Hannah Thurley was a two-sport Division I collegiate athlete, playing softball and basketball for The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She later earned her Master’s degree in Sports Psychology and Motor Behavior from the University of Tennessee. Thurley joined us for a Q&A session to discuss her experiences, mental performance and her recent hiring by the Philadelphia Phillies.
CC: How have your experiences as a high-performance D1 athlete helped you in your career as a Mental Performance Coach?
HT: “I believe my experiences as a former athlete has significantly impacted my work. By being a former athlete, I have the ability to immediately identify and build a relationship with the performers I work with. There is usually nothing the performer talks about that I haven’t faced myself, or helped a teammate of mine work through. I believe that being an athlete helped set the foundation for all of my work. I understand what it means to push myself harder than I thought possible, as well as making sure I am taking care of myself from a holistic lens. This is vital as the majority of my work is based around the mental game of the performers.”
Teams continue to look for any competitive edge that can be gained. How has mental performance changed how teams train their athletes?
“Absolutely. I actually believe that the competitive edge an athlete has IS the mental aspect. I call it the “mental edge”. The higher levels the athletes climb, the closer the physical ability becomes. When looking at two players and they have the same height, speed, arm speed, bat speed, etc, what is going to set you apart? It usually comes down to who is going to be clutch under pressure. Who knows what to focus on at the right time, when they need it to most. Teams are starting to realize that the mental performance aspect is just as important as the physical training. This is why we are starting to see more and more positions open up for mental performance coaches.”
You’ve already been a part of MLB with the Pittsburgh Pirates. How are you hoping to make an impact on the Philadelphia Phillies organization?
“I am hoping to help in any way that I can. I will be based in Clearwater, FL working throughout the minor league system. I want to be another resource for the players and coaches so that we can talk through different situations and see what we need to do to get them 1% better. I am hoping to help get the players one step closer to their goals and dreams, but through the lens of mental performance.”
What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your career? How did you overcome them?
“Some of the challenges I have faced in my career is being a female and being on the beginning side of my career. I have had a few interviews with coaches and parents that question if I will be able to work in a male dominated world. I have also been questioned about my experience thus far. But, I love it. As a former athlete I embrace challenge. I love working in a male dominated world because I can show others that I can do this, and so can you. Just because I am a female doesn’t mean I cannot work in the MLB. Once I get the chance, I believe being a female can actually give me an advantage. I am easily approachable, players feel comfortable talking with my about what’s going on, and it’s a fresh perspective. I think the two most important things to remember when being challenged is to stay confident and stay enthusiastic.”
How can the everyday person apply your techniques into their daily routine?
“Mental skills are for more than just sports, they are for life! Some of the skills and techniques I work with athletes on are confidence, composure, concentration, motivation, resiliency, and enjoyment. I am constantly talking with my performers on how these skills can work on the field, but also in the classroom, on a date, with their parents or their children. When I teach mental skills, it is about so much more than just making them better athletes, it’s about making them better people. This is one of the reasons I love what I do.”
If you could offer any advice to those looking to enter this career field, what would it be?
“Get experience and take what you can get! I’ve lived in South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, New York, and now back to Florida in the last two years because I am chasing the experiences. It definitely takes sacrifices, but people want to hire people with experience. It is just like any other field; make sure you are making connections with people constantly. Lastly, don’t forget to be confident and enthusiastic!”