Two years ago, Kaila Hunt walked into Garrett Black’s office at Greenbrier High School, threw a book on his desk and told him it would change the way he coaches.
Black, the Wolfpack athletic director and softball coach, didn’t read Toilets, Bricks, Fish Hoooks and PRIDE by Brian Cain for a long time, but once he did he was hooked.
Cain, a noted sports psychologist and performance coach, has worked with teams and athletes across the country, including Greenbrier alum Hunt’s 2012 NCAA national champion University of Alabama softball team.
Black started working with Cain in January and brought him to Greenbrier on Monday and Tuesday for seminars with the Wolfpack coaching staffs and softball team.
While introducing Cain to his fellow coaches Monday, Black sounded much like Hunt did.
“It will change the way you think about coaching your kids,” said Black.
Cain teaches coaches and athletes to stay in the moment, focus on the process and be positive. He is high energy from the get-go and got his points across in unique ways.
Senior Taylor Dupree was one of those getting to emphasize a point by eating fire.
“I trusted him,” said Dupree. “No one’s going to eat fire, I’m not just going to eat fire for nothing. I trusted him enough to know that ... I can do this instead of I can’t do this.”
Cain wasn’t always that positive. He was a pitcher at the University of Vermont in the late ’90s and thought his performance was short of what his abilities were, and then he had shoulder surgery his junior year. While recovering, he picked up a book called Heads-up Baseball by Ken Ravizza and Tom Hanson.
“It talked about controlling what you can control, playing one pitch at a time,” said Cain. “Everyone always told me in my career I needed to learn how to relax – no one told me how, no one gave me the tools.”
He went to California State University, Fullerton to study the mental side of baseball and sports psychology under Ravizza and has been working in the field ever since.
“That’s kind of what my passion has been, kind of saying, how come I didn’t know this, how come nobody taught this to me and how can my life be dedicated to helping athletes and people who want to be high-level performers give themselves the best chance to do so,” Cain said.
He left a lasting impression at Greenbrier.
Junior Maddie Hunt had heard her sister talk about how passionate Cain was about everything and how it made a huge difference in her game, but experiencing it first hand was another thing altogether.
“I didn’t really get the full effect of it until he actually came and I could tell that he’s very enthusiastic,” said Hunt. “It really made me think differently about the mental game of softball and how important it is, or in any sport or in life in general.”
Girls lacrosse coach Mark Leszczynski was picked to lead the coaches in their first team-building exercise and he took a lot away from the day spent with Cain.
“He gave us so many motivational tools to use with our athletes,” said Leszczynski. “I really look forward to implementing them with the girls lacrosse team.”