My current work is as the lead Sports Performance Coach at West Bromwich Albion academy, working predominantly within the Professional Development Phase, but also heading up the psychology department and driving forward the programme for all players, coaches, support staff and parents/guardians. I aim to develop both the person and the player, through a collaborative approach, and always have a focus on athlete wellbeing as well as performance enhancement. I have spent the last seven years in academic education, further training and applied practice and my work has been extremely varied; working with athletes from local club to international level in a variety of team and individual sports, as well as gaining experience within mental health settings and applying performance psychology principles to business and other high performing environments.
1. What book(s) have greatly influenced your life?
It’s extremely difficult for me to narrow my list down to three as I have been influenced by so many books! I try and take at least one lesson from everything I read. Autobiographies are always a favourite of mine and Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography was a fascinating insight into his leadership and way of working which lead to sustained success through such a long career. Also, having watched the success of the All Blacks in awe, Legacy by James Kerr has been a book that has hugely influenced me and my applied work, through an approach that places huge value of the importance of the environment and a shared approach to success.
2. How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?
I think I’ve been lucky enough to experience failures in different areas of my life, from personal to sport, to career, which has all set me up for later successes. I think where I have worked tirelessly for everything I have done in my professional life, I have learned to grasp all opportunities. At the time the failures feel awful, but it’s taught me so much about myself, given me more confidence than I ever believed I would have, and also prepared me for future setbacks, which are an inevitable part of every journey.
3. In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?
Getting a work-life balance; making time for myself and the people around me, which has greatly improved my overall wellbeing. As well as this I think maintaining true to my core values and standing up for these even in challenging circumstances.
4. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring young coach, what would that advice be?
I would say to never stop learning. Learning about all elements of the game to expand your knowledge, learning about different disciplines and the influence of them. But I’d say of potentially even greater importance than this is learning about yourself and who you are as a coach (in the least wishy washy sounding way possible!); what you want to achieve and what’s important to you in the pursuit of your goals. I think it’s really important to develop your coaching style and approach as an individual, using others as inspiration and taking advice and ideas, but using them in your own unique style and remaining true to your values.
5. What bad advice do you hear most from your area of expertise?
I think you hear a lot around “mental skills training” in sport psychology, particularly as a new practitioner, and while I do believe there is a place for this, there is a whole lot more to sport psychology and this is just the very tip of the iceberg or what the profession does. The importance of the environment, culture and players as individuals is so much more important to my approach and practice.
6. Who, in your life, has inspired you most? (and why)
My parents have both been massively inspirational to me. My Dad through his sporting career as both a player and a coach and the way he inspires those around him to achieve and grow as people. My Mum because she always pursues her passion and has so much fight for what she believes.
7. How would you best define a coach?
A coach creates an environment to challenge individuals to think. They encourage solution driven thinking, but understand when it is they need to tell versus when to encourage thinking. I think they inspire their team to develop and they adapt to individuals, by learning about them, understanding them and challenging them progress to be the best they can.
8. What do you do for your own CPD?
I never stop trying to learn and gain more knowledge. I’m always reading, networking and attending different events to extend my knowledge and experiences. I’m always trying to learn from all the expertise of individuals in different roles, in both sport and other environments.