Ex-NFL Player Tackles Clients’ Physical, Mental Conditioning

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LAKE MARY, Fla. — For a decade in the NFL, Barry Cofield Jr. was the one delivering the big hits on the field. It was his body that took the physical toll, but his mind and emotions took a back seat.

  • Ex-NFL player partners with counselor for mental-health pilot program
  • Cofield says he “definitely felt there was a need” for mental-health help
  • 8-week program includes personal training, mental wellness skills

“It was something that was on the outskirts, and it wasn’t so prominent,” the former defensive tackle said of his mental-health experiences while playing in the NFL. “If you had an issue, they would say, ‘There are people you can see.’ “

But “I definitely felt there was a need,” he said.

Cofield says it was challenging, too, to make the shift from the NFL to a normal life in 2015.

“Being such a regimented machine that you are asked to be when you are in that world and coming into civilian life, I like to call it, it definitely is a transition,” he said.

So he met with mental-health professionals to help him through that new chapter and quickly settled down in Lake Mary and found a new purpose within the community.

Now, although Cofield’s playing days are over, he is still finding a way to make an impact, creating a resource he wishes he had sooner.

He’s working with licensed mental health counselor Shantala Boss to create a new mental conditioning program.

“Studies have shown that when you exercise and you increase the serotonins, it increases the dopamine,” Boss said of combining the two. 

It’s a partnership that offers convenience, as her office is next door to D1 Gym, which Cofield owns.

“If you can come see me and you only have to go to one place, it’s a one-stop shop,” Boss added.

The two have come up with an eight-week pilot program that includes personal training and mental wellness coping skills.

“We talk about being healthy physically, eating healthy, getting exercise, and taking care of our bodies. But then everyone is worried about what does it mean to take care of your brain? (That) makes absolutely no sense, because everyone has mental health needs. Everyone goes through stressors in their lives and needs this supportive community,” Boss said.

Their program will target anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Interest is already growing around the facility.

“I go to a ton of doctors for my body, but what is everyone doing for their mind?” said Chelsey Venne, one of Boss’s patients. “I think there is nothing but good, positive vibes in doing all of that and doing all that you can to be the best version of yourself.”

Although the program set to launch this fall will be geared toward women, the goal is to make it available to everyone and let people know that this is a safe space to work on yourself.

“I want everyone to know there will be no stigma placed on the program. The mental health part of it will be something that won’t be glamorized here in the building,” Cofield said.

“This is about helping people that are in need. … This is about a partnership with someone who I think is extremely qualified. This is bigger than business. This is something that can truly help people, and hopefully those people can go back into the community and spread the good word.”

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