Making Judgements Without Judging
For me, I would have to say the biggest challenge was making judgements. What I mean by that is at this level and beyond, the work is independent. Yes, there’s guidance but you make the decisions and you make the judgments about what you think is right and wrong and too much or too little. So when it came to the applied, practical assignments like role playing a session with an athlete or formulating a case study for example, making judgements was difficult. Deciding what the right thing to say is, when to interject, when to probe, when not to probe, how much information is necessary to constitute a ‘diagnosis’, even interpreting the information etc. are all determined by you.
What makes that even more difficult is the individualistic nature of humans. Two athletes may present the same ‘problems’ but require different interventions. Making these judgments were challenging and I anticipate them to be until I have more experience under my belt.
So how can we help ourselves and others?
Read. Listen. Practice.
Read the literature that is recommended to you and go beyond that and seek research and accounts of experiences from external sources. You’re not the first to experience making these decisions so there will be help and guidance, but it’s up to you to seek it out. On this course I read the most I had throughout all of my uni and school experiences. A) because I was interested B) because I wanted to be good at my job and C) because I knew the answers wouldn’t fall in my lap. Now don’t get me wrong I’m no expert at all…AT ALL. But it all helps in my journey to becoming one and making those judgments correctly.
Listen to what your lecturers tell you about their experience, what they’ve been through, the clients they’ve had and the challenges they have overcome. Listen to the questions that your classmates/peers ask as they are likely to be relevant to you too, or you may have thought about it yourself. And listen to your classmates experiences too. Not just as fellow sport psychs but athletes as well. Your peers may be working or may have worked with clubs, teams or in the environment you want to, so their experiences and thoughts are just as helpful as your lecturers’. Further, they may also be or have been athletes themselves. Their time as athletes will expand your knowledge on the experiences of athletes, what you may come across and need to prepare for. All of this information will contribute to you making good, effective judgments.
Of course this goes without saying. Practicing your discipline wherever you can is the best teacher. As I’ve learnt, getting into the field is difficult and as with most jobs, most employers aren’t willing to give experience without experience! Your early work is likely to consist of voluntary, unpaid employment. Even this may be difficult to land as it requires supervision, contact time and resources from the club or organisation you are trying to work with and not all are willing. Don’t expect the first e-mail you send offering voluntary work to be received with a positive response. However, keep trying, voluntary employment is your way forward, your chance to learn and apply the knowledge you’ve accumulated to the real world.
I understand that this all sounds very obvious. Of course you’re going to read and listen right? There’s a difference between reading and listening and actually taking in what you’re reading and listening. Being cognizant of your strengths and weaknesses, logging them and working on them is a lot different from reading and listening without internalising the information. Actively seeking knowledge and information will set you apart. Everyone hears the same lectures and opens the same suggested books. Do more.
The Good News
The good news…practicing your discipline doesn’t begin and end with working with a club or a team doing 1-to-1 sessions. There are various opportunities available for you to gain experience. Admittedly, I didn’t engage in the range of opportunities, but in retrospect, I understand how they would have benefitted me in ways in which the opportunities I did take didn’t. The opportunities I refer to may be a 1 off or 3 day workshop delivery for an organisation, school or academy that have contacted the university for sport psych support.
It may be something ‘smaller’ like observation of athletes and coaches during practice/competition. Contacting schools or other university teams to see what they can offer you. Shadowing a sport psychologist or mental performance coach. The options are endless. Coming back full circle, all of these experiences in reading, listening and practicing in these different areas will build your confidence as you become more adept at making those judgments that may seem difficult in the beginning.
As I said before, no two situations are the same, but constructing a cache of knowledge through different types of activity, you will become proficient in your craft.
Be confident and go with your instincts.
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