Jason Selk, an unfamiliar name to even the most avid Cardinals fans, works with players on another very important part of their game.
Without fanfare, a new position appeared in the Cardinals medical roster prior to the 2006 season, Director of Sport Psychology. The man named to the job was Selk, a 39-year-old St. Louis resident who also runs Enhanced Performance, Inc., a sport psychology and business consulting firm.
In late 2008, Selk's book was published. "10-Minute Toughness – The Mental-Training Program for Winning Before the Game Begins" outlines his program to help athletes improve their self-confidence and is illustrated with examples from among the numerous NFL and MLB players, coaches and Olympians with whom he has worked.
Selk is rightfully proud of his work. Though "10-Minute Toughness" has not yet cracked the New York Times best-seller list for hardcover advice books, the author sees his time is coming. "I think the prediction is that it is going to be the best-selling sports psychology book of all time," Selk explained. "It has done really well in the year and a half that it has been out."
I read Selk's book during the winter months and made a note to contact him even before the return of Mark McGwire, the Cardinals new hitting coach who touts visualization. In the following interview, Jason graciously covered a wide variety of topics including his methods, their applications to athletes including Cardinals players and his interaction with the coaching staff.
An outline of our discussion and selected quotes follow, but to hear the entire audio interview, you need to be a subscriber to The Cardinal Nation. If you are not already, why not take advantage of our seven-day free trial and get started now?
In the first segment of the interview, Selk describes his background and how he became a sport psychology consultant. He reveals how he created his program, and offers a look into its three phases - the daily mental workout, what goes into an effective goal-setting program and a relentless solution-focused approach.
Selk closed part one with this summary. "You're going to put yourself in a position to be in control of the thoughts in your head and if we can learn to be in control of the thoughts in our head, we are certainly going to have an advantage over controlling the way we feel and the way we perform."
Part 1 (6:45)
Next, Jason explains how he joined the Cardinals organization and how players either enter his program or are encouraged to participate.
"We've done it both ways," Selk explained. "The Cardinals at times have said ‘Hey, let's pick certain players that we want you to work with.' And there are other times when I go down and present to the whole team."
We discuss the type of players that join his program and the fact that those with off-field problems are treated separately through MLB's Employee Assistance Program. Selk notes its importance. "Usually it is very difficult if you are having off-the-field issues to not have them go on the field with you."
Selk describes how he introduces "10-MT" to major and minor league players each spring through a series of three one-to-two hour presentations covering each of the three phases. He then explains how he works with players during the season to maintain progress.
"Typically, I go down and spend a week and teach the players the program and throughout the season, I spend an hour a week with them or once every two weeks, making sure that everything is going the way it should," Selk said. "If they have any issues they do want to discuss, then I will be there for them."
Part 2 (8:50)
In the third segment, we look at the differences in training those who participate in individual versus team sports and the role of coaches in the latter. Specifically, we discuss how Selk's role complements that of pitching coach Dave Duncan and how he expects to work with the team's new hitting coach when he arrives in Florida soon for his fifth year with the team.
"I haven't yet had a chance to sit down with Mark (McGwire) but I am hopeful that I will do that," Selk said. "I think that what I will be able to do is compliment what he is doing. I would guess that he and I are going to be on the same page.
"I think it was last year when I went to spring training and Coach Duncan pulled me aside. I didn't know what he was going to say. He said, ‘I read your book.' I didn't know with a terrific coach like that what his thoughts were going to be. It was one of the greatest compliments that I had – that he really liked it. It was a lot of the things he was already teaching.
"I hope much of what happens with Mark McGwire is like where I am with Dave Duncan. I am here to make sure I am helping those coaches get what they need from their players," Selk concluded.
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