Author, Cardinals’ mental trainer gets tough

BY LARRY LEVIN, PUBLISHER/CEO

Sometimes less is more. In Jason Selk’s case, that adage is particularly apropos.

Selk, the director of mental training for the St. Louis Cardinals, will speak at the Jewish Community Center’s new Staenberg Family Complex gymnasium on Monday. His book, 10-Minute Toughness, culled ideas from the best sports psychology research to create a unique and effective program to help athletes focus and achieve peak performance. Selk will sign copies of his book after the talk.

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Selk, who studied psychology at the University of Missouri, was coaching gymnastics when he went on to graduate school at UM-St. Louis. He thought at the time he would probably be a coach his entire life, and he needed an edge against coaches with far more experience than he had.

“When I was in grad school, I was searching textbooks, searching practical guides for a mental training plan so I could say to my athletes, ‘If you do this, this and this, you’ll be more mentally prepared and we’ll have an edge over people we compete against.’

“I found there was a lot of abstract info,” continued Selk. “A lot of solid research, and tremendous resources in terms of general knowledge of sports psychology and how effective it can be. But (there wasn’t) a guide for a person like me who needed, give me step one, step two, step three and if I have that the guys will be ready.”

Ten years ago, Selk figured out how to bring together the work of the major sports psychologist gurus into a concise plan that athletes could utilize in their everyday preparation.

“I can remember when I wrote the program it was all in one afternoon,” Selk said. “I was out on my deck and had literally 10 textbooks there and probably 15 of the most respected sports psychology guides. I was looking for patterns, and if you look at research the patterns are quite strong, in that everybody says the number one variable for improving performance is self- confidence.

“From there I started to focus on self-confidence. If there’s one variable for affecting overall performance, why don’t I focus on that one variable, so I started to learn as much as I could about self-confidence.”

The result was 10-Minute Toughness, a daily regimen with three essential phases — a mental workout, a goal-setting program, and a “relentless solution-focused approach.”

The mental workout, as the name suggests, takes about 10 minutes per day, with relaxation exercises sandwiching three key elements: A performance statement that increases training and competitive focus; a visualization exercise called “the personal highlight reel” and an “identity statement” that enhances confidence.

Like a high-flying gymnast nailing his landing, Selk was able to get his program almost exactly as he wanted it from the outset. His first subject was a friend in the Houston Astros organization. From there, other athletes signed on and soon Selk found himself with an ample stable of clients.

So when the Cardinals came knocking in 2006 and his schedule was already chock full, something had to give.

“The Cards get in touch with me, and I already had a full practice at 40 hours,” said Selk. “They asked for 20 hours per week so my workload goes from 40 hours a week to 60 hours a week. That was when I was trying to finish (my doctoral dissertation).

“In 2006, they win the World Series. An agent contacted me and said, ‘You need to write a book now.’ My mother said, ‘You need to finish your dissertation now.’ The agent said, ‘This is what someone will pay you.'”

The Cardinals work entails sessions with both major and minor leaguers. At spring training, Selk presents a session on each of the three phases of his plan. The team assigns Selk to work with a group of premier prospects, and makes him available to major leaguers who choose to avail themselves of his services.

The Cardinals were Selk’s first corporate client, and since landing that gig, he has both continued his private practice and has been retained by corporate clients both in and outside the sports world for consultation and speaking.

The appeal of Selk’s system, he says, is universal.

“The research suggests this helps everybody. I would be hard pressed to find somebody it couldn’t help. But I don’t see value in cramming it down people’s throat. When I work with people I say, ‘This is my plan, if you can come up with a better plan that works, that is good with me.’ But this is based in science, and I’ve spent a lot of time making sure that this stuff works.”

More information about Jason Selk, his program and his company, Enhanced Performance, Inc., can be found at www.tenminutetoughness.com.

Jason Selk

WHAT: Discussion and book signing of 10-Minute Toughness

WHEN: 6:30 p.m., Monday, May 11

WHERE: The JCC’s Staenberg Family Complex, 2 Millstone Campus Drive

HOW MUCH: Free, but reservations are required

MORE INFO: Refreshments will be served during the book signing immediately following the presentation. For reservations, contact Sue Perez at 314-442-3132 or [email protected] For more information, visit www.newjstl.com or call 314- 432-5700.