Adios Big Sky, Montana!


“The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.” -Robert M. Pirsig

I’m on my way home from Big Sky, Montana. If you follow me on social media you would know that I was in there to attend the Annual Big Sky Sport Psychology Conference. I’m still wrapping my head around this amazing trip!

I’m going to be honest, I was initially nervous about going to this conference. In my mind, I was meeting with people whom were way above my league and doing this work for years. I was in a space of minimizing my own 9 years of experience in comparison to them (yep, I’m prone comparisons too, when something really matters to me). In my mind, my colleagues have been there and done that, and a good many of them work with multiple Olympic teams, national teams, and professional teams in the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, etc., BUT when I arrived to the first session I was greeted with so much kindness and receptivity all my nervousness dissipated! (That trickster anxiety always trying to make me feel that the fiction in my heads is fact – not so!) I could not believe how easy it was to jump into conversations with everyone about topics and professional issues that we all face daily. I kept thinking to myself, “these people get it!” and they did.

Since last August, I have been in the trenches developing the student-athlete mental health services and sport psychology program at Sac State athletics (along with managing my private practice and research study). In the early stages of developing my program I “cold called” and emailed psychologists all over the country who were already doing what I was charged to do. I connected with psychologists from MAJOR university athletic programs picked their brains on the nuts-and-bolts of developing a solid program. This past weekend I got to meet them in person! It was so exciting to hug them and express my gratitude for all their direction and advice many months ago. To top it off, I connected with an old friend/pre-doctoral intern buddy from Wichita State University AND made some new friends!

My old WSU intern buddy Carly!

My biggest take-away (among many) from this conference is the importance of COMMUNITY. Especially, having a network of colleagues I can consult with when challenging ethical/ legal/clinical dilemmas arise. All of us who attended are board-licensed and therefore we must ensure that we are making decisions that do not compromise the laws and ethics of our profession. This ensures client safety and well-being. That is why as a consumer, it is important to ask about the credentials and qualifications of the sport professional person you are working with. This past weekend really highlighted the importance of practicing and working with clients that are within our competences i.e. “to stay in our lanes.” I will not claim to do and/or work with “XYZ” if I don’t have training and education. That is another reason why having a network is so important, I can refer athletes out that can be better served by someone else with XYZ specialty.

All in all, I am so grateful for the gift of community that was I needing. I feel so empowered, and supported, to have a network of sport psychologists and performance psychologists that understand what’s it’s like to have a unique role embedded in an athletics department/organizations. I didn’t really realize it until this past weekend that I really needed these people and, again, how important it is to have people who “get it.” It’s taken me years to arrive at this point in my life and career and I feel like it’s just the beginning of a new adventure.

Up until this point, I have not genuinely  given myself enough credit for all I’ve created. I’m proud of all the work I’ve done up until this point and this conference allowed me to open space for that. I often humble myself because I know I did not get to where I am alone. No one is a success without the help of others. I’ve got my work cut out for me when I return to Cali and I’m so inspired to do it, but this time with less striving, I am at peace with surrendering to the purpose and process that unfolds. This may sound very natural for some, but for someone who grew up like I did (reference blog post”My Personal Grit Story”) it takes effort and intention to remind myself that true stability and security is within – not found in accomplishments on the outside.

Here a few pictures of my great outdoor adventures in Big Sky, Montana!

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Dr. Gloria Petruzzelli

Dr. Petruzzelli is a clinical sport psychologist, triathlete, and certified mindfulness meditation teacher located in Sacramento, California. She works with elite athletes and sports teams across the country. She is a competitive athlete and enjoys practicing yoga, spending time with her family, and traveling.