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Practical Sport Psychology

The 'how, why, when, and where' to use sport psychology skills and techniques with athletes and coaches
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Last updated 1/2016
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  • 5.5 hours on-demand video
  • 5 Supplemental Resources
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  • Certificate of Completion
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What Will I Learn?
Select the appropriate tool or technique to assist an athlete's or coach's performance
Create and evaluate a 6 week Psychological Skills Training program based on the requirements of a sport and the needs of a client
View Curriculum
  • Students who have played competitive sports will be at some advantage as they may have experienced some of the situations when skills did not meet their needs

This course is comprised of several sections: the first section has two colleagues who work with athletes and coaches discuss their respective approaches teaching clients sport psychology skills, including Motivation, Arousal Control, and Mental Imagery. Sections 2-4 have a series of interviews with three athletes/coaches about how they use these approaches in real life, and Section 5 has a presentation Michelle gave on 'psyching up and psyching down' to Amersham-Wycombe College students in Dec 2015. Section 6 discusses how one might put together a Psychological Skills Training program based on the requirements of the sport and the needs of the participants, and Section 7 discusses a hierarchy of PST skills, and the concept of evaluation of PST training. Section 8 is comprised of two questions designed for you to give feedback to the authors, based on your perceptions of the effectiveness and usefulness of the content, examples and resources. There is no right or wrong answer - we value your feedback.

The course is designed to be a resource for teachers and students completing BTEC National's Unit 20 (Applied Sport Psychology), but would support many vocational and higher education sport psychology or sports coaching requirements.

If a student wanted just to know about the skills alone, completing this course would take about 2 hours, but video interviews with coaches and athletes are also included to aid the students' understanding of how to apply these skills in real life, so the total content for this course is about 6-7 hours worth of listening. These interviews would be useful for students thinking of creating their own 6 week psychological skills program. There is no formal assessment for this course.

By the end of this course, students will be able to create and evaluate a 6 week Psychological Skills Training session for an athlete, team or coach, using the skills described herein, based on knowledge of a sport's requirements, and taking into account the needs of their (hypothetical) client.

Who is this course for?
* Athletes and Coaches
* Judges, Officials and Referees
* Parents of athletes
* Students of sport psychology courses at universities and colleges around the world, and
* Corporate / Management personnel wanting to adapt sport psychology concepts to the performance of staff in business settings

Although this course is designed to be used in a sports setting, however it could equally be applied to the corporate world where top performing businesses use exactly the same skills (such as having a vision of success, controlling nerves during presentations, building team cohesion, using effective communication styles, setting goals etc).

Who is the target audience?
  • This course is particularly written for British students undertaking Unit 20 ('Applied Sport Psychology') as it follows the BTEC criteria, but it would also suit any student studying Vocational or Higher Education sport psychology units
  • It is also suited to athletes and coaches who want to know more about the range of sport psychology and performance psychology techniques, and how and when (and when not) to use them
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Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 23 Lectures Collapse All 23 Lectures 05:43:42
Discussion of sport psychology techniques and tools
5 Lectures 42:20

Rich Dean (UK) and Michelle Pain (Australia) discuss the role of the sport psychologist when working with clients, comparing similarities and differences between British and Australian sport and performance psychologists.

Lecture 1 The role of the sport and exercise psychologist

(6 minutes 33 seconds)

0:10 Cognititve-Behavioural approach, working with teams and individuals, as

a consultant

0:46 Researcher

1:30 Education - running workshops, creating online resources, developing courses, teaching

2:18 Exercise psychologists working with clients to make healthier living choices through exercise/movement

2:28 Injury rehabilitation

2:46 Team building (values/culture)

3:08 Registered sport psychologists (psychologists who have completed extra training to be ‘endorsed’ by a professional body to be able to call themselves this title) vs other psychologists (qualified psychologists who have not completed extra academic/practical training are not eligible to use the title ‘sport psychologists’ and instead use the title ‘mental conditioning coach’ or ‘performance coach’)

4:30 Recommendations for an alternative route if you don’t want to become a ‘sport psychologist’

5:50 Making a living as a sport psychologist (Michelle) / mental conditioning coach (Rich)

Preview 06:32

Motivational tools to do with goal setting are presented (SMART goals; Lifetime goal setting program, Spiderweb profile or Performance profile (same thing); Decision-Balance sheet; modifying behaviours eg rewarding participation/attendance; using visual and auditory reminders to stay on task or commence exercising; using contracts; support networks; the value of broader interests other than sport; ticking off productive behaviours; checking in with yourself to ask 'do I still want to be elite?').

Rich refers to a book by Ben Hunt-Davis - Will it Make The Boat Go Faster? (see for motivational speech by Ben based on the question 'will it make the boat go faster?')

What isn't discussed here (because it is more theoretical than practical) is the whole Achievement Motivation approach, including 'mastery' versus 'performance/outcome' goal setting.

Lecture 2 Motivational techniques in sport

(17 minutes 39 seconds)

0:10 Motivation = Goal setting

0:29 S M A R T goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time sensitive)

0:50 Make goals ‘bite sized’ so you can start right away

1:16 Rich’s example of ‘getting started’

3:12 Using daily reminders to check if you are ‘on target’ with your goals

3:40 Are your behaviours taking you closer to where you want to be, or further away?

3:55 Lifetime goal setting (long term: 5+ years; medium term: 2-3 years; short term: within 12 months). Rich suggests short term could be even shortened further to monthly, weekly or daily goals.

4:45 W I N ‘what’s important now’

6:20 Importance of putting an asterisk (*) next to the really important goals

6:32 Look to see that the long term goals which have been asterisked have a related asterisked medium term goal and a related asterisked short term goal (‘scaffolding’). You don’t want to have a goal that is asterisked (meaning it is important to the client) that is unsupported by more immediate efforts.

7:10 Spiderweb or Performance profile, using concentric circles with ‘spokes’ that represent key performance indicators, that a client can use to record where they think they are (with regard to the KPIs)…and then they can ask their team mates or coach to judge them on those same KPIs….could be an ‘interesting’ (open and honest) discussion!

9:16 Contracts, especially with exercise psychology clients ‘managing expectations’, Sir Clive Woodward used the term ‘team minimums’

10:40 Using rewards to keep motivation high

11:06 Using technology for reminders

11:42 Support networks as motivators

13:20 Importance of outside interests to counter the all-consuming tendencies of elite sport

14:10 Target productive behaviours - ask ‘will it make the boat go faster?’

14:55 Role of positive reinforcement

15:30 Decision-balance sheet to weigh up pros and cons of options

16:18 Check in with yourself to ask if you still want to continue along the elite path

16:40 Pressure from others can be de-motivating

Preview 17:40

This chapter discusses use of imagery and mental rehearsal in sport and exercise psychology. It includes using imagery for relaxation (such as guided/mental imagery, as well as progressive muscle relaxation), key words and images, using 5 senses (seeing, touching, hearing, tasting and smelling), 3 deep breaths to reduce stress, the difference between internal versus external visualisation and when they are best for maximal performance, the need to rehearse good technique (not bad technique), benefits of mental rehearsal when injured, biofeedback to measure 'activation' (either for relaxation or psyching up) and the use of performance routines to give confidence going in to a competition.

Lecture 3 Uses of Imagery and Mental Rehearsal in Sport and Exercise

(11 minutes 20 seconds)

0:16 Imagery for relaxation by using pictures (images) that are pleasant for the

athlete (eg Guided Imagery - there are plenty of examples of guided

imagery on Youtube)

1:20 Use of key words (words used as a shortcut reminder for the client to take desired qualities)

2:06 Progressive muscle relaxation

2:42 Importance of breathing (3 deep breathes)

3:45 Mental rehearsal = thinking about how you might perform

4:00 When to use imagery and when to use mental rehearsal

4:30 Internal vs External visualization

6:55 Using 5 senses (seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, smelling) to recreate the image as clearly as possible

7:30 Rehearse correct technique, not incorrect technique (else you’ll reproduce incorrect technique in competition). This goes for training too…eg make sure bowlers in cricket do not bowl no balls in training!

7:50 Benefits of mental rehearsal when injured

9:00 Use of biofeedback to measure/record relaxation (offering objective and observable changes)

10:25 Performance routines to build confidence and correct ‘activation’ levels

Imagery and Mental Rehearsal

In this lecture, Michelle and Rich discuss individual versus team approaches when looking at 'activation preferences' (ie psyching up or psyching down for competition), the fact that different sports can have different psychological requirements with regard to activation (and some sports have different levels within the sport too), the importance of 'being in the moment' and not getting ahead of yourself, the importance of consistency in preparation and training, and using pre-competition routines to get yourself in the right frame of mind (eg to calm nerves or to psych up).

Lecture 4 Arousal and performance

(5 minutes 9 seconds)

0:00 Controlling arousal levels

0:15 Working out your own preferred arousal/activation levels, as well as the activation levels required by the situation (competition), for individuals and for teams

0:30 Different sports require different arousal requirements

1:05 A sport may have different arousal requirements at different times

1:30 Using Heart Rate or Cognition to alter perceived arousal levels

2:50 Be in the moment - don’t think too far ahead

3:00 Pre-performance routines to build consistency

4:15 Choose when your match starts

This lecture is supported by a presentation Michelle gave to Rich's students, which appears in the next Section.

Arousal and performance

This short section points out the requirements of BTEC's Unit 20 criteria. See the next Section for Michelle and Rich identifying which psychological skills should be addressed at different moments in time.

Lecture 5 ‘Create a 6 week program’ (describe what you’ve decided to use, explain how it is done, justify your selection of one technique over another), and Lecture 6 ‘Review and evaluate the program’s effectiveness’

(1 minute 39 seconds)

Refer to later Sections ‘Creating a 6 week program’ and the ‘Hierarchy of PST programs’ when discussing when various techniques might be used

(6 minutes 30 seconds)

Creating and evaluating a 6 week Psychological Skills Training sequence
Interview with Peter Scott, ex-Fulham captain and current Reading FC Coach
4 Lectures 01:09:18

Peter Scott 1 (16:25)

0:00 Experiences working with sport psychologists (in his playing career)

2:50 Psychologist ‘didn’t relate’

3:00 Coming up to retirement (as a player/captain) the sport psych used Peter to approach younger players (o help build bridges)

4:18 Importance of sport psychology to sports

6:05 Unlocking potential

6:50 Recommendation to speak to a sport psych early in their career so they get the most out of themselves, to give themselves the best chance of succeeding in their sporting career

8:10 Preparing to perform - use of routines well before the competition starts

10:30 How Peter got started playing football (10-11 years of age wanted a career as a professional football player)

12:15 Peter’s great love for football

12:40 Pressure from parents or others in pushing son

13:45 The pressure on Peter’s son to follow in his father’s footsteps

14:25 Influence of good and bad coaches

Peter Scott part 1

Peter Scott 2 (14:34)

0:00 Recognising who you want to give thanks to along the way

0:34 Using ‘active thinking’ to work out how to play better (modeling self on a player of a better standard but in the same position)

2:20 Need to be excited about different aspects of the game

3:40 Need to be self aware

4:25 How is ‘money’ viewed in the game today? Can it be a motivator or a e-motivator?

7:15 High level of ‘depressed’ players in a team

8:40 No hiding place from social media criticism (’it’s a 24 hours a day profession’)

9:50 Education process of creating a support networks

11:00 The effect of changing managers on the performance of players (shelf life of managers is about 3 years, unless you change the people you work with ie bringing in fresh players)

12:40 Motivational messages

Peter Scott part 2

Peter Scott 3 (19:10)

0:00 The use of the motivational speeches

1:15 You need to know how to motivate your players individually

3:15 How does Peter control his emotions when coaching?

6:00 The ‘effectiveness’ of tearing strips of another player

8:35 Use of imagery and mental rehearsal

10:30 Internal or External visualization

11:16 Value of ‘scouting’ so you know the strengths and weaknesses of your opposition

11:30 Mastery focused rather than outcome focused

13:40 Principles or values Peter tries to convey to his players

15:15 How did Peter know how to psych himself up, or down?

16:50 What does Peter tell his players about how to keep themselves under control during a match?

18:30 Best to try to teach these skills to younger players as early as possible

Peter Scott part 3

Peter Scott 4 (19:09)

0:00 Using questionnaires to get information about your players (risk is that players won’t take it seriously)

0:50 Dealing with pressure throughout your career

2:25 Use of questionnaires to draft players (not really done in the UK yet, more on looking at the player’s values and home life)

5:20 Learning from other sports

6:15 Spotting talent [Three 7s: deal with a football (technical skill); ‘spirit’ (psychological); how does the player move (physical ability) plus character, with a score of 7+ representing ‘Academy standard’]

7:18 ‘Character’ in the player to represent the coach’s values

8:45 The difficulty of retiring from elite sport

12:24 Did Peter always expect to be a coach?

13:36 How do you manage young players who are going to be cut from the team?

16:00 Predicting which players might advance and which ones might’ve peaked already

Peter Scott part 4
Interview with Martin Dean, Lead Youth Development Coach at Reading FC
3 Lectures 54:19

Martin Dean 1 (16:14)

0:16 Martin’s experiences in coaching

2:09 Fostering the right culture at a club

3:27 As a ‘spotter’, what qualities did you look for in players (ie spotting talent)?

5:25 How refined is the psychology involved in Talent ID? ‘I DREAM’

7:46 Use of sport psychs at Reading in the Academy setup

9:00 How do admired sport psychs work (in national clubs) - group workshops, 1-1, creating ‘I DREAM’ methodology, observe, give feedback, communication tips

10:25 Are coaches willing to get sport psych input?

10:45 Motivating young players, ‘they come with an entourage now’)

11:50 Young players given contracts earlier these days

12:15 What do parents think when their child is given a contract?

12:48 ‘Only 2% of players who come in at 16 make it to a senior team (ie given the chance to have a professional career)’; ‘How do they retain the hunger when they’ve been given so much too soon’

13:20 The role of agents

15:00 How does the Academy coach wrest control back from the agent?

Martin Dean part 1

Martin Dean 2 (18:47)

0:00 How do players choose the right agent?

1:36 Intrinsic motivation is being reduced by the money on offer

3:00 Players need to practice for the love of the game

4:19 Releasing players from U16s caused agents to ring to find out what they could do to change their mind

5:00 Parents often don’t know enough about what is happening to their child at this level

6:13 What motivational messages does Martin give the Academy players?, Use of Analysts to show the players what they are doing wrong or doing right

10:00 Psychological techniques taught to players in workshops or 1-1 meetings, and Martin might get feedback (but maybe sport psychs only meet up with players 4 times per season, compared to sport scientists who are there at every session)

12:20 Martin is aware of players being taught visualisation, imagery, preparation for major competitions, use of key words to aid clarity of role and intention to deliver the ball, attentional cues, but more could be done in the area of arousal/anxiety

15:45 What do you say or do to a player who is feeling anxious?

17:00 Amount of ‘threat’ a player might be under at 15 or 16 years of age compared to 10 and 11 year olds

Martin Dean part 2

Martin Dean 3 (19:18)

0:00 What do you do with the players who’ve been identified as ‘late bloomers’?

1:50 Has Martin been surprised by the development of a player who’d been cut from his squad?

2:30 Three 7s: Skill acquisition; ‘Spirit’ / psychology; Physical ability, plus 6 corners of physical, mental, technical, tactical, social and emotional

3:40 Deconstructing what ‘spirit’ means - energy, vigour, resilience,

5:09 Is there a preferred personality of an elite athlete?

6:00 The concept of the talented young player; sometimes ‘too much effort’ (on the wrong things) and an ‘ego’ mindset are detrimental - instead they should just work hard

9:27 How do you measure if the coaches are any good?

10:20 Strengths of Martin as a coach

11:08 Mentoring other coaches (informally) within the Academy

12:40 Role of the half time team speech

13:54 Physical and psychological support for injured players

15:30 Social media amongst players of that age group

Martin Dean part 3
Interview with Sammie Phillips, ex-playing coach of England Touch Rugby
4 Lectures 01:02:19

Sammie Phillips 1 (19:20)

0:00 Sammie Phillips has been newly appointed into a new role as Performance Advisor for Women’s English Touch Rugby, and Sammie tells us what that involves

1:01 Sammie talks about her experience as a player/coach at the World Cup (Gold Coast, Australia, 2015)

3:00 What sport psychology aspects did you use as part of the World Cup preparations?

4:30 The ‘behind the scenes’ discussions that went on with sport psychology

6:20 Staying in the moment (when there are so many other things going on in ‘real life’)

9:45 Key skill - scanning after mentally ‘stepping back’ so you can make good decisions on the pitch ands using ‘scan’ as a key word to remind them to look for options

12:12 How do you cope with games not going to plan?

13:13 Amateur sport = needing to rotate players to give everyone a chance to play

14:00 Experienced players overawed (tv cameras being present?), ‘not pumped up enough’, ‘distracted’, ‘complacent’

16:00 Make a physiological change (deep breathing) to get clear thinking

18:00 The role of ‘gamesmanship’ in a tight match

Sammie Phillips part 1

Sammie Phillips 2 (13:30)

0:00 Amateur players pay to compete

4:00 Did the weather mar players’ experiences of the World Cup?

6:00 Accommodation logistics

7:20 Team cohesion - Did cracks appear? How to control ‘down time’

8:10 Differences in control between professional and amateur sport

9:10 Plan B for managing ‘off time’

10:15 Team structure (management) to support Playing/Coach

11:24 Managing players in difficult circumstances

Sammie Phillips part 2

Sammie Phillips 3 (17:13)

0:00 European Championships due to be held in 2016 - What preparations are being made for sport psychology tools and techniques in the lead up for this competition?

1:00 Sport psychology isn’t viewed (by others) as being as important to preparation as other things

2:18 Plan is for the sport psych to be working with coaches (to manage the messages) in the first instance; how to manage this when players are coming in from all over the country

4:00 Start to get sport psychology used in a formal way within the sport

4:30 Other support staff used by Touch Rugby

5:20 Importance of video analysis to identify behavior to be maintained or rejected

8:00 Players like to watch themselves play, so that ‘homework’ is not difficult for players to do

9:05 ‘Drugs in sport’ Education

10:55 Where does ‘young talent’ come from to match the current World Champions (Australia, New Zealand)

15:05 A new generation of Touch Rugby players

Sammie Phillips part 3

Sammie Phillips 4 (12:17)

0:00 Touch Rugby is like a chess game, with decision making happening three or four moves ahead of the opposition - “it’s a thinking person’s game”

1:10 Team dynamics, team culture, expectations, role of the sport psych - “it’s becoming more accepted that these things affect performance”

2:40 Where does sport psychology fit within an organisation? Is it with medical staff, or with the sport science staff?

3:40 How do you reproduce the culture for a team? Each team might set their own core values (perhaps with guidance from their coach).

5:25 Whose role is it to come up with ‘worst case scenarios’ to develop ‘Plan B’ solutions? Aim is to get all the squad (in small groups) identifying possible solutions so they can start thinking for themselves

7:18 Develop an ‘If…Then Plan’ and the group had a saying ‘Move on, next play’ so that the squad weren’t caught up thinking about something that just went wrong, and they cleared their mind for the next play

8:20 Extracurricular team bonding sessions (eg army training using high ropes, diving off the high board) to test nerve (and support from team mates)

10:10 Working with a squad of ‘probables’ and ‘maybes’ to educate the group widely

10:45 Risk of burnout? No, Sammie thought a 2 year campaign would build momentum

Sammie Phillips part 4
Presentation by Michelle Pain, talking about 'Psyching Up and Psyching Down'
3 Lectures 50:14

Arousal and Performance 1 (21:35)

0:10 Beginnings of sport psychology

1:24 Working out who might be good under pressure during WW2 (Drive Theory)

3:36 Inverted U hypothesis

7:04 Zone of Optimal Functioning

7:45 Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning

8:29 Different sports have different arousal requirements

13:05 Differentiating anxiety into cognitive and somatic elements

16:10 Multidimensional Anxiety Theory

Michelle Pain 'Psyching Up, Psyching Down' part 1

Arousal and Performance 2 (14:34)

0:00 Catastrophe Theory

4:15 Dealing with performance slumps

5:35 Reversal Theory

12:32 How coaches might use information in Reversal Theory to coach individuals differently

14:30 Completing the questionnaire to find out where you sit on the Telic-Paratelic continuum (Note, since filming this segment the questionnaire has removed ‘reverse scoring’, so if completing the questionnaire in this course you would just add up your score of items circled.)

Michelle Pain 'Psyching Up, Psyching Down' part 2

Arousal and Performance 3 (14:05)

0:00 Identifying whether you are telic or paratelic by scoring the questionnaire

3:30 Lifting heart rate for Paratelics (who feel under-aroused)

4:50 Lowering heart rate for Telics (who feel over-aroused)

6:50 ‘Reversing’ from telic to paratelic, or paratelic to telic, for a short time by changing cognition

13:40 Flexible people can operate reasonably well if their preferred arousal levels aren’t being met, but they would be even better if they knew how to get themselves in their ‘best state’ themselves

Michelle Pain 'Psyching Up, Psyching Down' part 3
Creating a 6 week Psychological Skills Training program
1 Lecture 06:31
What to consider in selecting PST tools and techniques
Evaluating a 6 week Psychological Skills Training program
3 Lectures 58:41

Some further descriptions of content described in this Section can be found on the internet
1. Wonderlic Test:
2. The Test of Attentional and Interpersonal Style (TAIS):
3. What colour is your parachute?
4. Phillip Hughes:
5. Ayrton Senna:
6. Phil Walsh:

Hierarchy in the Psychological Skills Training (PST) program part 1

(19 minutes 46 seconds)

1:03 Confidence / Preparation for competition

2:59 Trust, building rapport

7:15 Goal setting skills: time management: behaviour modification - leading to a player / athlete / coach developing resilience

11:30 Arousal control (psyching up and psyching down); deliberate practice (attending to the right cues, control the controllables)

Other resources:

Larsen, C.S. (2014) Preparing for the European Championships: A six-step Mental Skills Training Program in disability sports. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 5 (3), 186-197.

A hierarchy of PST: Choosing when to deliver certain tools and technique part 1

Hierarchy in the Psychological Skills Training (PST) program part 2

(18 minutes 14 seconds)

0:00 Continuing arousal and performance issues
…leading to performance under pressure, leading to simulating competition conditions and practicing good decision making under pressure

8:20 Communication (verbal and non verbal), act ‘as if’ you had the desired skills/behaviour

9:09 Self talk

12.35 Imagery, visualisation and mental rehearsal

13:15 Building support networks

15:49 Use of social media

A hierarchy of PST: Choosing when to deliver certain tools and techniques part 2

Hierarchy in the Psychological Skills Training (PST) program part 3

(20 minutes 41 seconds)

0:00 Role on the team

2:08 Team cohesion

3:30 Talent ID

7:15 Retirement from sport

14:15 Death or severe injury in sport

A hierarchy of PST: Choosing when to deliver certain tools and techniques part 3
Measuring the effectiveness of this course
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About the Instructor
4.4 Average rating
12 Reviews
2,170 Students
3 Courses
Sport Psychologist

I'm a sport psychologist based in Melbourne Australia. I enjoy teaching others how to use sport psychology techniques, based on my 25+ years of experience as a sport psych and tertiary educator (where I teach or have taught sport psychology to students doing a Certificate or Diploma course in Vocational Education/TAFE through to subjects in Higher Education/University through to PhD level).

I've worked with athletes in a range of sports, from recreation level (eg. I'm paying for coaching in my technique, why not learn faster improving my mental game?) through to the elite level (eg. coping with major competitions and pressure of expectations).

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Sports Psychology Practitioner

Richard Dean is a Sport Psychology Practitioner who has worked with athletes from a range of sports. His academic studies in Sports Psychology, allied with some very unique experiences, have allowed him to develop well-trusted protocols in the pursuit of maximising athletes mental conditioning.

Recent work includes consultation with Nigerian Elite Football Development Academy- Alvasto FC, acting as 'Psychology Consultant' for the forthcoming Boxing Docu-Movie 'The Nobody's Man,' and being commissioned to write Sports Psychology chapters in two forthcoming books. In addition to this, he holds the prestigious position of ' Director of UK and International Operations' for the highly regarded US-based sports mentoring company 'Guardian Elite'.

He has worked, consulted and collaborated with Rugby players, National and World Heavyweight Boxing Champions, International Soccer players, NFL players and Rugby players amongst many others. He was once the youngest person to hold the prestigious UEFA Soccer Coaching Licence, and he also holds various Leadership, Mentoring and Educational qualifications, including the Post Graduate Certificate of Education and is also certified in the Professional Management of Sport.

Rich also gives his time to volunteer for two superb UK-based charities - the Aaron West Goalkeeping Academy and Support Through Sport UK. Both charities deserve much attention for the great work which they do.

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