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Youth Sports

Talese Fernbach Helping Sports Minds Stay Sharp

It has been said that the mind is a terrible thing to waste, but an unprepared mind can also waste talent, and that’s why Talese Fernbach is trying to help local athletes.

Fernbach is a Sport/Performance Psychology Consultant, Trainer and Mental Performance Coach who owns Inner Mind Fitness and works with athletes and others to break down mental barriers. She also has been hired by coaches, executives and companies to improve productivity.

“I’m all about empowering the mind and understanding how our beliefs are hurting our performance on the field or holding us back in our life,” Fernbach said. “Becoming an amazing athlete and reaching your potential is also about your life.”

Fernbach is an Arizona native who traveled the world as a McDonald Douglas contract negotiator before going back to school. She settled in Long Beach in 1988 and her three children Riley, Amanda and Reece all went to Lakewood High. Amanda still plays college soccer and Reece is a junior at Lakewood.

After taking night classes to get her masters in sports exercise psychology, Fernbach got valuable experience by working at Cal State Long Beach, Whittier High and with other local sports teams.

“I was going to be a Marriage Family Therapist but I started reading about sports performance psychology and it was just me,” Fernbach said. “I already practiced and believed in a lot of this stuff. It was just a natural fit.”

We talked to Fernbach last week about her work with local athletes…

Question: Did your job change the way you watched your own children play sports?

Answer: It absolutely did. My youngest kids benefited most from it because I needed to learn as a parent. Parents are neurotic in the world of sports and I was partially one of them with my first child. I learned and grew from the program understanding that a lot of parents live their lives vicariously through their children in sports. As parents our job is to sit back and enjoy watching our kids play their sport, and being able to let go enough to do that. That’s very hard for some parents.

Q: What’s the most common mental barrier for a high school athlete?

A: Their parents in their head and negative self talk. It’s also fear of success, not focusing on the right stuff and not having fun. The two main reasons athletes quit is burnout and not having any fun.

Q: What’s your best advice for a young athlete?

A: I think in high school it’s most important to understand your why. Why are you playing? If you don’t let anything else get in the way of that why, and if that why of playing. If you’re not doing it for yourself you’re barking up the wrong tree.

Q: How about advice for the parents?

A: I see a lot of parents wanting to jump on an athlete all the time after a game. A lot of times after an intense game athletes need to decompress. They need to process what just happened, win or lose, it doesn’t really matter. I’d say to parents to give your athlete some space after and when you do approach them ask them if they had fun, what did they learn and what can they work on. Kids know when they mess up. You don’t need to tell them what they did incorrectly.

Q: Is baseball the toughest sport mentally?

A: I love baseball because I grew up with it, but no it’s not. Baseball players are unique and they really have a passion for the sport. It’s not a fast action sport with consistent excitement. They’re there for the love of the game. Working with athletes who have that passion is amazing. They’re easy, they’re like sponges.

Q: What is the most challenging sport to work with?

A: Gymnastics, because there’s a huge danger component to it. They’re unique athletes. Gymnasts have levels of technique and skill, and with each level it becomes more dangerous. It takes a lot of different tools like breathing exercises.

Q: Is there a negative stigma around mental health?

A: There’s a distinct difference between mental illness and mental health. If I say I want someone to have a healthy mindset it’s about overcoming mental barriers like anxiety and excuses. I believe mental illness is when you require medicine. Anxiety and depression has got such a negative connotation and it shouldn’t because everyone experiences anxiety. Everyone experiences situational depression. People are so quick to label things, and when we label things we create a lot of pressure and associations that aren’t accurate.

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.