After suffering a career-ending injury as a collegiate athlete her senior year, Dr. Allyson Weldon’s career choice took a left turn. Seated on the sidelines, she felt robbed of her final soccer season and as if she’d lost a part of her identity.
From education to sports-based psychology, Dr. Weldon switched her focus to help others facing similar situations overcome sports-related anxiety and depression.
Today, Dr. Weldon is living out her dream as Akron Children’s newest sports psychologist in the hospital’s Sports Medicine Center. The dedication and determination it took to turn lemons into lemonade is what patients can expect when being treated for the psychological effects when injuries occur.
Though Dr. Weldon wishes her senior year turned out differently, she’s thankful for the end game. She strongly believes she wouldn’t be here today without all her experiences — win or lose — on the soccer field.
Why did you choose to come to Akron Children’s Hospital?
I chose to come to Akron Children’s because of the great opportunity it is providing me to advance my career. I love the hospital’s culture, the connection to research, and the ability to truly impact our patient’s and their family’s lives.
Describe your role at Akron Children’s and what you hope to accomplish?
I am a sports psychologist here. I will be providing psychological care within the sports medicine, sports rehab and orthopedics departments. I will be working with children who have experienced sports injuries — including concussions, sprains, breaks and tears — as well as working with athletes on performance improvement.
In this role, I hope to be able to continue to normalize mental health services and provide psycho-education to our patients, families and the general public about the importance of receiving mental health care.
What is your area of expertise and why did you choose it?
My area of expertise is treating anxiety and depression, especially on how it relates to our general functioning and the negative impact on our passions (e.g., sports). I chose to focus my career on sports-based psychology because I was a collegiate athlete who experienced a career-ending injury my senior year of college. I felt robbed of my final season as it did not end how I had anticipated. When this happened, I felt as though I lost a part of my identity and found it extremely difficult to sit on the sidelines.
I also noticed when I returned to play, I was much more hesitant in my play due to a fear of getting re-injured. This hesitancy was hard to overcome, and I realized that I was putting myself more at-risk of injury than if I were to relax and take things as they come. Since I experienced an injury and anxiety with return to sport, I wanted to help other young athletes overcome these challenges.
What do you like most about being a provider?
What I like most about being a provider is helping to make a difference in our patients’ lives. The rewarding aspect of my role really motivates me to continue to educate myself and be able to provide the best care possible to our patients.
What impression do you hope to leave with your patients each day?
I hope that I connect with my patients and make them feel heard and as if I truly do understand them and where they are coming from.
What unique or different skills do you have that help you practice medicine?
My most unique skill that helps me in my current role is being a former collegiate athlete who experienced a career-ending injury. Although this sounds like a terrible thing, it helped me to realize my passion and pursue it to better help other youth athletes manage the psychological components that occur when injury happens.
How do you deal with the emotional impact of being a provider?
This is something that I am still trying to learn, but I currently let myself reflect on my day on my drive home. Once I get to my house, I leave it in the car. It’s incredibly important for me to realize that I will not be able to help everyone and that not every patient is going to like me, and that is OK. This is something that I could dwell on all day/night/week, which is why it is incredibly important for me to continue to practice leaving work in the car.
What does success mean to you?
To me, success is defined by the amount of patients and families I am able to help overcome obstacles in their lives.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Parma, Ohio.
Who makes up your family, including pets and their names?
My family includes me, my husband, Nathan, my daughter, Kori, our two dogs, Skye (a Great Dane) and Riley (a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever mix), and our cat, Jada.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
For a long time, I wanted to be a teacher to either 3rd or 4th graders. I think it was because I really liked the teachers that I had both of those years. However, senior year of high school while doing my admission interviews at the colleges I was applying to I realized I no longer wanted to be a teacher. Instead, I wanted to work with children and be able to help them. After talking to some guidance counselors at my high school I decided I wanted to be a psychologist.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
Emerald Isle, North Carolina. This is a place that my family used to go every summer when I was younger. It was very relaxing, and I just love to go to the beach. This was one of the only times that all my family could come together since one of my two brothers and his family live out of state.
What events in your life made you who you are today?
As cliché as it may sound, sports made me who I am today. Playing soccer from the age of 3 through college really shaped me. I spent so many hours on a soccer field that most of my major life events occurred there.
I learned how to work with others, be a leader, accept failures and practice good sportsmanship. It helped me with time management, dedication, perseverance and resiliency. If I didn’t play soccer and didn’t have such wonderful coaches and role models growing up, I know that I would not be the person I am today.