2021-psychology students help swimmers

Lockdown mental health boost for young north-east swimmers

Fri, 08 Jan 2021 10:43:00 GMT
DPsych Sport and Exercise trainees Zoe Black and Elanor Cormack
DPsych Sport and Exercise trainees Zoe Black and Elanor Cormack

Psychology students have been giving young swimming athletes and their coaches in the north-east of Scotland a mental health boost during lockdown with a series of online workshops.

Two DPsych Sport and Exercise trainees from Glasgow Caledonian University, Elanor Cormack and Zoe Black, have been helping the Scottish Amateur Swimming Association (SASA) North District with self-awareness, anxiety management, team building and communication.

GCU Sport and Exercise lecturer Dr Bryan McCann is “incredibly proud” of his students and “delighted” to be working with SASA.

He said: “The importance of psychology is increasingly recognised within sporting contexts, particularly given the current uncertainty relating to training and performance due to COVID-19. We are delighted to be working with SASA North to facilitate the delivery of these psychology workshops for their athletes and coaches.”

The students were contracted as casual tutors as part of their programme placements to deliver workshops to young athletes aged 13 to 15 plus, and their coaches, from October to December 2020.

Gregor McMillan, Performance Squad Coach at the University of Aberdeen Performance Swimming (UOAPS), said: “We’ve really enjoyed the collaboration with Glasgow Caledonian University. In what has been a really challenging period for athletes, coaches and families this has been an excellent learning opportunity and an escape for all. 

“Athletes from the North of Scotland are physically and technically really strong in the sport of swimming. However, one area that has been left untapped is the area of psychology and is something we felt needed addressing. 

“Bryan McCann has been a well-respected lead in this field and it was through contacting him this project developed. Thank you to Bryan and his team at GCU, we hope this will be an ongoing partnership to help develop more capable, confident and successful athletes in the future.

“The sessions ran in two streams for coaches and separately for athletes. This has allowed open conversation and challenging scenario discussion to be had by the coaches with the course leaders. While the athletes have had well supported discussions about current personal experiences and worked on skill development. 

“One coach’s feedback stated that the environment created felt supportive and educational, without feeling too complex, or prescriptive.”

Zoe described delivering the online workshops to the young swimmers as both rewarding and challenging because it had to be all online.

She explained: “It has been incredible to connect with swimmers from another part of the country and provide them with some thought-provoking activities and support in these strange times. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with these young athletes and overcoming the challenges of delivering psychological support online.”

Elanor said providing the workshops with SASA had been a great opportunity for them to share their knowledge of sport psychology with the swimming coaches.

She went on: “The workshops with SASA have been a great opportunity for us to share our knowledge of sport psychology with swimming coaches in the area; helping them to upskill and consider aspects of their coaching that they maybe hadn't given much thought to previously.

“The coaches have been very positive about the workshops and have contributed well by sharing their own experiences. This forum has allowed them to also learn from each other and consider how they would put the theory into practice in their own contexts.

“I am passionate about broadening the accessibility of sport psychology and this is just one of the ways that we can help to do that. It has been a pleasure to work with this group of coaches across the four topics and I hope they can continue to develop their coaching through an increased appreciation of the role of psychology.”