I’m the owner and founder of Maximize the Mind and I go by a number of titles: sport psychology consultant, performance coach, mental skills coach, mental performance coach, performance psychology expert, sport injury specialist, but ultimately, I teach athletes to be more competitive by learning strategies to manage their emotions more effectively.
I created Maximize the Mind years ago to change how people viewed sport psychology. ‘Regular athletes’ needed to know how to re-wire their brain to work for them instead of against them! I wanted to squash the stigma associated with sport psych. I wanted to give athletes a better option than “just get out of your head” or “don’t think about it” UGH!
I think far too many people out there miss their opportunities to perform to their potential because they are too worried about what others think or meeting their expectations. I absolutely love teaching clients how to maximize the moment! As a society, we tend to perform to a quota, or what everyone else is doing, but what if you could do more?
Most people won’t do more than what’s asked of them and they quit when it gets tough. I think this is sad. Don’t settle, you only get this one life. I’d hate for you not to see what you can actually make of it because you’re afraid of the unknown. I’m a big believer in going past what you thought was ever possible and prove that coach or teacher or colleague or even yourself that it was possible.
I’m not a therapist. Therapy is more like working on your past. I’m a mental performance coach. Coaching is more like creating a better future. Learning strategies taught through mental performance coaching makes achieving your dream in sports or on stage a reality.
I love what I do! How many people get to say that? Before I was in private practice, I was a high school teacher, head swim coach, and debate director for many years and I love different aspects of all my positions and wouldn’t trade the route I took because I learned so much from others. I know that’s what helps me relate to so many teenage athletes because that’s not an easy job. Although I have enjoyed taking pieces of each job into private practice, I know I’m where I am supposed to be now making the biggest impact possible and helping so many clients perform better.
I have a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Texas Tech University and a Master of Science in Sports Psychology from Florida State University. I’ve worked with athletes for two decades in coaching, teaching, sport psychology, performance consulting, and conducting workshops. During my career, I’ve coached All-Americans, State Champions, Olympians and received Coach of the Year Awards.
I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, but I’m extraordinarily proud to be a tiny piece of my client’s journey. The best is hearing all of their success stories! I have the ability to change someone’s life and that’s a pretty cool opportunity. I thoroughly invest in every client I work with. My heart and energy is truly poured into each individual I have the pleasure of helping.
So you’re thinking, why should I trust her? Well, I’ve probably been where you are now. I’ve been an athlete since a young age, I’ve had many athletic injuries, and I was deathly afraid of public speaking until I immersed myself in some of the very same concepts I teach to clients today. Growing up, I played tennis, golf, ran track, played volleyball, did gymnastics, and dabbled in dance, but my true passion was always as a competitive swimmer. Turns out I was way better at swimming than all the rest, so I stuck with that one the longest!
I really get what it’s like to be nervous, freaked out, comparing yourself to competition, not feeling good enough, stressed about getting a scholarship, wanting to puke before finals, and really just holding onto comments from others too long. I also always wanted to play violin on stage or audition for a play, but I was too scared. I remember what it was like competing when I was younger and the thing is, I still compete in triathlons and marathons so I haven’t forgotten performance pressures. I deal with them every time I race. I’m never not nervous, I care too much about the outcome and I want to do well, but I have learned how to channel those nerves into adrenaline that helps me. I compete totally different now and I have a much more impressive mental game than I did back then. Honestly, I wish people did what I did back in the 80’s & 90’s, or maybe I wish it was more common and accessible.
A little background on me, I’m a member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, Team Smashfest Queen, and numerous other running clubs. I understand the demands placed upon competitors, but I think it’s really valuable to have fun too. I can certainly appreciate the role mental toughness plays for all types of performers. As a multiple time Ironman finisher and All World Athlete, I recognize the power of self talk, coping with mental blocks, balancing stress, managing all the crazy emotions. So if you’re thinking how will she get what I’ve been through, we could probably swap graphic injury stories for fun. I know how much an injury could potentially damage your confidence, and how valuable it is to train the mind to prevent this. I’m certain training my mind has been a game changer for me in the many comebacks I’ve had to make.
If you don’t really know me, can you share your story with me easily… probably not, so here’s some info on my family. I’m one of five children, so if I wasn’t competing I was watching one of their events. We all did different sports! My dad played college football, won a national championship at The University of Arkansas and then went on to golf on the Senior PGA tour. He’s a tough cookie, and truly why I got into this industry, but more on that later. My mom is an avid golfer and tennis player. She played on several leagues growing up and did until I graduated college. One of my brothers won a 6A HS State Championship in football and went on to play in the SEC. My other brother was a ranked soccer player competing on several development teams. Both of my brothers suffered career ending injuries at an elite level, so I have experienced how crushing that can be through them as well. One of my sisters was an elite tennis player and my brother-in-law is a nationally ranked cyclist. My other sister was prominent on her drill team and different types of competitive dance. My husband raced BMX and participated in NHRA drag racing. So between all of us, you can imagine how competitive our household gets around holidays.
A question I get asked a lot is, how did you get into sport psychology or why did you want to do this? I said earlier my dad was probably my biggest influence. When I was young I watched him playing on the tour and struggle with managing emotions, believing in himself, dealing with lots of anger, self-doubt, staying on top once he got there, losing focus, staying in the moment rather than thinking about the next shot, and playing in such a spot light. He felt like at times he abandoned what got him there. I wanted to help him so badly, but didn’t know how. I would pray for him to play better or make the cut for the tournament that weekend. That’s all I knew how to do.
Hard work doesn’t always bring success, talent doesn’t always bring success, plenty of people work hard and have talent, but they can’t adapt in stressful situations. He needed help with his mental game. He needed to learn how to trust his talent and not change how he played when the pressure was on. He was obviously good enough to be there over and over again, but it’s difficult to disengage your brain and people tend to overthink everything that once came easy. However, we now know confidence can be learned, focus can be learned, performing under pressure can be learned. I knew I wanted to go into the field of sports psychology to teach individuals tools to apply so they can thrive in tough situations. So here I am!
Think of the equipment you use. You always want the best and newest gear. I’m just as guilty. Oh I love to buy some gear! We often think the newest piece of technology will make us better. Although it will probably help, what really would make you better is working on yourself. Learning mental skills could be the breakthrough you’re craving. I’ve personally seen it become the secret to success for so many I work with.
So what am I like to talk to? Well, I’m really enthusiastic and energetic. I’m not positive polly fake, who has time for that nonsense. I just love spreading knowledge and explaining the science behind how it all works. The brain is my jam. I hated when coaches used to tell me to do a drill but not say what it was for or how it would actually help me. So it’s important to me to explain why I am asking you do something and go over what it will do for you. I truly listen to athletes and performers of all ages. It’s really important to me to be able to connect to individuals of any level and build relationships through my teaching methods. I think a few of the things that set me apart from competition is my passion, rapport I build, and the fact that I’m driven to constantly learn more. I like seeing athletes compete and I enjoy traveling to watch them perform. I love to motivate others and educate people on the importance of being mentally prepared.
Reach out directly: [email protected]
Christa was raised as a competitive swimmer in Houston, Texas. She continued her athletic career through the Women’s Rowing team at The University of Alabama while earning her bachelor of arts degree in psychology.
During Christa’s time as an NCAA Division I athlete, she discovered she wanted to work with athletes to advocate for, guide, and empower them to take care of their mental wellness in all aspects of their lives while optimally performing. Christa’s favorite thing about working with athletes is witnessing them forget the results and fall in love with the process of becoming 1% better every day.
She continued to higher education and obtained her Master of Science degree in Sport and Performance Psychology from California Baptist University. Christa continued to broaden her scope of practice, which led to completing her second master’s degree in Counseling at Sam Houston State University; earning her credential as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT-Associate).
Early in her career, Christa used her experience and research to speak for teams and organizations publicly. Christa has gained experience consulting with couples, families, Military personnel, first responders, teams, and athletes of various ages, leagues, and demographics. Her specialties include performance anxiety, energy management, fear of re-injury and failure, and team dynamics between athletes and coaches.
In addition, Christa is the Director of Research, Development, and Assessment for a nonprofit called Alston for Athletes. Its mission is to educate youth and collegiate athletes and provide mental health resources. This nonprofit offers the opportunity to impact athletes everywhere, regardless of race, social, economic status, education level, culture, sexual orientation, etc. Christa participates in the research, curriculum, and mentorship because she strives to help athletes understand they have a voice, and their mental health is just as important as their physical health.
Christa has contributed to several research studies, including Impulsivity of Athletes, Repeated Trauma and Injuries in Athletes, and Athlete’s Unconscious Decision Making Influenced by Motor Expertise. Christa remains updated on evidence-based research to ensure she provides the most recent and proven skills and techniques for her clients to succeed.
Getting to know Christa more personally, she is the middle child of three girls (whew), which made for a very competitive family. She is an alumna of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and continues to cheer for the Crimson Tide in just about everything. Exercise has always been an essential part of her life; a new activity she has picked up is pickleball. In Christa’s free time, she plays with her dogs and loves to bake dairy-free treats, usually with dark chocolate.
Reach out directly: [email protected]
Hi everyone! My name is Aja Stills, and I am so excited to be a proud member of the Maximize the Mind team! I am so passionate about helping athletes tap into their limitless potential by training their minds to overcome the pressures faced during their sport. Athletes are pushed to be strong, challenged to grow, and expected to be skilled. These demands require a mental strength that equals or exceeds their physical strength.
Throughout my 11 years of competitive women’s gymnastics, my greatest asset was my physical strength. I was able to use my power to master skills and advance to become a level 10 gymnast; however, throughout my athletic journey, there were many instances where my physical strength alone was not enough to overcome the barriers that I faced. I knew my body was capable of completing the skill, yet I still found that I was unable to bring myself to do it.
I had complete confidence in my body but not in my mind. No matter if my obstacle showed up as a lack of confidence, a mental block, competitive nerves, negative self-talk, burnout, or any other factor, I found that I stood between myself and my goals.
This pushed me to seek out mental performance coaching! After gathering a few mental tools and strategies that I could use to make my mental strength match up to my physical strength, I was equipped to tackle the challenges that came my way. Mental performance coaching helped me to get out of my own way and achieve the goals I had set out for myself.
I went on to earn my bachelor’s degree in psychology at Texas State University. During my time at Texas State, I got further immersed into the world of gymnastics by becoming the president of the gymnastics club on campus and also working as a gymnastics coach for athletes of all ages and skill levels.
Working as both a coach and a leading member of a sport organization has allowed me to gain great insight into not only gymnasts, but athletes overall. In these roles I learned that sport is just as much mental as it is physical. When coaching, it wasn’t just a matter of teaching the mechanics of the skill, but also instilling the confidence and courage to do so. When supervising the gymnastics club, it wasn’t just a matter of organizing practice but also fostering a community that promoted team cohesion.
These values followed me into graduate school where I earned a master’s degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in sport psychology at the University of North Texas. During my time at North Texas, I worked with collegiate athletes as a mental performance coach. This role has shown me the significance of skill mastery. Mental skills training isn’t a quick fix, but rather a lifestyle change.
Much like the repetition and consistency necessary to master a skill learned during practice, the mind requires these tools and strategies to be exercised as well. In order to promote athletic advancement, I aim to create an open space where clients can feel comfortable to express themselves and share their story. Through a collaborative effort, we will begin to work on mental skills that can be used to overcome obstacles and achieve success. I believe in providing athletes with a call to action that encourages the practice of a skill outside of a session because it allows training to extend beyond the walls of Maximize the Mind.
Reach out directly: [email protected]