Bob Tewksbury has spent a lifetime preparing.
For 13 Major League Baseball seasons, Tewksbury prepared himself to face hitters. These days, though, the Concord native prepares other athletes and coaches to deal with a new opponent: the mental challenges of COVID-19.
“Everyone is affected,” says Tewksbury, 60, a sports psychology coach. “We’re all affected. Because we all have feelings, it’s important to share those feelings.
“The research and science behind dealing with this is to normalize it, share your experiences and learn that meditation is a way to ease anxiety. Do things that help minimize the risk of contracting COVID.”
When Tewksbury discusses the virus, he must convince clients he’s not speaking just to hear his own voice.
“It’s about confidence, dealing with failure and having realistic expectations. That’s what it’s more about,” he says.
Tewksbury, who retired from pro ball in 1998, earned his master’s degree in sports psychology from Boston University in 2004. Initially, he served as the mental skills coach for the Red Sox, Giants and Cubs. Eventually, he established his own practice: Bob Tewksbury Mental Skills Coaching LLC.
Last year was particularly difficult for athletes, he says, especially for baseball players in a limited season.
“It’s a matter of players not getting the reps because they didn’t play many games.”
The year was difficult for him logistically, as well, because the virus eliminated the time he could spend on the road.
“It prevented me from talking to players or even traveling to see players,” he says. “Usually I would spend 10 to 15 days a month on the road going to see players and teams. So (COVID) affected what I do a lot.”
As a result, Tewksbury did what others were forced to do: virtual meetings.
“I worked from home,” he says. “With technology, there was a lot of texting and Zoom meetings. But, overall, it was very frustrating.
“After COVID-19, when I flew home I really didn’t talk to many players but I watched games on TV. I followed up with players as needed.”
It wasn’t until after he completed his master’s that Tewksbury decided what path he would follow.
“I became aware of sports psychology at BU and felt it would be a combination of my professional experience and the applied science behind sports psychology,” he says. “I thought it created a unique resume’ because not many people have the combination of those two skills.
“You form relationships with players and try to guide their performance. I wanted to keep doing what I went to school for but not from the team aspect,” he says. “I work with a number of athletes across different sports like a skater, a snowboarder, pro players, some elite college and high school athletes.”
Tewksbury says he focuses on more than one aspect of mental skills.
“Put in sports psychology terms, it’s having the ability to slow things down, regulating your emotions and having the ability to concentrate on the task at hand,” he says. “Positive images go along with positive self-talk.”
The fact Tewksbury was a pro athlete has been a bonus when it comes to working with athletes.
“When I talk about slowing the game down, I’ve done that,” he says.
“There’s a certain amount of credibility that comes with my practice. It’s helped me because baseball players respect those who’ve been in the big leagues because that’s where you want to go. What’s most satisfying is helping them find their path to success and sharing the success stories in terms of the techniques that allow them to have success on the field or in the arena.”