Mind over Matter
As the Director of Sport Psychology at K-State, Connole, Ph.D., spends his time helping K-State's student-athletes, regardless of sport, perfect their game.
"While the title is Sport Psychology and I'm the Director of Sport Psychology, it's not the mental health, counseling type of psychology," Connole explained. "Sport Psychology is about performance enhancement and performance excellence. It's not about what's wrong; it's about what's right."
While Connole oversees the partnership between K-State Athletics and Kansas State University's counseling services, he said his role in working with student-athletes is strictly performance based and separate from counseling for mental health.
He helps baseball players focus before stepping up to the plate and equestrian riders stay calm before riding into the arena. He helps teams understand the importance of camaraderie and individuals understand what it takes to preform at their highest potential.
"I come in and I work with all the athletes, teams and coaches on how they can adapt mindsets, thought processes and develop consistent routines that allow them to be focused, confident and in control under pressure. Then they can, all-around, preform at their best," Connole continued. "Performance equals potential minus interference, so those ones who aren't performing well, we look at how they can get rid of that interference. For those that are, we work on finding ways to continue to push them, add new skills, and raise their potential."
Still new to the Wildcat way, Connole came to K-State in January of 2014. With a Ph.D. in Sport and Exercise Psychology from West Virginia University, Connole also has a masters in Counseling from West Virginia as well as a masters in Sports Psychology/Performance Enhancement from California State University-Fullerton. A former student-athlete, Connole played basketball at Skidmore College, which is where he said he discovered his passion for sport psychology.
Before coming to Manhattan, he most recently worked with Colgate University as a member of the college's Counseling and Psychological Services, while prior to that he helped coordinate Sport Psychology and Mental Training at Waynesburg University and the Nate Smith Basketball School.
Originally from Dixmont, Maine, he said working in the Midwest, and with K-State specifically, has been a unique experience. Yet, the things he found here are values he has held his whole life.
"One of the things about K-State that I think you hear from everyone on campus is that blue-collar mentality and the emphasis on family," he began. "They're not just buzzwords here. It would be easy to just have people on the outside think that about K-State because it's how we're marketed, but it's marketed that way because it comes directly from the actions that occur."
What really impresses him is how "family" is more than just a catchphrase. It is more than just a word on a poster; the student-athletes buy into it and really take the culture of it to heart.
"I go around and talk to the teams about identity and what makes them special, and across the board teams talk about the same things that holds them together," said Connole. "They have no idea that I just had the same conversation with another team that might look or act differently. Golf is quite a bit different than track or football, but then we have these conversations and so many of the exact same things come out. I think that's cool. It's that blue collar, hard working mindset. We might not have the most five star athletes, but because of that, they're forced to work harder and come together as a team-a family."
"I would rather work with that kind of athlete any day."
During the summer, Connole has spent extra time working with K-State's incoming freshmen and transfer students and has introduced them to the numerous ways he can be of help.
Standing before a group of new Wildcats, Connole explained what he does and why he does it.
"Sports Psychology is a science of excellence, not issues," he said as he held the athletes' attention and changed the slide. "I don't work with people who want to be mediocre."
Connole works with student-athletes who want to be great, he explained, and each and every student-athlete at K-State has the opportunity to be great by achieving personal excellence.
His next slide displayed the acronym: PACE.
"There are a lot of things in the world of college sports you have no control over, but you can always control your P.A.C.E. You can control your preparation, attitude, concentration and effort. When you focus on the controllable aspects of the game, you give yourself the best chance to be successful," he continued.
His audience of incoming K-State student-athletes nodded, agreeing with his acronym - proof of his tactics at work.
"In the end it's about making things stick that will help athletes perform at their best," Connole said in an interview after the presentation. "There's the academic part, which is the science, and then the consulting side of it is a lot of the art and how we make it stick. I try not to be boring and tell all the latest researchers statistics; I use relevant sports examples."
Passionate about his job, Connole is ready for the upcoming year of K-State sports. He is happy to be in an environment helping student-athletes preform to their max and is excited to see what the future of K-State Sport Psychology will hold.
"I love what I do and I think I have one of the greatest jobs out there," he said with a smile. "I'm doing exactly what I want to do every single day."
For even more information on Connole and K-State Sport Psychology, click here.