NSCA’s Coaching Podcast, Episode 89: Dr. Josiah Igono

by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and Josiah Igono, PhD, CSCS
Coaching Podcast October 2020


Josiah Igono, Director of Peak Performance for the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball (MLB) team, talks to the NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon, about what defines performance. Topics under discussion include the importance of coaching mental skills, diversifying your skillsets as a coach, and leaving a legacy.

Find Dr. Igono on Instagram: @josiahigono or Twitter: @JosiahIgono | Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs

Show Notes

“And it's a very beautiful thing to see what an athlete is going to do at that turning point. Are they going to rise, or are they going to fall? Are they going to press forward, or are they going to fold up?” 6:41

“You have to have something that no one else quite has. You have to have an insight that no one else quite has. And whatever that is for you, you have to figure that out to diversify.” 7:22

“I don't believe in giving people fish dinners if you catch my drift. I want to teach you how to fish.” 9:40

“If you can't reach an athlete's heart, you're not going to be able to read their mind. And if you can't read your mind, you're not going to be able to reach their body.” 24:15

“But those who are afraid of failing, they will not move forward, and they will not do great things. You cannot do great things without facing failure because failure is coming for you, and it's going to be a part of your story. It's going to be a part of your legacy.” 39:45


[00:00:00.61] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast, episode 89.

[00:00:04.54] I don't believe in, you know, giving people fish dinners, if you catch my drift. I want to teach you how to fish.

[00:00:11.72] This is the NSCA's Coaching Podcast, where we talk to strength and conditioning coaches about what you really need to know but probably didn't learn in school. There's strength and conditioning, and then there's everything else.

[00:00:22.46] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon. And today, we are joined by my friend, Dr. Josiah Igono, sports psychologist, strength coach, member of the Texas Rangers staff. And Josiah, welcome, man.

[00:00:39.96] It's great to be here, Eric. Thank you so much, man, for having me today.

[00:00:44.20] Yeah, man, so I think since I became the podcast host here, I've been telling you that I'm going to have you on the show. So here it is. You know, you grew up an athlete, college athlete, and then you pursued strength and conditioning.

[00:01:01.71] And then that led you to get your PhD in sports psychology, and you got that relatively recently. So congratulations on that, man. And--

[00:01:10.50] Thank you.

[00:01:11.16] And yeah, what led you down that path to really dive into strength conditioning as a career path and then expand that even further into the sports psychology ranks?

[00:01:23.64] No, absolutely. So I first off want to say that in terms of the designation of the psychologist, I did get my PhD in performance psychology, but I do not carry that designation as a psychologist for a number of reasons which we'll probably talk about today. But yeah, in terms of the question, man, you know, it was crazy because when I-- I played football.

[00:01:49.02] I was a football player. And when I got finished playing and I graduated in 2002 from college, I told myself I would never go to school again. You know what I mean?

[00:02:00.39] I'm not going to go back and get my master's or even-- a PhD was not even in the realm of possibility. I just didn't even consider that as an option. I thought I was good, and I just wanted to just continue to just live my life and do my thing.

[00:02:19.08] And I knew that I was going to be working with athletes. I knew that 100%. And as I started to progress in my field and as I started to progress in my trade craft, my mission statement became that I wanted to train athletes physically, I wanted to encourage them spiritually, and I wanted to challenge them mentally. And I wanted to do that at the very highest of levels, you know, in the professional ranks, if you will.

[00:02:43.47] And it's cool because I've been able to do that. I've been able to do that with members of the NFL. I've been able to do that in Major League Baseball. I've been able to do that at the NCAA level and otherwise.

[00:02:55.77] And you know, as far as the path, as I started matriculating forward, I started noticing some certain things, right? I started noticing that, hey, if I'm going to work with athletes, if I'm going to do this at the highest level, you know, I'm looking around the room, and you know, subconsciously, there's not a lot of people that look like me. There was not a lot of people that saw things the way I saw. And quite frankly, there would be people that wouldn't necessarily take me seriously if I didn't have certain credentialing and certain seasoning behind my name, if you will.

[00:03:30.85] And so that's why I decided to go back to school, fortify my skills, augment my trade craft, and just have something more to give to the athletic population in which I serve. So that's kind of like the two minute version of where I am. I've been in professional baseball now for almost 10 years on the Major League side here with the Rangers, with the Texas Rangers, for the last 3. And so that's the story in a nutshell, man.

[00:04:00.84] Yeah, I hear that, and it connects. And I know you and I crossed past all those years with the Rangers. And so I know your story, but it's one of those things that as strength coaches-- and we, on this podcast, we tell the story of strength coaches.

[00:04:20.07] And as strength coaches, we're always sort of pushed to the edge of really what we think we're getting into when we get into this profession, whether that be on the edge of our scope of practice, once we get out into that workplace-- and we're challenged to be the psychologists. I know we'll get to that term a little bit more, but we're challenged to be the psychologists for our athletes at times or the nutritionists or really just to be that one stop shop, whatever the athlete needs.

[00:04:54.76] And it speaks to sort of the progression of the minor leagues and in professional baseball over the last 10, 20 years and how that has advanced into more specialties. But really, your path and advancing and getting credentialed and credibility in that sports psychology field really speaks to that same journey that I think all strength coaches feel and that we all need a broad skill set, and we all need to diversify beyond sets and reps and really that basic foundational starting point that we all have. So--

[00:05:32.40] Yeah.

[00:05:33.03] You know, I hear you talk about that. And I think it connects with a lot of strength coaches. Talk about your role with the Rangers. You know, you started as a strength coach.

[00:05:44.89] I remember working with you all those years. And then all of a sudden, you sort of had your own department. And it started in the minor leagues, and it progressed up through the major leagues. And you've had just such a huge impact on that program. Talk about that role and just what you do in that peak performance role that you've created.

[00:06:06.40] Absolutely. Thank you. No, I want to go back just a hair because you said something that speaks to strength coaches and me being a strength coach in that role as well. You know, we-- when I say we, I'm talking specifically about strength coaches.

[00:06:22.45] We get a chance to see the athletes in a light that no one else does, right? We get to see athletes-- and I absolutely love this about we as strength conditioning professionals. We get a chance to see these guys and these women that we serve in the various sports at their breaking point.

[00:06:41.56] And it's a very beautiful thing to see what an athlete is going to do at that turning point. Are they going to rise, or are they going to fall? Are they going to press forward, or are they going to fold up?

[00:06:54.58] And as strength coaches, you said it. We do have to diversify. Long gone are the days of, hey, you know, I'm a CSCS, and I'm good, you know what I mean?

[00:07:05.35] Like, it's becoming very competitive. And you have to have something that makes you different. One of my mentors told me this a long time ago.

[00:07:15.49] He's a strength coach in the NFL. He said, you can't just be CSCS. You can't just be a strength coach.

[00:07:22.15] You have to have something that no one else quite has. You have to have an insight that no one else quite has. And whatever that is for you, you have to figure that out to diversify.

[00:07:30.73] So I think that's very important. And I didn't want to-- because that was such a powerful point he made. I didn't want that to go without saying.

[00:07:38.95] So in the end, in terms of my role here in the background, you know, I was a strength coach for like, what, three years? I think it was three years, and I was working with our young players the rookie league. And we needed someone to help really augment a peak performance department-- in essence, a sport and performance psychology department.

[00:07:59.17] And they knew that I had somewhat of a background in that. And you know, we started off, man, and one of the things I love is I love building things. I feel like if you build things, I believe-- I don't feel. I believe that when you build something right, it lasts a long time.

[00:08:12.56] And when we built that department, we built it around our players, our coaches. We included our coordinators. We included our scouts we included our front office. We included our entire organization.

[00:08:25.27] And it was awesome because we would have classrooms. And we would bring in-- we didn't just bring guest speakers just to bring in guest speakers. We brought in speakers from the NFL.

[00:08:33.91] We brought in Navy SEALs. We brought in businessmen. We brought in just authors, strongman, international strongmen.

[00:08:43.60] We brought in pastors, all kinds of people who would augment the message, right, of sport and performance psychology. And it was cool because they didn't say anything that deviated from our messaging. They just-- they augmented it.

[00:08:58.51] And it was cool to see the development, the excitement. And we just do it different here, man, with the Rangers. We do it completely different.

[00:09:09.17] We have fun, and it's something that we challenge each other in developing our mind, you know? Many people-- I won't go off into a tangent because I can talk about this stuff all day. But we built it up, you know.

[00:09:24.93] We started hiring other mental skills coaches and performance coaches, and we just started carrying it on and passing it off-- carrying on the message and passing it off. And you know, I don't believe in teaching people how to-- I don't believe in giving people fish dinners if you catch my drift. I want to teach you how to fish.

[00:09:46.07] I think the greatest-- that's the last thing I'll say, Eric. I think the greatest compliment that I've ever received is from an athlete a year, two, three, four, five years down the line, many of these athletes and coaches in other organizations reaching out today and saying, hey, thanks for everything that you did. Thanks for the talks that we had.

[00:10:06.88] Thanks for the classrooms that we had. Those made me better. It made me a better man. And so I think that that's the greatest honor. But yeah, man, we're still plugging away, man, and just building people, right?

[00:10:20.20] Yeah, man, and just seeing that, you know, my time with the Rangers, it truly was exactly how you described it. And I've always thought you've had just such a great way of connecting with players, staff. And at that time, it really brought a lot of unity, like you mentioned, to our staff and to the organization, connecting with people personally, professionally, as an educator, and also spiritually.

[00:10:51.50] And I thought bringing all those things together through your sessions, that was really powerful. But it was also powerful, I think, from a strength and conditioning standpoint that you're one of us. Joe, you know, you had the gold card to our staff and our weight room.

[00:11:07.70] You were part of us. And that really-- there's so much to say for strength coaches expanding into roles within an organization, leadership roles, and being impactful and just a great example of that that I got to experience. So I'm really thankful for that and knowing you all these years.

[00:11:31.73] I want to jump into the name game real quick. You sort of danced around psychologist. And I was reading an article yesterday on sort of the evolution of the sports psychology profession.

[00:11:45.00] And one of the challenges-- and I think this speaks to sports science as well and the way we describe sports science professions. You know, there's mental skills coaches. There's sports psychologists.

[00:11:59.57] There's peak performance. I never heard that until the Texas Rangers and your department, the peak performance department. So speak to what that means, peak performance, and maybe just a little bit of the distinction between different terminology out there and just bring a little clarity for us.

[00:12:19.28] Yeah, so no, absolutely. So you know, when you look at a psychologist, psychologists, even within the world of psychology, it's become almost a legal term. It's a legal term, right?

[00:12:33.89] And there's a lot of in-fighting, if you will, with the different branches and who can call themselves what and all this, that, and the other, right? So typically, a psychologist is somebody who's gone to school. They've gotten their terminal degree in either a PsyD, a PhD. They've gone through a National Board exam.

[00:12:52.40] They've gone through the different licensing through their state, their respective state, to do what it is that they need to do. Some states license or they grant licensure, if you will, for certain designations and not others. It's just-- it's a little-- it can be a little complicated.

[00:13:10.61] But typically, when you see the psychologist, that is an individual who has done those aforementioned things, right? There are different-- my background is-- my masters is in IO psychology, Industrial Organizational psychology. And my terminal degree was in performance psychology. So many people, there's a lot of arguments that ensue around that.

[00:13:38.96] I'll give you kind of like a triad, if you will, and then I'll tell you a personal story as far as kind of like my background. So if you look at the world of psychology right now-- and this is my personal opinion. This is not anyone else's.

[00:13:52.82] But I get a lot of calls from young professionals that want to get into this world. And when you look at the world of psychology, to me, there are three main branches. There are more branches, but there are three main branches.

[00:14:02.01] The first branch is the academic branch. These are the academians. These are-- they are professors.

[00:14:07.61] These are the authors. These are the individuals-- the orators, if you will-- who make our industry well-known, right? It's popularized in books. It's popularized in videos, documentaries, articles, and the like.

[00:14:21.71] These individuals are very valuable. And as a matter of fact, they're probably the more popular, if you will-- they become the more popular mainstream faces and names that many people equate psychology to or personal development to, right? And then you have the clinicians, right?

[00:14:39.32] The clinicians are usually-- they are licensed. They are psychologists. Some of them are social workers in whatever degree.

[00:14:51.92] When you talk about athletes, not all the time, but typically, these are the furthest from the athlete. These are the individuals that you go to when something is wrong, you go to and you need medication, you go to when you don't want to be seen with anybody.

[00:15:05.51] It's crazy. You know what I'm saying? Like, working in sports all these years, that's what I have seen. And again, these are just-- this is just my opinion.

[00:15:12.21] And then the third element of that triad, if you will, are the performance guys. These are the performance individuals who deal with the athlete and the coaches within the lines, right? How do you upregulate?

[00:15:23.33] How do you downregulate? How do you use progressive muscle relaxation? How do you use visualization? How do you use start stopping techniques, finding focal points, command words?

[00:15:32.66] These are the individuals who are working with the athletes in the trenches, right? They're in the food room. They're in the weight room. They're at the batting cages watching bullpens.

[00:15:43.82] These are the individuals who are around the players and who are walking with the players and who are the closest to the players, right? The athletes whom we serve. And so for us as a department, I pride ourselves in utilizing-- I think one of things that makes us special or that has made us special is that we utilize all three of these elements in everything that we do, right?

[00:16:06.02] Dr. Ken Ravizza-- he's the godfather, God rest his soul. Like, I learned from him. When I first started, I called several people to get information from, to be mentored by.

[00:16:19.46] He called me back. This guy invited me to his home in California there. I think it was Torrance, California. You know, I was going to visit a minor league team at the time.

[00:16:27.98] And he said, when you come back through, just come through the house. And I called him up. It was me and another psychology professional from West Point.

[00:16:34.91] And this guy told me everything I needed to know. He said, Josiah, I've been fighting this battle of the clinical psychology people and the performance people for years. He goes, you need to have your feet rooted on the performance side.

[00:16:48.05] If you want, go clinical. Do all this. But you have to be rooted in the performance side.

[00:16:52.05] And so when you look at peak performance, right-- and that's another thing Eric did. This is another podcast because many people, that word is thrown around by so many people. Oh, performance, performance, performance-- elite performance, high performance, perform this, perform that, performance.

[00:17:10.29] Many people throw that word around, and they don't even know how to define it. Performance is the execution-- it's the execution of a specific task or function, right? That's what performance is.

[00:17:21.98] Whether you're talking about a machine or whether you're talking about a human being or some type of instrument or what have you, performance is the execution of a specific task or function more specifically, how well, how efficient, does that machine-- how well, how efficient, does that individual, that person, execute said task or function? And so our department exists to help people perform more efficiently, right? For some individuals, it might be, hey, they don't know how to control their thoughts.

[00:18:00.86] They're thinking about too many things. For some people, they don't know how to downregulate. Their breathing is labored.

[00:18:05.63] For some individuals, it's they have a negative vocabulary. For some individuals, it might be something as simple as bad body language. I was talking with a pitcher the other day.

[00:18:14.49] I'm like, dude when you're on the mound, dude, and you're frustrated, everybody knows, and it's blood in the water, dude. You know what I'm saying? So when you talk about peak performance, this is a department that was established to increase self-awareness and augment player performance.

[00:18:31.17] And we do that through testing, assessment, and education. And as you well know, I'm big on education. We're not about fish dinners man, .

[00:18:38.06] I don't want to give you a fish dinner. I want to show you how to do it and make it your own. So that in a nutshell is the answer to that question.

[00:18:46.13] Performance psychology is obviously a very relevant topic for coaches. But in the team environment, the language associated with psychology can come across somewhat academic, and I think it really relies on the ability of the coach or professional to communicate that academic subject in a way that connects to the athlete. Joe, I want to ask you about communication structures within members of the performance team and how it relates to your role in the peak performance department.

[00:19:26.03] MLB staffs have grown a lot over the years, and peak performance, even the number of strength coaches on staffs, are a testament to that. Speak to peak performance and mental skills as part of an expanding system of coaches-- front office, strength and conditioning coaches, and other professions working with players. And how does it all fit together, and how does that communication happen?

[00:19:57.54] Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, to put it very simply, it's one of those things where by what we do within our department, it affects everything, right? The way somebody thinks is going to affect what someone says, which is going to affect what we're all paid on, and that's performance. Did we get the job done, or did we not get it done, right?

[00:20:23.22] And I think in the very beginning of our conversation, we talked about how when we established this department, it was everybody. We had our pitching coordinator. We had our hitting coordinator. We had our field coordinator.

[00:20:34.62] We had various coaches, various players, share, you know what I'm saying? Like, it was all a part of what we did. And that's the beautiful thing.

[00:20:43.32] I think when you have a department like this, it should be hand in glove with everything else, right? It should be in lockstep with everybody else. I spent a lot of time talking to our hitting coaches. I spend a lot of time talking to our pitching coach.

[00:20:58.98] I spend a lot of time talking with our manager. I spend a lot of time working with our strength and conditioning coach-- you know, the leaders, the heads, if you will-- making sure that the messaging that they want and the messaging that they stand for is being augmented and being lived out. And so I think it's very important. You know, the psychology of anything is the key to everything, right?

[00:21:25.47] How do you go about your thought process as a hitter? How do you go about your thought process as a pitcher? How do you go about your thought process as a coach? Fill in the blank.

[00:21:36.84] And for me, I think there's a fine line-- and I'll say this. There is a fine line in my position as you well know-- you've worked in professional sports for years-- between being a resource and being a practitioner. There's a fine line because at the end of the day, we're dealing with professional athletes, and they were really good before we even knew who they were, before we even got the honor to work with them.

[00:21:59.56] And so you want to be a resource and say, hey, you know, I have this, that, and the third for you if you want it. But at the same time, right, if you see somebody who needs a little bit more of this or you need to suggest this, then you walk that line, and you meet them halfway. But yeah, again, I believe that the psychology of anything is the key to everything.

[00:22:27.25] Talk to strength coaches for a second and just say, you know, you have all this training now in performance psychology, and you work hard to connect with players. And that is such a big emphasis when you-- in all of our education events right now, it's all about connecting. It's all about connecting and communicating with players. From your role in peak performance, what do strength coaches need to watch out for? What do we need to know to be most effective in working with athletes on a daily basis?

[00:23:05.90] Absolutely. That's a great question. Three words-- heart, mind, body. It's heart, mind, body, you know? At the end of the day, everybody wants to talk about performance, right, which is bodily.

[00:23:24.47] It's a bodily-- it's a manifestation of bodily functions, whether that's throwing a strike, whether that's sinking free throws, whether that's blowing a lineman off the line for a block. Everybody wants to talk about performance, the end goal, right?

[00:23:41.65] We always want to talk about the numbers. What's your ERA? What's the launch angle?

[00:23:47.77] What's your free throw percentage? You know, what's your third down conversion rate? Everybody wants to talk about that stuff.

[00:23:55.03] It's glittery. It's shiny. It looks great, right?

[00:23:59.02] But we fail to talk about the hardest things to talk about, which starts from the heart. One of my mentors a long time ago and a great friend today, Chuck Howard, he says, hey, man. If you can't reach an athlete's heart, you're not going to be able to read their mind.

[00:24:20.70] And if you can't read your mind, you're not going to be able to reach their body. So when you're training an athlete-- and this is true even on the psychological front as well. If I can't connect with that individual's heart, if I am not resonating with what he's going through as a player, what she's going through as a player, if I don't care about some of the issues that many of our athletes are facing now with the current state of affairs, you know, whether it's politically, socially, what have you, if I can't resonate and I can't speak to their heart, right, the X's and O's, the techniques, right, the game planning, the facts, the data-- that stuff doesn't register in my mind.

[00:25:11.59] It doesn't register in their mind. And if it doesn't register in their mind, then it's not going to register in performance. It becomes robotic.

[00:25:17.47] It becomes transactional. And that's not what you want. If you want to be a person of impact, if you want to be a strength coach who has impact, your relationship with your players, with your other coaches, cannot be transactional.

[00:25:34.97] It starts with the heart. What's important to this athlete? What pisses this athlete off?

[00:25:41.15] What excites this athlete? What concerns does this athlete have? When I can find out what that is and I can resonate at the heart level, then all of a sudden, that athletes going to open up his or her mind when I speak.

[00:25:58.83] Now I'm ready to receive what you have to say. Oh, I'm not getting deep enough on the squad. OK.

[00:26:04.81] Oh, I need to have my back in a certain position for this lift. Oh, OK. So I need to extend all the way through and triple extension.

[00:26:13.50] Oh, OK. Now the athlete can take in the hard data, right? They can take in the statistics. They can take in the sheets and the printout for why I'm not being as effective as I can be in certain situations.

[00:26:30.39] And guess what happens? Now my body can perform. So when you say, hey, how do we connect, that's the answer-- heart mind, body.

[00:26:39.98] I like that. No, I really like that, and it goes back to my Springfield College days and sort of the mantra, and it's the mind, body, spirit connection that underlies that education. And it really-- yeah, it speaks to the coaching process. It's really at the core of it.

[00:27:03.47] And I think we've come so far, you know, as a profession in recognizing that. And I don't think-- we've always been that field to just grind it out. Just, you know what?

[00:27:14.84] Make it hard on the interns. Make it hard on the young coaches. Make them pay their dues.

[00:27:20.72] And that was the same approach we took with athletes, you know? Survival of the fittest-- well, to perform at your best on a team, you need to know that the people around you and working with you truly care. And that is such a powerful stimulus for an athlete when there's a support system around them that they know everyone around them has their back.

[00:27:51.22] I want to let our listeners know that Josiah is one of our speakers this October at the personal trainers virtual conference. And we-- I say you're speaking in October. We actually already recorded it.

[00:28:05.38] This is a green screen event. We turned you into a weatherman for the day and put you on the green screen. I want to talk about perfectionism, and you related that the personal training for the conference. But this is a topic I've heard you speak on. And to me, it connects with any professional, any athlete that is truly passionate about the work they do because I think at any point, you just get so dialed in, and you care, and you just want it to be-- you want your work to be perfect.

[00:28:41.98] And you speak to perfectionism, to players, to coaches, to personal trainers at this upcoming event. And share that with us. What is the perfectionism topic, and why is that relevant to our profession?

[00:28:56.80] Yeah, it's a topic that I'm very passionate about. I've shared on this topic everywhere from Taiwan to the West Coast of the United States, man. It's something that everyone deals with. I think many high level performers deal with perfectionism, you know?

[00:29:16.27] And it's a state where someone regards anything short of perfection is unacceptable, which is very detrimental, extremely detrimental to your progress, right? You know, I've seen perfectionists throw away a year's worth of work, a season's worth of work, because it wasn't good enough, because it wasn't perfect. And in this talk, we talk about some of the history behind perfectionism.

[00:29:42.43] Many people don't know this, but perfectionism was actually originally regarded as a psychological problem. And people who had-- were in need of help, rather, for anxiety, depression, actually had higher levels of perfectionism. And so we talk about what that is.

[00:30:02.14] We talk about some of the characteristics of perfectionist, some of the lies that they tell themselves. We look at some of the seminal history behind perfection or perfectionism, rather, and we go through history, and we bring it back to some palatable solutions as far as how to mitigate and/or eliminate perfectionism. And so again, it's something that many people struggle with, and I've literally had surgeons who are another form of high level performers say, hey, man.

[00:30:44.95] This stuff is exactly what we go through. Like, we go through this exact same thing as a surgeon, right? And it's so easy to be grinding as a strength coach.

[00:30:55.60] It's so easy to say, all right, I've got to have the perfect program. You know, they have to have perfect form. We've got to get-- we've got to make sure that we're getting stronger and we can measure them through our maxes and through our testing, and we got to make sure that we have X, Y, and Z in order to a place where excellence does not become good enough. And that's very dangerous. And so we talk about many of those concepts, and we actually give some palatable solutions to help eliminate that.

[00:31:28.19] So here's a question for you, Joe. You know, you throw out the term high level performers. And I think in professional baseball, power five conference sports, we can all relate that to high level performance, obviously other professions like medicine.

[00:31:46.87] But let's go towards development. You know, we both have kids. We have families. Many of us work with youth athletes. What is the role of these psychological skills that you teach, and how do you introduce that during the developmental years to better prepare athletes for when they are high level performers?

[00:32:12.73] Oh man, that's such a good question, man. You know, I was on the phone yesterday with a psychologist from Ireland. And you know, we here in the United States, we worry.

[00:32:25.91] We have this infatuation with the motivational videos, right? We love watching some motivational videos, man. And he goes, quite frankly, he goes, that doesn't work over here.

[00:32:38.15] He's like, we're a little bit more cynical over here, you know? And it's funny because when you start looking at some of these psychological concepts, you can start introducing these to children, you know? And there's so much research behind it too.

[00:32:54.89] Like, you can start researching it to children. Even in my dissertation, one of the things that I found-- and I did not publish this. I did not publish this as a part of my results because my results dealt with mental toughness in first language and then mental toughness and locus of control.

[00:33:11.92] But one of the things that was an awesome find through my research is that mental toughness, there was no statistical significance in its relationship with age, right? So you can actually-- and what that means, to put it very simply, is that you can teach these concepts, these psychological principles to young people, and they can bear fruit. They can be successful. And so the more and more we can introduce these concepts like confidence, visualization, you know, even championship body language, journaling, things like tactical breathing, all of these things, the more we can introduce these to young people, we are setting them up for success.

[00:34:04.46] And it's pretty impressive when you start looking at that. And again, that's another podcast, but there is a lot of research out there that is showing that these concepts, these principles, these mental skills can be applied to the youth and that they can bear much fruit. And we're seeing this at a professional level, right?

[00:34:30.78] You're getting results at a professional level. And the research is showing us on the completely other end of the spectrum that it's bearing fruit with young people. So these mental skills that we talk about, having people being mentally tough, these are the things that can be trained, yet we spend so little time doing so.

[00:34:50.75] Yeah, absolutely, man. I think back to a conversation we had where we were talking about our kids, and it stood out to me that talking about our sons, it's-- we got to preach confidence, you know? And that is such a powerful tool for performance, and it's such a driving force for--

[00:35:12.78] Yes.

[00:35:13.17] --you know, for kids, for young athletes, for elite performers just to be able to take that next step forward and overcome whatever setbacks, whatever failures that they've faced, whatever's causing them anxiety or stress. Go back to the beginning for you. Talk about challenges that you faced, whether it was becoming-- just getting into the field of strength and conditioning, pursuing all the way up through your PhD, even as a college athlete or as a youth athlete growing up.

[00:35:51.03] I mean, I was a college athlete, you know, and I faced my challenges as a college athlete. I played cornerback in college. I was an average to below average college football player, and I took my lumps along the way.

[00:36:11.55] I think one of the proudest moments for me professionally was when I passed my CSCS test. You know what I mean? Because I didn't do too hot the first time around. I think I missed it by I think it was a point or so.

[00:36:27.22] And I know that there's a lot of people that are probably listening to this, and they are in a similar boat who may need some encouragement. And to me, I knew that I needed this or that this was going to be a big part of who I was to become. And I knew it was the gold standard, and I took it very seriously and came up a little short the first time.

[00:36:51.57] But then I killed it the next time. And that was huge, you know? And as a professional when you start as a strength coach, you're going to mess up.

[00:37:02.88] You know, I mean you're going to mess up. You're going to give the wrong prescriptive. You know, somebody is going to get hurt underneath your care.

[00:37:12.27] Like, these things are going to happen. And just being able to bounce back and to be able to address it and say, hey, did well, do better, right? What did I do well, and what can I do better? And being able to have that kind of iterative process of development is huge.

[00:37:31.92] Even my doctoral journey, I mean, I got my butt kicked, man, for six years, you know, just mentally. You know, ironically, my dissertation is in mental toughness, and I got my butt kicked, man?

[00:37:45.33] You know, not good enough-- put this in there. Take this out. You know, when you're asked to take out a large portion of your work, your magnum , opus if you will, by somebody who's been there, done that, that stuff hurts. You know what I'm saying?

[00:38:02.22] But then you just kind of regroup and regather. So, man, I can talk about all the failures that I've had here. And I think one of the biggest things that I would just want to encourage everyone listening and the strength coaches listening is that, men, like, it's funny because when I was a-- when I got my CSCS, I always knew that I was more than a strength coach, right?

[00:38:32.91] I was a chaplain at one point. I used to do chapels for NFL football teams, Major League Baseball teams, collegiate teams, you name it. But I always saw myself as more than a chaplain. I got my PhD, right, in performance psychology. And we're talking about the designation of a psychologist and everything like that in the very beginning of his call.

[00:38:53.67] And I always saw myself as more than a sports psychology person, right? And what I want to encourage you guys in today is, man, you have a specific skill set. You have specific gifts, talents, and abilities that no one else quite like you has.

[00:39:09.42] And you are more than a designation. You are more than what somebody thinks about you. You are more than a test score or more than the school that you work at or the organization that you look for.

[00:39:23.83] And it is your responsibility to elicit and to extract everything from who you are so that you can give it to the world, you know what I'm saying, and ultimately provide for your family and leave a legacy. And so you're going to have failures along the way, you know? Failure is a part of it.

[00:39:45.36] But those who are afraid of failing, they will not move forward, and they will not do great things. You cannot do great things without facing failure because failure is coming for you, and it's going to be a part of your story. It's going to be a part of your legacy.

[00:40:02.64] But it's your job to illicit everything that is within you, to give it back, and to leave that legacy. And failure is just part of the process. It's feedback, like the late Kobe Bryant said.

[00:40:13.86] It's feedback, man. That's all it is. It's just feedback.

[00:40:16.47] All right, I got to go left this time. All right, I got to go straight this time. OK, I'm going to go right. Whatever it is, it's an iterative process.

[00:40:26.05] And I think that's the best thing I can say in terms of this topic of failure in hard times is that it is an iterative process. It's not over until you quit, and you never quit until you win. So just keep that in mind.

[00:40:45.60] Wow, man. I don't know what to say. Hard to follow up on that one-- that one's like, we could end this thing right now. That was awesome.

[00:40:55.51] That's a mic drop right there. No, so you know, we had Richard Howell of the Indianapolis Colts on a couple of weeks ago, and one thing he said was just advice to young coaches was be the best you can be in the role you have right now. And that speaks to the moment, and that speaks to that job, but it also speaks to you know what?

[00:41:19.57] That's going to lead to other opportunities. And I just love that well-rounded-- don't just be a strength coach. Be a contributor on all fronts. And I just love what you just said, man. That was awesome.

[00:41:35.32] So that's something that you carried with you from the beginning, you know? Talk about something that's changed. Like, how has your perspective, whether it be strength and conditioning or this approach towards peak performance, what's something in your perspective that's changed over your time in the field?

[00:41:55.26] You know what? That's a great question, and I think the thing that my mind goes immediately to is when you build something, build it right.

[00:42:05.11] Build it right, man, you know? Take the time on the front end to build your foundation. Dig deep, right?

[00:42:12.76] You know, when you look at the Colosseum in Rome, it took 10 years to build that thing. 10 years, right? And it still stands today.

[00:42:25.22] Why? Because it was built right. There was a lot of thought, a lot of forethought.

[00:42:31.52] There was a lot of intention. There was a lot of purpose before and during its construction. It was built right.

[00:42:40.73] Now if you want to go and build a building in downtown Dallas or Phoenix or wherever you live and you have a lot of money and you have access to a lot of capital, you can call the right people, and you can get that thing zoned and the ordinances properly adhered to, and you can get a building up in a few months. You can build that thing quick. But if you look at that Colosseum, I always loved that the word picture because it took 10 years to build that thing, man.

[00:43:12.05] But still today, it stands. And it is one of the most visited places in the world millions of people visit there-- I think it's between-- I think the last time I checked it was like between 3 to 5 million people every year, like visitors they got. And it still stands today.

[00:43:30.62] It still stands today. Don't quote me on those numbers. I think that's what it was the last time I looked it up.

[00:43:38.86] Millions of people still go in there to this day because somebody, a group of people, took the time to build it right. And when you asked about perspective and what's changed is I think it's something that has just been more fortified and more seared into my mind that you know what? If you're going to build something, build it right.

[00:44:02.98] Do it right. Complete it the whole way, right? And you said it-- well-rounded, you know?

[00:44:10.39] That's one of the reasons why I went back to school because I wanted to make sure I gave my family options, right? And you know, when you do something, build it right, you know? Be thorough.

[00:44:21.91] Think about the future. I love-- there's a term that I've used for years, and I love it. I call it building concurrently. You need to be building concurrently.

[00:44:32.32] Wow, I like that. Yeah.

[00:44:33.78] You know? So while you're in your profession, if you're like-- let's say you're a strength coach at a university and you know that you don't want to be there for the next 5 or 10 years of your life, what do you do? You build concurrently. You give everything that you have there.

[00:44:49.85] And then at the same time, you are doing your research. You're fortifying your skills. You're reading books.

[00:44:57.19] You're working on programming. You're working on, hey, if I ever got the opportunity to become a head strength coach at a Division I school or a professional sports organization or for an Olympic team, this is what I would do. You start building concurrently.

[00:45:15.61] That's what you do. You go to those seminars when you can. You watch those videos when you can. You take those notes.

[00:45:24.76] Man, I have decades worth of just journals and notebooks that I still to this day refer back to because I was taking notes during my during my time at work, you know? I can't tell you how many programs that I designed, how many things that I wrote while I had some downtime. You have to build concurrently, you know?

[00:45:50.25] And I think that that taking in with what I said prior to building it right, it goes a long way. And in doing so, you're going to have a lot of fruit on your tree when you look up in the next two, three, four or five years, you know? I think that that's very huge.

[00:46:09.78] That's really good advice for young strength coaches, and we have a lot of those that listen to this podcast. And you know, I think that is-- you know, it's interesting, Joe, and it really brings me to-- you mention a lot of the books that get popular. And you know, we talked about how fields are getting more specialized, but then this kind of brings it back to being well-rounded and building a broad foundation of skills.

[00:46:44.07] And it connects me to this-- the range concept that's out there right now which I know a lot of coaches are reading. But it really is great advice to young coaches. Be well-rounded.

[00:46:59.46] Explore all facets of the field. You just have no idea where your niche is going to be. And one thing I know, we both can probably connect with, is that in every 5 to 10 years, wherever the milestones are in your life, perspective changes.

[00:47:20.94] Things change, you know? And it really is-- we don't talk a lot about work life balance in this profession. We don't talk a lot about, like you mentioned, providing for our families.

[00:47:33.19] What does that look like? How does that work with this profession? Those are immense challenges in the strength and conditioning world, in the professional sports world, the college sports world.

[00:47:43.53] There's so many different layers to that and unique situations that coaches and practitioners face. And so I just-- a lot of takeaways from that, and I think we'll leave it right there, man. This is Dr. Josiah Igono, PhD in performance psychology.

[00:48:06.33] He's also a CSCS strength coach. He and I worked together for years with the Texas Rangers organization, just an unbelievable friend. I really value our friendship, and I really appreciate you being on the podcast today. So thank you, man.

[00:48:22.91] Hey, Eric, thank you so much for having me. It was great, and I hope we can do it again.

[00:48:27.71] Yeah, absolutely. To our listeners, thanks for tuning in, and we'd also like to thank Sorinex exercise equipment, our sponsor, for everything they do making this podcast possible. Have a great day.

[00:48:41.18] You often hear these podcasts are called at NSCA conferences and events. Why not join us at the next one? You can get all the details on upcoming events at nsca.com/events. And to all of you listening, we appreciate your support again.

[00:48:53.06] If you like the podcast, make sure you subscribe wherever you download your podcasts from. Right us a review and keep listening in. Thank you, and I look forward to talking with you all soon.

[00:49:02.19] This was the NSCA's Coaching Podcast. The National Strength and Conditioning Association was founded in 1978 by strength and conditioning coaches to share information, resources, and help advance the profession. Serving coaches for over 40 years, the NSCA is the trusted source for strength and conditioning professionals. Be sure to join us next time.

Reporting Errors: To report errors in a podcast episode requiring correction or clarification, email the editor at publications@nsca.com or write to NSCA, attn: Publications Dept., 1885 Bob Johnson Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80906. Your letter should be clearly marked as a letter of complaint. Please (a) identify in writing the precise factual errors in the published podcast episode (every false, factual assertion allegedly contained therein), (b) explain with specificity what the true facts are, and (c) include your full name and contact information.

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Eric L. McMahon, MEd, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F,*D, RSCC*E

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Eric McMahon is the Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager at the NSCA Headquarters in Colorado Springs. He joined the NSCA Staff in 2020 with ove ...

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Josiah Igono, PhD, CSCS

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Dr. Josiah Igono, PhD, CSCS recently completed his third season as Major League Director of Peak Performance, and his eighth season in the Texas Range ...

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