Curry and the Commodores

Vanderbilt football adds director of mental performance

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Earlier this year, Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea announced the addition of Kaelene Curry to his staff as the director of mental performance.

Curry is a former Summit League Softball Player of the Year at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She has spent time at Northern Colorado, Sonoma State and the University of Denver before arriving in Nashville. recently had a chance to speak with Curry about her role with Vanderbilt football: Can you give us a simple breakdown of what your role entails?

Curry: “It’s two-prong, really. One side involves organization development, systems flow and building staff relationships. This often looks like one-on-one meetings, offering coaching to staff and coaches, as well as observing and sharing feedback.

“The other side is my mental performance coaching role for our student-athletes. I work closely with sports medicine, our strength and conditioning coaches and our offensive and defensive coordinators to collaborate on the integration of mental performance tools in their arenas. Coach Lea carves out time in the schedule each week for Mental Performance Team Educations. We also encourage our players to schedule one-on-one meetings with me whether they’re aiming to develop their leadership, or grow their mind into another weapon in their arsenal. Anything relating to their performance on the football field, they can reach out to me as a resource.”

What made you want to come to Nashville to join head coach Clark Lea and Vanderbilt football?

“I am such a believer in coach Lea. He has a clear vision, passion and qualities of a leader that are unmatched. From my first conversation with him, and when watching his initial press conference, I was struck by his delivery and what’s important to him.

“Now seeing how he is growing this program, developing our young men and our staff, I continue to buy-in more each day.

“I have been having one-on-one meetings with staff and coaches since arriving in Nashville. What has been a constant theme is the unwavering belief in Clark. You can feel that energy, love, and commitment radiating through the halls.”

For some background, how did you find yourself in the profession you are in today?

“When I was in college I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to pursue in terms of a degree. It was pretty much as concrete as you think – one day I thought, ‘Well, I like sports and I like psychology, I can put those two together.’

“I looked into some graduate programs across the country and was afforded the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree from the University of Denver. My brother lived in Colorado at the time, so I was excited to continue my education and have the ability to be close to my brother. I feel extremely grateful for my time at DU. It was a formative experience for my personal and professional development.

“I feel like many mental performance and sport psychologists saw how the profession helped us as athletes or how it could have helped. That definitely rings true in my career.”

In sports, success is often defined by wins and losses – is that the definition for you?

“I think our success, and we just addressed this in our team education last week, comes from our relationships and consistency. As our mental performance coach, I have goals to help guide our program in these areas.

“We’re focusing on building strong bonds that will bring us together in times of adversity. We’re also focusing on consistency program wide. Coach Lea shares his vision with our team every week and it reverberates through our program every day. Success for us will come from consistency in our attitude, behaviors, choices and processes.”

“These are things that will make for a successful year and sustained success throughout the years.”

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.