Dr. Tracy Carrington is one of the more engaging people you’re likely to meet.
A native of Fort Worth and a graduate of Fort Worth Country Day School, Tracy has pursued an impressive career path. A natural athlete, after high school Tracy cut her chops initially as an All-American and SEC champion pole vaulter at the University of Tennessee, after which she participated in the 2000 Olympic Trials. She coached pole vault for 6 years, she’s run the Boston Marathon, and as a member of Team Elevate Women’s Cycling, she has garnered such honors as 2019 USA Masters National Champion in Criterium Racing, 2019 Texas State Champion Category 2 Criterium Racing, and 2019 Texas State Champion Masters Criterium Racing. While she continues to compete in cycling, she spends most of her time helping others unlock their potential and achieve their highest aspirations.
We recently sat down with her to talk about mental skills training, achievement, and working with high performing clients during an international quarantine.
Madeworthy: How did you get started in sports psychology?
Tracy Carrington: As a collegiate athlete, and it wasn’t by choice. I was under-performing in competition, and I couldn’t understand how to fix it. I then saw first-hand how mental skills training could transform my performance, and I wanted to help others in this way. I have been doing this for over 20 years, and I still meet with my own sport psychologist because even with everything I know as a professional, as a performer it is easy to lose perspective. I find it extremely helpful having that person outside of my performance arena who can offer perspective and insight.
MW: What sorts of things do you help your clients overcome?
TC: To cover a few: effective communication – learning how to deliver your message so that people are willing to accept it; maintaining focus – learning how to keep your focus on what you want, when you want it; self-talk – understanding how the things you say to yourself influence what you see, the energy you bring to a situation, and your overall performance; stress management – learning how to manage your own and other people’s stress in high stress situations; goal setting – creating a plan and then creating a map of how to get there; dealing with set-backs and failure; and learning how to maintain confidence in the face of failure.
MW: What’s a common theme amongst your clients? Does that differ with age?
TC: Often the stress, lack of confidence, and anxiety expressed by clients can be linked to trying to control things that are outside of their control. So, a common focus is learning how to identify the controllable and developing strategies to let go of the uncontrollable.
MW: How is COVID affecting your clients?
TC: There is a great sense of loss and grieving… Much like the injured athlete who grieves the loss of their season and dreams that were suddenly ripped away from them, COVID has had a similar effect… In the beginning, many were still in shock or avoidance, saying things like, “This isn’t happening, they won’t really cancel.” Now I am beginning to see some clients moving through the grieving process, from anger to depression, and some are working through learning how to accept this new reality. I believe that how we respond to a situation is something that can be learned. The reason I pursued this line of work was to teach others coping skills to manage the many curve balls thrown our way.
MW: Do you have any advice for those who are feeling the negative effects of social isolation. How do we cope with not being able to be around friends and family?
TC: We must learn to adapt. Many clients have expressed feelings of loneliness because of not being able to connect the way they always have. But, if my 96-year-old grandmother can learn how to FaceTime, we can all get creative with how we connect.
Tracy has shared some ideas for dealing with isolation and loneliness.
- Find healthy sources of comfort. Listen to music, focus on your pet, read a good book, spend time in nature, or learn how to cook a new recipe.
- Stay Active. The type of activity isn’t what matters; there is a sense of comfort gained from action, rather than being a deer frozen in the headlights.
- Often what keeps us stagnant are our current expectations, comparison to others or our past selves, so start small. Do something that interests you. This is a great time in life to try something new.