Fun fact: this is the second time I’ve written a bio for this website. Wild, I know. I wrote my first bio when I got the ball rolling by joining Dr. Linda at Sterling Sport Mindset in 2018, fresh out of grad school and brand new to KC. Now I write to you to introduce myself almost two years later, in a totally different place.
My name is Nicole Harnisch! I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, master’s degree in sport and exercise psychology, the gold-standard certification in mental performance consulting (CMPC), and a LIFETIME full of athletic experiences. Even as a retired athlete I still work to challenge myself, competing in any way I can at work, in the gym, with my friends and against myself (getting after it in the gym, opening up with yoga, or casually training for half marathons… ran my first one last summer!).
My competitive years began fighting for attention with my siblings… intertwined with youth basketball and softball, neighborhood kickball and tag, individual roller blading, and hat wars in the basement also with my siblings (this looked a little something like pile all of big brother’s hats in the middle of the living room… pick your corner and on “go” grab as many hats as you can, run back to your corner to take cover while you attempt to impale each other with hats frisbee style from across the room).
If you asked me at the age of 5 what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you I wanted to be a professional women’s basketball player. Super wild. Moving into middle and high school, I was playing volleyball, basketball, track and field, and softball. I couldn’t get enough! By this time, I knew realistically I wanted to play basketball in college. I cared immensely about my other sports and still wanted to keep options open, but my heart was set on basketball.
Eventually I dropped softball to make room for club volleyball and basketball teams. All the while I am learning and growing in track and field, throwing stuff for fun and having a time. As my older sister began to excel throwing in college, she put the bug in my ear. “Nicole, you’d be so good at this. You should think about throwing in college.” That thought never crossed my mind until that very moment, and it didn’t solidify until I went to a collegiate track meet and watched women’s hammer. “Okay this is awesome. These women are powerful.” I said to my Dad.
The seed had been planted. After a frustrating senior basketball season, exhausted from the pressure I put on myself to play in college, I was relieved to hit track season and start throwing things. I set some goals, worked hard with my dad (literally the best coach I’ve ever had), and my senior season blew up! Placed at the Drake Relays, placed at State, broke some records, signed with Northwest Missouri State University to compete at the DII level. Such an exciting time for any athlete!
Academics always came first for me, I spent about 20 hours in the library every week for the first few years of college. But I absolutely absorbed the sport culture. Off season training was my thing, I wanted to squat more weight than any athlete that stepped into that weight room and I wanted to have the best attitude doing it. I was learning and growing and excited to be where I was. But with all those positives came the struggles as well. Across 5 years of throwing in college I went through 6 orthopedic surgeries. That’s a lot of injury. When it comes to getting comfortable adjusting goals and plans, man did I get used to that. By the time I finished my career I made the Northwest Top 10 in Hammer, Discuss, and Weight Throw. However, I spent quite a bit of time in the last year of my career learning that because of the seriousness of my last round of injuries, I had to readjust my goals and let go of some things I had been working towards for years. Moving towards a place of acceptance can be a big challenge.
That being said, throughout that process I have had many opportunities to explore the research and clinical world in psychology and sport psychology. I have presented research regionally, nationally, and internationally – from my junior year of undergrad through the end of grad school. I acquired clinical experience while still in college working in residential care for at-risk and delinquent youth that has shaped my world view and perspective on life. Currently, in addition to working in sport psychology with athletes and performers, I also provide recreational therapy services to kids with mental and behavioral health issues, as well as significant histories of trauma, in a residential and school setting. Let me tell you what an awesome side job it is to be the fun therapist for a group of amazing kids like that!
At the end of the day, I am passionate about what I do, on every level. I get the challenges, the highs and the lows, that come with being an athlete. I believe that every athlete can benefit from developing their own mental game plan and strengthening mental skills, whether your goal is to start varsity your freshman year of high school, be drafted into the NFL, secure a spot on the dance team, or get back to your old self (but better) after sustaining an injury. I’ve got your back, I’m there for you.