Exploring the mental skills side of sports performance

Colleague spotlight | Dr Helen J Fawkner


Helen Fawkner

Course Director for BSc (Hons) Psychology

Tell us a bit about you and what led you to working with School of Social Sciences

I had always planned to look for a post in the UK when I finished my PhD (in Australia). I noticed the advertisement for Leeds Beckett over coffee one morning and I like to tell people that I applied because the logo we were using at that time looked just like my first tattoo (students do not get to see this to verify this point!) and because they used non-capital letters for their name (seemed like a good fit, as I always do the same). The real reason I applied was because of their student-centred ethos. That did make it the right fit for me.

What makes you passionate about your work around sports performance and why is it important?

As an athlete, I was always interested in the ‘mental skills side’ of sports performance – so studying psychology as part of my degree seemed an obvious choice. Although I couldn’t study sports psychology until Masters level, I loved that there were so many different approaches to trying to understand why people do what they do! I love reading, I love teaching and I love talking to and meeting new people, and in this job they actually pay me to do all of these things!

How is collaboration integral to your work, and what are one or two collaborations that have been most meaningful to you?

Given my response above, I suppose the downside to my current role is that I actually do less teaching than I used to – but as the Course Director, I have the privilege of working with just about every member of the Psychology team in one way or another. And it is a privilege – they are a great team who deliver a fantastic course and make my job enjoyable and easier than it might be.

I also get to collaborate with lots of other amazing colleagues from right across our university, other course directors, academics in different Schools, the staff in marketing, college outreach, admissions and even the senior staff who make the big decisions!

Among the collaborations that are the most meaningful to me are those with my ex-PhD students. They have successfully completed their PhDs, publish ground-breaking work, teach amazing modules – I can’t say how proud I am to have had any part in their development.

What achievements in this area have you been most proud of while working in School of Social Sciences

I think my greatest achievement is any time I have explained something to a student (or staff member) and it just ‘clicked’ for them. Nothing is better than when you see someone understand something that had been unclear for them.