Career Panel: Mental Skills Coach
I'm so excited about this interview! Today we are sitting down with Tonya Johnston a mental skills coach who helps riders overcome fears and hangups in the saddle. Her book, Inside Your Ride, is filled with practical tips to help you feel more confident. Read below about what her unique job is like!
TBR: What is your job title?
TJ: I have a master's degree in applied sport psychology, and I am a Mental Skills Coach.
TBR: Describe your position and your average workday.
TJ: I help riders develop their mental skills in order to be prepared, consistent and confident when they go in the ring. I have sessions with clients all over the country, Canada and Europe via FaceTime, Skype and phone. In a typical work day I may have sessions with clients, return emails, reply to Facebook and Instagram messages, work on writing projects, plan and organize my podcast tapings, book workshops with private barns and teams, write and review client notes, read magazines/articles/publications/books to stay current in equestrian sport and sport psychology, prepare for workshops or speaking engagements, talk to prospective clients on the phone and more. There is always a lot to do and each day is different depending on what is coming up in my calendar -- I love it!
TBR: What is the best part of your job?
TJ: I really adore everything about my job. I know it’s a cliché but it truly never feels like work. When I see and hear clients have an "ah-ha" moment or tell me a story from a recent show where they experienced the benefits of their mental skills I get so excited! It's fun to be on so many different teams and feel that my work spreads out into the world through such a great variety of people. Some of my favorite stories from clients revolve around them deepening their commitment to their process, and trusting that their competition results will then take care of themselves.
Also, when a client tells me they are enjoying their horses more, feeling confident and having fun it is absolutely the best!
TBR: What is the hardest/least desirable part of your job?
TJ: I am able work with clients all over world from my office which is phenomenal, but I need to get a treadmill desk - I honestly sit too much!
TBR: How many hours a week do you spend working? What is the work/life balance like?
TJ: There are weeks I work every day of the week for sure -- a blend of writing, client appointments, notes, emails, talking to parents, etc. but I think that is true for anyone that owns their own business. The great part is that I set my own schedule and so I can carve out family time and time to ride and show myself.
TBR: What advice would you give to someone wanting to do this job?
TJ: I come from a true sport psychology background, with my undergraduate degree in psychology and a master's degree in sport psychology. I really recommend getting an advanced degree that not only gets you a solid education in the field but also provides lots of supervised, applied experiences working with athletes. You want to understand the theory and research behind the performance skills you teach in order to be truly effective.
TBR: What is the range of pay for this position?
TJ: The pay range is wide because this isn't the type of job you can apply for - you have to build it from the ground up. You can expect to need a variety of income streams when you are just starting out.
TBR: What are 3 things you would want someone applying for this job to know?
TJ: Well, first of all - you can’t really apply for this job; you have to have the passion, strength and tenacity to build your business yourself. However, sport psychology has come a very long way since I started my practice in 1993. People understand that working on your mental game is essential and athletes are much more open about using mental skills coaches than they were back then. Therefore, you will find that riders are quite receptive and interested in your work which will be encouraging as you get started.
Have faith in yourself, it takes time to build your business but you can do it.
This can be hard to grasp at first but it is a positive when your clients don’t need you anymore! Your ultimate goal is to empower them to understand themselves and how they can best support their own riding goals. There is no room for ego in this profession. Never forget that it is all about your clients; it’s not about you. It can make promoting your business and marketing a bit challenging, but if you keep doing quality work people will find you.
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