This year’s Dunford Lecture was given by Steven Sylvester, an ex first class cricket and academy football player, who is now is a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol) and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society (AFBPsS). He has worked with multiple professional athletes including premier league football players and the West Indies cricket team.
Steven was accompanied by his son, Zak, who is training to be a Chartered Psychologist working alongside his father with elite athletes and international sports teams; and by Robbie Wells, who is a former Tae Kwon-Do world champion, a calisthenics coach and personal trainer. Robbie graduated from the University of Birmingham with two degrees- MSc Physiotherapy and BSc Sport and Exercise Sciences.
The lecture kicked off with a powerful breathing exercise in which the audience was asked to close their eyes and imagine their best successful sporting moment. This exercise was designed to replicate the importance of preparing well both physically and mentally and being confident with personal achievements. Zak and Robbie further illustrated this by completing a handstand on gymnastic canes. Robbie was unsuccessful on his first attempt; this was due to the lack of mental preparation in front of an audience. However, on his second attempt, he was calmer and embraced the moment in front of a crowd so he enjoyed the experience. This meant, he could complete this physically demanding skill with great success.
The main body of the lecture focused on the principles that they thought were the vital components to being successful at a high level of sport. This included: mistakes are good, give to others, enjoy the moment and more. Their concluding piece of advice for high performance athletes was to work to be the best rather than work to win. This mentality has been beneficial for most of the athletes that Steven has worked with because it allows them to focus on their own game rather than the end result and it can reduce the risk of a player becoming self-critical and therefore putting pressure on themselves.
The lecture was extremely beneficial and thought-provoking. This was shown by the multiple questions asked at the end by pupils and staff who wanted to improve their mentality and to understand how to deal with nerves, stress and internal expectations to deliver successful sporting performances.
Sarah H and Max D