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Dr Mustafa Sarkar

Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology at Nottingham Trent University


My teaching, research, and consultancy focuses on the psychology of sporting excellence and its application to other high performance domains (e.g., business). Specifically, my work addresses how high achievers thrive on pressure and deliver sustained success.



Interview Questions

1. What book(s) have greatly influenced your life?

Understanding psychological preparation for sport: Theory and practice of elite performers by Lew Hardy, Graham Jones, and Daniel Gould.

2. How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?

My first application to university was to do law but I got rejected by all law schools. I was subsequently “forced” to take a gap year, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I gained some valuable work experience. In addition, during my gap year, I read about sport science/psychology in a magazine, applied to university to study sport science at Loughborough, and have never looked back since. So, without being rejected to study law at university, I’m not sure I would have ever gone down the sport science/psychology path!

3. In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?

Stay true to your core values and beliefs. For example, if one of your core values is collaboration (i.e., valuing others over your own individual success), then ensure you work/connect with people who share values around teamwork and working collaboratively with others.

4. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring young coach, what would that advice be?

Get better at knowing yourself (self-awareness and reflection) and never step learning.

5. What bad advice do you hear most from your area of expertise?

In terms of sport psychology, I often hear coaches and parents telling athletes to relax/stop being anxious or nervous before competition. But we know from the research/literature that this isn’t always the best advice. We all need a certain level of arousal/anxiety and often nerves are important as it tells you that you care about what you’re doing and it tells your body that you are ready to compete/perform.

6. Who, in your life, has inspired you most? (and why)

Probably my grandfather. Despite his busy work life, he always looked out for others before himself and it’s a value I feel/hope that I’ve taken on board in my life/work.

7. How would you best define a coach?

In a general sense, a coach is someone who helps an individual/team/organisation to develop and grow in the context/setting that they are operating in. That could be in all walks of life (e.g., sport, business etc…).

8. What do you do for your own CPD?

I attend conferences (mainly around sport psychology) both in the UK and abroad.