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Women in Sports: Phillies Mental Skills Coach Hannah Thurley

Being a recent college graduate can be very tough and devastating, but for Hannah Thurley, all it took was a little bit of faith and a whole lot of courage to create a stepping stone for the career she would love.

Prior to joining the Philadelphia Phillies mental conditioning team on Jan. 1, Thurley was first part of the Pittsburgh Pirates team.

“One day the teachers sent an email out that the Pirates were going to have an internship opportunity and I didn’t know what I was going to do after I graduated, so I thought, ‘Why not?'” Thurley said. “It seemed a little steep and out of my range, but I was like, ‘I’m gonna try anyways.'”

The Tennessee native has played sports her entire life. She predominantly played basketball and softball, and went on to play Division I for The University of Tennessee. Later on, she finished with a Master’s degree in Sports Psychology and Motor Behavior.

“Sports basically shaped the person and the woman I am today,” Thurley said. “In sports, you’re faced with all kinds of circumstances — you’re faced with competition, you’re faced with setbacks…Between my parents, God and sports, that’s probably what has shaped me the most.”

From high school to college, Thurley was faced with a lot of ups and downs and different transitions that she had to get adjusted to. However, despite the challenges she’s faced, she acknowledges how its impacted her to keep an open mind.

“I faced injuries, I faced sitting the bench, I faced happy moments and sad moments and hard moments,” she said. “So I think the advantage is, most with what I talk to with athletes, I’ve kind of gone through myself already.”

In 2016, after a couple of interviews, Thurley got the internship with the Pittsburgh Pirates, which was her first exposure to careers in Major League Baseball. She moved down to Florida that March and was able to get to the extent of her internship, but was later told that the Pirates were not offering a full-time position.

“I knew I was at the stage of my career where I really needed to make money while doing this and establish more of a career too,” Thurley said. “So, that’s when I took the private practice job in New York.”

During her time in New York City, she continued working with athletes and other types of groups, but eventually realized she wanted to be around athletes full-time.

“I knew this was where I was supposed to be,” she said. “And this was what I was supposed to be doing.”

As a mental skills coach, Thurley trains her athletes mentally while also preparing them for any situation and helping build their confidence, awareness and enjoyment.

“Say you’re a batter,” she said. “And all of a sudden you need to work on your confidence. Maybe your confidence is a little low. So, we’re going to do different exercises and activities and talk through what’s going on with your confidence… Maybe it’s a specific pitcher or a pitch.”

The 26-year old coaches her players with mental activities, similar to the physical activities, and sticks to a set of keywords: confidence, composure, concentration, motivation, resiliency and enjoyment.  However, she recognizes how these mental exercises may be a little harder to measure.

“It kind of all starts with your self-evaluation and your awareness,” Thurley said. “We can’t grow if we don’t know.”

Although Thurley has well-established herself in sports and her career, it’s not something that happened initially.

“Both organizations that I’ve worked in have fully embraced me being a female,” she said. “Baseball is a male-dominated sport, but once you get your foot in the door and the coaches and the athletes realize that you got something that could make them better and help them, then they fully are bought in.”

Thurley’s tough and positive mindset was hereditary. She describes how she never limited herself nor aimed low because she stuck to “refusing to settle.”

By moving from Tennessee to Florida then New York City, Thurley shares how she always got out of her comfort zone in order to pursue her dreams and advance in her career, and her mother and grandmother are the ones to thank for it.

“My mom’s worked my whole life and so did my grandmother,” Thurley said. “I knew that I was raised to, ‘go out there and get a job that you want, chase your dreams, and make a living for yourself. Don’t depend on anybody, but you.'”

Among Thurley’s many accomplishments, she states that overcoming all odds is her greatest one.

“Being 26-years old and a female with a full-time job in Major League Baseball,” she said. “I’m super excited and blessed and just proud and honored to be a part of this.”

In regards to her athletes and those around her, the mental skills coach strives to impact as many lives as she can.

“I want to help athletes realize potential that maybe they didn’t even see in themselves,” she said. “Some people helped me touch that untapped potential and I think if I can help athletes get better, or coaches, even by one percent, you’re impacting their career and their lives.”

Thurley advises those who want to pursue a career in sports to always portray confidence, enthusiasm and passion.

“Keep an open mind,” she said. “Even if it doesn’t sound great and glorious, give it a shot. Even if it says you have to move across the country, move across the country. Go for it. Take that leap of faith.”

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