hanging around, that they get pushed from the government and then for fans and everything, they still fight us on saying, oh, I don’t wanna have a sports psychologist. How about a psychology student? Does that count? And it’s like, no, it doesn’t count.
Like, this is not like an alibi situation. You don’t get to pretend. On the other hand, we’re now starting to notice that federations and clubs. That used to have sports psychologists now might still have them but cannot pay them to be present with inflation and all of this stuff. Because when we look at like for example, training camps, I can take two more athletes or I can take the psychologist.
They’re probably gonna take two more athletes because this is sports and psychology is still underrated and not super. Some people, especially the old guard, tend to think of it still as woo-woo. Some people still tend to think of it as mental. and other people just genuinely don’t want to be bothered by the psychologist.
Like a head coach sometimes simply doesn’t want to be bothered by the psychologist. That’s unfortunate. But if we’ve got one there, Excellent. We just gotta figure out how to pay them now with this whole inflammation situation. Um, because there are starting to be enough sports psychologists where why doesn’t every club in the federation have one?
Basically, like you’re saying, and even school, like in America, the universities, there was one sports psychologist for two teams only at the university that I was at, and she did not serve any of the teams that I worked with or the ones I was on. . So if you’ve got what Oly 18 Olympic Sports plus men and women, that’s 36 plus teams that don’t have a sports psychologist except two of them.
That’s just. Pure understaffing and laziness in a lot of um, situations as far as the athletes are concerned. The big things for the athletes that I like to point out are, please do something besides your sport. Regardless of how old you are, you’re going to have a life outside of sports. You’re gonna have a life after sport, and you had a life before sport.
So who are you without sports? Go ahead and figure that out. Figure out what you like. What kind of music do you enjoy? Listening to what kind of person you are. Who do you enjoy hanging out with? How do you experience love? How do you experience affection? How do you feel good? Like, what makes you feel good?
Is it taking care of other people? Is it, uh, hanging out with your friend? What just gives you the feeling of feeling good without having to do something, like, without having to perform something? Like, what is it? That’s that just. Gives you those good internal feelings, please create other hobbies.
You know, please don’t let sports be the only pillar that holds up your self-worth and esteem. So helping them kind of discover those things. And then the second part, majorly for me is the recovery. And regeneration. Cuz that’s what we do a lot of. Please go to sleep. Sleep eight to nine hours a night. And I don’t mean just like weeknights, you can do five and on weekends you can do nine and get away with it.
That’s not how an athlete can be efficiently recovered. Have a routine that works for you. It doesn’t matter if it’s a placebo or not, or if there are placebo elements or not. As long as it works for you and improves your performance. I don’t care if you do compression. I don’t care if you do reboots. I don’t care if you get a massage.
I don’t care if you do neuro athletic training. It doesn’t matter. Do what is good for you? And that will boost your well-being and having a social life or other hobbies outside of sport and an improved self-worth, and being able to recover well definitely takes care of a lot of my mental health concerns, so if somebody doesn’t have a sports psychologist, those are the few first few things that I definitely recommend trying out for the coaches.
You guys get to be our frontline sports psychologist because you guys are in the, uh, massage rooms. You’re in the physio rooms, you’re. The gym with them, you’re on the pitch with them. You see them at the highs and lows. So you have experience with these people as people, right? Because they let their emotions out, they need to talk, they need support.
Now, when coaches see that an athlete might need professional support, it’s a really great idea that they have like one or two references in their back pocket to say, you might need to talk to somebody. Here’s somebody’s number. Why don’t you just write to her or call her or send her an email, something like that, and then hand them off to us?
And then that coaches also develop their own. as frontline psychologists, let’s put it that way, of like active listening, asking good questions, being genuinely interested in your athletes and not just somehow interested in their performance. What are you bringing me today? Let’s only talk about sports, but like how’s your day going?
What’s stressing you out so much? How’s school going? These people have so many dimensions of their lives and we don’t often take that into consideration. And so it’s important that coaches know also what other stressors are out there. And then like the smaller things like. Fear of failure or, um, stress before a match or competition, that those things come up super duper often.
And we can, as coaches also have an impact on that and teach smaller mental skills, like implementing deep breathing with a team or setting up a pre-performance routine with the whole team where we say we all do the warmup together. Then everybody has their five minutes of time to do whatever they need to do to get into the zone.
And then we do something together at the end to prepare. Get the teamwork feelings going, and then we start the match together. And that can help to regulate the whole team and allow them to have their time to regulate themselves, but then also get into this, we’re ready. Let’s do this mentality. Or like I said, deep breathing is a huge one that is massively impactful that I sometimes feel like it’s a waste of people’s money to pay me to talk about deep breathing because it is so quick and it’s just the body’s natural physiological brake pedal.
And so even coaches to be able to teach that and be like, okay, five deep breaths, and through the nose, out through the. Simple box breathing will help you. For people who don’t have sports psychologists, shame on you. . No, I’m just kidding. There’s plenty of, there’s plenty of resources to still be able to work on mental health and well-being without having a sports psychologist, but we do make it so much easier.
Siobhan Milner: one of the things that you mentioned, one of the reasons there’s resistance to embedding sports psychologists is because it’s viewed as something only for mental illness. I feel like there’s such a big stigma against mental illness in sports, and the thing is, there are a lot of successful people out there who have a mental illness, but they might not be broadcasting it cause of the stigma.
Julia Eyre: It’s so sad that it’s still about mental illness because especially because sports psychologists cannot treat mental illness. We’re not therapists. Um, there’s some that have gone on to do like a therapy, like advanced education or become therapists in combination. We’re sports psychologists, so we can basically go, we can do some levels of C B T, like cognitive behavioral therapy, but not in a clinical therapeutic sense.
We can help you. Reframe your thoughts and better understand your feelings. Definitely. But we are not therapists in any clinical sense to be treating illness. We’re a hundred percent focused on wellness. A hundred percent. Which is the one side where you just think like, okay, mental illness, it actually has nothing to do with that.
Sports psychology should be, in the best case, a hundred percent proactive in the sense of, okay, I know that I struggle with performance anxiety, or I know that I struggle with my motivation after the Olympics, which is totally normal, by the way, to have a performance or motivation drop after a huge success or a huge tournament because recovery and two, These things aren’t supposed to stay high forever.
You’re not supposed to be a hundred percent fully motivated for the entire four years or 15 years that you play or 25 years. I don’t know. That’s not how life works. So we’re pretty much proactive in the sense of we hate doing damage control and when you only come to us after having like a major loss and you need to be put back together, we probably, yes, we can do that.
In the best case, we do that with a therapist together, like an actual clinical therapist and we as sports psych. Can then like accompany you to a session or work in tandem with your therapist in the extent that athletes want us to do that. But for the most part, we’d love to work proactively. Like here’s a bunch of skills for every situation you could possibly be in.
So at any time, you are like insecure or unsure what you should be doing, you have so many skills that you can just like pull out of your belt and know how to use and that we’ve practiced and practiced and practiced before a big event. So, When the critical moment comes, you know what to do and how to execute.
So in the best-case scenario, we work proactively and it is still sad that we obviously carry this whole stigma behind us. But, I don’t see that changing if I’m being totally honest with you. I think the acceptance is coming slowly because we see people who struggle with mental illness like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, and the list goes on and on, and.
A list of people that we will never know their names that have happened, that this has happened to as well. I think we learned from those people, but we don’t learn enough to be like, oh yeah, sports psychology is just proactive. It has nothing to do with mental illness. I think we just have to accept it at this point if I’m being totally honest.
Siobhan Milner: I think the one thing that gives me hope actually, is seeing my young athletes in the discussions that we have around these things. When I speak to the older athletes, it’s crazy cuz there’s not that much of an age difference, but sometimes it feels like a huge generational gap. Oh. I don’t know, just the discussions we had even around the last Olympics, speaking about trans athletes speaking about mental illness, all of these things where some of the older athletes would’ve really fixed rigid ideas.
I felt like the younger generation, they are. So much more open and that really gave me hope. So I’m crossing my fingers.
Julia Eyre: I’m totally crossing my fingers as well. The truth is, unfortunately, we also need clinical sports psychologists, so, eventually, we will have to attack this whole concept of is it about mental health?
Sorry, high-performance atmospheres are not acceptable for mental health. It’s very difficult to main maintain mental and physical health when you are. That much pressure over 4, 10, 20 years. And so a lot of them tend to have breakdowns at some point. And we need to have a sports psychologist, best case scenario, in the position to like accompany you through the lifespan of your career.
Career, so to say. and that we have then a network of clinicians, practitioners, coaches, other people who can help you, and then when you need something, then we’re able to be like, here’s the clinical psychologist. Let’s go work with them. Here’s the sports head coach. Let’s go work with them. Let’s go talk to your doctor.
Let’s go. So that we just work at a huge network interdisciplinarily, just like we as sports scientists do. It would be great if we, as sports psychologists, could also be so thoroughly embedded in that team. It’s not there yet, but I have.
Siobhan Milner: We’ve kind of, we’ve talked about some of the things that we can do to help athletes be proactive with their mental health, but you’ve also talked, um, in your TED Talk online and, and some of what we’ve covered today about how this professional sports system can really kind of chew athletes up and spit them out.
What do you think we can do to start tackling this as coaching staff and organizations?
Julia Eyre: I have to take a second to think about that. . The whole thing about chewing up and spinning out is so interesting to me because I’m somebody who firmly believes in reparations after athletes retire. Like to me, it’s not enough that they get paid X amount.
Like if we look at female, um, soccer players who make an X to nothing, for example, in Europe. For their whole careers, bring in a ton of trophies, make the federations a ton of money, and then as soon as they’re injured, they get thrown out of the national squad and it’s like, okay, bye. It’s like, okay. So I sacrificed my body and mental health for you.
Why exactly? like literally chewed up and spit back out. So I advocate very, very strongly that even after their active careers, they should be able to have access to sports scientists and sports psychologists for a while. And even like the sports doctor as they get on. Way after retirement. So that’s one thing I’m very big on, uh, Siobhan.
How many people I’ve helped just leave sports because they come to me as a psychologist and they’re like, I hate this and I only do it because my parents want me to, or because my coach really likes me and I feel like I’m indebted to them in some way. And then they allow themselves to be shot into the system that uses them up completely and spits them out empty as soon as they can’t provide or perform.
You know, in America, they let that happen everywhere, but everywhere else in the world, like we look at that and we’re like, oh, disgusting in any other, uh, industry besides sports, right? It’s just simply not accept acceptable. And so having sports psychologists on staff, having qualified sports scientists on staff, actually having a qualified staff who can take care of these players during their careers and then after their career is for.
So incredibly important. And then also that the head coaches, physical therapists, doctors, and even like sporting directors and clubs, that they remember that this is a person who will also, even though it won’t make you money after their career, they will have a life of probably 70, 60, 50 years after they leave sports.
And this is a very small piece. So are you setting them up for the better, to be a good citizen when they go out into the world to be healthy and happy and continue to be like I used to play. Or whatever, and I’m really healthy and having a great life, and now I’m an ambassador for the sport of the system or whatever.
Or are you breaking them down so badly that they’re going to go out, cuss your name, drag them through the mud and curse you for the rest of their lives because, uh, they can’t walk, or they have so many concussions that they only live in 10 years, or, you know, are so mentally unwell that they have to go into clinical programs?
The stories I have worked with are ac actually, um, they move me so deeply and that’s why I’m so passionate about this that we need during, but also after their career, we need them to have a high level of care. We cannot expect a high level of performance and everybody else make money off their backs of ha turning people into products, uh, without also, Giving them funding, paying them adequately, and then giving them the facilities and the personnel and the care that they deserve.
Like, you just can’t, we don’t even do that to racehorses. We treat racehorses better than we treat people in most sports. So in my TED talk, I talked about this, uh, performance pyramid. Yeah. About. What a human being slash athlete looks like, where at the very bottom layer, which is the widest and the longest, it’s the foundation is the human being that’s multifaceted.
They have hopes and dreams and social life, and parents hopefully, and friends and education and whatever. And that’s the whole history of a person at that level. And then we have the athlete, and that’s our job, right? The sports scientists. We train the athlete to be athletic and diverse and adaptable and flexible.
And so for whatever situation they’re. They’re prepared for that physiologically. Then on top of that, we have the sport-specific player where, um, for you in speed skating, they gotta know how to skate. For me in soccer, they gotta know how to put their foot on the ball, right? So technically and tactically, those skills are then learned at the very top of the pyramid, but that’s also the smallest part.
It’s also where most systems concentrate a hundred percent on instead of investing in the. , instead of investigating the human, my takeaway is to invest in the athlete. Yes. So that they can continue to be, uh, sporty or athletic and participate in sports even after their active careers, but to really spend time and resources on the person who is behind the athlete.
Because once you’ve taken all of those levels away, let’s say, Uh, the person has had so many concussions talking about the N F L, that they can’t play sports anymore. It’s not safe for them to play sports anymore or seriously damaged backs, hips, knees, and even feet. Okay. So we’re maybe not being super athletic anymore.
So now I’m just a person and if my whole life, until I was 35 years old, was only about the sports-specific player, how can that person continue to. , they have to start from the very bottom and build themselves up again. That’s not how this should be. We should be building them up through the developmental system and then helping them build themselves back down from, okay, so I’m not a volleyball player anymore, or I’m not a swimmer anymore, but I enjoy playing soccer every once in a while.
Or I like playing pickup basketball. So then you can just enjoy being athletic or you can just enjoy your life as a person instead of being a high profile or not high profile sports specific athlete. So my takeaway is always that we invest on the way up and then let them slowly break back down in their time who they wanna be, but let them have a solid foundation.
Because as soon as something happens, we never know when somebody’s gonna get injured. We never know when Corona Long Covid could knock somebody out of sports for 10 years. We don’t know. But without that foundation, what can they fall back on? They have only an athlete identity. They only have the athlete or the sport specific.
I’m a soccer player, I’m a basketball player, I’m a footballer. Um, and that’s not something that you can live with over time for the rest of your life. So my takeaway is, always pack time into the person and develop the person, and high performance will come because happy, healthy people will always be able to perform longer and better than somebody who is unhappy and only focused on their perform always.
Siobhan Milner: Would your takeaway for athletes then, as you said, finding who they are outside of sport?
Julia Eyre: Yeah. And don’t be feeling like you have to conform to things either. You know, I see in men’s soccer a lot here in Germany that there’s like, this is how footballers are, right? Like, we’re cool, we dress this way, we talk like this.
Uh, we have this kind of accent. Use this kind of slang. You don’t have to be like that if you don’t want to. What kind of person are you? , every person can be a sport-specific athlete, but what kind of person are you? Like not every sport-specific athlete needs to be the same kind of person. What kind of person are you?
What else do you like? What kind of music do you like to listen to? What people do you love? Figure out who you are so you’re not 35 and have to start from ground zero. That’s really going to be a lot harder than figuring out along the way. So take the time along the way to invest in the other side of being a person basically.
Siobhan Milner: Awesome. Thank you, Julia.
Julia Eyre: Thank you, Siobhan.
Siobhan Milner: Could you let us know where everyone can find you?
Julia Eyre: White Lion everywhere. White Lion everywhere so we don’t forget exactly. Instagram at white lion performance White Lion Performance.com And you can email me at Julia@Whitelionperformance.com. Thank you so much.
Siobhan Milner: Thanks so much for listening to today’s episode. I hope you enjoyed it. Just a reminder that you can find further podcast episodes at http://www.siobhan-milner.com/podcast, and this is where you can also find different ways of working with me. If you head to http://www.siobhan-milner.com. Enjoy!