How Professional Athletes Gain the Mental Edge with Lani Lawrence, Psy.D., New York Giant’s Director of Wellness and Clinical Services

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Nohelani (Lani) Lawrence, Psy.D., is the Director of Wellness and Clinical Services for the New York Football Giants. Prior to joining the Giants, Dr. Lani was a clinical and sport psychologist at the University of Southern California. Her background in both sport and clinical psychology has led to a unique perspective regarding the concerns of student-athletes. At SC she provided performance enhancement training and mental health support to 21 elite NCAA Division-I teams, including men’s and women’s basketball, track & field, and swimming. She is a licensed psychologist in the State of California, and a Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology.

In 2012, she earned a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Sport Psychology from the University of Denver and went on to complete both her pre-doctoral and post-doctoral internship at USC’s Student Counseling Services. Previously, she received her Ed.M. in Counseling Psychology, with emphasis in Sport Psychology from Boston University in 2008 and B.S. in Psychology from Northeastern University in 2002.

In this episode, Lani and Cindra talk about:

  • What the best of the best do related to the mental game
  • Strategies to reduce pressure she learned from elite athletes
  • The mental game differences at the collegiate, Olympic and professional levels
  • The Giant’s response to the death of George Floyd
  • Why she is passionate about social justice issues
  • Stategies she has implemented for herself as a female of color working in professional sport
“Everyone should have a goal in mind, and I want everyone to be high achieving, but the journey to get to that goal is probably going to look at lot different to what you’re expecting.”-@DrLani_SportPsy
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“If you can take your mental, physical, emotional energy and focus it and pinpoint it on getting the most out of that day and then you can stack those days up, you start building the steps that you need towards success.”-@DrLani_SportPsy
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“Everybody has a nutritionist; everybody has an athletic trainer and everything else but not every team has a sport psychologist doing performance work.”-@DrLani_SportPsy
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“Goals are kind of like a roadmap but your values are more of like a compass.”-@DrLani_SportPsy
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Full Transcription:
Cindra: Lani thank you so much for joining us here today on the podcast, I’m so excited to talk to you this Friday morning. How is everything going there?

Lani: Everything is great. It’s a, it’s been a busy week so look by quick, but certainly glad to be able to spend Friday morning with you and be able to get together today.

Cindra: I know I’m really looking forward to our conversation. And, you know, just for people who might not be familiar with your work. Maybe just start with telling us a little bit about your passion and what you’re doing right now.
Lani: Yeah, so, um, you know, so interesting to think about different passions. I often go back to like values that are really important to me, making connections with people family travel, stuff like that.

Lani: I’ve been really passionate about, especially in my career about diversity and inclusion and Lani: Alive that has led to my work that I’m doing now with the Giants. So I’m currently the Director of wellness and clinical services for the New York football Giants. I’ve been there. Actually, today is my one-year anniversary I just wrote it down. Hey, I’ve been there for exactly a year and it’s been an interesting one, to say the least. But, um, but, yeah, an amazing organization and so happy to be a part of that club.

Cindra: Wow. Well, I look forward to hearing and talking more about your role there. And you know what, like how you, how you got that role, but also like what you’ve been doing in there and the great work you’ve been doing. So maybe just start us often tell us what led you to the field of sports psychology?

Lani: Yeah, So back in the day I got a full scholarship playing basketball. For those who haven’t met me before. I’m about six, three, I have a really long wings man and play Division one. And while I was there. My senior year. We got a sports psychologist, and he was absolutely amazing. I kind of struggled a little bit with anxiety and he was able to. It was the first time I had learned about meditation mantras. All the mental skills stuff and I ended up learning. But at that time. The team was struggling with different clinical issues like substance abuse, there’s some legal issues relational issues. And what I realized was that that there was an opportunity to impact a team beyond just being a coach that if I was able to learn a little bit more about sports psych, not only would I be able to impact a team, but I would be able to work one on one a little bit more with players, which I really enjoy and so after I graduated I was really fortunate and played overseas for a year just enough to travel around Europe and then realize I wanted to be back home. And when I came back I began a program at Boston University. They had a master’s program. And as soon as I started that program. I was like, this is it. This is, this is what I want to do. And after BU, I realized that the type of work. I wanted to included clinical work still that I was really invested in learning more, how to help support athletes and beyond just performance. And so that led me to society program at University of Denver and which is a great program and was able to match and got an internship at USC it where I stayed for about another I think eight years.

Cindra: So it was a good it was a good spot.

Lani: But that’s how I that’s how I initially really got involved and in sports psych and recognizing some of the issues that came up with my team and all the different ways that one person could positive positively impact. The way that both individuals and in the team overall can perform. So yeah, that’s how I first got started in sports psych.

Cindra: That’s, that’s beautiful. I’m thinking a lot about our stories, there’s some overlap. I’m not saying three, but played a role ran cross country and track Division one as well. And you know, I was not very consistent, I wish that I had the mental skills. Now you write that I know now I wish I but I saw sports psychologist as well. And that’s really how I got really interested in the field. I remember getting this Rick Runner’s World magazine. My mom bought me know as a Christmas present. And I would. Oh, the first article I would always turn to was like the mental training article like there’s always one right or like Kate Hayes and he was in our field. We’re calling him up he was pretty fun. So tell us a bit about the work that you do now and just how you go about doing your work?

Lani: Yeah, so, um, what’s really unique about my position is that I oversee three general areas. So one piece is player development and when you think of sports psychology mental skill training. A lot of the work that I do is embedded into those programs. So we have Ricky success training that we do, where we speak to the rookies, almost every day during OTS. Opportunities to talk to the vets during that that time period as well and then doing programming my team cohesion consulting with staff and coaches. So one aspect is performance and player development. The second piece is mental health. So helping build like the clinical referral list that I utilize with my players and coaches, but also the staff and so I provide support not only to the team. But I also do some general support to the business side as well. So, that can be a little bit busy. Um, and then the third part is helping out with draft assessment. So last year, attending the combine and reviewing prospects, there’s these things called 3030 visits, where they come to visit. And doing individual sessions with them, helping create an assessment tool that we use within the giants and providing feedback on that and being in some of the, some of those meetings so my scope is actually pretty large. And my hope is that it will continue to grow in terms of my department and retaining some help and all these three different areas, but it’s kind of like an umbrella, all those things.

Cindra: Yeah, and I could see like, given your just balancing all those three those could be positions within itself.

Lani: Like I have to feel it. So I just, I just want to make. I just want to be clear in the beginning that hopefully at some point, I’m going to get some support. And they’re like, yeah, we’re hoping that this will expand and I’m like okay I want to make sure that this, this is a huge, huge task. And so I’m looking forward to the future of what will be created, but yeah right now. It is really interesting, trying to balance all three.

Cindra: So I think one thing that’s really interesting about your work is you were at us USOC for a while right you are at University of Southern California. So you’re at the collegiate level. I know you’ve done some work with USA track and field and now at the giants. So you’ve got to see these different levels of sport. Tell us a little bit about your perception of the differences?

Lani: Yeah. So, um, what what’s been unique about my experiences that at USC. I have been there for, I think, about eight and a half years almost nine just around on and all the break, not necessarily with the USOC but with USA track and field. I’ve been able to really experience what it’s like the pressure that some of the athletes have and having instead of, you know, Super Bowl happening once a year. Having to wait every four years for that one defining moment all the time and then moving on to football level, which is a completely different type of organization than USA track and field. Um, but when it comes to performance. It’s been interesting to see how the individual athletes are different on each of those levels. So with college, I don’t know if it’s distraction. But you have collegiate athletes who developmentally are at a different level than a professional athlete, even though there’s maybe a couple of years difference between a rookie coming in and a freshman coming into college that you know peer relationships being such an important aspect in college. The pressures of academics being in college and being eligible the pressures that you get from family members from your high school team your coaches’ team to go from being one of the most successful maybe players in your high school and then taking a backseat at USC can be sometimes a challenge. In a way that with NFL players those types of distractions don’t typically happen and then with, you know, some of the USA track and field athletes that I have is, well, the contracts that you get a football is just not the same with USA track and field. And so the pressure of being able to put food on your table to be able to get a sponsorship to be able to stay focused and not overwhelmed by the pressure of trying to make an Olympic team. Each three of those different phases look really different, because of the environment, pay structure and support that those three groups have. And so there’s certainly a bit of variety in between. And I can go more into it, but I don’t know if that kind of initially answers your question.

Cindra: Yeah, that does answer my question. And I’m thinking about is, and listening to sell the pressures are different. Absolutely with all those levels but haven’t necessarily been like with USA track and field certainly see it in depth, but it’s more like I see it at the individual level. And, you know, the pressure to provide for your family or to pay your bills versus the pressure to, you know, do work at the to do well really well in school versus like when you’re on TV?

Lani: Yeah.

Cindra: Yeah. What, what do you see in terms of like the mental game and how the mental game might be different, given the different circumstances?

Lani: So I was actually surprised on the NFL level. And I can’t tell. I can’t tell if it’s because of the pandemic and guys just have more time. Like there’s less to do you know there’s you’re not socializing as much with your teammates or I can’t tell if it’s the way that are the type of players that the giants draft, but what I’ve observed is a really a willingness to learn more about how to

get that mental edge, whether it’s reading, whether it’s meeting with people, whether it’s open discussions that for the players that I know there. Anytime I suggest a book or anytime I print out information, they’re constantly wanting to gather information absorb it, learn more discuss it, talk about it in a way that really surprised me and I can’t tell. I can’t tell if on the collegiate level because you’re so overwhelmed by academics, it’s really hard to have that space and time to consume all the information you want to help with your individual performance. But that that’s one thing that actually surprised me coming in the willingness and openness to learn more. I also think with college athletes. Again, there’s so many things going on in terms of academics, you’re trying to socialize. You know, you’re, you’re at a place mature wise, where you’re where you’re trying to balance interpersonal relationships. There’s breakups going on. And so a lot of the athletes that would maybe initially come and see me wasn’t necessarily performance. They’re coming in because of a breakup a fight that they’re having with the teammate depression, anxiety disordered eating and it’s not that those things don’t occur at the other levels, but I think as you mature and get older, those issues become more stabilized and they don’t feel as urgent as they do when you’re an undergrad. And so certainly the level of maturity. The mental health issues that come about, and I’m kind of thinking as I’m talking out loud. I also believe that as you transition to becoming a professional unfortunately is so competitive. Right, if you haven’t yet been able to manage some of the mental health issues that you had in in college tell alone is not going to allow you to stay on the professional level that there’s too many people with similar talent and ability then that they’re ready to take your spot. That unfortunately you can get weeded out for lack of a better word, yeah. So again, those issues. Don’t become as a parent. Now, I think there’s some stat that one in five Americans have severe mental illness and they still think that’s, that is true. For any kind of professional level, whether it’s USA track and field or NFL. So I’m not saying that there’s no mental health issues in those levels, but I’m certainly different than why maybe somebody being self-referred in on the college level and again with, I think, USA track and field. I think the pressures and distractions. Are different than they are at the professional level and again it’s not to say that we don’t have rookies, who are struggling with pain or vets who are struggling with moving from team to like you probably know like you can be on a team for a week and then cut and then get sent like you know across the country for a tryout. And so, um, so it’s not to say that NFL players live in this utopia. It will be an environment, right, like they experienced stuff, but it’s just I think it’s different than for track and field, and especially for college athletes.

Cindra: Yeah, money as you’re talking. I’m thinking about of a rookie who I did some work with and he was struggling with some pressure from his family and it was kind of, there’s a lot of distractions with his family and because he was so distracted. You know, he wasn’t able to really show and that really short week what he could possibly could do you know, and so then he didn’t make the team because it was so cutthroat in that short amount of time. Whereas I think college athletes have a little bit more time to like show their skills and show what they can do for the team, you know, as you’re talking about Olympic athletes and just this pressure to have your one shining moment every four years, you are talking to an Olympic athlete who was expressing that kind of struggle or pressure. Well, how might you address that or, you know, what are some things that you’re, you’re, you know, in your, your perspective helps athletes deal with that?

Lani: I mean, the one thing I’ll say consistently is remaining present and that everyone
should have a goal in mind. Right. And I want everyone to be high achieving, but the journey to get to that goal. It’s probably going to look a lot different than what you’re expecting that there’s going to be unexpected obstacles challenges setbacks and everybody thinks successes, the straight line when it ebbs and flows and it’s up and down. And I think one way to combat. So those times of struggle is really being present and creating small goals for yourself. Small achievable goals that you can set forth and kind of mark your, your progress, something to kind of reflect on and the more I think an athlete can be present on maximizing their practice.
Lani: And letting each practice build into the first race or event. Yeah, maximizing as much as they can, that event and having that bill to whatever goal that they’re setting. If you can take your mental, physical, emotional energy and focus it and pinpoint on getting the most out of that day and then you can stack those days up, you start building the steps that you need towards success. I feel kind of ashamed, saying that, but I but I truly think that having the mental mindset of remaining focused is can be really helpful. I also think I don’t. This may not be appreciated as much but having a positive mindset can be really helpful and being hopeful even in times of struggle and remaining focused on what you’re trying to accomplish can be really helpful. I think one of the biggest struggles. I’ve seen as for track and field athletes. Them, having already lost the race or the event in their mind before competing before they even get to the line, they’re concerned about where they’re going to finish and instead of focusing on whether it’s getting into the blocks or feeling like the trump card in their hand or feeling the grip of the traveling you know, and thinking about execution. They’re already stepping head in the future, becoming anxious over something that hasn’t even happened yet and to me, the ones that I’ve seen the most successful are the ones that are staying present and thinking about executing that one moment.

Cindra: So I think everyone can relate to what you’re saying, you know, and that takes a lot of practice in terms of family income when you want to do really well, or it’s the Olympics or the trials right and you’re feeling a lot of the pressure and the maybe urge to think about the future alive in your perspective. What’s the best way to train that ability to stay in the present more often?

Lani: Well, you know my training. More recently, as I’ve entered my mid-career has been on mindfulness and practicing meditation and I to be honest, when I was in college, I didn’t really understand how that was helpful, I was taking a breath. I wasn’t helping fall asleep aside from that, I didn’t know how it helped improve my focus attention. Help me. Let go of negative thinking helped me come back to positive thoughts and whenever I’ve worked with a team, whether it’s been UFC, whether it’s been with us a TF or with the Giants even currently I’ve always encouraged meditation and mindfulness and really emphasizing it beyond just relaxation, that when you when you are able to practice it on a consistent basis. You would think like after a couple of weeks, you start, you start to realize how much your mind is that jumping around, and how much how distracted. You can be whether you’re in practice or watching film or reviewing video and anytime that I can get my athletes to practice participate discuss read about mindfulness. I think it’s always been extremely helpful. But the other thing I

think is really important to is consistency and not all athletes are a fan of mindfulness. I think there’s even some athletes who find it actually anxiety provoking to say, and just to just to focus on their breath. Yeah. And so whatever routine that they find consistent if they can reflect on a time that they performed well before in the past and thinking about those things that they did to get their selves into the right mindset and creating a routine that is flexible that incorporates even their values and things that prime. Their, their mind and their body physically I think it’s always helpful so staying present being positive being consistent. Those are some of the things I try to preach and, you know, create a routine.

Cindra: That’s great Lani I really like and use this for a long time. I love meditation apps on my phone. I have one that used to be called stop, breathe, think.

Lani: It has to be my favorite meditation app. I know that there’s conduct, calm. I think a lot of people like headspace and I don’t know if I’m allowed to promote are very vibrant so

Cindra: We’re just sharing what’s helpful for us.

Lani: Okay, good. So if I if I were to recommend a meditation app, I would certainly recommend it is called my life. And yes, I like it is because It literally has you check in. It has you stop, think about how you’re doing physically, mentally, emotionally and then it’s able to create or suggested meditation based on how you’re feeling in that present moment and then when you do it enough. You’re better able to notice your change of emotion, you’re better able to change, you’re better able to recognize your mood and the current state that you’re in and I think what’s even better when you’re feeling a certain way, you have a general sense of what meditation, you need to do. Like if I’m feeling down or unconfident I know that maybe a gratitude meditation or self-compassion meditation would be really helpful for me to engage in and if I’m feeling a bit anxious doing something that’s focused on my physical body like a body scan or deep breathing is really good. So I highly, if I, if there’s anything that people get on this.

Cindra: Yeah, I really I’ve never heard anybody else say that they love it as much as I do. So everyone should download it. To learn more about your transition to the giants and you know you guys have been doing such amazing work on racial justice. And so I’d love to learn more about your transition to just the giants in general and maybe how that started as you started your position there, a year ago?

Lani: Yeah, so who would have thought, you know, a year last year, if you, if you think about it, we had just heard about this coronavirus and I was in the midst of just meeting people from the football side from the business side, which was great that I had the opportunity to do so and kind of see what like what normal life looks like within the, within the club and then eventually was able to go to the combine and get that experience too, but in March when we were all set home everybody across the league had to figure out how they were going to do it as virtually and how are we going to connect with our with our rookies in our rookie program. And so, you know, the giants being an excellent organization was able to figure this out and the virtual

meetings that we’re going to have. And so we were meeting with the rookies, maybe on a daily basis and our vets are the entire team maybe on a twice a week and when everything happened with George Floyd, um,for me it was being able to communicate the importance to people within the organization of what just happened. And the response that the players would have and you know, again, I’m going to get sound tired by saying this, but the Germans are just such an organization, they immediately got it and realize that there were conversations that needed to be done and we needed to figure out how to best support, support the team. And so one of the things that the organization did was really trying to figure out how could the athletes maximize their platform and positively impact your region that we play for and so

Coach, judge who’s amazing thought of this idea called team of teams where the entire organization or sorry, the team is broken was up into seven different groups and each group represented region within the New York Metro area. So one group represented he saw her and Patterson Manhattan Queens, New York, and they were named after different New York, New Jersey teams. So I think the Islanders. It was like it was like Staten Island islanders going to go to an island, and then, you know, we have the Harlem Globetrotters we have the Manhattan. Next we have the match was represented Queens, New York devil. I mean, so the New Jersey Devils I think represented Newark etcetera and each player or each group was able to identify a nonprofit that they were going to represent and partner with and do work and for some of our players, I think, to bell peppers is from East Orange. And so he was able to choose a nonprofit in his hometown and Matt is from the Bronx. And so there was an organization that was, you know, paired with him in the Bronx, etc. and the players just went with it and did such an incredible job there was mentoring programs that they were developed meeting weekly with kids. There were partnerships with the NYPD that they would do and in their Football League, and I have to say that all this stuff is like public I’m not. And I’m not providing any insider information or anything but the success of that and it being successful because of the amount of participation that our coaches and players did and the positive response from the nonprofits in the communities and players picked you know voting registration domestic violence, homelessness like a whole wide range of different organizations in areas that they were passionate about. And so, you know, I think we, we are one of the teams that that does meal, not the entire team, but there are players who meal during the national anthem. And I think one of the things that was really important for the organizations, but I think also for the players was that they want to be able to use their platform to raise awareness around racial injustice, but also show what it looks like to make an impact. Yeah, and to use their voices, not just to bring awareness, but to bring about change. And so I’m being able to just be a small part of that team of teams piece was amazing and I ultimately think that it helped connect players with one another because you’re working with people who aren’t in your position group you’re working with coaches who are your position coach it brought cohesion, with the team. It felt like that, despite all of the negativity that was happening within the beginning of the summer and all the backlash. That the team was able to find a way to unite and feel like that they were doing something together and it was competitive, you know, for each team that there was, I won’t go into it, but each team was actually not judge that feels a little harsh but they were, you know, analyze that the work that they did and there was a prize, like, you know, once a month of who is doing the most work so the guys were competitive to get that you know that parking spot

and everything else. So for us it was just amazing to be a part of that and I’m looking forward to seeing how the team continues to work on that in the future.

Cindra: Well, a few things that I’m hearing is that it did bring the team together. Right. I’m curious to learn more about how you think it impacted just awareness of racial injustice within New York or just within the states and i think it’s easy for maybe feels, you know, just to kind of like what happened with George Floyd in the death of George Floyd, not to do anything with that as an organization, but I think it’s an incredible that something came from.You know, like the teams of this?

Lani: Teams. Yeah.
Cindra: How the organization came together.

Lani: So, um, I think it’s a two things. I think it I believe, sometimes organizations are hesitant to bring up issues they find uncomfortable and it allowed our organization to figure out how we could become better and addressing issues of racial injustice, it provided a platform for our players to really thrive and use their voice in a positive way. I think it helped even the business I connect with the players Marcus, they were able to not promote it. But just to shine light of the incredible work that the players are doing. I mean, I encourage anyone to go to giants calm and read about the stuff that they’re doing because it really was each group did such a magnificent job in their own way, but it really provided a way for the organization to figure out what more can we do in this area and recognizing what hadn’t been done in the past and some of the work that I’ve done has been hope helping create a diversity and inclusion group that really focuses on the giants organization and doing more in this area, how staff members can participate more what changes the organization can do and again, I think this is all motivated by not just wanting to say we want to see a difference. But really, walking the talk. I can’t think of anything that’s less cliché of really putting into policy changes that needs to be made really thinking about how we can better show appreciation and thoughtfulness toward diversity inclusion, like, you know, I think. I don’t know if it’s league wide, but I know like for us for celebrating Juneteenth that is a holiday for us and for a group that doesn’t get Christmas off like a Christmas is not like an official holiday that we get off right like that is hugely important and

I think it’s also about education, educating our players or coaches or staff about the experiences that people have, whether it’s racial injustice or other underrepresented groups. So for us it’s been very meaningful in terms of shining a spotlight on us in the ways that the organization can grow but also really being able to signify how changes can be made. And so I think it’s been well received within the community. I couldn’t tell you I you know, I haven’t read a newspaper article necessarily saying like groups being like, this is amazing. But I do think it’s made a positive impact and something that I hope becomes a continuing legacy of what the organization does within their region.

Cindra: Yeah, and I’m also thinking as I’m listening about how you’re helping you know to help the organization really grow in this way and you know just changing the organization which I think then you help change the world.

Lani: Right, so I mean, that’s a small piece of it. And I have to say that there was a group of dedicated employees who feel so passionate about this area and to be able to work with them, especially my first year coming in like they don’t know me from like a slice of bread with everything that’s going on but to join with other employees who really want to see change and seeing how, how can we maximize our impact. How can we be a cornerstone of what other clubs and teams can do. It’s, it’s exciting in a way that I would have never thought a year ago I would be participating in.

Cindra: So I would definitely encourage people to check out and I will also put out you know more about this Initiative, the show notes. So if you just want to scroll down as you’re listening. I’ll add some links there so you can learn more about what the giants did one of the things that a lot of people ask me, you know, it’s like, Tell me about your experience working in football, since you’re a female. I’d love to learn more about what your experiences have been. And
you know how working in this culture might be very different than maybe the college level or the Olympic level?

Lani: Yeah. You know what’s interesting, especially with USA track and field. You have men and women who are competing training lifting together 24 seven, um, you have female coaches coaching men and so there’s a dynamic there that I now appreciate more than I can realize in terms of just the equity of seeing men and women competing and in the ease of that, and especially on the college level certainly typically female athletes are utilizing counseling services at higher rate than our male athletes and while I had I got the experience to work with our football team and men’s basketball team. You know, when it comes to individual sessions, you would have a little bit of an influx of women, and especially in the Counseling Center world, the majority of professionals are women. So coming into football you know, and I had thought deeply about this and I’m in kind of knowing that it was going to be more male centric the concerns of it being more hetero sexist in an environment. I’m certainly concerned about

Lani: Maybe it being more of a homophobic environment. And for those who don’t know, I identify as a lesbian of color. And so that was extremely important to me and being in a in a safe environment and so in some ways the giants are incredibly progressive like extremely open, you know, Coach judge gave me and my partner a wedding gift, you know, and maybe they shouldn’t be unexpected but like just small things like that are so important.

Cindra: Very important.

Lani: I think we’re like, Cindy. No, I don’t think it certainly determines whether or not you know to go from USC to move across the country, even though moving closer to home. Certainly came into play about how me and my wife would be received and whether or not they would be not just even received or accepted but like, would we be appreciated and, you know, and that’s certainly the case so with the pandemic. So, and the limited amount of people who can interact with the team. Any female employees that I was working with pre pandemic were basically gone afterwards. It was me and one other individual who worked and it, I believe we’re the lone females traveling with the team being at practice being in the cafeteria. And so there’s certainly this element of being very aware of your, your gender, your presence. Yeah,

and this is within an organization that again. I feel is very progressive very welcoming, very thoughtful about the way that they incorporate women into the training room, and at the same time having concerns about whether or not my presence was valid whether or not suggestions or when I would consult with coaches staff or even players. How much that consultation or feedback or information given was appreciated viewed as knowledgeable and I think what’s constantly challenging whenever you’re maybe, I don’t know if it’s necessarily a minority but certainly as a woman, a black women, um, and a concern of whether or not an interaction that you have is maybe your own misperception and concern about how you’re being perceived versus a valid experience of what somebody’s projecting onto you and it can be very energy training.

Cindra: Yeah.

Lani: If you allow yourself to kind of constantly worry or think about whether or not your words, whether or not what you’re saying is being seen as valid and that’s certainly an experience I had to work through and really being confident in myself and my knowledge and what I bring you know I had to remind myself, you know, the giants aren’t going to make a hiring decision, just based on being nice, right, they’re not going to invest the money or bring in someone just because they you know they want to look good, or because they think that a particular hire needs to happen. They I you know I and you know I don’t know how this is going to come across three words or whoever’s listening but for me I had to remind myself of that and remind myself of the skills that I that I bring and the knowledge that I can have. Yeah, so you know, and, and I’m not to say to that maybe men don’t experience this that they don’t experience you know whether or not they’re being heard, but I do think it is that there is some truth that people may not immediately see me as knowledgeable. They may question. My role being there. The main question, how I can help them and it’s my job to educate and to be able to show and showcase what I bring so that I can be utilized and I certainly felt like that was that was done, but it was definitely. It was a hard transition. Initially, I should say hard transition. It was a transition to

be able to work through that stuff that personal stuff for me initially.

Cindra: Well, first of all, that I appreciate everything that you just said, because I have felt similar and to know that. Okay, I’m not alone. Where maybe you start overthinking interactions and write it down. That’s not helpful. You know, and I you know I was just thinking, I wanted to ask you, like, what have you done and what I’m hearing is just like, remind yourself of your knowledge, remind yourself that you are confident that you have the knowledge and education and the experiences to rely on and not be silent because hire you to be silent or to be a nice person. Right they hire really impact the organization.

Lani: I mean, the one thing I feel like I’ve been forced to grow is being confident in my voice and being outspoken. You know, I actually appreciate a lot of feedback and I reached out to players and coaches just receiving feedback about my, my first year and it just made me realize that Lani: The one thing I wanted to more this upcoming season is really just vocalizing and saying more interesting, more sharing my knowledge meeting more with individual players meeting and consult consulting with coaches nothing. I didn’t do that last year, but now there’s nothing I

have a sense of how the season goes having a year under my belt kind of seeing the dynamics and understanding what the dragons organization means with the NFL belief is doing more to reach out and connect with players and coaches and staff and that there’s a nun a vacuum. But what’s so exciting is that sport psychology has gained traction within college, but it’s still a new frontier. It feels like with the NFL and professional teams. That there’s yeah there’s information that that players and coaches don’t have yet and resources. They’re not even aware that the app. I have all my athletes. I’ve said all of them this app to have them work on. And that’s one of the things that they said has been most helpful is being able to utilize and having suggestions on which one to use and everything else. And those small things go so far because it’s knowledge, it’s, it’s an area that has been untapped everybody has a nutritionist. Everybody has an athletic trainer and everything else. But not every team has a sports psychology doing performance work right and not every team, you know, has someone who has different specialties that I feel like I bring and what I remind myself is that like he’s probably even hearing my voice like I get excited and feel more confident and want to connect. And so those are the things that I remind myself and for those who may be out or unsure about what I bring I hope that my personality my ability to connect can help educate them a little bit more, you know, and change some minds.

Cindra: Lani, what advice would you give to people who maybe do feel silenced or feel somewhat similar to what you and I just described, maybe there are a minority and you know, they might feel like they should be quiet. You know, what advice might you give them.I think this can relate to any profession, not just from in psychology?

Lani: You know, I always go back to well, two things I always go back to my values I value connection. I’ve value education um I I value, there’s certain things that are core to my personal life and career that I always make sure that I remind myself and try to exemplify. And so for me, education, even doing this podcast for me it’s educating other people about the experience of the NFL of what it means to be a sports psychologist and the work. And so you can really if you can identify your three to five values that you can always come back to whenever you’re lost somebody says to me that it really stuck goals are kind of like a roadmap, like Google Maps. You go from one point to another, you make a left turn, or whatever, but your values is more like a compass. When you’re lost, and you kind of need to put yourself in the right direction you go back to your values and that helps you make the right decision. So that’s, that’s one piece. The second piece is recognizing your uniqueness. I think what makes me great in this role is that I’m not another random dude that the guys can talk to. I like one of the reasons why I think I excel on this role is because I’m different. I have a different perspective I’ve not worked with other NFL teams I’ve worked with track and field athletes. I’ve worked with collegiate athletes and that provides me a different perspective that’s refreshing and needed for the coaches and for the players and for the staff and so whenever I feel like, wow, like I haven’t been in the league long enough to really know what’s going on. How can I really help if I don’t know like they didn’t bring me here because I was like everybody else like specifically brought me here because I provided different experience a different perspective that people can connect with me and so if you can think about what is unique about you. What is the perspective that you can bring that is lacking within your organization or within the team or the work that you’re doing. and that

feels authentic yeah that again can be your guide, something that you can come back to. That’s going to be consistently with you and help you know help you make decisions whether it’s for yourself or for the company. I think you can always you always go the right way doing that. And I have a tendency to talk a lot. But the one thing the one last thing I’ll say is that allowed me to come to this position. If I had decided to go a different route instead of training or, you know, my background was actually psychodynamic that would have taken me a different route, but because I made decisions based on things that were important to me. It’s allowed me to get to this point where I am now in a way that’s authentic where I can be my full self and that be appreciated and really welcomed.

Cindra: Lani. What a great way to end this conversation. I think everything that you just said I am taking in refining myself up, but I know who you know everyone who’s listening appreciate what you just said about authenticity and like really finding your full self and being your full self and finding your voice. So thank you so much for joining us today. I’m so grateful that you described. You know, some of the things I took from today was just the differences between college Olympic and professional athletes and the mental game. I really appreciated everything you described about the giants organization and the racial injustice work that you’re hoping to leave there and what a powerful impact that makes and then at the end about our conversation about, you know, just navigating a space that maybe you might be different in. So how can people reach out to you or follow along if they want to learn more about what you’re doing?

Lani: Yeah, so unfortunately I’m not a huge social media, personally, so I have a Twitter, but I’m barely on it. So don’t follow me on Twitter. But I do, I do actually do some stuff on Instagram. So if anybody wants to follow me there. DrLonnie_sportspsych is probably the best way to kind of see some of the stuff I’m about and you know if anybody wants to sign into my DM. That’s the way to contact me as well.

Cindra: Perfect, thank you so much Lani I’m so grateful for your time and sharing your wisdom and knowledge with us.

Lani: Well, thank you for giving me this platform to speak. I really enjoy today. Cindra: Awesome. Thank you.

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