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Gold medal sport psychology

11 August 2014

In the wake of the Commonwealth Games, sport psychology has been a hotly debated subject receiving a considerable amount of media attention.

It has been at the forefront of many television interviews and discussions, with gold medal winners and future hopefuls testifying to psychological preparation as being key to their success.

Our BSc (Hons) Sport & Psychology degree is unique to Scotland, examining how the mind and body work together for sport performance. 

Here, Dr Fiona McConnochie - who is a Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist and the Programme Leader for our course - tells us a bit about this fascinating subject.

"For an athlete who has dedicated years of training to his or her sport, the difference between success and failure can come down to just a few seconds, a few inches or a fraction of a point - slim margins that contribute to the intense pressure that elite competitors face.

"Fortunately, there has been growing acceptance among both athletes and coaches of sport psychology’s role in helping athletes manage those pressures and enhance their performance. 

"One sign of this growing commitment is the number of full-time sport-psychologist posts being commissioned throughout the country, as well as the growth in career opportunities that this exciting area can open up to the individual.

"Sport psychologists prescribe imagery, relaxation techniques, self-talk and other evidence-based interventions as they help prepare their nation’s top athletes.

"It’s not just about maintaining focus or finding ways to boost performance - it’s like strength conditioning: it’s part of what athletes do to get ready for competition. 

"Anticipating potential problems is another part of the job, as is working with athletic fear of poor performance. 

"In this case it is recommended that athletes practice envisioning themselves doing a difficult task or simply using distraction techniques when they think too much and the mind gets in the way of the performance. 

"For the most part, the body knows what to do - athletes just have to turn off their minds. 

"Above anything else, self-belief is of paramount importance in achieving optimal performance; and as Jonathan Edwards so rightly pointed out during a television interview at the 2012 Olympics, you need "conviction" of self-belief.

Unique Sport & Psychology degree at Abertay

"Here at Abertay we are delighted to be able to give students the opportunity to study the BSc (Hons) Sport & Psychology degree, which is a comprehensive degree programme unique to Scotland. 

"Sport & Psychology examines the sciences underpinning the study of sport: how the mind and body work together for sport performance. 

"The course examines how psychology is applied in practise in sport and exercise settings, and provides the opportunity to consider how diet and physical activity influence health, the theories that underpin coaching, as well as how to assess fitness and prescribe exercise/training regimes. 

"Whilst a number of modules focus wholly on sport psychology issues - such as motivation, goal-setting, visualisation, confidence and self-talk - the skills you develop are diverse, and a significant part of your learning will take the form of your final year research project which is completed on an independently chosen topic area.

"Having worked with various clients and organisations in sport and exercise - including golfers, long-distance runners, contemporary dancers, cyclists, tennis players, trampolinists, and football teams - I couldn’t recommend this subject more highly. It is endlessly fascinating, constantly evolving and I’m sure will lead to a great career should you choose to study it."

If you are interested in this degree programme or would like any more information please contact Fiona on 01382 308591 or email

Skype chats are also available to discuss this exciting degree in more depth.

About Fiona

Dr McConnochie is a Chartered Sport & Exercise Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society (BPS). She is also a Member of The Scottish Sport and Exercise Psychology Group, and The Elite Sport & Exercise Group (UK).

As a former world-class highland dancer and competitive piper Fiona’s main specialism and passion is working with musicians and dancers in the performing arts, particularly pipers and highland dancers.

She will be speaking about competition psychology at Piping Live! on Wednesday 13th August, teaching pipers techniques used by the world’s top sports men and women to help them perform better under pressure.

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