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Former athlete uses injury to inspire sports psychology career

“My confidence was really low just cause I was at a pretty high level and essentially restarted.”
Published: Aug. 7, 2021 at 10:32 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - “I qualified for nationals,” said Izaiah Webb. “Unfortunately I broke my back four days after I qualified.”

Webb is a former pole vaulter and triple jumper from North Central College. He was a supreme competitor, the best freshman on the team until an injury his sophomore year changed his life.

“It was really tough because it felt like I lost a part of myself those eight weeks because I had identified as an athlete, and I had gone to this college to do athletics,” he said.

Webb says mental health can be difficult for athletes even without an injury, but add in a broken back, and your mind can go to an unfamiliar place leaving a feeling of despair.

“My confidence was really low just cause I was at a pretty high level and essentially restarted,” Webb said.

During Webb’s time away from the track, he visited a sports psychologist and discovered his love for the field. He says he always loved helping people and can use his experiences to help athletes conquer performance anxiety, injuries and beyond.

Webb is now a graduate student at Northern Illinois University studying kinesiology with the hopes of getting a master’s in clinical psychology.

“If you really have to break down success in sport, it comes down to you feeling like you’re in control,” said sports psychologist and NIU associate professor Dr. Jenn Jacobs.

When athletes lose that control, Dr. Jacobs says it can be detrimental to their confidence and performance.

“That mind is the x-factor that can kind of help prime athletes for success at this kind of high level,” she said.

Webb’s sports psychologist helped him build his once-confident athleticism back up while also giving him pre-practice and competition routines to do.

“Having that mental piece and that mental training was definitely an accelerator,” Webb said.

Webb made a full recovery and continued his track and field career at North Central before dedicating his life to helping other athletes overcome the same struggles he did.

“These are the skills that transfer outside of just athletic performance, so I think it’s very valuable to consider that,” Dr. Jacobs said.

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