August 2022 AOTM: Kelsey Ruffing, Kelsey Ruffing Counseling

athlete of the month Aug 01, 2022

Welcome back to TWN’s Athlete of the Month! Each month we are highlighting athletes in our network to share what they have accomplished outside of sports, their contribution to the athletic community and more. Make sure to check out our weekly newsletter to learn more about the athlete, what motivates them, and how to contribute to their cause.

Our August Athlete of the Month is Kelsey Ruffing - Founder & President of Kelsey Ruffing Counseling and former soccer player! 

Kelsey’s athletic career started at a young age, starring as a striker on the soccer field. She played through the injury and recovery of two ACL surgeries and was preparing to come back from a third ACL tear when she realized she was unprepared mentally to step back on the field. KRC was created because Kelsey saw a great need for counseling services that were specifically tailored towards helping individuals with chronic health conditions, as well as athletes dealing with sport injury. Kelsey’s clinical experience in health and sport psychology and her own personal experiences with athletic injury have fueled a passion for helping individuals thrive despite their physical circumstances. 

Now, Kelsey works with athletes 15 years of age and older, helping them navigate issues like injury recovery, anxiety, depression and other adjustment issues. Having been through the agony of three ACL injuries, Kelsey knows first hand how injury and recovery can affect athletes mentally and has dedicated her practice to helping them overcome their own issues.

In Episode 30 of Timeout with TWN Kelsey shared her thoughts on how playing soccer has impacted her in her life after sports, what she learned from her journey and how she decided to start helping others who have been through similar experiences.

Kelsey is advisory board member of Sidelined USA. She helps to support the organization’s mission to reunite permanently-sidelined athletes with their passions and inspire them to find a meaningful way forward.

“Everybody has a story and when you take those moments of where you struggled and turn them into strengths, that’s where people find their passion.”

Here's our full interview with Kelsey Ruffing

1. Why did you create Kelsey Ruffing Counseling?

I created KRC because I saw there was a deficit in the surrounding communities when it came to counseling specifically for populations experiencing chronic pain and chronic illness. I also really wanted to follow my passion for sport psychology and be able to provide services to that specific clientele. I had worked for multiple private practices before opening my own, and I just wanted to focus on my specialties. I dream of creating a place where clients can focus on whole health: mind, body and soul. I also wanted to help other therapists with similar interests gain experience working with these populations.

2. What did being an athlete teach you about the work you are doing now?

My athletic experiences taught me a lot of empathy. I could always empathize with injured athletes because I was a chronically injured athlete. That was what first pushed me into sport psychology. The characteristics I developed being an athlete like determination, resilience, and grit have all come in handy during my degree programs and with building a business. Sport gave me so much and I know it is the backbone to my career. 

3. What is the most important thing you did for yourself to start planning for life outside of sports?

I had to really take a hard look at what my other interests were. I stepped away from sport after a third ACL tear and it was not a planned exit. I know I experienced depression and grief. Looking back, I found other things I was passionate about just by going out and experiencing more. I took opportunities that were given to me and I went out and found others. I saw a therapist during my college years that also helped me process my transition from sport.

4. When and how did you decide you were ready to make the transition out of sports?

It my case, I made a decision, and I also did not make a decision. I tore my ACL for the third time at the end of my junior year soccer season. I planned to comeback for senior year. When it came time for tryouts my senior season, I was physically cleared but felt that I was not mentally ready. I took my practice bag and walked to my car and drove away. I felt like I was not in it anymore. The third ACL tear was my longest recovery, and it really took away my motivation and desire to play. I did not realize at the time that this was depression. 

5. What advice do you have for athletes around moving on from sports to their next chapter? 

My advice would be to start talking to a professional or someone you trust, like a mentor, to help start processing the move away from sport. There are a lot of different factors in leaving sport. There can be an identity loss and identity shift, there can be grief/loss, depression, anxiety, and changes in social groups that can lead to isolation. You want to talk about these factors and start processing them before it becomes a clinical problem.  

Thank you Kelsey for your incredible impact on the world of sports and health! It has been a pleasure to highlight Kelsey throughout the month of August. Be sure to get a copy of Soul of An Athlete when it is released later this year and support her work!