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Draper Journal

Corner Canyon senior shares ‘Mindset for Success’ with Charger athletes

Feb 29, 2024 02:39PM ● By Catherine Garrett

Captains of the Corner Canyon High athletic teams attended a “Mindset for Success” event organized by senior Emma Hamblin, who competed as an All-State pole vaulter from 2021 to 2023. Nicole Detling, Ph.D., a mental performance coach, spoke to more than 100 Chargers athletes in December about mental skills training and optimizing mental health. (Photos courtesy Emma Hamblin)

It takes a lot for a two-time All-State pole vaulter to walk away from the sport she was dreaming of competing in college in, but that’s where Corner Canyon High School senior Emma Hamblin found herself last summer. After battling through anxiety for more than a year, she “chose myself over my sport.” This journey opened up a world Hamblin was unfamiliar with and one where she felt there were limited resources and assistance available within what she knew. The more she learned, the more she felt that she couldn’t be the only one looking for help in her struggles. 

As a DECA officer at CCHS, she wanted to do something about that, so she organized the “Mindset For Success” event where mental performance coach Nicole Detling, Ph.D., spoke in early December to more than 100 team captains of the Chargers athletics teams.

“In surveying the athletes at our school prior to holding this event, I was shocked to hear that 88% of them admitted that they were dealing with some type of mental health challenge,” Hamblin said. “The national average is 40%, so I knew we were on to something that deserved our attention.”

At the event, Detling—who owns HeadStrong Consulting in South Jordan—discussed with the athletes the role that she plays in helping others as a coach rather than a therapist. “In my company, we talk about how we put the fence at the top of the cliff so people are less likely to need the ambulance down in the valley,” she said. “So, I work to optimize performance through mental skills training. While on the same continuum as mental illness, I work on the opposite end with the purpose of optimizing mental health.”

Detling said that typically athletes at the high school level deal mostly with emotional management, such as anxiety and handling adversity, and confidence. “Knowing this, I went into specific skills [including goal setting and emotional and breathing techniques] they can utilize in ways to optimize their mental health and ultimately their athletic performances,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Corner Canyon athletes and found them to be receptive to the skills I was teaching them. They were fun to talk to.” 

Detling added, “I am so proud of Emma for recognizing this resource and pulling it all together so her fellow athletes at CCHS could learn some mental performance skills.”

“We made attendance by the team captains mandatory because we felt the message was so important,” Hamblin said. “We learned a lot of practical ways to deal with our anxieties and stresses. The feedback afterwards was really positive. People loved it and said they really benefitted from what they learned. The administration also felt that it was ‘so impactful.’”

Emma Hamblin, the daughter of Lance and Marion (Meyer) Hamblin of Draper—who met as pole vaulters at Utah State—got a front-row seat to the realities of mental health just prior to the 6A state track championships in May of 2022 when, during practice, she suddenly began shaking, couldn’t breathe, became dizzy and her body tensed up. Her dad, who is the CCHS pole vaulting coach, was right there trying to help her through what she was experiencing for the first time: a panic attack.

“I had no idea what was going on. It was so scary,” said Hamblin, who, as a sophomore, went on to place fifth for the second consecutive year at the 6A state meet. Following what she now knew were multiple panic attacks over the next month, she reluctantly pulled out of the Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships that summer. “I really wanted to go. It would have been at San Diego State, which was my dream school to compete at and I knew those coaches would be there,” she said. “But, I didn’t go.”

Instead, she worked with Detling over the next several months to find the source of this newly-discovered struggle. “What I realized was that I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and pole vaulting was simply consuming my life. That’s who I was,” Hamblin said. “We went back to the basics with shorter runs and smaller poles, taking some time off and competing in long jump just for fun. Starting all over put pole vault in the background, and I started to see that I was so much more than just my sport.”

So, after her junior season, Hamblin put the pole aside for good. “Anxiety was just consuming me and when I actually decided I was done, I felt such relief. The weight that just lifted off of me helped me to really know that I had made the right decision,” she said. “My parents were right there with me through it all. They had seen the year of work where I was trying and pushing to get past things mentally and they knew that I had given everything.” 

Since then, the senior said she is doing well and is “the happiest I’ve ever been,” spending her time on schoolwork, CrossFit and DECA. Her last panic attack was three months ago so she began medication to help her further prioritize and regulate her mental health.

Hamblin hopes Corner Canyon will continue events like these in the future that will keep an emphasis on helping athletes and others with their mental health and encourages other schools to also prioritize this education and training for their campuses.

“I want to continue to spread awareness about mental health in athletes and hopefully inspire more people to hold similar events for their student-athletes,” she said. “At our schools, there aren’t many resources and no one really talks about it so you almost feel like no one cares about it. We may not want to admit that there is a need, but the reality is that mental health is an issue, and we need to open our eyes so we can see it and open our mouths so we can talk about it.” 

Hamblin’s new “dream” is to be a sports psychologist and she’ll head to Utah State in the fall to begin her pursuit so that she can help “others who are going through it find ways to be helped through it.”λ