One aspect of athletic competition that often gets overlooked in training is mental preparation.

Through her time as a head swimming coach, Ashley Eckermann, owner of Maximize the Mind in Cypress, got a firsthand look at how important the psychological side for athletes can be, which is why she launched her own business.

“I teach athletes how to manage emotions in a high-pressure situation,” Eckermann said.

Eckermann is a mental performance coach for a variety of clients, who range from high school athletes to professionals and Olympians. She helps individuals overcome mental barriers to improve their execution when competing or performing.

Though each client has their own individual story, common issues that affect many athletes are fear of failure, overthinking and performance anxiety, she said.

With each athlete, Eckermann aims to establish a strong relationship with them so a level of trust can exist, which is key to helping them overcome their obstacles.

“I make sure that I’m addressing their specific concerns,” Eckermann said. “I don’t want it to be generic.”

The COVID-19 pandemic provided a unique situation for Eckermann, who has seen an increase in feelings of sadness and loneliness with the athletes who come to her for help. High school and college athletes have had senior seasons canceled. Olympians have had their opportunity at competitions delayed, and for many, their main outlet to escape from stress has also been taken away.

What Eckermann has tried to get her athletes to focus on is their mindset, which is something that may seem small but can make big differences both in sports and in life, she said. It is also something that, for the most part, can be controlled.

“Every skill I teach ... can be learned,” Eckermann said. “Confidence is learned; focus is learned; discipline is learned; how to avoid negativity is learned; and all that makes up your mental toughness.”

Eckermann’s biggest reward, though, she said comes when one of her athletes reaches back out to her and shares a story about how they were able to overcome their challenges.

“I’m just a tiny piece of their journey, but it is just a massive honor to be thought of when they achieve that success,” Eckermann said.

Maximize the Mind, 16718 House & Hahl Road, Ste. K, Cypress. 806-441-0186.