Bio: Dr. Dani Pecar is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) who provides mental health and mental performance counseling to DI student-athletes as the director of student-athlete mental health services at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Dr. Pecar believes in empowering athletes in exploration and expansion of their identity, embracing challenges through a strength-based lens, and cultivating internal acceptance that leads to meaningful action and a fulfilling life. She is currently conducting research on performance identity and is interested in the interplay of physical and mental health and performance. Dr. Pecar also enjoys integrating movement and fitness with mental health and performance to enhance well-being in and out of sport.
Tell us about what you have been up to since graduation. What are you doing now?
During my time at UWS, I was the director of a college counseling center and a mental health counselor for student-athletes. Since graduation, I accepted a new position as the director of student-athlete mental health services at Bowling Green State University. It is a brand-new position, so I have had the pleasure of building the program from the ground up. I spend my time providing individual and group mental health and mental performance counseling to DI athletes. I also run mental skills training and mental health workshops and programming for student-athletes and teams.
Where does your passion for sport and performance psychology stem from?
What a great question! My answer is probably more complicated than most. I have always been passionate about the mental health field. However, when I started working more on my own personal fitness, I recognized the large impact that physical health has on mental health and vice versa. Around the same time, I noticed that student-athletes at the institution where I worked were not utilizing counseling services. I started by creating and teaching a “Work-Out Your Stress” program in which I taught group fitness classes using positive psychology and motivational interviewing cue techniques to improve mental well-being. I also began specializing in mental health counseling for athletics. As I worked more and more with student-athletes, the pressures and stressors that they are expected to manage were insurmountable and the need for integrated mental health and mental performance services was evident. I have loved working with athletes and seeing them grow and find success that is meaningful to them. Witnessing the reclamation of identity and joy in their lives has been rewarding beyond words.
What is your favorite memory from your time as a UWS student?
My mentorship experience was incredible. I really enjoyed learning from my peers, because everyone in the program has such unique and invaluable experiences and knowledge. Peers, in partnership with the expertise of our professors, taught me more than I ever imagined. Dr. Russ Flaten’s dad jokes were also one of my favorite memories during mentorship.
How did your time at UWS prepare you for your career and life?
I think the biggest factor in my success from UWS was confidence. My professors and mentors, especially, truly empowered me to think outside of the box, lean into my clinical strengths, and embrace my genuineness in consultation applications. The constant encouragement for growth increased my confidence and taught me how to provide more effective and equitable services.
What was your favorite part about the online format of the program?
The flexibility in the program was everything to me. I was working full-time as a mental health counselor, a director, and running my own fitness business. Being able to complete my work at my own pace and timeline made a huge difference!
What is a piece of advice you’d offer to current UWS SPP students?
You do not have to know everything or have all the answers to be successful. You will continue learning and growing your entire personal and professional life, and that is such an amazing opportunity! Embrace the uncertainty of the challenges, be aware of your imposter syndrome, and choose to rise to the occasion in a way that honors your authentic self.
What made you choose UWS over other schools?
The flexibility of the online format was incredibly important to me so I could continue in my career. I was also impressed and connected with the professor who conducted my interview, Dr. Wendell Otto, and I knew that UWS was the place for me.
What is your favorite way to relieve stress?
I love hiking in the mountains, cuddling with my dogs, working out or flowing with my steel mace, and spending quality time with my husband. I am also always ready for a cup of tea, a book series, or a good documentary.