A fantastic virtual BASES Psychology Division Day

27th May 2021


BASES SEPAR candidate's Nick Coley's reflects on the success of the BASES Psychology Division Day 2021.

The BASES Psychology Division day welcomed around 200 division members to a day packed with, in the sport psychology world, a star-studded line up of speakers. The day was split into morning (sport focused) and afternoon (exercise/physical activity focused) workshops, with keynotes from a range of experts in the field. Dr Mustafa Sarkar, the CPD lead for the BASES psychology division, hosted the day which kicked off with an initial welcome from the Psychology Division chair: Dr Adam Gledhill, where he introduced himself and outlined his role, and some of the work that had been carried out around CPD, SEPAR and with students. Following this introduction, the first session discussed the future of sport psychology, with a panel of experts: Dr Kate Hays (EIS), Dr Ian Mitchell (FA), and Dr Kate Kirby (Sport Ireland Institute). The session started with a question around future training needs for sport psychology practitioners; which provided some very interesting answers from the panel around the differences between knowledge learnt on a taught degree; and applying that contextually and specifically within a performance environment. Further points were raised around the role of a sport psychologist changing over the last 5-10 years and how supervised experience may not fully prepare trainees for the high-performance environment, which begs the question: is [supervised experience] designed to do so? Or is another stage required for those looking to work as high-performance practitioner? I found this session very relatable, especially as I continue my SEPAR journey and I am looking at the ‘how’ and ‘where’ to develop relevant skills and gain valuable work experience with athletes.

The second session was a Keynote on Mental Health in sport, research, and service delivery by Dr Carsten Larsen (University of Southern Denmark). This session discussed what the research indicates around mental health in sport, and how this can be applied in a sport setting. Dr Larsen shared his experiences within a football organisation in Denmark and shared some detail on how important the environment is when addressing mental health with athletes. This session was very insightful and raised plenty of interest, comments, and questions that has provided me with some intriguing points to reflect on. The next session included a workshop on growth following adversity in Sport by Dr Ross Wadey (St Mary’s University), Dr Melissa Day (Chichester University), and Dr Karen Howells (Cardiff Metropolitan University). They shared their research and provided insight into stories of growth from athletes and further areas where growth can occur within dyads, teams, organisations or communities. They asked the question: should we aim to foster growth as practitioners? They raised some very interesting points around the danger of creating a narrative where we should only grow following adversity; creating a false expectation that growth only occurs through adversity. There were some interesting questions raised in their workshop and in particular around supporting growth in athletes for when adversity may occur. However, it was suggested that this could instead be muddled with resilience, which could then influence growth at a later date.

Following the Division consultation, which allowed each department lead to share a more detailed update to members; two afternoon sessions took place which focused on exercise and physical activity. First, this involved a workshop that explored the utility of open goals for physical activity promotion over SMART goals by Dr Patricia Jackman and Rebecca Hawkins (University of Lincoln). They outlined the origins of SMART goals and suggested there may be alternative options for physical activity promotion. This initial research into open goals has suggested that they may be beneficial to populations who don’t necessarily work with the structured SMART model. They outlined Rebecca’s future research in this area with the aim to provide another option to support physical activity promotion. This made me start to think that the less structured goal setting method could really connect with those who potentially shy away from the detailed structure of SMART goals. Following this session, the last keynote was on Exercise Hedonics, the pleasure/displeasure responses to exercise, and their implications for exercise behaviour by Professor Panteleimon Ekkekakis (Iowa State University). Professor Ekkekakis kicked off with introducing normal science, secondary ignorance, and introduced three different paradigms: Paradigm 1 – To accomplish behaviour change you should change cognitive mediators, Paradigm 2 – Exercise makes people feel better, and Paradigm 3 – Affective responses to exercise are not relevant to exercise prescription. Each of these are paradigms I’m familiar with, however he then challenged each of them critically suggesting, for example, that behaviour change models that focus on changing cognitive mediators have little impact on behaviour change, and we should be looking to change the information we are providing in a correct and compelling manner via the Rational Educational model. He also highlighted the dissonance with current exercise models, which suggests that exercise makes people feel better, however we see the opposite. Finally, he went on to raise the point that as practitioners, it is important to find the balance between physiological benefits of physical activity and behaviours that the participant wants to repeat. Introducing Affective-Reflective Theory, he suggested we should customise the affective experience with the individual and combine that with the relevant information provided to them. Following this, I was straight onto google to find the paper and investigate further. As I’ve progressed through my studies, I’ve become more and more interested in physical activity, people’s behaviour towards it, and understanding what impacts change in this area.

After the division day was wrapped up, it was time to put the pen down and take a breath! This had been a full-on day, my first division day, and one that was full of different topics that were both interesting from a professional and personal perspective. I finished off with a Think Aloud reflection audio to capture my immediate thoughts and initial impressions, before putting my feet up for the day with a cup of tea! 

Presentation slides and webinars from the day have been uploaded to the Members’ Area


BASES stands for the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. BASES is the professional body for sport and exercise sciences in the UK.

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