Having an Olympian’s Mindset + Discussion on Mental Health with Karen Cogan

It wasn’t a choice for Karen Cogan to stop competing in gymnastics. When a knee injury ended her athletic career, she had to find a new way to engage with sports. She decided to pursue sports psychology and for many years now, has worked with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams. She uses her own struggle transitioning out of athletics to inform the way she guides other athletes through the challenges of their sports careers.

Something Cogan learned when she started working with Olympic athletes was that there is perhaps more disappointment and grief than you might expect. While we often see the joy and ecstasy of the gold medal win in the spotlight, there are countless athletes who compete and never see a medal. Being a high level athlete means learning how to cope with defeat and find a way to stand back up and regain confidence even when times are tough.

Key Moments You Don’t Want to Miss:

  1. Not a Choice How a knee injury ended Karen Cogan’s gymnastics career and set her on the path to studying sports psychology
  2. The Whole Person Why mental health plays an integral role in an athlete’s performance
  3. Going for Gold Why much of Cogan’s work involves helping guide players through disappointment and grief
  4. A New Path How Cogan helps players learn to identify the skills they gained in sports that they can use in everyday life

What You’ll Learn:

  • Allow space and time for the grieving process
  • Appreciate the experiences you’ve had
  • Set new goals if your direction changes
  • Seek professional help if you need it
  • Identify what skills are useful in other aspects of life


“The transition period is rough to begin with and if it’s not of your choosing, it’s even more difficult. But the bottom line is there’s an endpoint for every athlete in their career. They cannot compete at that level forever and we all have to make that transition.” -Karen Cogan

“I learned to appreciate people and the struggles they go through. It’s not difficult to see that athletes are people, too, and have those same kinds of struggles.” -Karen Cogan

“Life is, a lot of times, about dealing with defeat. How we deal with defeat and move through defeat defines how we can become champions throughout our life.” -Jake Thompson


You can find out more about the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team online at https://www.teamusa.org/.

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Episode 275