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New Bigfork cross country coach prioritizing mental work

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Posted at 8:41 AM, Oct 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-27 10:41:01-04

BIGFORK — There's never been a time in sports where athletes have discussed their mental health more, and at every level, they're seeing that the mental work they put in is just as important as the physical work.

In a time where a lot of coaches are having to play therapist, Bigfork’s Ryan Nollan doesn't have to play. He is the new cross country coach and also the school's licensed psychologist.

Nollan has been a therapist for as long as he's been coaching, and the two roles have never been more connected.

"None of us perform well for anxious or nervous about. So we're trying to just get kids to feel good, and to know their bodies and know their mental state can," said Nollan.

"You can tell when the therapist side comes out, he definitely talks a lot about the mental side of running," senior Elliot Sanford said.

In a lot of ways, Nollan's therapist background helps him as a coach.

"I think just starting to be aware of how you are feeling, and how that affects how you run and perform," said Nollan.

This hasn’t been an easy season for any team in Bigfork, due to a recent tragedy in the community.

"It has been a tough season for us here at Bigfork. We met that week even that day, and kids wanted to run. And we took the time and sat and did a mini check-in with kids and talked about how running and exercise can be really healthy," said Nollan.

Nollan explained how important it is for every coach at every level to have some sort of counseling background for the future generations to come.

"Because coaches are so impactful and meaningful, it is important that we address this and make ourselves available, and have an open conversation for kids to talk about," he said.

"Sometimes a coach is the only connection that they have, and somebody that they can talk to," Ryder Nollan.