While playing basketball, Brandon Shintani noticed that anxiety was interfering with his performance on the court — and he realized that for an athlete, mental training is just as important as physical training.
Shintani, a 17-year-old high school junior from Ridgewood, New Jersey, became interested in the concept of sports psychology. He wanted to offer a free resource for young athletes, and two years ago, he founded the website Mind-DesignSports.org to help teens strengthen their mental game. A team of writers from around the world write blog posts and record podcasts for the website, sharing information on topics like letting go of mistakes and making decisions about when to compete.
"It's what I would have appreciated when I was younger," Shintani told The Week.
Mind-Design Sports also has a mentorship program that connects young athletes with college and high school athletes. They chat — over Zoom, by phone, or via text — at least once a month, with the mentors providing words of wisdom and pointers on how the mentees can elevate their game. It's Shintani's hope that by talking with their peers, athletes can overcome the mental roadblocks that might stop them from trying their best.
"It can be really easy to quit when things are tough, but when you stick with it, you feel so grateful that you didn't quit and so satisfied when you see the process play out," he said.
Mental health in sports is a hot topic these days, with Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and tennis star Naomi Osaka publicly sharing their struggles. By speaking out, they are destigmatizing asking for help, and "that's just great," Shintani said. "They are role models to the younger athletes."
Shintani's goal is for Mind-Design Sports to one day have worldwide name recognition, and it's important to him that teens know you don't have to be an athlete to take advantage of the tips and advice shared on the website.
"It's applicable for anybody," Shintani said. "A competitive musician who feels anxious before a big performance can use breathing techniques. I see a lot of 'sports psychology' as life psychology, and these mental strategies can help with anything."