Kelly's postgraduate progress report
MA Psychology of Sport graduate Kelly Butterworth reflects on her time at the Carnegie School of Sport, working in football and returning to the school.
"When I think about my time at Leeds Beckett completing my Masters degree in the Psychology of Sport and Exercise, I look back and smile.
The university was always the front runner for me when choosing where to complete my postgraduate qualification, with the high profile the Carnegie School of Sport has and the breadth of opportunity on offer. With any psychology discipline, experience is essential but also difficult to obtain early on in your career, and the Practicum module of my degree offered just that. As much as I enjoy research and academia, I love nothing more than being ‘in the thick of it’, meeting athletes and support personnel alike, forming relationships and working together to make a difference. This is something I’ve been lucky enough to continue in my full-time role as Projects Officer for League Football Education (LFE). We provide education, guidance and welfare support to 16-18 year old apprentice footballers at 68 English Football League academies. My day-to-day role includes managing and supporting projects across personal development, life skills and European trips and placements.
I remember finishing university and thinking ‘what’s next for me?’ as the more natural progression would be to look to progress to stage two supervised training to become a Sport Psychologist or look to apply for a PhD. Reflective practice was something that was encouraged and talked about regularly during my studies. I think it was this regular engagement in the activity that helped me to refocus and make my decision to take a break from academia and look to secure a job in the sports industry with the skill set I’d developed. Reflection also helped me to identify the transferable skills I possessed and how I could make the transition from education into industry. Coming to apply for my job, I drew on my experiences from Leeds Beckett which made me feel more confident in what I had to offer.
Analytical and organisational skills
Conducting my own research, qualitative analysis of interviews and writing up my thesis really strengthened these skills for me. I was analysing one-to-one interviews in much more depth whilst also having to think about my own philosophy as not only a researcher but an individual and how my own beliefs, values and experiences may shape my interpretations. Having these skills under my belt help with rational decision-making and thinking from the perspective of others. With my knowledge and experience gained from a sports injury psychology thesis, I’ve also been able to contribute to content and develop support resources around the topic. These resources are all housed in a player care folder in our public library accessed by apprentices and club staff.
The practicum module of my postgraduate degree allowed me to gain that much sought-after work experience I craved and saw me work in a team of four delivering psychoeducational workshops to a group of TASS scholarship athletes at the university. We initiated performance profiling to establish the needs of our student-athletes which helped inform the content we covered in our workshops. This gave me a refreshed and deeper understanding of the lifestyle demands of athletes from a personal, sporting and educational level. It was this practical experience, alongside learning about psychosocial and positive youth development in other modules, that made me realise how much I enjoyed and resonated with the concept of holistic development in athletes as individuals in society. It shifted my focus from one that was predominantly around performance enhancement. It’s these values I developed and understood that attracted me to the work carried out at LFE.
Professional Practice In Sport
The module on Professional Practice provided sound information on the role of a practitioner in the field including the requirements, expectations, ethics, codes of conduct and more. We often talked about what attributes a good practitioner would have, played out scenarios around working with clients and would also have to analyse our strengths and areas for improvement as individuals and as part of a team. I really enjoyed this module as it really brought the role of a sport psychology practitioner to life and helped to manage my expectations of the discipline and evaluate my own characteristics, skills and professionalism. These exercises built my confidence in communication, interacting with athletes and also working alongside other disciplines. This is something I continue to experience regularly working at LFE and am grateful to have developed strong relationships with those in roles such as coaching, education, player care, psychology and safeguarding - to name a few! I think the Professional Practice In Sport module was really beneficial for translating knowledge and skills into practical application.
I hope this blog reminds others of the invaluable experience being a Leeds Beckett alumni brings and I think the fact I’m now writing this as a returning MRes student is testament to what the university provides and the relationships formed whilst being there. My take-away messages to readers would be:
1) Keep calm, carry on reflecting and be open-minded to opportunities and experience.
2) Weigh up all your options before making a decision, make sure it’s right for you and not what you think you’re ‘expected’ to do. Sometimes you need to go off-road to find the right destination.
3) I’m so grateful for the connections I made at LBU. Make the most of these and keep in touch! It’s always good to find out how other people are getting on and can open up opportunities for collaboration - three years down the line and I’m now back as an MRes student alongside working full-time!"