A network like no other: 15th Annual ENYSSP European Network of Young Specialists in Sport Psychology Conference

Beth Yeoman MBPsS, BPS QSEP Stage II Trainee, @beth_yeoman

Matt Shaw MBPsS, BPS QSEP Stage II Trainee, InnerDrive, @mattshawpsych

On Thursday 23rd May we arrived in sunny Trieste, Italy along with 130 fellow delegates from 23 countries for the 15th annual European Network of Young Specialists in Sport Psychology (ENYSSP) Conference. Some might be wondering who or what ENYSSP is. The aims of ENYSSP are to give support in education, research, professional practice and service delivery to young people with official qualification or an interest in the field of Sport and Exercise Psychology. As new members to ENYSSP this was our first experience of what the network had to offer and after three days I think it’s safe to say we were impressed.

Three keynotes were delivered over the conference. The first was delivered by Dr Claudio Robazza, Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine and Aging science at the University of Chieti-Pescara, Italy who spoke about emotional self-regulation for performance enhancement. The second was delivered by Dr Rita F. de Oliveira whose key note was titled: ‘This girl can be active! … can’t she?’ Within the key note Dr Oliveira described Sport England’s “This Girl Can” campaigned and evaluated its effectiveness in facilitating participation. The last key note was delivered by Dr Richard Keegan of the University of Canberra, Australia. Dr Keegan is a practicing Sport Psychologist and the author of ‘Being a Sport Psychologist’. Dr Keegan’s keynote was titled: ‘The ‘Heartless Mercenary’ Career Path in Sport Psychology: Authenticity, Resilience and Strength-in-Diversity’.

A number of insightful themes came out of Dr Keegan’s key note. Firstly, it was suggested that to be an authentic practitioner it is important to view yourself as a person who is collecting skills, collecting experiences, becoming more capable and remaining the constant throughout all experiences. Secondly, it is advantageous to be ‘antifragile’ by building a career that allows you to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Thirdly, to not be the practitioner who plays the ‘gets results, guaranteed results’ role, but rather be an ethical practitioner who takes their time to empower not only their athletes but themselves too. Fourthly, to love the journey that we are on and at times to view it as a long game, a game that works in our favour the longer we play it.

A welcomed part of the conference was this year’s addition of a panel discussion where we heard from two of Italy’s elite athletes about their journey to, during and after professional sport. With plenty of opportunities to ask questions, it was great to learn more about maintaining elite performance but also transitioning out of it too.  

The three days were also populated with a variety of interactive workshops that covered current considerations in Sport Psychology. There was a mix of research focussed workshops, e.g. ‘Conducting research in sport and exercise psychology – challenges and potential solutions’ and applied practice focussed workshops, e.g. ‘Cracking the coach code: Building trust with old school coaches’.

A highlight from the conference was the engaging workshop, “Introduction to mindfulness practice; measuring and understanding the quality of mindfulness”, by Sunny Nwabueze from London. The workshop began with Sunny sharing his personal experiences of mindfulness and key findings from his dissertation on mindfulness practice. We then got the chance to have a go at practicing informal and formal methods of mindfulness followed by discussions of how the experience was for us. As mindfulness is growing in the western culture and within sport, this workshop was valuable in demonstrating how the technique can be implemented into sport practice. 

As well as the insightful key notes and interactive workshops, the conference was a great opportunity to make new connections within the Sport and Exercise Psychology world. Networking was a large focus of the conference with social activities incorporated within the three days. As the majority of delegates were in a similar position to ourselves in that they were just starting their careers in Sport and Exercise Psychology, these networking opportunities were valuable in building contacts, sharing knowledge and sharing experiences.

Furthermore, the keynote presenters were also willing to engage in all activities and share with you their personal journeys in Sport Psychology. Having this opportunity to speak with these individuals who are experts in their fields is a rare occasion and therefore was most definitely a highlight from the conference. Because of these networking opportunities we have come away from the conference with contacts all over the world, which is invaluable in this field of work.

In summary, not only was Trieste great fun and a beautiful city, the conference had great keynotes, workshops, discussions and most importantly great delegates too. The next ENYSSP conference is in Ghent, Belgium from the 16th – 18th  April 2020. We look forward to attending next year and seeing you there too. If you would like to find out more about ENYSSP or next year’s conference, then feel free to contact our UK representative Pete Jackson, pete@petejackson.co.uk, (www.petejackson.co.uk)

Correspondence:

Beth Yeoman, bethyeoman12@gmail.com

Matt Shaw, mshaw@innerdrive.co.uk (www.innerdrive.co.uk)

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