The Mental Masterclass: Sport Psychology and Real Life!

“What would attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” Robert Schuller

Hmmm…….well that is a thought provoking question isn’t it?  When sport psychologist Dirk Stroda first heard that quote he was fascinated. He sent out over a hundred emails to friends and clients in Canada, the US, Australia, Europe and the Middle East. Within a few days the answers came pouring in.  What did they say?

No wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. First of all I must tell you about the mental masterclass , led by Dirk Stroda, that I attended in Wellington in early February.

Dirk Stroda has been the sport psychologist for Equestrian Canada for several years now and works with  the Canadian team members in jumping, eventing and dressage. He also works with many other athletes, skaters, gymnasts, track and field, who compete at the top international levels including World Cup events and Olympics. And ,as well as athletes, he works with performers in the music industry.

Why do these people need a sport psychologist? For the same reason I need one. I’m not an Olympic athlete, far from it, but I do want to enjoy my riding and competing as much as possible and to do that I need to have my head together.  The committee in my head is the thing that can make my efforts enjoyable or a nightmare. So how does Dirk Stroda help with that?

Now, this is where the answers to the ‘what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail “ come in. A hundred or more people responded, people from all walks of life and professions, and their answers all fell into seven categories. Just seven categories. Here are the categories and a sampling of responses.

  1. Physical: I would get into better physical fitness. I would lose weight. I would get my physical problems sorted out.
  2. Spiritual: I would have more spiritual awareness. I would strengthen my faith. I would explore the meaning of life.
  3. Emotional: I would get rid of stress in my life. I would learn how to control my negative emotions. I would recover from a huge emotional loss in my life.
  4. Relationships: I would build  good relationships with my family. I would mend the relationship with my spouse. I would have a good relationship with my coach.
  5. Intellectual: I would study and learn. I would learn to speak a new language. I would study archaeology. I  would go back to university.
  6. Financial: I would have financial security and be secure for the rest of my life. I would have financial freedom.
  7. Career: I would quit my job and start the business I have always wanted to start. I would quit my job and work with animals ( children, the terminally ill etc.) I would quit my job and travel to the Far East (Europe, Russia, Australia etc.)

ALL of the answers fell into one of those seven categories. If you want to work with Dirk Stroda he will ask you to examine all seven of those categories and come up with clear answers as to what you want to achieve. Not just for this week or this year but for your life. This is about building your legacy. A legacy. Yes!  That is serious stuff and what better time than now to address that. No point in waiting till you are in your late 90s because then it is too late to consider what your legacy is. Too late to change your life for the better. Too late to change other people’s lives for the better. Too late to add value to the world.

And I might ask: “What does this have to do with my competition season for me and my horse?”  It has everything to do with it. It is step one in figuring out how I can achieve my goals with my horse  or with my  work or with my life!

In the workshop in Wellington the other participants were all equestrians; some professionals, some Olympic athletes and others amateurs like myself.  We are all here for the winter season and the majority were competing some in the jumpers and some in dressage.  Dirk talked us through the legacy questions and gave us guidelines to help us with our answers.

From there we went on to strategic planning.

Planning for a horse show in four weeks?  Then each of those weeks will have a specific focus that will prepare for the show. I have already done this and I can tell you it was the most prepared and most confident I have ever felt going into a show.  Not over confident and not totally chilled out but prepared and excited to compete.

Then, in laying out goals for the future both short, medium and long term, there is also strategic planning.  No matter what age you are, whether it is 16 or 60, there must be commitment to the long haul and that is where strategic planning makes it attainable and not overwhelming.

I am certain that all of us came away at the end of the day with the tools to assist us in our competition and our riding.  And I’m sure that those of you reading this who are not athletes, or competitors will have realized that these ideas can be carried into any line of work and yes, Dear Readers, into Real Life.

Think about it. What will your legacy be?


If you want more information on Dirk Stroda and the work he does please see his website:



Photo credit: technologyblogger.


12 responses to “The Mental Masterclass: Sport Psychology and Real Life!”

  1. Shivee❤ Avatar

    Wonderfully written!! Planning to do something out of the box😅😇


  2. ericlfox Avatar

    Encouraged by your post and the reminder that we have to get out of our comfort zone to grow. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      You are most welcome. We all need a reminder!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. aHorseForElinor Avatar

    This was wonderful. And mind opening. And yes, a little bit stressful to read, for me. I don’t know what my legacy is yet! And it doesn’t feel better knowing that many with are with me. I know they are.
    To me, it’s enough that MINE isn’t figured out. I need to get on this…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Don’t stress about it. You can just take your time and start thinking about it. I’ve suggested to by adult children that they think about it. For me much of my legacy is already written. And some is still ahead!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. aHorseForElinor Avatar

        For me, it was all figured out. Years ago! It was what I breathed and lived. Then Age showed up and laughed in my face, and little by little I had to put away all the pieces of everything I thought represented myself.
        It’s been, well, interesting.

        Now I suddenly realize I haven’t really created something new! Appreciate the reminder!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. fearlessinjesuschrist Avatar

    Thank you for such a good post! When I was competing, I wish there was a big push for sport psychology. But I competed in the dark ages!! I really do believe that my mind played a bigger part in my competition then my body. I believe that I trained very hard, but my head would get in the way every time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      I agree. I competed as a kid in the “dark ages” and i’m grateful to have the mental help now. Thank you for your supportive comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. dray0308 Avatar

    Reblogged this on Dream Big, Dream Often and commented:
    This is Horse Addict!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Thanks for reblogging this post.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. nathaswami Avatar

    ‘What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?’ is a thought provoking question.

    Liked by 1 person

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