Brian Cain's Mental Performance Mastery Podcast

PODCAST: From high school national player of the year to an every day fight to live: The role of mindset in choosing your response to success and adversity

by Brian Cain, MPM

In this episode of the Brian Cain Mental Performance Mastery Podcast I interview one of the most inspiring people you will likely ever encounter. During high school, Taylor Dockins was one of the most dominate softball players and high school athletes in the country, winning the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award. Today, she is a star pitcher for the Cal State Fullerton Softball team.

All of this is impressive, but it’s even more inspiring when you learn that since high school, Taylor has been battling a rare form of cancer, and she regularly undergoes chemotherapy treatments while also balancing life as an elite student athlete.  Perhaps the most inspiring thing about Taylor isn’t what she’s accomplished on the field or even in her personal life—it’s the positive spirit she brings to everything she does. On the new episode of The Brian Cain Mental Performance Mastery Podcast, we’re proud to bring you her story.

PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION:

Brian Cain:

Brian Cain with the Brian Cain Mental Performance Mastery Podcast today, and I’m uber excited to bring to you my favorite athlete on the planet. I get asked a question a lot. “Brian, you’ve had a chance to work with UFC World Champions, Olympic medalists, Heisman Trophy winners, Cy Young Award winners. Who’s your favorite athlete? I always say, “It’s Taylor Dockins.”

Brian Cain:

Taylor Dockins is one of the most inspiring people you will likely ever meet in your life. During high school, she was one of the most dominant athletes in the country, hosting a 33-1 record as softball pitcher, and garnering the honor of the Gatorade National Player of the Year. Today, she’s a star for the Cal State Fullerton softball team, and still competing in the circle.

Brian Cain:

Now, all of this is impressive. What’s even more inspiring when you learn that since high school Taylor has been battling a rare form of cancer, and she regularly undergoes chemotherapy treatments while also balancing a life as an elite student athlete. Perhaps the most inspiring thing about Taylor isn’t what she’s accomplished on the field, or even in her personal life. It’s the positive spirit and energy that she brings to everything that she does. It is an absolute privilege and an honor to welcome Taylor Dockins to the podcast. Taylor, how you doing?

Taylor Dockins:

I’m doing really good. How are you?

Brian Cain:

Doing fantastic. I appreciate you taking time to join us. To start off, if you would, let’s talk about softball. How’d you first discover the sport?

Taylor Dockins:

I started playing when I was six years old. I wanted to become a pitcher after watching Stacy Nelson play for the University of Washington at the College World Series. Watching her demeanor on and off the field, and just how fun the game looked, and I just really wanted to be underneath those lights on that big field playing, just for a college of my dream, and just watching them play was really awesome.

Taylor Dockins:

Right when I was watching her pitch, I turned to my mom, and I said, “Mom, I want to do that.” Right away, I think I was in Kindergarten or first grade, my mom started me in lessons, and I just took it from there. At first, I was not very good at six years old, but then I started picking up a lot more, and started travel ball when I was 10, and won my first National Championship when I was 10, and then I’ve been playing ever since.

Brian Cain:

You win a National Championship when you’re 10 years old. Let’s fast forward to high school. Let’s fast forward to high school. It’s 2016, and you’re one of the most dominant athletes in the country in your sport, and you go compete in tournament, and while you’re there, you start experiencing some severe abdominal pain. Tell us what happened.

Taylor Dockins:

Yes. We went to Colorado for a softball tournament for my travel ball team, and during that time we were there, I started to get some back symptoms. I was actually feeling kind of not feeling well for eight months prior to my diagnosis, but I was not feeling very well. I was having like stomach pain, back pain, and had like a little bit of like the chills, fever. When we were in Colorado, my pain got really, really bad, and I called my mom because she was at the store trying to get something for me to feel better.

Taylor Dockins:

I just could not really breathe. My eyes were bloodshot. I was definitely running a fever, so I called her. She came back, and then she called my coach, and he came up to my room, and said that we need to get her to the emergency room right away. That night I got rushed to the emergency room, and they took blood samples, and they saw that my liver panel was coming back abnormal, so they weren’t really sure what that meant.

Taylor Dockins:

They’re like, “Okay, we might want to do a scan on her abdomen, just to make sure everything’s okay. They did the scan, and a grapefruit sized tumor in my liver came back, and they said that it possibly could be cancer, but they weren’t sure. The doctor said once she sees something like that, she kind of thinks it would possibly be cancer, and then I also had a tiny spot on my lung, but they weren’t really sure what that was, but I needed to have surgery away immediately. That’s what happened.

Brian Cain:

How old are you at this time?

Taylor Dockins:

I was 17 years old when I found out. Yeah.

Brian Cain:

You’re 17 years old. You’re one of the top softball players in the country, and now you’re going through this. What was that like for you?

Taylor Dockins:

It was more of complete shock. I was like, “what is going on?” I’ve always been an athlete. I was just always pushing through. I knew something was wrong before going to Colorado because I was doing drills, and doing cross-fit, and working out, and I was just completely wiped out after every single workout that I had. It was just weird. My parent were thinking that it was weird, and finding out that I had cancer in this diagnosis, I was just more in complete shock of like, “Really? Me, out of all people?” That’s what I was thinking.

Taylor Dockins:

For some reason, I wasn’t worried. I wasn’t scared about this. I was just like I kind of put myself in game mode, like this is going to happen, and this is what we have to do, and I’m going to get through it.

Brian Cain:

You go in. You have the surgery. The doctors are able to remove a mass from your liver, but then there’s a setback. Can you tell the listeners what they later discovered?

Taylor Dockins:

Yes. For about a year later, after my surgery, I was completely clean. Had no cancer, no tumors in my liver, and then a year later they saw that I had three new tumors that appeared in about a month and a half, two months. During that time, they did not know what to do. They did not know how fast that this cancer was growing, what they needed treatment wise to do because there’s really no cure for my type of cancer because it’s so rare.

Taylor Dockins:

At the time, they’re like, “Okay well, we’re going to do … We’re going to try this. This is kind of what worked for …” I was kind of like the guinea pig in the situation. I also had to do many treatments, many procedures to hopefully kill off the tumors in different ways. I was septic one time. I almost had three organs almost fail. Just many things that were happening. Yeah, that was a major setback, and just having those surgeries, I just was not able to be the person, the athlete, that I wanted to be on the field, and off the field as well, I wasn’t able to do the things that I loved in life.

Brian Cain:

All the while you’re going through this, and you enroll in college at Cal State Fullerton, which is where you and I met. I’m obviously an alumni from there, graduated in 2003. You’re currently a student athlete there playing softball, and I have the privilege to work with you, and coach Kelly Ford, and your great teammates with the Cal State Fullerton Softball Program. All the while, while this is going on, you continue to pursue your dreams as a college softball player and an athlete.

Brian Cain:

What was it like to take the circle, having to deal with all these health issues and everything else that you’ve got going on in your life?

Taylor Dockins:

Yeah. Going back before college, I just want to say this. Going back before college, right after I had my first surgery, my first liver resection, I told the doctors, I said, “I want to play softball again.” They said, “We’re not really sure if you’re actually going to be able to play softball, especially with what you’re going through.” That was kind of a big shocker because obviously softball was my entire life, and is my entire life. I was like, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Taylor Dockins:

Talking to the doctors, I said, “I still want to play. I’m going to do whatever I can to play.” A month, I think a month and a half after my procedure, I was pitching back on the softball field in high school. Being able to step on the softball field in college, especially with all this that I’m going through, it’s definitely just an incredible and an amazing feeling. I knew in myself I have the confidence, and the strength, and the courage that I knew I was actually going to be playing college softball no matter what setback, no matter what obstacle that I faced in life.

Taylor Dockins:

I think this was, it was just incredible to be able to step on the softball field. My first [inaudible 00:08:21] was freshman year, and like the first [inaudible 00:08:24] of the season, Coach Ford put me out there on the field. It was just an amazing feeling to be out there with the girls, and to be on that softball field, and to be playing with the team across my chest. It’s just a dream … It’s the school of my dreams. Definitely was incredible, and an amazing feeling.

Brian Cain:

Taylor, when you’re out there competing, and you’re out there in the circle, is there a time where you just get lost in the game, and it’s like going back and being a little kid again, and it’s just kind of like Taylor Dockins, the softball player, and you’re not concerned about health, or cancer, or anything else that you got going on? You just to kind of play and escape from the everyday grind?

Taylor Dockins:

Yeah. I think that’s honestly every single day. Every day that I step foot on the field, whether it’s a game, whether it’s a practice, just to be around my girls. They definitely have the jokes, and have the personality to make me forget everything that’s going on in my life. When I’m out there on the softball field playing with games, or just throwing batting practice, or my bullpens, I think it’s just me out there, and it’s just me having fun, and doing what I absolutely love to do in life.

Taylor Dockins:

It’s just a goal that I’ve always had to be playing college softball, and just to not have those worries, or those feelings of, “Oh, when’s my next chemo treatment, or when’s my next surgery?” It’s just I never think about that when I’m out there. It’s just me and the game, and I’m just having so much fun out there, and it’s just definitely a very nice cleanser to have in my life.

Brian Cain:

As good as a softball player as you are, and being a Gatorade State Player of the Year is really impressive. Being a Gatorade National Player of the Year is unbelievable. I mean there’s one, one high school softball player. What year did you graduate high school?

Taylor Dockins:

2017.

Brian Cain:

In 2017, Gatorade says, “Taylor Dockins is the National Player of the Year. The best player in the country. There’s one of them.” The amazing thing is, Taylor, is as good as you are at softball, the thing that impresses me the most about you is that magnetic personality, and the truly inspiring outlook on life that you have. Where does this positivity come from?

Taylor Dockins:

Honestly, honestly, may faith. I have to put God first, and just with everything I’ve been going through in life, and what I have gone through, He’s always been there for me. I’m definitely a big, huge person of faith, hope, and just perseverance in life. No matter what life throws at me, I know I’m going to overcome that. I just stay positive. I think everything is about attitude in life, and having that positive attitude, you can overcome anything that you want.

Taylor Dockins:

That just definitely sits on my heart, and I would tell anyone that in life, just to keep pursing their career no matter how hard that it may get, or how challenging it may get, it’s all in the mindset, and all just about having that positive attitude.

Brian Cain:

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Brian Cain:

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Brian Cain:

Taylor, I’ll say in my 20+ years of doing this work in mental performance with high school and college athletes, professional athletes all over the country, you are as positive as a athlete as I ever met, and I think the other thing that you have that is off the charts good is your focus. I mean your focus as an athlete, and your ability to just kind of, whether it’s in the classroom engaged in what we’re doing, or in a practice, or in a competition, how do mental performance techniques, and some of the things that we’ve maybe worked on with the team, how do those play into your journey, both as a softball player and as a person?

Taylor Dockins:

I think definitely, I don’t know, meeting you, Brian Cain, has been the best thing ever. I look up to you so much, and just knowledge that you have for everything, just in life and in softball. I mean becoming that great person is definitely huge, and number one, but also becoming that great athlete, and having that mindset. I do everything for my teammates. You only need everyone, that’s what I always think of. No, just always doing everything for your teammates, and just being that person that they can look up to as well.

Taylor Dockins:

In life, I just always want to be that person that’s always ready, and ready to go, and just excited about everything that I learn, especially just the mindset and the mental performance of games, and just becoming a better person is always exciting to me. I think definitely just working with my teammates, and having that positive mindset, and just working really hard all the time, just to show people that they can look up to me, and I can definitely be that person that they can go to whenever they need something.

Brian Cain:

Taylor, how is your training as an elite athlete, coming up through the ranks of the hotbed of softball in Southern California. How does your training as an elite athlete, how does that help you to prepare both mentally, physically, and emotionally in this battle that you’re going through with cancer? How has being an athlete helped you with that?

Taylor Dockins:

I think it’s helped tremendously honestly, just having that hard mindset. I think definitely being a pitcher, and being in the circle, it’s definitely a hard position to be a pitcher because you’re having so much thought throughout the game, and you’re always thinking of what to do next, how this pitch is going to work, and just having that strict mindset of this is a business, and this is what I have to do on the field for my teammates. I’ve always had that since I was a little kid.

Taylor Dockins:

Just having that embedded in me, just getting stuff done, it definitely has helped going through my treatments, being that person that I want to be, and just being that strong-minded person throughout life, definitely has helped me just with the sports, and just having that mindset that I’m going to just get stuff done, and I’m going to do whatever I can to overcome anything that’s thrown my way.

Brian Cain:

For the listeners, just so they realize the impact that Taylor has on people, and the energy, and the positivity, one of her coaches, an assistant coach, has got her name tattooed, has Taylor’s name tattooed on her body as a form of inspiration, and a form of motivation. Taylor, how have your experiences battling cancer and becoming a role model for myself, for your teammates, for your staff, for your fans, how has that affected your outlook on life and how you approach and tackle every day, maybe compared to before your diagnosis?

Taylor Dockins:

Yeah. So many people have told me that I’m such an inspiration, and the things that I do is so inspiring. They always ask me, “How are you able to do this? How are you able to pitch a bull pen after having chemo the day before?” Honestly, just my faith, honestly. Just having that strength and that hope of I’m going to get through this, especially before I was diagnosed, I was playing, I didn’t really think about life ahead. It was just living my life to what I wanted it to be, but this definitely, being diagnosed, it’s just definitely made me become a little bit more stricter in just my person that I am in life, and just to take every minute and second, not for granted, and just life life the best that I can.

Taylor Dockins:

I think just with everyone that has followed me, and told me that I’m such an inspiration, I just want people to know that they can be an inspiration too because it’s all about attitude. Just to stay positive. Even though that it’s hard to be diagnosed with cancer, or diagnosed with a serious illness, it doesn’t mean that your life just stops completely. You have to keep moving forward, and you have to keep progressing each day because no one is promised tomorrow. Just to keep living life as they can, and live life like they’re dying tomorrow, honestly. That would be what I would have to say for that.

Brian Cain:

Right now, Taylor, with the world the way it is, with the coronavirus, a lot of people are going through some difficult times right now, and going through some struggle, and having a difficult time staying present, and going one pitch at a time It’s easy to think about their circumstances and to get distracted from the moment. You’ve been battling this for a long time. What’s the key for you to remaining present, remaining so positive, and optimistic that you would share with others during this difficult time of the coronavirus?

Taylor Dockins:

Yes. I actually have been thinking about this a lot. You see people definitely fighting for their lives now. Sick ones, or even just ones that are going out to the grocery store and wearing masks. They’re scared to death to get this virus. I look at it as in I’ve been fighting what I’ve been going through every single day for three years now, almost 3 1/2. Just to look at what people are now going through, and what I have been going through, just honestly, you have to just think positive, and honestly, if you do get the virus, just to … I know it may be hard, and I know that what you’re going to have to go through is very difficult, but just to keep pushing through, and never give up.

Taylor Dockins:

Even with chemo treatments that I have, going to the hospital, it sucks, and I don’t want to do it, but I have to do it. I think just having that mindset of like, “Okay, I’m just going to get this done, and not be negative about this situation.” If you go negative, it’s just going to bring you down, especially being in quarantine, people can get very negative about being home, or just restless about having to stay home all the time.

Taylor Dockins:

Just to get out, and just to smell the fresh air, even going for a walk, just definitely lightens my mood, and will just help in a lot of ways of just not letting this affect you too much.

Brian Cain:

Taylor, there’s a lot of people that are hearing this, and they’ve found themselves in difficult situations in their own lives. I think for the people that are listening to this, that are going to be inspired by your outlook, is there anything else that you would say to encourage them during their own tough seasons?

Taylor Dockins:

Just to, honestly, just keep pushing through. Stay positive as much as you can. Like I said, no one is promised tomorrow, so even though you may have a certain thing that you’re going through, a difficult time, just to do stuff that makes you happy, and do something that’s new or exciting that you want to learn that keeps yourself busy, and motivated to actually do something. I know people, some people can’t get out of bed, and can’t walk, or be able to do the things that we are blessed to do every single day. I’m just thankful that I’m able to even get out and I don’t have to be hooked up to a monitor or anything.

Taylor Dockins:

Definitely just doing stuff that you love, and find stuff that you are interested in, will just definitely lighten the mood, and just keep your attitude definitely just positive, and don’t go down that negative path because once you go down that negative path, it’s not going to work out for you.

Brian Cain:

Taylor, is there anything that your life experience so far, having cancer, has maybe taught you that you might have never even uncovered or learned about yourself or about life if you had not gone through those challenges?

Taylor Dockins:

I would have to say being in the hospital a few time, having to go in and being admitted, seeing those little kids because I am still in pediatric because my oncologist is pediatrics, and now I’m older than pediatrics, but I’m still there, and I get to see all the little kids that are in ICU, or going through that difficult time. There is this little girl the last time I was in the hospital, and having her walk in, and she made me this flower bouquet thing, and a headband, and it was like the cutest thing ever. She had the biggest smile on her face, but she had no hair. She looked very sick because of all the chemotherapy treatments that she was going through. It just gave me that remembrance of wow, she’s going through this, but she has the biggest smile on her face.

Taylor Dockins:

I think anyone, especially my age and older, would look at that, and be like, “Wow, she is so tough. She is still playing. She’s still making stuff. She’s still doing the stuff that she loves, the smile on her face, and she’s going through this such a hard time in her life.” That’s just definitely stuck out to me to just see the kids that are in the hospital, and what they have to go through, and they’re still living life like nothing is wrong. I feel like a lot of people can use that, and can take that into consideration especially with their hardships, and what they’re going through.

Brian Cain:

Man, you can learn a lot by young people, and their resolve, and their positivity, and how they handle situations can’t you?

Taylor Dockins:

Yes definitely. That’s for sure.

Brian Cain:

Taylor, what is the best advice that you’ve ever received or the best advice that you’ve kind of leaned on during this battle with cancer, and battling the pressures of being a student athlete? What’s the best piece of advice that you think that you’ve gotten?

Taylor Dockins:

When I first got diagnosed, one of the special advocates, the special life advocates for the kids, they would always come in every single day, and there’s always this one lady that would always come in, and her name’s Misty. She would always talk to me about how I’m feeling, what I needed. She always told me that you can either rise above this, and be positive, and overcome this cancer, and you can pursue life to what you want, and have those dreams and those goals, or you can go to the bottom, and obviously going to the bottom is what you think what will happen.

Taylor Dockins:

I told her, I said, “I’m going to rise above this, and this is not going to stop me. This cancer is not going to beat me. I’m going to overcome anything that is thrown my way.” That’s definitely something that I always think about. If I’m going through a hard time, and I know I have my tough days, but when I think about that, I’m like, “Wow, I can do a lot more.” There’s a lot of people that probably have it tougher than me, and I am able to get out. I’m able to get out of bed, and just keeping that mindset of like, “Okay, I’m going to overcome this. I’m going to rise at the top,” is definitely one of the best things that I could ever, probably, take away from definitely this whole adventure that I’ve been on.

Brian Cain:

Every day I talk with coaches and trainers who ask some version of the same question. “How can I get my athletes to stay focused, and calm under pressure when the game is on the line? How can I help my clients make better decisions even when it’s hard? How can I get my clients and athletes to refocus and get back on track when they mess up their diet, miss a workout, make a bad play, or have a bad game and not let one failure spiral them to more struggles?”

Brian Cain:

I’m Brian Cain, and for the past two decades I’ve been a mental performance coach to some of the top coaches, athletes and performers on the planet. Now, I’ve created a mental performance mastery coaching certification course to teach you every strategy, the technique that I’ve honed over the past two decades to help my clients and athletes close the gap from where they were to where they want to be [inaudible 00:25:13], including UFC World Champions, Olympic medalists, Heisman Trophy winners, Cy Young Award winners, and major league baseball.

Brian Cain:

It’s worked for them, and it will work for you. Head over to braiancain.com and click on certification, and join our team of mental performance mastery certified coaches, and helping your clients and athletes achieve results that they’ve only dreamed of with our 10 Pillars of Mental Performance Mastery System, helping you and your clients close the gap from where you are to where you want to be.

Brian Cain:

Taylor, I’ve had the privilege of meeting your parents, and I’m sure they’re going to have the chance to listen to this podcast. How important have they been throughout this whole process because there’s going to be parents listening to this podcast that I think talking about the importance of the role of a parent, and their impact through all this, but what has that been like for you, having such great parents?

Taylor Dockins:

Oh gosh. They are definitely my rock throughout this whole journey. I have a brother and a sister, but they’re my half-brother and sister. I’m kind of like the only child, I’m my dad’s only child, and they’re pretty much all I have especially when I go through all this treatment. That’s who’s there for me. That’s who takes care of me. My mom is always next to me. Every single day, she’s always like, “What do you need?” She’s always on me about taking my vitamins, taking my medication, and just having them there is just incredible.

Taylor Dockins:

They go to every single doctor’s appointment. They go to every scan. They’re just always there for me. I think having those parents that are just so open with you, and you can talk to them about everything, it’s just really awesome, and just to have that great relationship with them. We do a lot together, and they honestly are like my best friends. My mom is everything, and just to … I can’t take care of myself sometimes, so just to have them there to be able to do that I can’t do, just really means a lot. I really can’t thank them enough for what they do for me every day.

Brian Cain:

Taylor, with the current softball season, obviously you’re playing for Cal State Fullerton currently, and in your sophomore season, junior season, what year was this for you athletically?

Taylor Dockins:

This is my junior year. Yes.

Brian Cain:

Your junior season, so now you get your junior season back, is that correct?

Taylor Dockins:

Yes. Yes.

Brian Cain:

You have two more years of college softball?

Taylor Dockins:

Yeah. It’s exciting.

Brian Cain:

Fantastic.

Taylor Dockins:

Yeah.

Brian Cain:

It’s super exciting. You know if there’s any benefit of the coronavirus season, it’s that Taylor Dockins gets one more year of softball. Your softball teammates and your coaches are listening to this, and you guys have won Cal State Fullerton softball with head coach Kelly Ford. You’ve won four straight Big West Conference Championships. One of the most dominant softball programs right now, in terms of how many teams in the country have won four straight Conference Championships, I don’t know if there’s another one, but the Titans have done it.

Brian Cain:

For your teammates that are listening to this, for your coaches that are listening to this, for your future teammates that are listening to this, that will become Titans when the school year starts again, what message would you have for your coaches and your teammates, just about the importance of team in softball?

Taylor Dockins:

I think definitely obviously team is a huge, there’s no I in team honestly. I think we definitely need everyone coming. Girls that are coming in, other girls that are on the team, the coaches, we definitely need everyone focused and ready to go for the games coming up. Just the practices too. We definitely need to be focused in the practices, and just the little things always matter. We always have to pay attention to those little things because if we don’t, we know what happens.

Taylor Dockins:

I think honestly, just stop to play individually. We definitely need to play as a team. If something happens, something messes up with one of the players, don’t get frustrated at them, and just keep pumping each other up. Just always have each other’s backs through this time. Being on the softball fields, definitely our goal is to win the College World Series, as well as the Conference Championship, but we want to get to the World Series. I think we just definitely need to all play together as a team, stay focused, have the right attitudes, the mental part of it, and just like right now we’re doing a Map My Run.

Taylor Dockins:

I think everyone just needs to be a part of that, and just to really take that into consideration of okay, we’re going to get to this place, but we need everyone to do it. We can’t bag, and we can’t forget about it. We have to do it, and put our part in every single day.

Brian Cain:

Taylor, you talked about one, only need everybody, one pitch at a time, and this is one podcast episode that I know people are going to love. Taylor, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule and joining us, and for the listeners, please be sure to connect with and follow Taylor and her story of greatness on social media. She’s on Instagram @taylor_dockins16, that @T-A-Y-L-O-R_D-O-C-K-I-N-S, the number 16, and my favorite, on Twitter @16money, that’s @1-6-M-O-N-E-Y. Where does that one come from, Taylor?

Taylor Dockins:

I used to be called Team Money in high school, and that nickname stuck, so yeah, I’m definitely Team Money out there.

Brian Cain:

Awesome. I love it. Taylor, you’ve been money today on the podcast. Thank you for coming on, and looking forward to seeing you. Thanks for coming.

Taylor Dockins:

Thank you, Brian. Appreciate it. See you soon.

Brian Cain:

Thanks for listening to the Brian Cain Mental Performance Podcast on the Ironclad Content Network. If you liked the show, be sure to leave us a rating and a review, and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Twitter @briancainpeak. I’ll see you next time.

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