A Minnesota native, Dr. Ben Merkling serves as a Sport Psychologist and Vice Director of Clinical Services at Premier Sport Psychology. Ben works with athletes ranging from youth to Division 1 collegiate athletes and professionals, and specializes in trauma therapy, anxiety, depression, injury rehabilitation, mindfulness, goal setting, and mental blocks.
Why did you get into/pursue a career in sport psychology?
I have always loved sports- all sports! As a young athlete, I found the mental side of the game difficult until I was able to find my own high performance mindset late in my career. After my athletic career ended, I found myself very drawn to psychology, and I was fascinated by the inner workings of the mind, emotions, and behaviors. I studied psychology in college and by the end of college, I knew I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could about psychology. I also wanted to share this information with others, so I went on to complete my masters and doctoral degree in counseling psychology. Along the way, it became clear to me that there were many athletes who found the mental game difficult, just like I did for so many years, and I wanted to help them find their way. I began exploring sport psychology and I was instantly hooked!
What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
Helping others find happiness and achieve their goals in life, whether that is through mental health care or mental skills training, is without a doubt the most fulfilling part of my job.
What would you say is one misconception about sport psychology?
The idea that you have to be an athlete to benefit from sport psychology. The truth is that we all have to perform in one way or another and we do it very often! We can all benefit from these skills!
What are some of your passions outside of work?
I love spending time with my family. If I am not working or talking sports with my friends, I am most often laughing and playing with my children. I also love learning, in general, and I love listening to audiobooks. I meditate regularly and have found this practice to be transformative throughout my life. Lastly, I love house and yard projects, whether that includes pulling weeds, raking leaves or any other task. I find it satisfying and cleansing.
How can sport psychology benefit someone outside of sport?
I truly believe sport psychology can help anyone. It helps us understand ourselves and others better, which eventually leads to improved wellness and happiness. Life can be stressful, and it can be incredibly helpful to have tools to get us through those tough times. Even in the moments that aren’t stressful, sport psychology helps us unlock our potential and gives us a greater ability to reach our goals, whatever they may be.