Everyone knows about the physical toll it takes to succeed as a professional athlete, but not many consider that it can also be mentally exhausting, especially if the results aren’t coming for a player.
A focus on the mental health and well-being of players is something that more teams are deciding to commit resources to, which includes the Los Angeles Dodgers hiring a Minor League mental health coordinator in December 2019.
Justin Turner has also openly discussed his approach to speaking with players not only about performance, but matters off the field as well.
As more players begin to focus on their mental well-being, Kenley Jansen joined that group after the 2020 World Series despite being hesitant before. He credited weekly therapy sessions for allowing him to be more mentally prepared this season, via Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
“I finally accepted after the World Series that I need help,” he says now. “I need help, let’s start with mentally. This game is too hard. It can be too hard on you mentally.”
The Dodgers have mental skills coaches on staff, readily available to players. But Jansen said he “went dark with the team” following last year’s World Series. Instead, he reached out to his agency, Wasserman Media Group, and they put him in contact with a counselor for what Jansen calls “mental training.”
“It was time to stay away from everybody and just invest in yourself,” he says. Jansen started weekly sessions via Zoom in November and has continued them throughout the season. The therapy includes daily exercises that Jansen does between sessions.
While it’s not possible to know what’s going on through Jansen’s mind, his rebound season is evident.
In 61.1 innings, he has pitched to a 2.35 ERA after having a 3.71 ERA and 3.33 ERA in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Jansen got past midseason struggles
Despite some struggles after the All-Star break that saw Jansen blow three straight saves and raise his ERA from 1.24 to 3.05, the veteran closer has rebounded nicely by converting his last 12 save opportunities.
Jansen has also only allowed three earned runs in 22 appearances since the rough patch.
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