After finishing the European Swimming Championships in Rijeka in 2008, Igor concluded that it is time to turn a new page and use his sports experience and professional knowledge to stop young athletes from repeating his mistakes. While still studying in the USA in 2006, he wrote the Mental Training program for managers. However, as it turned out, managers got their turn later. At first, Igor got a job as a coach and a psychologist at a swimming club and came up with the first, basic Mental Training structure that still exists today.
Like all beginnings, this one was difficult, too. However, little by little, the scope of work and number of clients increased, and Igor quickly realized that he could not and did not want to work alone. His guiding principle was to provide support to all those who needed it, and he could not do it alone. Convinced in team strength, it took him years to gather a team of people that will make the original thought bigger and put it into practice. Overcoming the stigma and suspicion of the MT novelty was a big task for the team. It was not easy to acquaint people with a completely unknown concept until then. For that reason, hundreds of hours of lectures and seminars about Mental Training were held. Many doubted whether the vision will ever come true, but we did not have that luxury. Soon, calls from domestic and foreign sports circles started coming in and, over a period of several years, the number of athletes under the auspices of MT peaked again.
There came a time for a new phase in MT development. Igor believed that MT should not be just a privilege of athletes, but of all of those striving for personal growth. After all, sport is just a faithful display of life. To make that idea come to life, the team had to grow in number and quality. Many wanted to be part of the MT project that grew day by day, but not everyone was equally willing to take on the burden that came with the opportunity. However, as it happens sometimes, when you invest all your energy and time into something you want, you get a chance to make it happen. Thus, very important young people joined the MT team. In 2009, Igor met Ana. Ana worked for years at the Sports High School as a psychologist so she invited him to give a talk about the possibilities of MT to student athletes at her school. From that day, they began collaborating and continued to do so for many years until she joined the team.
As the MT project grew some new ideas were born, too: stress management and time management workshops for general population, and the first education for parents in sports. The MT concept began spreading to the neighboring countries, so we held many seminars to our neighbors who have been following our work on social networks for a long time.
Up to this year, Igor worked as a swimming coach in a swimming club and as an associate in several of them. However, MT demanded complete dedication and some kind of a step up, a risk at this point. That year, he devoted all of his time to developing MT. Because of that, 2012 was marked by a growing number of clients inside and outside the borders of the Republic of Croatia. Athletes from all over the world called us…which was only a confirmation to us that good news travel fast.
Having a sports career and coaching experience is extremely valuable because they teach you how to win, and how to lose. 2013 was a year of great success in sports and business. At the same time, it was a year of great business challenges, mistakes, and learning for MT. We held our first trainings for coaches in Croatia and abroad, got involved in athletes’ travels at the ATP tour, and became part of the National Sports Federations and the Croatian Olympic Games teams.
After several years of collaboration, it was time for Ana to officially join the team because we believed her long-standing experience in working with young athletes would be of significant importance and that MT skills would be a perfect fit for her. Shortly after she started working with us, Ana made remarkable results with her athletes. Given that the MT principle is creating and providing opportunities, the team decided it was time to bring in young forces to freshen up the team, bring enthusiasm, and new insights. If we do not provide opportunities for others, then we cannot expect to have them either.
For this reason, during 2014 and 2015 Matej, Maja, and Monika joined the team. Each of them showed exceptional effort and willingness to learn and came up with creative ideas and solutions. Each of them had sports experience and a sports attitude, i.e. had what we needed. Since autumn 2015, these young people became a permanent part of the team contributing significantly to creating a more powerful vision and mission of MT today. Finally, we must not forget to mention that many other people participated in the process of creating MT, everyone in their own way. Some helped us and pushed us forward while some made it harder for us but made us stronger in the future. We have learned a lot from all of these experiences and we are grateful to all of those who were here with us as well as those who are about to come. Our team is made up of people who know each other well and whom Igor gathered for their abilities; but more than anything, we believe our team really lives what MT is. MT has become more than a job: it has become a calling to all those who are part of it and when you do something you love, you add that special something that no ingredient can replace. Today, MT is led by all team members regardless of their daily roles but with a common vision and mission.
2015 was a year of great creation and expansion, but 2016 was a year of testing, changing and setting solid foundations. MT got a chance to grow and become bigger than anyone anticipated. However, the original vision has always been and remains the same – always be one step ahead of others. This will also be the case in the future and what will be written here will be determined by the team of people behind Mental Training, the opportunities they will create and the people they will support in the form of achieving their own excellence and balance.
After taking part in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics and the legendary Damir Martin’s race, we realised that change is finally happening in our society. In 2016, Damir was named the sportsmen of the year. In addition, our dear Anđela Mužinić, together with Helena Dretar Karić, got the award for women’s team of the year. Both of them returned home with Olympic medals around their necks, and we were both happy and proud to have been (and stayed) a part of their journey and the fact that they left a strong mark in the world of sports! Igor spent the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 as a part of the Croatia men’s national handball team which marks another great achievement – it was the first time a psychologist was an equal member of the team. The era of great things for MT and the MT team has started.
We can call this year a year of great partnerships. MT became a part of “Active Croatia”, a Croatian sport-educational project. With it, we got the chance to visit various towns in Croatia and share our knowledge and experience with a vast amount of people. We continued working on what we believe in, always following our values. As the year went by, MT continued to expand. We gained new partners and an increasing number of clients chose to grow with us. This year we have released our second handbook called “Parents of the New Age” which we firmly believe will be a partner to many parents who want to perfect their role and be a better role model for their children. We ended the year with the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the existence of Mental Training in Croatia with a special panel on which some of the most important people of our society gave their contribution to our – now not so small – story. We are still grateful for all the opportunities for growth and learning.
In this year, having our first decade behind us, we stepped into various new projects and partnerships. Being consistent in work after all the years of our existence is not always easy, but it is necessary for our continuous development, which we strive for. For that reason we continued being involved in projects we believe in and we also launched some new ones. We collaborated with Lee Zona, Biotrening, HUNS, HUM-Croma, Adidas Runners Zagreb, Polyclinic Vaš Pregled, Body and Mind Studio, Valmond Center, Handball Club Varaždin, Croatian Volleyball Federation, Nutrilife, Aktivna Hrvatska, Fitness Academy, and we became a standard, behind the scenes part of the Život na vagi team.
It is our mission to share our knowledge with a wide audience, hence taking part in Psihofest, Football Medical Symposium organised by the Croatian Football Federation and, the first Sport Psychology Symposium in Serbia. We also held a series of lectures at the American University Purdue.
This year the changes made us grow further. Sandra became an important part of the team as she led the newly founded Mental Training programmes for high schoolers and university students. Simultaneously, the new wave of developing the usage of technology in our work spurred. Our athletes were achieving one success after another. Luka Šamanić was invited to NBA, and our footballers played in various first Croatian Football League clubs.
Inspired by numerous changes and decisions our clients made over the years, we published our third book: The Little Book of Big Changes (Mala knjiga velikih promjena).
Even though we did not expect any significant changes this year, it turned out that it is actually them that left the biggest mark!
Challenge is probably the understatement when it comes to this year. However, when difficult times come, it is the ones that are ready to cope and put in the extra effort that stand out. It appears that difficult times that marked 2020 on the global scale prompted us to take a big step forward.
We decided to make MT available to everyone, regardless of their location, hence creating our online platform. We not only launched our first online education for coaches, but also the one for athletes, who can now work with our experts online, eight weeks in a row, whenever and wherever they might be.
We also launched a new platform mentalnozdravlje.hr through which we aspire to provide support to the ones needing it, and also educate and make information about mental health available and easily accessible.
The media often asked for our professional opinion for which reason we had the opportunity to share it on the television news and shows throughout the year. In addition, we decided to be proactive and provide support through Instagram Live streams through which we held lectures and seminars. Ana held a lecture at the UKTH conference aimed at football coaches and Igor at Fitness Index Conference. We also educated European coaches as part of the HNK Gorica project and the Klitschko Foundation.
Collaborations and partnerships did not stop this year. We started a partnership with Dnevna doza Baktiva, the new web page founded by Dukat, collaborated with New Zealand’s futsal club, and our partnership with Zagreb Adidas Runners expanded to Adidas Runners Global which meant that people from around the world had an opportunity to hear our lectures.
We will remember this year as a challenging one, but also as the one marked by numerous and important steps forward which we will continue taking in 2021.