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Staying mentally strong: Local Olympian shares her 'secret weapon'

Sports psychology helps elite athletes, amateurs
Terry Gautreaux 1.png
Terry Gautreaux 2.png
Posted at 10:32 PM, Jul 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-25 23:56:16-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As you're watching the Olympics, it's obvious the hours of physical training these athletes have logged over the years.

But, what many spectators might not realize, is that many spend time training their minds, too.

For some, that includes visiting sports psychologists.

That was the case for Terry Gautreaux.

These days, she's focused on sharing her passion with the next generation at Gautreaux's Martial Arts in Blue Springs.

"I’m a full-time martial arts instructor, that’s what I do for a living every day. I love it," Gautreaux said.

There was a time when she was in their shoes, training with the hopes of taking her Taekwondo skills to the next level.

In her case, that next level was the '92 Olympics.

But to get there, she didn't just need to be physically prepared, she needed to be mentally strong, as well.

"So, I knew that it was my mind that was stopping me. I just didn’t know what to do about it."

That's what led her to Andrew Jacobs, PhD, a Kansas City Sports Psychologist.

For the past 40 years, he's worked with everyone from the Royals, to the Chiefs, to Olympic swimmers, track and field athletes and the entire 1984 U.S. cycling team.

Gautreaux says they spent 18 months working together before the Barcelona Olympics.

"So, we just worked on building her confidence up, getting her to feel good about herself, concentrate on her skills, and not worry about the external stuff," Dr. Jacobs said. "And she did quite well, and won the bronze medal."

For Gautreaux, it was a dream come true; a moment she says wouldn't have been possible without Dr. Jacobs.

"And Dr. Jacobs helped me a great deal, I learned that your mental training for anything in life is so much more powerful than anything you do physically."

The two are still in close contact, with Jacobs stopping by Gautreaux's gym, occasionally, to talk to her students.

That's something he stresses; sports psychology isn't just for elite athletes. It's something that's beneficial for competitors at all levels.

"I always like to say you can have two athletes who are physically the same, and the one with the stronger mind is the one who will come out on top," Dr. Jacobs said.

Meanwhile, these are lessons Gautreaux shares with her students, reminding them to go for the gold and believe in themselves, whatever their goals might be.

"What I tell kids, as you know, I went to the Olympics," she declared. "But, every time they come in? Every tournament they go to? That’s their Olympics. You know, not everybody makes it to the Olympics. But, every time you have a great experience somewhere? That’s your Olympics."

For more on Dr. Jacobs and his practice, click here.