Working with elite athletes was fantastic, says Lauren

Lauren Podger - Sport Psychology

Lauren Podger from Bristol, graduated with first-class Honours. She is now studying for her Masters in Neuropsychology at Bristol University.

The BSc (Hons) Sport Psychology provides a great opportunity to learn interesting theoretical underpinnings for negative/positive behaviours that lead to adverse or improved competitive performance.  The course also provides students with the opportunity to put this theory into practice by affording students the chance to experience first-hand the role of a sport psychologist within an applied context.

During my third year we were given a practical case study assignment, and in pairs we had the the opportunity to work with an elite athlete of our choice. Our assignment involved carrying out a systematic needs analysis with the elite athlete, mirroring the kinds of analysis adopted by practicing sport psychologists when working with a client.

A needs analysis is a specific analysis framework aimed at guiding the practitioner in uncovering specific psychological weaknesses that lead to poor competitive performance. Once the athlete’s weaknesses have been identified, the practitioner can then prescribe the relevant psychological intervention strategy. For example, a footballer could suffer with severe anxiety when stepping up to take a free kick, causing him to continuously miss his target. The practitioner would identify this weakness from the needs analysis and thus suggest an appropriate treatment aimed at reducing the footballer’s anxiety and ensuring he/she can effectively perform the free kick skill.

During my needs analysis assignment, I had the opportunity to work with an elite water polo player. My partner and I took part in several observation sessions, including various training sessions and both club and university team water polo matches. We conducted a performance profile, questionnaires, and a detailed interview.

The whole process of working with the elite athlete and conducting the needs analysis was challenging, but a fantastic experience! It really helped me to develop a firm understanding of what the role of a sport psychologist is in a real-world context.

The project enabled me to put all the theory I had learnt over the last three years into practice, and really gave me confidence in the fact that I had developed important skills as a psychologist that I could put into practice successfully. It was definitely the most enjoyable assignment!