Sport Psychology

Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Club is committed to the mental health and wellness of its athletes and staff, and recognizes the central role that mental strength and stamina play in elite performance. As one of the first youth sport organizations in the country to hire a Director of Mental Performance, and with over thirty mental performance consultants-in-training working within the club, CRYSC’s commitment to developing psychologically safe, growth-oriented, high performing competitive environments is evident. 

CRYSC provides mental performance support to athletes, families, and coaches throughout all regions and levels of the club through in-person and virtual workshops tailored to the unique needs and roles of each group. Workshops address topics such as fostering connection, reframing failure, providing feedback, building team culture, managing sideline behavior, coping with stress and anxiety, and developing a growth mindset.  

Through CRYSC’s partnership with the University of Denver’s Center for Performance Excellence (CPEX), every Elite CRYSC team is provided team-specific mental performance training. What’s more, discounted one-on-one mental performance training is available for every CRYSC athlete (see below for more information on CPEX).

CRYSC takes pride in being at the forefront of the advancement of youth sport and are excited to provide yet another valuable resource to its members in the form of mental performance support. In collaboration with CRYSC coaches, club members, and DU’s CPEX, CRYSC athletes will be the beneficiaries of an even healthier competitive environment; one not only conducive to elite level performance, but that also promotes their enjoyment of the game, personal growth and development, and overall mental health. 

For any mental performance questions or needs, please contact CRYSC’s Director of Mental Performance, Katie Pagel, at [email protected].

Meet CRYSC’s Director of Mental Performance, Katie Pagel

Originally from Vancouver, WA, Katie earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Health & Disease Biology from Purdue University. After graduation, she worked as a rehabilitation technician at an outpatient physical therapy clinic outside of Seattle. It was there that Katie recognized a puzzling disconnect; while an exhaustive team of doctors, physical therapists, massage therapists, strength coaches, acupuncturists, and the like tended to the performers’ bodies, nobody was tending to their minds. Given how often she talked with her patients about fear, confidence, anxiety, motivation, and the like, she knew she wanted to fill this gap. 

Armed with a newfound sense of purpose, Katie returned to school and earned a Master’s Degree in Sport and Performance Psychology from the University of Denver. While at DU, Katie worked with performers from a range of disciplines, ages, and competitive levels from recreational youth athletes to Olympic hopefuls to Special Forces Green Berets. In fact, some of Katie’s most memorable graduate school experiences came from her time working alongside the athletes, families, and coaches at CRYSC!

Katie is a firm believer in the power of healthy competitive environments, and considers youth sport the best framework already embedded in our culture for the development of hard-working, collaborative, and resilient members of society. In addition to her position with CRYSC, Katie owns and operates a Denver-based mental performance training private practice, Strive Performance. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, singing karaoke, and watching Jeopardy!

Contact Katie:

[email protected]


Katie Pagel

Director of Mental Performance

Mental Health Support

If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, contact Colorado Crisis Services. Call 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 to reach the crisis line. The confidential crisis line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When you call, you will be connected to a mental health professional who can provide immediate support, connection, and additional resources. For general inquiries regarding mental health support for a CRYSC athlete or coach, email [email protected]

As outlined above, engaging in mental performance training is not the same as going to counseling or therapy. The mental performance specialists working throughout CRYSC are not licensed mental health practitioners and therefore are not qualified to diagnose or treat mental health concerns. CRYSC is nonetheless devoted to supporting our athletes and families should they require mental health support. For more information on mental health and common mental health struggles facing children and adolescents, check out these resources:

For more information on the full spectrum of mental health disorders, head to the websites for the National Institute for Mental Health or the National Alliance on Mental Illness by clicking their image below.

For more information on child mental health, specifically, explore the phenomenal resources available through the Child Mind Institute.

CMI Logo

For additional mental health resources for athletes explore the resources available on the Team USA Mental Health page, or the NCAA Mental Health page


If you or anyone in your family is seeking mental health support, contact one of these licensed, Denver-area mental health practitioners: 

For more information on psychologists and counselors in the greater Denver area, and to apply specific filters to your search, head to Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist Page


University of Denver Center For Performance Excellence + CRYSC


Rapids Youth Soccer has been a proud partner of University of Denver’s Center for Performance Excellence (CPEX) since 2017. CPEX consultants are currently earning their Masters of Arts in Sport and Performance Psychology at the University of Denver – a program widely regarded as the best in the country. 

CPEX is a nonprofit consulting organization that provides sport and performance psychology support and life skills coaching to a variety of groups throughout the greater Denver area. Every day, CPEX consultants use performance as a vehicle for personal growth and development and positive social change. CPEX consultants work with athletes and performers to develop the mental skills and techniques to leverage their minds in the name of achieving personal excellence. In essence, CPEX consultants train a performers’ mind in the same way that coaches and strength and conditioning practitioners work to train their bodies. 

CPEX consultants receive a minimum of 250 hours of training prior to working with clients. Said training involves rigorous, multi-layered supervision, hands-on instruction and education, and direct observation of field work. All consultants are supervised by recognized experts and leaders in sport and performance psychology with over 45 years of professional practice.

For more information on the University of Denver’s Center for Performance Excellence, visit their website here

CPEX Individual Sessions

CPEX is excited to offer individual mental performance training sessions for CRYSC athletes at a discounted rate. An introductory consultation of approximately 30 minutes is also available for all CRYSC athletes, free of charge.

1 Session

All sessions are 45 minutes

3 Sessions

All sessions are 45 minutes

5 Sessions

All sessions are 45 minutes

Mental Performance FAQs

These terms are often used interchangeably throughout the club, and can be taken to mean the same thing. The individuals who work within the club are referred to as mental performance consultants as opposed to sport psychologists to highlight the fact that they are not licensed mental health professionals, but rather Master’s level practitioners specifically trained in sport and performance.

Not quite. Though the skills addressed in mental performance training can be transferred to other domains of a client’s life, the primary focus is on applying these skills to improve the quality and consistency of athletic performance in training and competition. In contrast, counseling/therapy often tackles a much broader range of presenting issues, including clinically significant mental health concerns. While mental performance consultants do not diagnose or treat mental health concerns, should one present during mental performance training, they will support the client in finding a mental health practitioner appropriate for their needs.

The exact nature of mental performance training varies depending on the practitioner’s approach and unique client needs. However, athletes can expect to answer questions, engage in discussion, and participate in activities exploring topics such as motivation, confidence, self-talk, imagery, goal-setting, pressure, attention, emotional regulation, self-awareness, mindfulness, performance anxiety, and personal value identification.

The impact of mental performance training varies, and is contingent on many factors, including the client’s overall willingness, motivation, and commitment to the process. Training your brain is similar to training a muscle – you likely won’t see an increase in strength overnight. Similarly to developing a new physical skill, mental training takes time and consistent, repetitive practice.

Yes! Each CPEX consultant receives weekly individual and group supervision from a faculty supervisor with a doctoral degree or license in psychology, and weekly supervision from an alumni consultant supervisor and a group of peers. All information discussed in supervision is confidential and no personal identifying information is included.

Yes. All consultants adhere to ethical and legal guidelines of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and the American Psychological Association (APA). Any personal identifying information or content discussed within an individual session with your CPEX consultant are confidential unless this content or information involves the reports of abuse or neglect of a child, elderly, or persons with a disability, or threats or intent to harm yourself or others. Upon disclosure of such information, your CPEX consultant is ethically and legally obligated to follow the required reporting procedures. Consultants will not disclose to any coach that they are working with a particular client unless the client has signed a release of information. See “I am a minor” for more on confidentiality. 

CPEX consultants are able to work with children of all ages. If interested in mental performance training, parents are encouraged to reach out in order to determine what topics are developmentally appropriate for your child.

CPEX consultants will have their first meeting with the client and parent(s)/guardian(s) together. This meeting will include a discussion of expectations and confidentiality. By law, guardians have access to information covered in session if the client is a minor, and are within their rights to ask for such information from the CPEX consultant. While parents/guardians are often the primary points of contact for scheduling, CPEX consultants will conduct sessions with the client alone. Requests from parents to sit in on a session will be handled by the consultant on a case-by-case basis. 

Neither CPEX nor CPEX consultants bill insurance. If you would like to submit your proof of payment to your insurance company, that is at your discretion. While insurance plans vary greatly in what services they will cover, typically they will not cover services that do no include a psychological diagnosis. Seeing as CPEX consultants are not mental health professionals and do not make diagnoses, CPEX services are usually not covered by insurance. 

Appointment or Information Request

To request a consultation with a CPEX mental performance consultant, or to inquire further about any aspect of mental performance support, please fill out the form below or email [email protected].

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