What is sports psychology?
Sports psychology developed from traditional psychology but incorporates elements of physiology to understand how psychological factors (such as confidence, stress, concentration or anxiety) impact on sporting performance. It can be used to help athletes improve in competitions but also helps athletes, coaches and the parents of young athletes deal better with elements of sporting life such as training attitudes, injury, rehabilitation, communicating well to other athletes, team dynamics and sporting retirement.
Why would someone hire a sports psychologist?
If you want to do really well at something why wouldn’t you get someone to help you do it and teach you the tools and tricks to achieve it? You can probably figure out most things for yourself over time; the best ways for you to train, the best foods for fueling yourself, the mental skills you need to perform exceptionally, but working with an expert will speed up the process significantly.
You don’t need to be a professional athlete to work with a sports psychologist. You just take your sport seriously and want to be the best at it that you can be. If you have someone working with you on your coaching plan, or see a nutritionist, or have regular sports massage why would you not work with someone to help you understand how your mind works and to help you think and behave in the most beneficial way when you are training or competing?
Why would I hire you to help me with sports psychology?
I work from a positive psychological perspective, supporting athletes to value what is already going well in their sport and finding strategies to help them focus on improving the areas that are holding them back. My aim is to really listen to athletes to find out what may be causing their issues or constraining them. I have a number of routes and strategies athletes can try and a number of mental skills I teach. Often these strategies won’t just help them in sport, they can carry over what they learn into every day life to help them deal more effectively with family, work or relationship issues too.
People who traditionally receive psychological support are those experiencing some kind of crisis or mental health issues. But why shouldn’t everyone have access to this help? I believe we can all benefit from understanding better how our brains work, how our behaviours impact us and what we can do to control challenging situations to give us a more successful outcomes.
How do you work with athletes?
I always like to meet with the athlete face to face first. This is not always possible but I find it makes it a much easier relationship to hold the first session in person. This session is usually a long session which can last up to 2 hours. It will include lots of background information, lots of talking about your sport and often some questionnaires or scales and measures which help to identify areas to really focus on. After this session we will work on a plan for how to move forward.
Sessions after this will usually take place over Skype as I find that age group athletes are often very pressed for spare time and feel more comfortable in their own houses. I charge £100 for the first, extensive session and then £65 a session (usually an hour) after that. The plan and the support this requires will dictate how often you will benefit from sessions but to be most effective they are usually held weekly or fortnightly.
I usually work from a cognitive behavioural framework. The work undertaken from this perspective helps an athlete manage their problems by changing the way they think about their problems and how they behave in response. It doesn’t remove the problems but it does allow the athlete to deal with them in a more positive wa. It does this by breaking issues down into much smaller parts so negative patterns can be identified. Practical ways (such as specific mental skills) are then taught to change those negative thoughts into more positive and supportive ones.
On occasion it may be more appropriate to work from a humanistic framework. Humanistic techniques are used to help an athlete guide themselves to make choices about their life. The sessions are ‘athlete-centred’ and focuses on the athlete’s self-awareness and what will give them complete fulfilment. Through this route the psychologist is there only to guide and to listen as the athlete themselves directs the discussion, the direction that the sessions take and the ultimate outcomes.
Which type of athletes do you work with?
I enjoy working with athletes from any sport but I specialize in athletes from individual sports. I have a particular interest in helping age group and amateur athletes competing in endurance sports including Running, Swimming, Cycling, Triathlon and Duathlon.
How does a sport psychologist help an athlete improve their sporting performance?
Each sports psychologist will have their own theory of optimal performance, their own approach to performance psychology and their own performance model. These will all be based on the beliefs they have developed throughout their training. My performance model incorporates five key elements that, when maximized effectively, I believe can help each athlete achieve their optimal performance:
- The performance mentality they have
- The way they control, or are controlled by their environment
- The tools they use to perform at their best
- The way they control, or are controlled by their emotions
- Their motivational awareness