My First Placement

Not What You Want, But What You Might Need

As mentioned in a previous post, I was rather lucky in securing this placement. I had contacted the club and sent an e-mail for the attention of the head of sport science. He offered me a unpaid position interning for the clubs academy team as a sport scientist. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was an opportunity that would help nonetheless. 

As well as often being rejected, you will at times be offered an alternative position. Consider how you might benefit from this before rushing to decline offers just because it’s not what you initially wanted. There are multiple paths to gaining experience and the broader your knowledge, the better you will be as a psychologist as you will be able to understand how psychology interacts with other disciplines in the real world. 

So, of course, I said yes. I began interning at round about the same time I started the masters course. This involved working at the academy training ground once a week, doing whatever the sport scientist needed me to do. This started as entering data from GPS trackers into excel to form visual information that would inform coaches on players’ physical performance during training and matches. For example, heart rate, max acceleration and distance covered. Similarly, I was involved in testing, using the counter movement jump equipment to test explosive power and anaerobic power. I had no idea such testing and physical tracking was used in academy teams or the extent to which they inform decision making e.g. strength and conditioning programmes and physiotherapy.

Jumping At Chances

When I initially discussed coming in as an intern my supervisor and I had discussed topics he was interested in researching as something I could do as my dissertation. We had discussed trying to integrate something he wanted to do with something related to psychology. We agreed on researching how psychological variables such as stress, may play a part in influencing physical injury. That became the focus for my masters dissertation which I worked on throughout the year. (insert dissertation link)

Again, because I had grasped this opportunity I was now able to utilise an elite youth football team and their data in my research. I now had more resources and more exposure to conduct solid research and create a solid research report. I wanted to produce a good of body work, I was proud of, interested in and could use to actually create change in the real world at this club.

Essentially, data analysis and my research project was my role for most of my placement. I learnt so much and was exposed to many different aspects of performance. I was able to observe first hand the environment in which players work every day, understand the culture of the club, how players interact with one another and how the club itself functions. I never would have had the chance to experience this if I did not say yes to an opportunity I did not initially seek or expect. I am grateful I was given the chance. Eventually, I decided to impose myself  on to the club  so that I could hopefully play a greater role in sport psychology provision at the club.

Keep Asking and They Shall Come

I spoke with my supervisor many times about transforming into a sport psych role, he did not allow me to do everything I wanted, but always offered an alternative. He did agree to allow me to administer psychometric testing and create a system in which to analyse responses. However, I had to send him a proposal and associated research as to why I feel this would benefit the team and empirical evidence to support my claims. Fair.

I asked him about conducting 1:1 sessions with athletes. He did not entirely allow this but he allowed me to talk privately now and then to injured players. I had asked about giving a presentation on sport psych to the whole team, in the hopes that they would be interested and ask for 1:1 sessions. He did not permit this but allowed me to create information packs on sport psych, different psych skills and how they can help that would be provided to new scholars at the beginning of the year!

The opportunities to create, to be independent and practice different sides of being a sport psychologist came because I was assertive, determined to learn and confident in my ability to deliver. My supervisor never approached me and asked if I wanted to do this or that. I asked, asked again, compromised and made the opportunity.

This is essential if you want more relevant experience.

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