“Get that critic off your shoulder [and] start having some fun.”

Jeff Miner is owner of the Triumph Program, a sports and life coaching business that puts the fun back into competition. Jeff is a licensed professional counselor with a focus on athletes. He made peak performance and finding the fun again the focal point of his business. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in psychology and biology from Utah State, and his Master’s Degree in educational psychology at the University of Utah. He’s been the director of research for the National Center of Child Centered Coaching, and has been under contract with the United States Olympic Committee. He has worked with Olympic athletes, individual team player of the Utah Jazz, a professional golfer, ironman baseball players, and an MMA fighters just to name a few of his clients.

An Early Start as a Wrestler

Jeff got his athletic start early. “I’m a wrestler. [In the] second grade, I started with all my friends. … And I ended up loving it up until about fourth or fifth grade. I had never lost. I’d never lost, didn’t know how to lose.” The stress to always win was hard on Jeff. “And small town in Jefferson, Iowa where everybody knew me as the wrestler. That’s what I was known as. …so it’s like I felt like everybody’s happiness depended on me winning, and that just kind of got worse the farther I got in age, and I felt more and more pressure, and I didn’t know how to deal with it.”

By the seventh grade, wrestling felt just like a job. It was a job that paid off in college scholarships, but a job that took its toll. “I felt like I had to win. It wasn’t an option. And dealing with anxiety, getting sick before matches. … I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t having fun because dieting all the time and working out like six to eight hours a day and all this kind of stuff…but I kept doing it because I think I liked the glory. Then [in] my junior year I blew out my knee and [it was] career ending. It was big time bad and I went through about a year after that of depression. Pretty serious depression. I didn’t know what I was going to do. … I was going to trial for the Olympics. I had all these plans and all of a sudden it was gone.”

Finding His Mission

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The experience led Jeff to an epiphany. “I want to become the guy that I wish I would’ve had to talk to. I want to be that guy that can say, hey, you know what? It’s going to be all right and you can do this. Let’s just figure out what’s in your way and what are you doing to stop you from doing that and how do you relax? And if you do blow your career and you’re done and what it’s like, how do you handle that? What do you do to move forward? So I kind of dedicated my life to … be that guy. I want to be the guy for athletes that want to have fun again.”

Jeff’s desire to be a counselor didn’t come into focus until after his bachelor’s degree. “I started in the sports psychology realm, but then I realized [I didn’t] get to really work with people that I wanted to work with and how I wanted to work with [them]. A sports psychologist isn’t a licensed counselor.” Jeff went back to school to get his master’s degree. He could finally work with the folks he wanted to they way he wanted to. That led to working with University of Utah gymnasts, doing preliminary research on eating disorders in athletes. This work led to his working with the US Olympic Committee, and writing Coach’s Planner. The book organized the paperwork that comes with coaching, and was customizable for individual sports. Coach’s Planner took off when insurance companies picked it up as a way to save money.

Business Ownership

The success of the book led Jeff into starting his own counseling business. “I did that. And then I met someone, had a baby, came up to Kansas City, and started a private practice about 14 years ago.” Jeff works with folks to find out where they want to go, builds the steps to get there, helps them overcome their fears and holds them accountable. Like he says “You have to own your shit right here.”

Business ownership has been an education in itself. Jeff eventually learned to “do the aspects of my business that I love or else I would be working for somebody else. So it’s like I’ve got specific aspects of my business that just rocked my world. And that’s usually like a one on one. Sit down. We come up with your plan and right when you’re starting to enjoy the ride and get to where you want to be.” To get to that point, Jeff learned that he had to deal with the parts of the business he wasn’t so good at. “…for me to ask for help is not easy for one, but to realize that I stink at running a hospital. I stink at budgeting for my business. … So it’s like either I master that or I get somebody to do it and put the right people on the bus or whatever. You need it, but you can’t. It’s just like with the fear, you’ve got to address it. You’ve got to do it and somehow it’s got to get done.”

How to be Successful in Business

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Jeff’s most critical lesson was to stop being his own critic. “Probably I think when you start becoming or you learn how to become your own biggest fan … I think with me a of the story that I told myself, I was a perfectionist. … It’s like having this little critic over my head walking around behind me all day, instead of the little guy going, hey, way to go, good job. So celebrate those successes. So it’s like once you become your biggest fan, you stop beating yourself up. You start taking chances because you’re not afraid of that reprimand.” And then “getting out of your own way, you know, it’s like I’ve had to do exactly what I tell everybody else is you gotta address your fears, and it’s not easy to go into that spot. You know, most people spend their whole life avoiding feeling those fears. It’s like I will drink, I will do whatever to avoid this feeling. I will eat. I will, but until you are serious and you address them, they’re always going to be there and they’re going to control your success.”

Q&A Session with Jeff:

You can find out more about Jeff Miner and his Triumph Program at https://www.triumphprogram.com/