Former Cougar pitcher finds fulfillment as Red Sox mental skills coach

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Justin Su’a, a former BYU All-American pitcher, now works with the Boston Red Sox as a mental skills coordinator. (Justin Su’a)

Former Cougar baseball player Justin Su’a had lofty goals and big dreams. Pursuing them proved to be difficult, but 15 years after leaving Provo, Su’a has found success as the mental skills coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. Su’a hopes to continue to assist others in reaching their full potential, while bettering himself along the way.

A former baseball pitcher and All-American, Su’a attended BYU in 2001 and then again from 2004 to 2006 after serving a mission in Nicaragua. But his time at BYU wasn’t all he had hoped for.

Su’a was plagued with injuries throughout his BYU baseball career and said his body was never where he wanted it to be. In school, Su’a majored in communications with an emphasis in broadcast journalism. During an internship with NBC Sports in Los Angeles, Su’a began questioning his career path.

Su’a returned to Utah and became a seminary teacher. He taught seminary for five years while getting his masters in sports psychology from the University of Utah. Su’a said he didn’t feel that sports broadcasting was for him, but his first day of sports psychology classes felt different.

“From day one I realized this is what I wanted to do,” Su’a said.

He graduated in 2011 and began his own business, Su’a Sports Psychology, with the hopes of working with players and coaches. But Su’a said it was a lot different than what he expected.

“I failed miserably,” Su’a said. “And with three kids at the time it hit us hard. You eat what you kill, and I wasn’t killing much.”

Su’a said it was also a hard time mentally and emotionally.

“It created all this doubt in my mind,” Su’a said. “I thought, ‘Can I really do this? Can I really follow my dreams or is that just something people say?'”

Su’a credits his wife for believing in him and his kids for pushing him to never give up. Su’a didn’t let his dreams die; instead he did anything he could to make money and continued to look for opportunities.

Su’a’s dreams slowly began coming true. He went on to work for the U.S. Army as a mental performance enhancement expert. He then worked for IMG Academy as the director of male conditioning.

While speaking at a sports psychology conference in Las Vegas, Su’a was approached and asked if he would be interested in working with professional baseball players. Su’a said yes and quickly became the mental skills coordinator for the Boston Red Sox.

Su’a is now working with professional athletes and coaches as he had always hoped to do. For young athletes, transitioning to the majors can be a difficult challenge. Su’a helps these athletes develop the on-field mental skills they need to adjust.

Aside from adjusting to an advanced level of play, rookies and veterans alike struggle with managing the game mentally. Su’a helps all the athletes learn to handle the mental demands of baseball to avoid becoming distracted or overwhelmed during critical moments.

Overall, Su’a wants to help these athletes reach their full potential.

“I want to help them be good people off the field,” Su’a said. “I want to help them be good fathers and sons.”

Su’a’s passion for the family unit is at the heart of all of his work.

“I truly believe that no team is more important than the family,” Su’a said. “No championship is more important than succeeding in the home.”

His attitude about the family shows in his work and in his relationships.

“Justin is the guy you want to always be around,” said Travis Su’a, Justin’s brother. “He constantly encourages me to strive to get better everyday.”

Su’a was given the opportunity to help families when a publisher approached Su’a after he spoke at BYU Education Week. Su’a agreed to write a book and is now the author of “Parent Pep Talks” and “Mentally Tough Teens.”

Su’a calls it a “responsibility” to help families. Su’a also hosts the Increase Your Impact Podcast in hopes of helping others learn how to be mentally tough. Su’a said he will write a third book in hopes of helping anyone who wants to develop leadership and performance attributes.

Su’a continues to work with the Boston Red Sox organization and is an author, speaker and mental skills coach. He travels the world and helps others develop high performance habits.

“Everything Justin has received is because of his obedience, work ethic and enthusiasm,” said Murphy Su’a, Justin’s father. “His greatest gift is that he loves to serve. That’s what separates him from anybody and he’s really reaped the benefits because of it.”

Su’a’s dreams may have come true but it didn’t come quickly, easily or without some failure along the way.

“I didn’t quit. I pivoted,” Su’a said. “I put my head down, worked on my strengths, served people and doors opened and opportunities presented themselves.”

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