For the first time in franchise history, the Giants have hired a full-time sports psychologist as part of an overhaul of their Player Engagement department.
The move, coming this off-season, adds Dr. Lani Lawrence as the Giants director of wellness and clinical services, a newly-created role. Lawrence will also serve as the head of player engagement/development, working with Ashley Lynn, the current assistant director of player engagement.
David Tyree, the Super Bowl 42 hero for his helmet catch against the previously-unbeaten Patriots, is no longer with the organization. Tyree spent the past six years as the Giants’ director of player engagement.
Before Tyree held that role, another former Giants player, Charles Way, served as director. The organization this year has moved away from using former players in this role, concentrating on adding a professional well-versed in the many issues affecting players’ mental health and wellbeing.
Tyree and his wife Leilah opened up a Clean Juice shop in Morristown, N.J. Clean Juice is an organic juice bar franchise.
In the past, the Giants used sports psychologists in consultant roles, never as a full-time employee on staff. This revamping was overseen by general manager Dave Gettleman and his assistant, Kevin Abrams, and new head coach Joe Judge also had a hand in this change in approach.
The NFL has emphasized player engagement programs throughout the league. The primary focus is on supporting rookies as they adjust to a professional life, arranging internships, providing financial guidance and applying total wellness programs to support the physical and mental health of all current players, their families and former players.
Judge, 38, was heavily-involved in coach-player relations with the Patriots working the past eight year for Bill Belichick. Judge is a believer in coaches delving into these areas. He will assign two of his assistants, The Post has learned, to lead these efforts. Judge selected Bret Bielema, the new outside linebackers coach, and Thomas McGaughey, the returning special teams coordinator, as the coaches to work closely with the player engagement team. Other coaches will also play a role, as will Judge.
Bielema, also a senior assistant for Judge, as a former college head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas has extensive background in working with younger athletes. Bielema was with Judge in New England the past two years. McGaughey, a popular presence in the Giants’ facility, works with a diverse cross-section of the roster, based on his special teams involvement.
The Giants have never had anyone on staff with the resume Lawrence brings to the organization. She previously was a clinical and sport psychologist at the University of Southern California. As USC, she provided performance consulting services and mental health support to all 21 Division I teams, working closely with women’s basketball, men’s and women’s track, women’s cross country, men’s and women’s swimming and football. She also taught as an adjunct professor for USC’s freshman seminar.
Lawrence is a licensed psychologist in the State of California. She earned her doctorate in Professional Psychology, with an emphasis in Sports Psychology, from the University of Denver. She received her masters’ degree and from Boston University and her B.S. in Psychology from Northeastern.
In 2017, USC was honored for its support of LGBTQ student athletes by Athlete Ally. Lawrence was the director of a LGBT committee that helped improve treatment of LGBT athletes on campus.
“USC wants to be the gold standard of what it means to bring inclusion into athletics,’’ Lawrence said at the time. “We want to be the example of how to promote, educate and bring awareness to equality for all LGBT athletes, coaches and staff.”
According to the USC Student Health website, Lawrence’s professional interests include sport psychology, stress management, relaxation techniques, team dynamics, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, LGBT concerns, gender identity, ethnic/cultural identity development, first-generation to college, LD/ADHD, substance use, outreach, training and consultation, USC Student-Athlete Injury Group and integrative (Dynamic/CBT) short-term therapy.