Renowned Sports & Performance Psychologist Speaks at Oak Knoll

By Zahra Jones ’23 and Megan McCann ’23

“Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the ability to experience fear and do it anyway.” This quote is one of the many words of inspiration Dr. Jonathan Fader shared with the Oak Knoll student body on Monday, May 22, 2023. The Oak Knoll community was privileged to have Dr. Fader speak to students about how to “level up” in all aspects of their lives, whether that be academically, athletically, or socially. Dr. Fader is a sports performance and clinical psychologist who has worked with a wide variety of athletes, such as the New York Giants and New York Mets, to help them tackle their obstacles in the most effective way. 

Equipped with a PhD in Clinical Psychology and a lifelong passion for helping others, Fader has dedicated himself to elevating human potential. Whether through his work with SportStrata and Union Square Practice, or as an author, coach, TedX presenter, and speaker, Fader uses motivational interviewing, performance training, and cognitive behavioral therapy to unlock the psychology of success.

In his presentation, Fader highlighted the importance of keeping the mind calm through any obstacle one may face. He spoke on the concept of mental conditioning, which is designed to enable the human brain to become more mentally strong and flexible. Fader stressed that keeping the mind conditioned and healthy is equally as important as the body’s conditioning. 

Throughout the presentation, Upper School students learned the importance of maintaining a consistent routine and how that routine can help one reach their goals. Dr. Fader stressed the importance of building a routine with consistency and mental toughness — two very important components of leveling up in life. 

“Whether it’s a test, a football game, a competition, a debate team, whatever it is that you’re into, how can you bring out the best? What are the techniques in sports psychology that you can use in your life? I think you’ve seen all over sports that mental toughness, mental skills are becoming a big part of the game.  What I found actually is that the biggest obstacle in reaching goals, the number one thing that hurts performance and gets in the way of our goals is stress, worry, and fear. You have to choose in every situation, are you gonna look at these as a challenge or are you going to look at them as a threat? You control that. What you do in your own mind is up to you. The world you live in is the world you create,” Fader reinforced.

Additionally, Dr. Fader talked about the difference between a growth mindset and fixed mindset. He explained that a growth mindset is the key to maintaining a successful lifestyle, which includes changing your outlook on certain situations. When talking about perspectives on life’s obstacles, Dr. Fader explained, “The brain is wired to recognize the negative before the positive.” He insists that one has to train the brain to think positively and focus on what one can control, rather than what is simply uncontrollable. He also introduced the ideas of self-talk, self-coaching, and visualization as methods to combat challenges. Fader explained that implementing these methods into a daily routine will allow for a habitual task that continues to grow your mindset and strengthen your mental toughness. 

Dr. Fader’s presentation was part of a larger speaker series, “Chasing Excellence: Optimizing success at Oak Knoll School through awareness, education, and peak performance strategies for the mind and heart,” pioneered by sophomore Zoe Harmaty under the auspices of a student-run club she proposed and launched this academic year.