Through the Looking Glass: Doing Sport Psychology in Elite Youth Sport

When Alice jumped lightly down into the Looking-glass room in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass”, she entered a world in which many things mirrored the opposite of real life. For example, the White Queen’s memory worked forwards and backwards. This world was obvious and recognisable to Alice, yet turned sideways. “Through the looking-glass” is an allegory to reflect times when one’s world is turned around, as if one were Alice, inside the mirror. This experience is akin to that of children stepping into competitive sport, especially elite sport. This world is recognisable, yet strange. Competitive formal games mirror informal games (e.g., football with jumpers for goalposts) but many concepts (e.g., playing positions, mental skills) are abstract and lie on the periphery of awareness and understanding. Sport psychologists invited to work in youth sports inherit this “distorted” world, often without a template to appreciate the child’s perspective of competitive sport, a perspective that emerges from a dynamic cognitive, social and emotional development with children perched at various points on these continua. We devote this workshop to express our experiences consulting in youth sport founded upon four pillars of development: cognitive, emotional, social and physical. We shall offer examples of impact techniques (Beaulieu, 2006), personal-disclosure mutual sharing (Windsor, Barker, & McCarthy, 2011) and client-centred therapy whilst illustrating how we have weaved these techniques into psychoeducational lessons in football and cricket academies. We hope our experiences benefit those currently working, or seeking to work, in competitive youth sport.

Provisional timetable:

09:30 Registration/Tea and Coffee
10:00 Workshop starts (there will be a break for lunch)
16:45 Workshop ends


This workshop is intended for current and prospective sport psychologists wishing to learn more about consulting in youth sport, especially professional academies.  Prerequisites include an undergraduate qualification in sport studies/sport science/ or psychology related field.

Before attending, attendees might wish to read these publications:

  • Andersen, M. B. (2005). “Yeah, I work with Beckham”: Issues of confidentiality, privacy, and privilege in sport psychology service delivery. Sport & Exercise Psychology Review, 1, 5-13.
  • Barker, J. B., McCarthy, P. J., & Harwood, C. G. (2011). Reflections on consulting in elite youth male English cricket and soccer. Sport & Exercise Psychology Review, 7, 58-74
  • Harwood, C. (2008). Developmental consulting in a professional football academy: The 5Cs Coaching Efficacy Program. The Sport Psychologist, 22, 109-133.
  • Visek, A. J., Harris, B. S., & Blom, L. C. (2009). Doing sport psychology: A youth sport consulting model for practitioners. The Sport Psychologist, 23, 271-291.
  • Beaulieu, D. (2006). Impact techniques for therapists. New York: Routledge.

Learning outcomes and objectives

  • Develop knowledge and understanding about cognitive, emotional, social and physical development in youth sport  
  • Be aware of the lifespan developmental models to guide consultancy practice.
  • Demonstrate an informed knowledge of Impact techniques, how they work and how they influence awareness and behaviour change in sport psychology consultancy.
  • Illustrate how group therapy (i.e., personal-disclosure mutual-sharing) is conducted and how it aids performance and psychological well-being among youth sport participants.
  • Demonstrate how sport psychologists might adapt client-centred therapy to align with the cognitive, social, and emotional development of youth athletes.

Facilitator: Dr Paul McCarthy CPsychol & Dr Jamie Barker CPsychol CSci

Dr McCarthy is a Chartered Psychologist, and HCPC registered practitioner psychologist. I have been fortunate to work with elite performers in football, golf, tennis, tae-kwon-do, windsurfing, athletics aikido and boxing. I devoted time to develop, deliver and evaluate psychoeducational programmes (e.g., coach, parent, athlete) in different sports, especially professional football. A key strand of my research has been to explore emotional experience, especially positive emotions, among youth athletes. In a related development, I examined what these athletes implicitly understood about psychological skills and their relative value alongside physical, technical and tactical proficiency in sport. I have published and presented at international conferences on emotional experiences in sport, especially positive emotions. As an active member of the Scottish Sport Psychology Network, I am involved in media work (e.g., radio, newspaper) in athletics and golf. My colleague and I are currently publishing an edited book exploring the lives of prominent sport psychologists.

Dr Barker is a Chartered Psychologist, and HCPC registered sport and exercise psychologist. I have an array of experience of working in elite sport including professional cricket, football, and golf. To this end, I currently serve as a consultant for the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club, Staffordshire County Cricket Club, and Nottingham Forest Football Club. A large proportion of my work has been based around developing sport psychology education programmes (e.g., coach, player, and parent), individual intervention programmes, and team building interventions. I also have experience of working in business settings where I have applied sport psychology principles to leaders and managers of large corporations. The main focus of my research over recent years has been about exploring the effects of hypnosis on important psychological factors relative to sport performance. I have both published and presented at international conferences on hypnosis.

Booking information


  • DSEP members: £72 (£60 + VAT)
  • Society members: £96 (£80 + VAT)
  • Society non-members: £120 (£100 +VAT)

From 1 January 2013:

  • DSEP members: £74 (£61.67 + VAT)
  • Society members: £98 (£81.67 + VAT)
  • Society non-members: £138 (£115 +VAT)

How to book:

Please note: online bookings will close 24 hours prior to the event. Please call +44 (0)116 2529512 for availability after this point.

To pay by cheque or request an invoice complete and return the registration form

Please note that we are only able to accept invoice requests at least 6 weeks before the event date.

Wed, 27/02/2013 (All day)
Contact Information: 

BPS Learning Centre

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 9925
Fax: +44 (0)116 227 1314

Division of Sport & Exercise Psychology & BPS Learning Centre