Dr. Justin Tausig, sport psychology professional, joins the podcast to talk about his journey from his first fencing mentor to moving to France and performing internationally. He gets into his struggles as a performer and how he adapted and performed at a world-class level. The discussion then moved into how his fencing career influenced his moving into the field of sport psychology and the importance of how to stay motivated and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.



J: Welcome to Compete Like a Champion. You're here with Dr. Larry Lauer, Mental Skills Specialist, and coach Johnny Parkes with USTA Player Development. Today, we've got a special guest on Dr. Justin Tausig. Welcome to the podcast, Justin.

JT: Thanks, Johnny. It's nice to be here.

J: We appreciate you being able to jump on with Larry and I and we got some great topics we're going to talk through today. And just before we get going here, wanted to give a maybe just a short intro here to your background and maybe you could dive a little bit deeper and giving us some more information about your background and what it is you do now. So I've got down here that you're a six-time member of the US Senior National Fencing Team, a World Cup medalist, and US Fencing Hall of Fame inductee 2020. Congratulations. You're a certified mental performance consultant, and you help competitive athletes/performance artists with their mental game. So Wow. That's pretty impressive. JT: Thank you.

J: Yeah. And congratulations on that. Hall of Fame inductee this year.

JT: Thanks. That was that was supposed to happen at the end of June, at a comp fencing competition in Louisville, Kentucky, but since that has been postponed, I'm not sure when that's going to happen. But hopefully this year, but at some point, yeah,

J: Yeah, absolutely. And so, you know, before we get started on this, we'd love to have you give us give us a deeper dive into your background and then maybe bring us forward to what it is you do now. And we go from there.

JT: Okay, well, so athletically, I started fencing when I was 12 years old, right before my 13th birthday. There was an article in the New York Times about a famous fencing master that my father clipped out for me. And even though I grew up in New York, fencing was not known as a sport that you could do, as an activity you could take part in, certainly wasn't as well known in this country as tennis. And it's funny because he clipped out that article for me because he thought I might be interested in just reading the article, and I read the article, and the first thing that went through my mind is I want to meet this guy, and it took me a couple of weeks to get my courage up. But I called him and he said, Come on over, and I went over, rode my bike over to his house. He was giving a fencing lesson in the middle of his street. And I remember reading from the article that he was in his mid 80s. And here was this guy jumping around in the middle of his street. It was a quiet street, but there were cars that passed occasionally. So I got off my bike and I waited. And then once the lesson was over, he came over and introduced himself and we got to talking. And a few minutes later, he had me in a fencing position, advancing and retreating in front of his house in that street. And then he said, the words that changed my life, he looked at me and he said, "You are going to be my new student." He never asked me, are you interested in sports? Do you want to try this? He never. My parents weren't there. So he couldn't go up to them and say, you know, this might help get your child into college. I mean, there were none of those discussions at all. He just connected with me and I connected with him instantly. And of all of the things that I've done in the sport of fencing, the thing I am proudest of is that I was the last student of Maestro Giorgio Santelli. So he always said that if I wanted to find out how good I could be, I needed to go to where the best were. And at that time for my fencing weapon, because there are three fencing weapons - foil, epee, and sabre - and for mine, which was epee, that really meant going to France or going to Italy. So years later after I graduated with my bachelor's degree, I moved to Paris for 11 years to find out to answer the question, How good can I be? I went all in on myself. And I went from not being ranked at all in the United States to being in the top four in national rankings and being on the US National Team, as you had mentioned for six years. And being number one in the US on five different occasions. National Champion, World Cup medalist, at one point I was 38the in the world, which was quite a feat back then for American fencing. And I had a great career athletically.

J: That sounds pretty impressive there and the beginning story reminds me of what Larry does at home in the streets with his kids playing roller hockey. He's out there, but that that's, that's incredible.

L: The old Maestro, is that what you're saying?

J: Hey, you said it. I didn't say it.

L: Well, you know what, what's cool about that, you know, too Johnny is, you know, I'm thinking a couple things. One, you know, Justin is just how people sort of well nudged or kind of pushed you in that direction. And you see that with athletes to get to a high level that there's people along the way, that who reach out and really make it possible - this dream, right. And so it started with your dad and just bringing your attention to this and then this great fencing Master, taking an interest in you and wanting to help you. So that's one thing about just how people along your journey, often them reaching out, them taking an interest is all the difference in where you end up. And then, you know, I think secondly, the proactive initiative that you showed, to not only go out and meet this fencing master and put yourself out there but then to move to France to see, you know what you could do with your career. So those are two things I'm picking up on that really sound like they're very important in your journey.

JT: Absolutely, absolutely. I think even in an individual sport, you don't do it alone. Champions are not birthed in a bubble.

It takes a team, it takes so many different individuals helping that person, helping that athlete, and I appreciate it now, being on the support staff side of things that it's so important to realize when you are support staff that it's about the athlete. In the conversations and the lessons that I had with Maestro Santelli there was not one time where he puffed out his chest and said oh you should consider yourself fortunate to be working with me because I am so great. He never made any of it about him. It wasn't about what he could teach, it was about what I could learn and that's really where he kept the focus for the entire time that he and I worked together until his death.

L: That's tremendous - that athlete-centered coaching approach that we talk about JP, just in terms of you know, putting the athletes interests in mind first.

J: Oh yeah, it just shows you how a coach inspires the students to stay with a sport because they find or foster a love and enjoyment for it. So it's very it's a great story. I'm really great story. And what's great then there is obviously you got to you came through, got your degree, decided to go, you know, you said all in on yourself.

Maybe just expound on that a little bit, maybe some of the thoughts or some of the decisions that you were having to weigh up around that time or was it not really that tough decision - it was, this is what I'm going to do, I'm going all in and off I go. Because I think sometimes you get a lot of athletes that kind of ponder the what ifs and all that, you know, did you ever have those moments of the what if? I'm moving to another country and you know, did you ever have - did you ever go through thought process like that?

JT: Many times. It was a difficult decision to make, in a lot of ways. It was a difficult decision, certainly at times to carry through. I had never lived at that point anywhere outside of New York. So I felt homesick particularly that first year. I didn't really speak French at all. I knew a couple of words, but all of them were incorrect. And I learned while I was there.

And there were many, many times when I thought to myself, particularly initially when my results were not good. My first full season on the World Cup circuit I lost as early as it's possible to lose at every international tournament that season. And it was very difficult. At that point I had been fencing for 12 years. And I thought, I'm not, I can't be this bad. I can't be. But I couldn't deny how bad the results were. And it culminated with the last World Cup of that season, of the '94-'95 season, where I finished dead last at a World Cup in Poitiers in southern France. And I had to sit on that result the rest of the summer. And it's funny when I think back now on my career, that finishing last was probably the most significant result of my career because of what followed and my response to it. I felt humiliated. I felt embarrassed, I felt so diminished, I felt awful about myself. And so I came to the conclusion that either I'm going to quit the sport entirely because I can't go through another season like this, or I need to completely reinvent my approach to the sport, the way that I train everything. And that's ultimately what I did because I, in losing early at these competitions, I spent a lot of time watching other athletes, particularly the top ones in my sport. And while fencing is not popular in the United States the way that it is in Europe, the top European fencers, the top fencers, globally, these athletes are training as professionals twice a day, five days a week. This is their job. They go to school, they have part time gigs on the side, but this is what they - this is their main focus. So what was I going to do to compete? And one of the things that I noticed in looking at these athletes, and I think this is true for athletes, in all sports, most of them, they have a hook. They have something that they build their game around. Usually a physical aspect. Someone could be really tall, someone could be really strong, someone could be really fast. That's what they build their game around. And when I appraised myself as an athlete, it became very apparent: I didn't have a hook. So what was I going to do that would allow me to be successful against these athletes. And what ultimately became my hook was the mental side of the game. Because I thought to myself, if I can identify my opponents hook and contain it, or take it away from him or neutralize his game in a way that prevents him from feeling comfortable doing what he normally does, disrupting his game, forcing him to do something else, then he might get a little frustrated, his confidence might drop a little bit. And then I could have a chance to be effective. And ultimately, that change, that decision is what catapulted me to a completely different place athletically.

L: Well, that's awesome, Justin. That's great to hear the story because we've known each other for a while but we've never really gone through that history. So it's really cool to hear this and you know, I hear like that tipping point, like that Gladwell tipping point, that moment where you know, I got two paths and what are you gonna do about it, right? And you said you reinvent your training, you reinvent yourself, you find your, you call it a hook, you know, in tennis, we might call it a weapon. You know, a strength that we really build ourselves around. And I love sort of the strategy part of it; reminds me of Bill Belichick - of I'm going to really contain their strength, I'm going to make them play in a way that they don't want to, or compete in a way they don't want to. It's going to make them uncomfortable. And that's going to be my way in, my way into victory.

JT: That's right. It really became what I initially called it athletic Darwinism, because I liked that evolutionary aspect and a match evolves like a tennis match, a tennis match starts a certain way, and the player who's losing has a choice, either I can continue doing what I'm doing now, banging my head against the wall and getting scored on or I have to change the conditions. I could play faster or I could play slower or I could move in more or I can stay back more. It's an evolution. And particularly, I think it's pertinent to you guys in the sport of tennis where a match takes a long time. A fencing match is very quick. It's maybe nine minutes of active sport.

And that's over in a snap. Although sometimes it certainly can seem like an eternity. But a tennis match, which players can be out there for hours and hours, there's a lot of time for this kind of adaptive approach. Later I rebranded it, actually my wife started calling it the STAR method, the selective tactical adaptive response, which I think is much catchier than what I came up with when I was in my 20s. But the importance of that adaptation means that whatever your opponent's weapon is, there is an answer. Tennis is a sport of combat, ultimately, even though the goal isn't to hit the other person, although if you're Ivan Lendl and your opponent comes to net, that's what's going to happen.

L: Yes it is.

JT: But certainly it's a sport of combat, you're feeling the other person out, you're gauging how they respond. And then capitalizing on those weaknesses, breaking down those strengths, because that's the other aspect, I think of the adaptive style that I cultivated. It wasn't just about going after your opponent's weaknesses. It was about going after their strengths. If you can get your opponent to do his best action when you are ready for it, then it's easy to counter.

L: Very, very interesting. I like that. Instead of avoiding or being afraid of, you know, what your opponent can bring to you, bringing it out when you want it to come out - when you're ready for it. That's good. That's that's a very interesting thought process. The STAR method. I love that term - athletic Darwinism though. So Justin, I don't know. I mean, obviously, your wife came up with this cool acronym. And it was selective, topical, adaptive response. Is that correct? JT: Correct. L: All right. Yeah, that's something our audience is going to want to remember because it's a way of really talking about being resilient right? About the sport not having to turn out perfectly for you or things to go exactly the way you dreamed of them that in fact, you're looking for the adversities in the game and looking to respond in a way that you've trained, looking to find ways to adapt versus, you know, I think a lot of players go out and they just want things to go the way that they should go right, the way that they feel they should go. It should come easy. It should I should hit every ball in and I should be in control of the match and not get broken and my serves should go in all the time. And, you know, that's not fact. And that's not truth. So really your competitive approach was to find ways to create adversity, and adapt.

JT: And a lot of that really came from the way that I conceptualized the sport. And I spoke with my coach at the time, at the end of that summer, and I said, what do you think of this idea? Is this something which is viable? Or is this just nonsense? Am I just grasping at straws for any possibility? And he said, this sounds very interesting in theory. We'll have to see how this plays out, but this is going to require many adjustments to your current training. Because just like you were saying, Larry, athletes are used to training a certain way, athletes are used to preparing a certain way. And I needed to now change and revamp the way that I was training because I had to train going slowly, I had to train going quickly, I had to train at a close distance, at a long distance, at a medium distance, I had to expand my comfort zone. Because that's the whole point is: identifying what your opponent wants, what kind of game your opponent wants to play that day, and then making your opponent play a different game and then pull him out of his comfort zone into a place where he doesn't have as much confidence and as much practice, right? If a player is used to a very up tempo match, and you slow it down, so it's like a race between a snail and a turtle - he's really not going to like that, because he's used to a very up tempo style. And that sort of thing, that sort of approach worked against some of the top athletes in my sport, fencers who I would never say I am better than they were. But I was able to overcome many of these top athletes in competition using this particular approach.

L: This is, this is great, Justin. So what did you then see from yourself, you know, psychologically, what was your like your self talk when, you know, you did struggle, maybe at the start of the competition that you were behind? After this new kind of athletic Darwinism, the STAR approach was kind of embedded in your training and your psyche, what was your response then? Because you talked about how you were really struggling the first year and I would imagine it's kind of like a boulder rolling downhill, where you start seeing your demise when you step out there. But now, you were looking at things differently. So when you got behind, when you maybe were losing at the start, how were you thinking about that in this new way of competing and in training?

JT: That's a great question. I think a lot of it came from kind of flexible tenacity.

The difference, there's a big difference right between being stubborn and being tenacious. Being tenacious is I'm not going to give up any points. I want every point that I could possibly score. I don't want to give up any easy games. I don't want to give up any easy sets. I don't want to give anything. No gifts to the opponents. But being stubborn is I know I can get an ace every single time. So even if I can't find the service box, I'm still going to be just blasting every shot I possibly can as hard as I can right down the T, because I know I can ace this guy. And that stubbornness turns a situation where you could be in a good situation into a very, very bad one. And you can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in that instance, but for, in my experience, when I was competing, and certainly there were many times when my confidence would drop or I would feel that I was in a bad situation athletically. And I would go back to my training and just remember how hard I've worked, the way that I've prepared myself physically and technically and emotionally for this moment. And I would say to myself, I have worked so hard, and in such a focused way and such a methodical way that whatever the situation, I felt that I could be effective, And even against fencers that I never beat, I still couldn't wait to get back out there against them and have one more shot to figure out that puzzle and try to turn it to my advantage.

J: That's really, really interesting, because as you said, the fencing match does not last that long, right? So about 10 minutes, less than 10 minutes. So you're talking about that ability to be able to adjust and figure it out. I mean, you don't have that much time to figure it out. So you know, is it a nature of how the sport is played and how you practice and you're able to make those adjustments very quickly. So you get off to a bad start. How do you get your mind to focus back to your practice and your training so quickly, I mean, in a tennis match, you might be 10 minutes, and then you change ends and another 10 minutes and change ends. And then when you've got that change of ends, you've got a minute and a half to maybe take a little bit more thought to figure things out. But it sounds like the processing that needs to happen is so quickly in fencing in order to make those adjustments. Maybe talk to us about how your training helped prepare you to do that. So when you were competing, you could problem solve and get into that mentality.

JT: The way I trained is, I would train particular actions. So I would go to a fencing practice, and sometimes I would discuss with my coach, what actions do you think I should be working on? Or I would come in and I would say, you know, I feel like I should be working on my attack or I feel I should be working on my counter attack or my defense or whatever. And so and if we neither one of us had a strong feeling, we would just kind of knock it around back and forth, and come up with something. And that's what I would work on. I wasn't in practice to win matches. No one ever got a trophy for winning matches in practice. My job was to work on actions and feel confident in those actions. And so if I worked on actions on a Tuesday, and this is what I'm working on, then maybe on the Wednesday I would work on different actions and over the course of a month or two, you've cycled through everything you could possibly do, while at the same time expanding your sense of distance, your sense of timing, your game. Because again, overarchingly, the idea was to expand my comfort zone. And what I started doing - and initially, this became something that I would look at, and I had to force myself to do but after a while it became more or less automatic - was sizing up my opponents, looking at my opponent and saying, how would I compete against that person? What would I try and do, what would my game, my first game plan which I used to call Game Plan A, and a lot of that was based on just pure physicality; the person is taller than me; the person is shorter than me; he seems fast; he seems physically strong; what is his game going to be? What would I try and do? And initially, I had to really push myself to really adopt a tactical approach to this, which sounds so silly, of course, you're doing a sport, you have to be tactically minded. I wasn't initially at all, I had no patience, I had no tactical idea, I would just go out and try and hit somebody. And that's a very low level approach to sport. If you're doing tennis and the only thing you can think of as odd as long as I hit the ball hard, eventually things are going to work out. That's not necessarily going to work against everybody. There is no game - there is no game that is going to work against every opponent in every situation. So at some point, your favorite action is not going to work. And if you have only trained using your favorite action or your favorite game plan, if you have no other ideas of what else you can do, you are in a very bad situation as soon as someone has an answer. And in fencing just as in tennis, there is no weapon that can't be blunted somehow.

L: Brilliant, you know, I'm loving this, this is so great to get into the mind of a competitor and how you're adapting to your environment. I remember often listening to or talking to maybe head coaches of professional teams, or, you know, some of the best tennis players in the world, and they trained not really to beat the field, but they trained to beat the people in front of them. So if I'm in a division and there's five teams, I'm figuring out how I'm going to beat the team that keeps winning the the division every year, right. I'm figuring out what it's going to take to beat the best teams in my sport. So it sounds a little bit like a it's a matter of really fully preparing your game for all the things that could happen in the sport but it's also really looking at the best and finding ways to, you know, how would I compete against them? How would I overcome them? And this is inspiring practice. Would you would you agree with that, Justin?

JT: I would. I would. I think sports is all about overcoming obstacles. Most sports that we do, these are not things that we would necessarily have to do in our daily lives to survive. So we are getting involved in an activity where we agree on the conventions, we agree on the rules, and we agree that these are the obstacles. And whether you're competing against someone else, or you're competing against yourself or the clock, these are the obstacles. So the better you can be and become at managing obstacles, the better you're going to be. Just as you said earlier, the idea that athletes have of going out onto the court and yes, every serve is going to go in and every shot I hit is going to have a lot of pace and a lot of depth and a lot of spin on it. That sounds fantastic in a perfect world. But what are you going to do when you go out and you can't find the service box? What are you going to do when it's really windy and the shots that usually hit right inside the line are going wide. You need to be able to handle these things; the better you are at handling the obstacles, the better you are at handling catastrophes and difficult situations, the better you are as an athlete.

L: Tremendous, it really truly is training for the realities of your sport versus sort of, you know, unrealistic I'm gonna to be in flow and everything is gonna go my way. And, you know, yeah, it does a couple times a year, but, you know, that's not very often or for a few minutes or a few games. So I think this has been unbelievable. Justin, let me transition this to, you know, your work with athletes, you know, working as a sports psychologist and working with some of the best athletes. You know, let's talk a little bit even about what's happening right now with the pandemic and people staying at home. And really, it sounds like your competitive career was all about being resilient and adapting to the environment and finding ways to overcome. Is that a big part of your philosophy now, when you work with athletes, and how is that maybe being communicated during this time where athletes are stuck at home, maybe their training environment is completely different than what they're used to.

JT: I think it does. I think the approach that I have, or I had when I was competing, it was something that I figured out, I certainly would have come to it much quicker and more easily and more comfortably if I had been working with some kind of sports psychologist, but I didn't. And when I went through analytic training, when I went through the doctoral program that I completed, I used to joke with my classmates and with my instructors that the first sports psychology client I had was myself, because I tested all of these things out on myself, that I kind of had to reinvent the wheel, which was a much more arduous process than it would have been if I had been working with a professional. So I take a similar approach, but in terms of the adaptation, I don't think the method that worked for me would inherently work for everybody. It's not a recipe. I'm not making cookies. I'm not throwing together mac and cheese and saying, hey, fantastic. I just created mac and cheese. That's not a thing. And I think the individual qualities of an athlete demand that the treatment process of every athlete also must be singular and must be unique to that person. So every client that I work with, every athlete, every performance artist that I work with, gets a very unique approach based on what they need, and based on where they are and what their goals are and what it is that they're trying to achieve.

J: I love what you said there, that everyone is has that sort of the individual approach because everyone is unique. I mean, I think sometimes due to convenience, we may box athletes all into the same bucket, but you really take an individualistic approach there because, you know, this is an individual sport. And I think I get a sense of that. As coaches, we may train a lot of athletes, but we need to always make sure that we consider that we have individuals in front of us, even if they're the same age, they may differ vastly in their characteristics and the way that they process things, in the way that they compete on the court. And everybody has some some, I would say different challenges that underpin the way that they are. So I really love how you take that individualistic approach. And, you know, I guess kind of Larry building on sort of, you know, some of the advice on what we're doing now, I mean, what would be, you know, what would be some of the advice or creative ways that the athletes, coaches, and parents can be, I guess healthy and happy and working towards their goals during this time.

JT: I think this is a difficult time for everybody: athletes, non-athletes, families, everyone, everyone. This global pandemic has changed the shape of the world in a lot of ways. And what I think is important is to have a structure. You need to structure your days. Whether you have things that need accomplishing, or you don't on a particular day, you need to make sure that you're getting up in the morning at a reasonable time, that you're not necessarily staying in your pajamas all day, that you're getting dressed, getting moving, doing what needs doing, and structuring your day in a way that it has - beyond the necessities of of eating and resting and all of that, although it's important to make sure that you're getting enough sleep, so not going to sleep at 3am every morning because you've spent the last eight hours binge watching something on a streaming service - but being able to balance your time in a way that you are spending minimum, one hour every day doing something physical. Minimum one hour doing something which stretches you mentally, and minimum one hour something that's true you creatively or artistically. And I think when you construct your days this way, that still gives you a lot of time to rest, that still gives you a lot of time if you want to watch something on a streaming service, and I have nothing against them, we just got the Disney+ last week so my daughters are very excited. But this is really about maintaining an even keel emotionally. And I think, unfortunately, what I've been hearing from some people, either on talk shows or through social media and they're saying no, it's okay. Yeah, you can stay in your unicorn onesie for the next week. It's okay, that's nothing wrong with that. And I think at the end of that, you don't feel like you're being productive because you're not being productive in any way, so you don't feel motivated to get out of bed. So even if you just do one thing, just do one thing that puts you in a place that is better than you were that morning when you woke up. I think the following day, it's going to be easier to get out of bed with a little bit of a spring in your step.

L: Yeah, Justin, you and I talked about this before the podcast couple days ago. And really, I think we're aligned on this that, you know, the structure, challenging yourself. And this is what athletes do. I mean, high performers challenge themselves on a regular basis, and they look for those challenges. They want those challenges to improve themselves. And I think this time that if you completely move away from that, you move away from who you are, and what you do, and I don't think that a pandemic and staying at home should force people to get out of their competitive achievement kind of mentality. I just don't think that that's good for them. So when you think about this, you know, Justin, how do you think this is going to impact the mental health of, you know, of people being really stuck at home and social distancing and not going out much, you know, probably harder if you're living up north, and the weather maybe isn't as good yet and you're inside a lot. What impact do you think we're going to see on the mental health of, I guess, athletes, but really, people in general?

JT: Well, first, I want to just say one very quick thing. You use the term social distancing. And that's the term that's been used during this global pandemic. And I think it's inaccurate because what I believe it really is, is physical distancing. That's what we're talking about. Its be as social as you like. And I think it's important not to reduce that social aspect. We human beings are social creatures. So call your friends, FaceTime with your friends, organize Zoom meetups with your colleagues and have a cup of coffee or a drink or whatever and just talk and be social. I think that's important to maintain too. But it's the physical distancing which is the real challenge and that containment, that confinement, that quarantine, that staying at home aspect. I think what's important to remember is that time is passing.

This is not the universe hitting a pause button that in a few weeks or a few months, or whenever we get to the other side of this, the pause button is going to get pressed again and we're all gonna rev up and just get back exactly to where we were. That's not going to happen. Time is passing - the one thing that no one can give you, whether it's a coach or a parent or a friend or a loved one or a family member, no one can give you time. So people can encourage you, people can teach you, but no one can give you time. The time now that you can spend doing something which is helpful for you, or you can spend doing something, which is not particularly helpful for you. And I believe that the people who are going to be best off at the end of this global pandemic are the people who are working to be the most productive now. Now, I'm not saying you should be working 14 hour days and just grinding yourself down. I don't think that that's helpful at all. I think it's important to pace yourself because this is a marathon. We don't know. No one can say with any accuracy, when this will end, if there is a flare up again, if the curve spikes and then we have to go back to a more confined place once things are opened up again, we don't know. But all we can do is try and accomplish something every day right? There's no reason why athletes can't be doing wall sits for example, right unless they have bad legs or problems with the knees or ankles or something. They should be able to do wall sits at the end of this for a duration of time that they were never able to do before this pandemic started.

L: You hear that JP? Do your wall sits buddy.

J: Does a wall sit, can a chair sit classify in the same category? Definitely sat in a chair longer than I have done before.

L: Almost, almost, not quite my friend.

So you know Justin, I mean obviously you're talking about again challenging yourself and then also about being present right? And really staying present and using your time in a way to get better, which is what I think truly is one of the solutions. The other is connection that you're talking about connecting with your loved ones, your friends, staying connected, even though maybe you don't have the same level of physical connection in space, you're able to do that emotionally and connect with people. Do you what do you think you know, this is really my last question. But what do you think that our field, the field of sports psychology, the greater field of psychology, you want to call performance psychology, we have a bunch of ways to name our fields. But what should we be doing during this time? Are we doing enough? Could we be doing more for athletes and coaches that are confined at home?

JT: I don't think as a field we're doing enough. I would like to see, I would like to have seen during this time, more of a leadership role from NGBs, from organizations, from professional organizations, telling their membership, telling sports psychologists, telling the certified mental performance consultants, here's a list of six people and six athletes and coaches, please reach out to them, even though you don't know these people, or maybe you're in a different field. But please just reach out to them and just connect and say look, I'm calling on behalf of my organization or I'm calling on behalf of this. I just want to check in with you and with your families and make sure that everything is okay. And see if there's anything that I can do to help you or to help your family to stay on a more even keel during this time. Because what I had have heard is well, athletes will reach out when they feel the need. And the problem is, I feel that from a mental health standpoint, if you wait until you are having a full blown panic attack, that's not the time to try and get some sort of help. You need to get that before it gets to that point. You shouldn't be white knuckling it now until you just you can't possibly stand it anymore. And then you contact someone because then it's too late. It's like hydration, right? And with hydration, if you wait till your body tells you you're thirsty, you're too late. You're now behind the curve. You want to stay ahead of it. And I think when I work with a client, when I work with an athlete and whether it's a professional athlete or someone in junior high trying to make a varsity team or an Olympic level athlete. They are people first and athletes second. You don't stop, when you step onto the field, when you step onto the pitch, or onto a tennis court, you don't stop being someone's child, you don't stop being someone's sibling, or someone's boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse or colleague. You bring all of that with you. And I think in this field of performance psychology - of sports psychology - if we are just looking at athletes, from the athletic standpoint, I think we are missing out on the better part of what makes them who they are. And the better we can encourage their curiosity about their internal process and encourage them to really understand themselves in a more comprehensive way, the better they will be able to manage their lives, not just in the sport, but outside of the sport as well. So I feel that from a professional standpoint, I think a lot of people in our field Larry, have not done enough, particularly during this time with a global pandemic.

L: Well, that's strong and I can't disagree with you. And certainly, you know, some great sort of, as Johnny would say, drop the mic moments there. You know, this idea that at first if you're needing help, reach out, communicate, but that's not easy for someone to do. A lot of times it's very uncomfortable. They might not know who to communicate with, that might access might be challenging, and it truly helps when you can get to someone quickly, who wants to listen to you, that has your best interest in mind, and who's qualified. And so yes, I think it is our job in the NGBs to make that as easy and as accessible as possible, and not just from a passive way, but taking the initiative again to reach out, see what they need, see how we can help them, make it known that there are resources available and putting that in their hands.

JT: And I think particularly for athletes to reach out is very difficult because when you do high level athletics, you are trained, either from coaches or just the culture of sport, not to show weaknesses. Not to admit, oh I'm tired or oh, I'm scared or oh, I'm intimidated, or, oh, I'm frustrated. You just, you know, I'm tired. I can do it. I can push through, I'm tough. I'm strong, whatever. And I think that there is nothing wrong with asking for help, but the system has to be in place so that the athletes feel comfortable doing so.

L: Indeed, we've got to set it up. Because we can certainly keep them from reaching out by the way we talk. So JP.

J: Yeah, this has been absolutely incredible. And I just wanted to bring up that last point. And yes, that the the some maybe, some challenges we face going through this pandemic, but you brought up a great point there in that, you know, we want to be proactive and you want to work on these things before that becomes a problem and then you have to work on it on the back end. And that's often what we see. Right? You often see oh, you know that they've become way more emotional on the tennis court. Now we got to go see a mental skill specialists. Well, actually, we could have been working on this stuff beforehand. You know, oh, you know, I'm not as athletic as I thought I was to play at this level, so now I got to work on my athleticism. Well, again, it's like okay, well instead of rehab, it's all about the prehab. Do all these things ahead of time being proactive to make yourself the best version of yourself so that when you get, when you are faced with these obstacles as we talked about here, we can adapt better and we can adapt quicker because we've been proactive on the front end. So I just thought that was a brilliant point to finish up with that you made, Justin. But I know we're out of time here but just really appreciate you taking the time to come on here again, there's just been some brilliant talking about combat and obstacles and things that we can do right now and and how we can be more proactive it's just been brilliant. So thank you so much.

JT: It's my pleasure. Thanks for having me. 

L: It's been great Justin really appreciate getting to know you a little bit better too really, really cool. So

JT: It was fun for me too.

J: I gotta say, if anyone can go out there and do a bit of YouTubing there are some videos out there of you competing, it's pretty impressive. I mean, I had some friends at school that fences. And I was I liked the way that you also call it that you work with, you know athletes and performance artists because whenever I watch fencing as a sport, you definitely look at it as more of an artistic form. And you can relate that to any sport really, that it's art, but I love how you phrase that and certainly watching you in action is pretty impressive. So anyway, just, you know, thank you so much for taking the time to connect the two worlds together and move in the same direction. So thank you.

JT: Well, of course. Well, to me, I think sports, particularly interactive sports have much more in common than they have differences. The rules are different, the conventions are different, the objectives might be somewhat different, but ultimately, what you're trying to do and whether you're on a tennis court or a fencing piece, the idea is I am going to control myself, master myself, and through that self mastery, control the match, control my opponent and ideally get the victory at the end.

J: Awesome.

Awesome. Well, thank you so much, and that wraps it up for this week's episode of Compete Like a Champion. We're very fortunate to have Dr. Justin Tausig on the podcast and Larry, thanks so much for getting Justin on. This has been a brilliant episode and, you know, for more resources, information at this time, you can always go to our website: playerdevelopment.usta.com. We're going to put a link up to Justin's Twitter so if you feel compelled to reach out to him, then be sure to contact him. But until next week, Dr. Larry, we are checking out.