A Woman to KNOW : Kelsey Vickers

Meet Darleen Santore aka Coach Dar

Darleen Santore, better known as Coach Dar, is a Licensed and Board-Certified Occupational Therapist, former Phoenix Suns Mental Skills Coach, plus a leadership and mental edge coach to professional athletes, CEOs, and business leaders around the world. The WNBA recognized her with the Most Inspiring Women Award, and she is the CEO & Founder of Performance Meets Purpose Consulting.

In her 20s Coach Dar suffered a stroke and made a deal with herself that she would begin again, dedicating her life to helping people awaken their greatness. And for the past 24 years, through 2 additional strokes and resulting infertility issues, she has. As a therapist, executive advisor, and mental edge coach, Coach Dar blends a knowledge of science, psychology and leadership with her personal passion for life.

Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

It truly has been a wonderfully interwoven, kismet story that has brought me to where I am today. I started my career as an occupational therapist, helping people overcome extreme odds such traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. A few years later I went back to school for a business degree and became President of a healthcare company at just 28 years old. In 2008 I was lucky (and naive) enough to marry my two passions and start my own consulting business – combining science, psychology and leadership. This paved the way, and was truly the start of what is known as Mental Conditioning work in occupational therapy.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the creation of your current company?

My company came to life in the middle of a recession. Everyone was hurting, and it seemed to me like people were giving up too easily. I had been helping people overcome extreme odds as an OT, and now felt compelled to help people shift the way they were thinking, so that they could turn their struggles into strength, and use their adversity to advance them.

What do you think makes your company stand out?

Performance Meets Purpose is a coaching and leadership advisement firm for CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs, and professionals’ athletes seeking to optimize their mental edge. I help individual clients and professional athletic teams sharpen their leadership skills and raise the bar, to tap into their greatest potential, finding increased success.

I once had an executive say to me, “You just help me show up better to life.” I truly pour myself into my clients and nothing brings me great joy than my life’s purpose to motivate, inspire and awaken greatness in myself and others globally.

Tell me about what you’re working on now.

I’m so excited about my new and FIRST book coming out on February 28th, “The Art of Bouncing Back: Find Your Flow To Thrive at Work and in Life.” With apologies to Benjamin Franklin, there are actually three things in life that are certain: Death, taxes, and the fact that sometimes, life will throw you a gut punch. I have seen a fair share of calamitous situations in my 25+ year career, from major league players suffering slumps and season-ending injuries to executives floundering professionally and experiencing financial devastation―plus my own setbacks like three strokes before the age of 45 and the loss of both of my parents.

As a mental skills coach whose clients have included professional athletes, top CEOs, and world leaders, I specialize in helping the best of the best get up and get going again after suffering serious setbacks. In The Art of Bouncing Back, I share these proven strategies and techniques for the first time ever to ensure the obstacles and setbacks everyone faces quickly morph into setups for your next success.

What has been your favorite moment in your career so far?

I have been blessed in my life to be able to serve so many individuals to win in their life and continue to grow everyday through my coaching. One of my favorite highlights was serving as the Phoenix Suns mental skills coach and being the first women to have traveled with an NBA team in this capacity.

One of the two major highlights of this past year has been receiving the Diamond Excellence Award in Coaching for Women in Professional Sports. The second, of course, has been the process of writing my first book, and holding the physical copy of “The Art of Bouncing Back.” Writing a book has been a dream of mine since I was a very young child, and it’s almost surreal that it’s all happening now.

What measure do you use to determine success?

Kobe Bryant said, “I think the definition of greatness is to inspire the people next to you.”

I completely agree with that sentiment, as it’s not in what you accomplish, but how you inspire someone else. I always expect excellence from myself and encourage my clients to do the same as you cannot give 50% and expect to get 100% back.

What piece of advice has impacted you the most?

When I took my job as president of the healthcare company the CEO said to me, “Today you will become a problem solver. It’s not that we don’t want people to come up with solutions, but your role is now to help people.” At that moment I had to shift my mindset, so when people came to me with problems instead of being annoyed (the true East-coaster in me), I felt honored to help them. I haven’t looked back since – I genuinely feel honored anytime I’m asked to advise a client, athlete or friend.

What message would you like to give to anybody who has a plan of creating something of their own and making a living through it?

When you want to start something, start with writing down and understanding the gifts you have, skill sets, and the things you are most passionate about. Take those skills and gifts and figure out where the need in the world is and apply them there. I like to use the phrase, “Go ugly early” when starting out as it will never be perfect. The first pass at anything will never be your best, but be sure to position yourself to be as prepared as you can at the time to jump into the game and go. Surround yourself with the right people, seek mentorship, and never stop learning. It will get hard, that is how life works, but when you believe in the service you are giving, it makes the hard work well worth it.

Lynne Kimmich

More About Coach Dar

Board-certified occupational therapist, leadership advisor, and mental skills coach; Coach Dar works with some of the top CEOs in the country and high-profile professional athletes worldwide. In her book, The Art of Bouncing Back, Coach Dar shares her proven methods that any business professional can use to bounce back from setbacks and thrive even in the toughest of times. Head to coachdar.com to pre-order her book today!