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The Art Of Bouncing Back With Coach Dar

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The Art Of Bouncing Back With Coach Dar

Sometimes, life will throw you a gut punch. Darleen Santore, aka Coach Dar, has seen a fair share of calamitous situations in her 25+-year career, from major league players suffering slumps and season-ending injuries to executives floundering professionally and experiencing financial devastation. That’s on top of her own setbacks like three strokes before the age of 45 and the loss of both of her parents. How did she thrive through all of that? More importantly, how can you do the same? As a mental skills coach whose clients have included professional athletes, top CEOs, and world leaders, Coach Dar specializes in helping the best of the best get up and get going again after suffering serious setbacks. In this episode of Against the Sales Odds, she shares these proven strategies and techniques from her new book, The Art of Bouncing Back, so you can ensure the obstacles and setbacks you face quickly morph into setups for your next success.

The Art Of Bouncing Back With Coach Dar

I’m pretty excited about this episode of the show. Ironically enough, this person I’m talking to, I feel like I grew up and went to high school with her, but we’ve only known each other for about two weeks. We’ve already done a show together. In this episode, we spent an hour catching up. We did another pre-game that turned into a whole conversation. At this point, she is a cousin and a sister. I feel the synergy.


I’d like to welcome Darleen Santore, the Founder of Performance Meets Practice. Most people know her as Coach Dar. A little setup here, it turns out we have a business partner in common, but we also have several customers in common. As we were first talking, I was hitting up the San Diego Padres. I go, “Do you know coach Dar?” They’re like, “Yeah. We love Coach Dar.” I was talking to the Phoenix Suns and was like, “Do you know coach Dar?” They were like, “We love Coach Dar.”


We put out on social media that we were going to do an episode. We were both getting people that we know, like the VP for SeatGeek, going, “I heard you’ll have Coach Dar. You guys are great together,” and somebody from the Chicago Bulls going, “I can’t wait for this episode.” I’m like, “Talk about the Law of Attraction.”

Coach Dar, welcome to the show. I love this. The sports world and our world are so connected. Sports bring us together, and then you become family. That’s what I love about it. I do feel that way about you. It would be one of those things where we would be at a party and I’d be like, “Did we grow up together?” You almost forget where you meet people.


That’s with every girl I ever grew up with. I’ll put it that way. For my audience, this is going to be important. Typically, the folks that tune in to the show are executives trying to get their team to the next level, high-performing sales teams, entrepreneurs, and business people. I would categorize Coach Dar as a performance coach and a mindset coach.


She and I talked before about this. The difference between a pro athlete and a high-performing business person is a pro athlete spends 90% of the time prepping and 10% of the time playing. In business, we spend 90% of our time playing and about 10% prepping the mindset, the planning, and everything that goes into it. Is that the correct way to talk about your firm and your practice?


It is very much so. Everyone wants to come to me and they’re like, “I need to increase my performance. I need to be better at this.” I’m like, “What’s the purpose? Why are we doing this?” If we’re going to drive numbers without any intent, without any why, or without any purpose behind it, we’re going to get stuck. Shifting their mindsets and how they see things eventually increases their performance, but I start at the angle of mindset.


You read stoicism, see the end, begin with the end, and first things first. Let’s go to your story first. Number one, your story, work, purpose, why, and what you did. Part of what I got with your story is much more than this. It’s the recovery. We talked about this in our pre-game. You had three strokes. Talk about your purpose. Why do you do what you do? How does your medical history tie into it? If you don’t mind me asking because it is so critical to your story. 


Here’s the thing. We’re all on this journey. You don’t know what’s going to hit you when it’s going to hit you. I started out as an occupational therapist, helping stroke and traumatic brain-injured patients. The irony of that. At 25, I had gone to see a chiropractor. When they manipulated my neck, they ripped the artery to my brain. That’s how this all started. It bled in my brain and left me with a blood clot, which affected some of my life. I didn’t have paralysis, but it affected vision, balance, headaches, and stuff like that.


You were in the medical field.


I was treating stroke and brain-injured patients when I had my own stroke. It’s so crazy. What it did is I was told by the doctor at that time, “Good news or bad news?” After they misdiagnosed me many times and then they found the clot, they said, “You have a blood clot. You’ve suffered a stroke. If this dislodges, any day, you could die.”


I was like, “I’m 25 and I’m helping people overcome the most extreme odds every day. It’s the highest level of chaos and hardship that I’m helping people through, and then I have to go through it to some extent.” I say this part of it because that was when I was like, “If I could die any day, then I’ve lost some fear. What’s the worst that could happen? There is not much other than what’s what they told me.”


I quickly pivoted and was like, “I want to go fix healthcare.” I went to go apply for a very large position at the hospital I was at. The COO said to me, “You’re not qualified to do this, but you can if you go back,” so I went back to school for business. At 28, I was president of a healthcare company. I ran multiple companies, about four at the same time. That’s when I started mixing science, psychology, and leadership together. When I started understanding business and performance, everything is the mindset.


You said you started mixing psychology, leadership, and?


Science. It is the neuroscience of things, the psychology of human beings, and then leadership principles. It became a formula that ended up becoming my own practice when I started it all. In 2008, after I’d left running multiple companies, I started a practice in the middle of a recession. You asked how I got here. After having that first stroke and after going through what I did and running the business, I thought, “People are giving up right now because of a recession. They’ve lost their role, job, or finances. I’ve felt people overcome the most extreme odds, including myself. This is a mindset shift.” That’s where my mixture of science, psychology, and leadership has become my formula for what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years in private practice. I didn’t have a client when I started.


That’s interesting. Would you say you were your first client?


Yeah. I created the formula. From running the businesses, I knew what did and did not work with teams and with people. I knew neuroscience and things, and I knew human behavior. I was like, “I’ve got a formula here.” It was natural, but I didn’t have a business plan or a client. I was passionate to go out there. Like anything, when you stay in alignment with your gifts and talents and mix it with what the world’s needs are, you have a purpose. That was the purpose for me.

When you stay in alignment with your gifts and talents and mix it with what the world’s needs are, you have a purpose.

I have a lot of people that come to me, probably like you do, and talk about wanting to be an entrepreneur. I immediately go to risk. When you start talking about risk and implication, you can test to see how enthusiastic they are. Enthusiasm, in Greek, is the gift of the gods. In Latin, it’s God from within or vice versa. The last four letters of enthusiasm, I AM Sold Myself. If I know anything about an entrepreneur, that’s I Am Sold Myself. Anything about an entrepreneur or somebody who has a vision is not as much about the business plan. It’s as much about faith, belief in themselves, and enthusiasm. It’s a magnet. There’s a huge difference between true north and magnetic north. If they have their magnetic north, it’s pulling.


That was it. The magnetic north was pulling me.


In those ten years of building your practice, I’m curious from three angles. Attack it any way you want. One, when you work with a team or an individual, what is the Coach Dar approach? We’ve been talking about The Art of Bouncing Back, your book, which I know I’m buying for my sales team. We already preordered. We got about twenty. That talks about how you approach from a practice standpoint. Secondly, how did you start to win customers? I’m curious because you didn’t have them. You can tackle both of those simultaneously.


The formula for me became science, psychology, and leadership. This is fourteen years of building it. When I started, I didn’t have anyone, so what I did is I started speaking for free. I called them the nights of inspiration. I started speaking on mindset anywhere and everywhere. My friends were the first group of people that came, but then, they would bring a friend, and then they would bring a friend because what I was sharing was so needed at the time. It’s still needed. It’s why I wrote the book.


I was talking about tools and tips that I know as an occupational therapist, helping people overcome the most extreme odds. I’d be like, “Do you want to get to another level in business? Let’s figure out what’s holding you back from that. Also, as a person, what do you need to change? How do you want to show up?” Before coaching was a coaching thing, it was the premise of my training as a board-certified therapist and the type of therapist I am. We meet people where they are to take them where they want to go. That’s exactly what occupational therapy is. I brought that into business.

Do you want to get to another level in business? Let’s figure out what’s holding you back from that.

Would you say for the folks that don’t understand the philosophy of that, if you take your practice, how you approach a client and how you did in occupational therapy, they had a current situation regardless of what it was? They had to face brutal facts physically and mentally, in their job, and everything else. You got to hold the proverbial mirror up to them, and then you got to say, “Where are we going?” That becomes the gap analysis, right?


Yes, exactly.


This is how you approach a practice if you were going to do it with me. You would put that mirror up to my face and say, “This is what I’m seeing. This is what I’m hearing. This is what I’m observing.”


That’s exactly what I would do. Here’s the twofold. Someone might be coming to me saying, “I’m stuck. Something holds me back.” It might be a player, a professional athlete, or an executive that says, “I know I can get to another level. I need to work on my mental edge to get there. I need to work on my skills to get there. I need someone like you to help me get there. Help me see what it is that I have to work on.” They may be going through a problem or they may know that they need to elevate. They want to elevate. They’re passionate about getting to the next level. We have to figure out where you are and where you want to go. It is that gap analysis. Once I figure that out for them, we could start creating the process. I have a general process, but everyone is going to be different.


I had a guy who played for the New York Yankees. He was ready to take on to become a GM. We planned for everything. We wanted to plan for him to be a GM, but through the process, he realized, “This is not the lifestyle I want to live anymore. I don’t even want to live on the road in this world anymore.” Since we built so many tools, he went on to become a financial advisor. He could stand true to that because we already did this assessment. We were like, “What’s your hardwiring? How were you created? What is it that you value in your life right now?” By going through the process that I’ve created, he got to where he could turn down someone he would’ve never turned down in the past.


Would you say a part of that process is somebody has a rough vision or a purpose? They have that urge. They might not be able to articulate it, and you help them build that. From there, you build the strategies and tactics to get there.




I would say to anybody being in the coaching and training business myself, sometimes, your mind is like a bad neighborhood. It’s not a good neighborhood. Somebody like Coach Dar helps guide you through that maze. It’s the space or mindset. I can remember my wife saying when I turned 41, I thought I was dying. Around 41 or 42, that Christmas day, I went to the hospital. It was because I had read something in WebMD that if you have a headache in the back of your head, it’s a black widow event.


I went to the hospital. They did an MRI and said, “You’re fine.” I said, “What am I?” They said, “99%, you’re fine.” I said, “What gets me at 100%?” They were like, “We’d have to do a spinal tap.” I’m like, “Hit me.” Thirty-six hours later, I went to another hospital because I was questioning the results. I suddenly became more paranoid.


Over time, finally, Lisa, my wife, said something. She was kidding around, but she was serious. She said, “You need to go talk to somebody.” It never dawned on me to go talk to somebody. I went to three sessions where I thought, “I’m going to make at fundamental health.” I’m speaking for myself. I called her my wizard. I went and spoke to a wizard. I spoke to the wizard three times. She goes, “Let’s schedule another meeting.” I was like, “I’m good.” She turned a switch or she allowed a switch or a combo. That’s the cousin of what we’re talking about. Anything you’re up against, it’s that mindset or that headspace. People like Coach Dar, especially her, help you define that and work on it. Is that fair to say?


Absolutely. We all could get caught in that hamster wheel. We could make a story that’s not even there become so believable. I had someone that had a concussion and was healing from it. He was getting out of sports, but negative thoughts started to come. The person said, “I’ve never had this happen before. I can’t get out of my own thoughts and it’s starting to scare me.” I said, “I need you to understand something.”


Think about this. When a prisoner goes to solitary confinement, technically, the space is safe. No one is coming to bother you there, but it’s where you mentally start to lose your mind. You turn on yourself because of the thoughts, the loss of time, space, light, and all of it. I say that only because that’s the power. If we let our minds play tricks on us, we hurt ourselves. Solitary confinement is fine and safe, but mentally, we make it the worst space in the world. That’s what thoughts could do when we don’t talk it out, work it through, work on mental fitness, and all of it.


It’s important you got your practice where you’re helping people build this strategy, plan, vision, mindset, and purpose. You’re guiding them through something that it’s hard for people to do. It is very hard for people to even write their vision. It’s a hard exercise. You could throw words like integrity and stuff around, but it’s hard.


You wrote the book The Art of Bouncing Back. From what I can see, it feels like it defines how you practice. I’m curious about a couple of things. One is with The Art of Bouncing Back, I want to know how you arrived at that title. That’s one. I’m going to ask you three questions at once. In the book, you outlined what I would call the three I’s, which are introspect, innovate, and inspire. Is that right? Did I say that right?




How’d you get to the title of The Art of Bouncing Back?


The title was only supposed to be a chapter, not a whole book. That’s how this started. It was supposed to be a chapter, and then the chapter, as I’m writing it, started to become more of a book. That’s when the publisher was like, “These are the principles that you help people bounce back from this. This needs to be the book.” I was like, “I never put it down in writing as like, ‘these are the principles.’” Every time I kept talking about it, she was like, “You have this formula you’ve been doing with everyone. That’s got to be what it’s about. There’s so much material.”


When I started the book early on, I had my third stroke. It slowed it down, and then I had to start back up. It’s been through iterations, but I have to tell you. I use these nine principles that I put into those three I’s, but it’s about nine principles. I use these nine principles exactly how I bounce back and help others. These are good for you not only because you’ve gone through something, but we are always going to go through adversity. I call this mental fitness. Start getting your game plan to start working on things that build your mental fitness. You get stronger so you have the tools. Life’s not going to get easier, but you could get better at handling it.

Life’s not going to get easier, but you could get better at handling it.

It’s like you said with the GM. He wanted to be the GM. He was going from player to being a GM, but the frame you built, he said, “It doesn’t matter if I’m a GM because this frame makes more sense.” I love that pathway.


That’s exactly it. In advising CEOs and working with athletes, we’re working on their mental edge all the time. Most people I’m working with when I first start are not always in adversity. They’re like, “I want to get better.” Adversity then comes along the way and they’ll say to me, “After I’ve been working with you applying these principles, things don’t take me down as long or as hard.” I feel they are mentally more resilient because of this.


You said something earlier, and it rings true. You and I have talked about these nine principles and how you have them categorized in those bigger words. The title is what catches me. You said something, which is, “What’s the worst that can happen?” It’s a principle or a state. I’m not saying this is where you got it from, but there’s a principle in Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.


If you approach every problem like, “What are the Laws of Averages, and what’s the worst that can happen?” If you could deal with the worst that can happen, your ability to get back up again is there. You will get knocked down. Your version of getting knocked down will always be worse than anybody else’s. Your version or perversion of it is you are dealt the hand you can deal with in your own hand. That makes sense. The Art of Bouncing Back is the process. We got people reading. We want them to buy the book. It’s on pre-sale on your website, correct?




I’m going to do a mid-reel here. What is your website?


It is If you go to or Amazon, it will lead you to all the materials that I put out there. You’ll see it and you could pre-order.


If I’m reading this interview, out of those principles, there are nine. Let’s group them in threes. What’s that first set of three that you say, “If I have somebody and they have to do something right now,” what’s one of the principles that you’d guide them to?


The first principle is to embrace the suck. I started this intentionally with I know dang well when you’re going through something, whatever it is. It could be an issue at work, you’re running a company pandemic hits, or whatever. It is for me to come and start saying, “Here are your tips, positive Pollyanna.” I would want to be like, “Don’t talk to me. We’re not where we need to be.”


Mentally, I have to sit with you and I have to get you. I’d be like, “Let’s embrace what is happening because we’ve got to accept that this happened. Whatever that is in life, what happened? Where are we?” We need to have a full understanding of what we’re dealing with. When I could have a full understanding with you and you have it with you, then we could go, “Now that we’re there, that’s what I mean by embracing it. It’s accepting the reality of the situation.” Being in the delusional state of, “I don’t want to deal with this,” then we’re not going to deal with it. The business is not going to be viable and you can’t bounce back in life.


That’s the amplification of it, too. A stoic would say nothing is inherently positive or negative. It’s how you filter it. You embrace what it is. If somebody outside my house here gets hit by a car, I could view it as the most tragic thing in the world or say, “Thank God that was a neat point on my driveway.” There are so many ways to look at that. Inherently, it’s how you process it. Embrace the suck. What’s the next one you would guide me through? They’re all important.


The beginning part of it is you said to categorize it. We embrace it. I help you understand your hardwiring. I’m building a mental foundation. As anything happens to you, whether you lose your job, something happens, or maybe you lost your role, I get you to go back to your hardwiring.


You need that other gear.


I’ll start the process of we’ve got to create your own scouting card. I call it your confidence card or scouting card. This is figuring out your hardwiring. This is figuring out who you are. Once you create the scouting card, anytime something happens, I’m going back to go, “Why did we draft you?” It’s that sense of, “Don’t forget that you could lose a role. It could be an off day, but you didn’t lose your skill. You didn’t lose it.” Often, we catastrophize when it’s been a bad business year or when things didn’t go well. At home, you catastrophize the relationship, the job, or the position when it was a bad situation. It doesn’t mean a bad life.


Anytime I do leadership training in a firm, we ask two questions. I was at the Carolina Panthers. They’re a pretty big part of their leadership team on the revenue side of the house. One of the questions I ask is, “What’s your brutal truth?” People are like, “What do you mean?” I said, “Answer the question.” It’s brutal in truth. They get somewhere.


The question I ask before that is, “As a leader, what’s your cliché?” Typically, you’ll get 3 or 4 people to say, “I lead by example.” I’m a disruptor, so I argued their point. I said, “Those are hard shoes to fill.” They’re like, “What do you mean?” I was like, “If you lead by example, what if your example sucks? You’re not allowing yourself a bad day. What if you have a bad day and somebody’s observing you and you’re not a good example? You’re a horrible example.”


Your whole philosophy of leadership says you got to be perfect. It ties to that scorecard. You got to know what scenarios you’re not good in or what scenarios you are good in. You got to know that about your people, too. That’s category number one, setting the table. Would you say the first three principles deal with that? 


Generally. The 3 or 4 around there intermix a little bit. The next set is about creating your environment to help you. Your environment goes back to the principles. When I help people mentally come out of a coma, this is the same principle you could apply in business. It is, “What is your surrounding? What are you listening to? What are you putting in your body? Who’s around you? What’s the setting?”


Everything around you, that instance is going to help you propel you forward or pull you back. Those can be people, places, thoughts, spaces, habits, and routines. All of it plays a part. Are you setting a bounce back environment up for you? One, you can get through something faster. It can be the people you put around you or the thoughts. Even if you’re not going through something and you’re reading this, start building that environment so it’s working for you, not against you.


You said environment and routine. Does it fascinate you, or are you surprised? Maybe I’m wrong to even ask this question. How many people don’t have a routine or a way they do things every day? Does that surprise you?


It doesn’t surprise me. I wish that there was more of it, but we are in a comfort crisis. People will do things that keep them in comfort. Even if they know that’s not good for them, they won’t do their exercise. They won’t have a hard conversation. They won’t get up and change the situation of their life or a habit routine because they’re comfortable not doing it.

We are in a comfort crisis. People will do things that keep them in comfort, even if they know that’s not good for them. They won’t get up and change the situation of their life because they’re comfortable not doing it.

You and I, I love, because we are disruptors and outliers. I’ve been an outlier my whole life. I often sit and think, “How are you getting through the day without setting up some sort of system or routine?” If you want to look at the pros, the reason they’re good is that they make the mundane well. They work on their system well. It’s the same in business. We know the formula.


What I love about what you do is you help them build their system. I barely got out of high school, but I do look at words. Discipline comes from the word disciple. It means you’re your own disciple. When I look at successful people, they have a mantra, a routine, and a rigor about what they do. Somebody said this a long time ago. It was a speech given in the 1940s. It was called The Common Denominator of Success.


The booklet said, “Successful people form the habits of doing things unsuccessful people don’t like to do.” When it comes down to pleasing methods or pleasing results, most average people like pleasing methods. However you would define success or pleasing results, you pick your poison. It’s what you said. It’s that comfort level or artificial harmony as opposed to constructive tension. I’m envisioning that’s what that piece is.


Embracing the suck, understanding who you are, and seeking and applying feedback are the first three. It’s then discovering your why, creating the bounce back environment, and activating EQ. Those are the next. After those three, the last three are reframing the power of perspective, reframing setbacks, cultivating that grit, and then turning the page is the last one. What I mean with turning the page is there’s a point after you’ve gone through it that you got to stop harboring on it. Learn from it, seek feedback from it, accept it, release it, forgive it, whatever we’re talking about, and then move from it. Start the new chapter. Turn the page. It’s time to go.


Speaking of turning the page, if the audience is reading the book, I’m assuming knowing you at this point, somebody could start a practical way of this self-discovery for themselves. Did you build it that way?


It’s very easy. When I’m going through something, I know the last thing I want is a thesis. This is a digestible and easy, “Here are the principles to take and start applying.” I put it in a circle of the nine principles. Take that out. I don’t even care if you skimmed through the book. Take it out and start going through it. It’s taking it like a journal and being like, “This is the formula. This is the mental foundation I need to create.” Pull from each principle of it what you need. That’s what we should be doing from books anyways. Take what you need from it and then apply it.


I love that. When does the book officially get released? My book is coming out on Feb 28, 2023. Thank you for the great interview!

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