This is a specialist area that has organically evolved into a client base for my practice. This is also my focus area for continued research and growth and a particular passion of mine.
Throughout my own sporting life and career as a PE Teacher the importance of the mind alongside the body can never be underestimated, but is so often neglected. From the absolute basics of first delivering a new skill, as a coach and performer, the scaffolding and manor in which you develop this skill is informed by psychological principles. It is when you reach a competitive stage that unique strengths inform whether you will continue to reach your true potential. At its pinnacle you will be at the top of your game. Athletes from grass roots to elite performers have the same highs and lows in life as those that have no interest in sport at all. Mental health is a bit of beggar like that, and depression, anxiety, grief and all the other challenges are not selective on who’s shoulders they land on.
This is not purely for elite performers, but those where sport and physical activity is a significant part of their life. Many of my clients are traditional elite athletes, but high performance is relative to personal goals and achievements.
What is the difference between Counselling and Sports Counselling?
The skills used are identical. I use Person Centered, Solution Focussed, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Narrative and Gestalt in our time.
I believe the process is very different. My approach is ecelectic (Counsellor land) or integrative (Psychotherapy land). My philosophy is based on Te Whare Tapa Wha (Maori model of wellbeing). This approach lends itself beautifully when working with sports performers. The 3 P’s, Physical, Psychological, People, Spirituality are explored alongside Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This scaffolding is utilised to explore the clients identity, past, present and future, sympathetic to all the external variables around it.
I would describe the most significant difference is the structure. The fact that this is such a loud element as opposed to a much more fluid approach to our work is significant in itself. Ordinarily in counselling I would expect a significant amount of processing to take place in between our sessions, in real time and real life. With sports performers this just isn’t an option, as the impact on training and preparations is too significant. In short, our counselling time will get to the core of issues but you will leave ready to train and compete in the meantime.
The reason my skills compliment the sports field in particular, is my genuine passion and active participation in sport. My background is in team sports, namely Football and Rugby. My skills here were mainly (completely) down to my Athletics ability as a sprinter. I competed at a high performance level in both Athletics and Rugby. My career was ended before it really got going due to the recurring dislocation of both my shoulders. The ongoing narrative around this time and the identity I held, has definitely maintained a negative influence in my life as a result.
My passion for many years now has been multisport and trail running, because it connects two of my most powerful spiritual needs, physical activity and nature. I will never compete for a podium spot, however I truly relish the competition against myself in every race I take part in.
The difference between Sports Psychology and Sports Counselling?
Well, you can earn a living from Sports Psychology, but Sports Counselling, not so much, even though in my opinion our work would be difficult to tell apart.
However, the main difference, is our time isn’t about improving your performance, even if this is a common by-product. My priority is your mental health and wellbeing such as;
Recovery from injury
Resilience and coping skills
Managing interpersonal conflict
Grief and loss
Mood and anxiety
Post sport transition difficulties
Support through selection