Mindy Cook is headed to her first Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer. This pumpkin spice-loving Ohio State football fan balances a full-time job with her world-class goalball training. Find out more about this first-time Paralympian from the Buckeye State in this Q&A:
Q: How were you exposed to goalball?
A: In 2016, my good friend Jim Debus and I were co-workers. He was very persistent that I attend a practice with the Columbus team. After participating in a few practices I was hooked. Jim encouraged me to attend my first tournament in Michigan as a pool player in 2017. It was an unbelievable experience. The atmosphere was filled with contagious enthusiasm and I was amazed at the high level of competition. It was there that I fell in love with the sport, so I blame Jim for this great experience.
Q: You balance a full-time job with your goalball training. Tell us a little about the work that you do.
A: I am a contracting officer for the federal government. Our agency buys equipment to fill our nation’s military missions. My role is to negotiate contracts with various suppliers in support of our military customers. I have been working as a Contracting Officer for almost nine years. I really enjoy my job, which has allowed me to interact with different companies all across the United States and procure equipment for military vehicles and aircraft. It’s a great organization and I love working alongside my teammates. My co-workers and management team have supported me immensely in my goalball journey.
Q: Do you have a typical warm-up routine and is there any music to prepare you for the game?
A: My typical warm-up routine starts with mental preparation. I do visualizations of playing goalball and I stay mindful of my emotions. During warm-ups with my teammates, we review our game plan and share encouragement with each other. Closer to game time, I do my stretches behind one of the goals and acclimate myself to the sounds of the court.
I enjoy listening to Pink before games or anything I can steal from Asya Miller’s warm-up playlist.
Q: What from your career are you most proud of?
A: I am proud of being associated with goalball and being part of a tight-knit community. I started goalball in my late 20’s practicing with the local Columbus club team and now I am a member of the United States Women’s National Team. It has been an incredible journey that I would not trade for anything. It is such an honor to be a member of the United States Women’s National Team. To be associated with a great coaching staff and exceptional women is a feeling that words can’t describe.
Q: How have you managed to stay driven and focused with COVID-19?
A: My teammates have kept me driven and focused during COVID-19. During the pandemic, we were in constant contact with each other. While we were unable to be on the court together, we held virtual team-building exercises and mental strengthening discussions. We established goals for ourselves individually and as a team. Also, a big shout out to my teammate Eliana Mason for being my virtual workout buddy.
Q: How can you further your success in the sport?
A: As my coaches would say, “more repetitions”, which I believe to be training…training…training. Goalball is a complex physical, mental and emotional sport. The best part about the sport is that there is always room for improvement and growth. On the court, I plan to further fine-tune my technical skills. Off the court, it will be the continuation of my physical conditioning, practice good nutrition, watching film and discussing the game with my teammates. I am thankful to have a coaching staff that has provided the resources and tools to help me continue to raise the bar of my success.
Q: How has living at the Goalball Center of Excellence Resident Program in Fort Wayne positively impacted your mindset for goalball?
A: Training at the Goalball Center of Excellence Resident Program in Fort Wayne has been an incredible experience. Training hard beside my teammates each day is motivating and encouraging. The work and support from our strength and conditioning coach and staff have contributed immensely to my improved performance. Receiving immediate feedback and instruction from the coaching staff is beneficial beyond measure. Getting to train with the most elite goalball players in the world, has been a tremendous opportunity and a benefit of training at the Goalball Center of Excellence Resident Program. The program is rewarding and I am thankful to be a part of it.
Q: What obstacles have you faced on your journey?
A: Balancing work and goalball training has been challenging. I am really lucky to receive support from my work management team on my goalball journey. My supervisor and the leaders at work have been really supportive and accommodating to the rigorous goalball training requirements. I could not have done this without their support. I would also like to show my appreciation to my goalball coaching staff and teammates for their understanding of my work requirements. There have been several occasions where I could not attend practice due to work commitments and they have been really understanding. I could not have done any of this without the support from my work management team, teammates and goalball staff.
Q: Where do you see yourself after goalball?
A: I feel that goalball will always be a part of my life. After my competitive career has ended, I would like to continue to play with a club team and being an ambassador of the game. Goalball is a great sport that promotes teamwork, confidence and character. I would love to share my experiences and to help develop future goalball athletes.
Q: Do you have a favorite athlete?
A: Yes. They are the talented group of women who I call my teammates. They each display a high level of confidence and fearlessness, which I admire. I appreciate the leadership and mentorship that they all provide.
Q: Do you have a favorite cheat food?
A: Ice cream.
Q: What is one interesting thing about yourself that not a lot of people know?
A: My favorite season is fall because it marks the start of everything pumpkin spice and Ohio State football.