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Sport and Exercise

One on One... with David Lavallee

Aberystwyth University, and new Chair of the Psychologist Policy Committee - includes web-only material

08 June 2010

One inspirationI was inspired by Howard Gardner and his book Frames of Minds: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which
I read as a student. I see great potential in testing Gardner’s theories (e.g. leadership, kinesthetic intelligence) in sport and exercise settings.

One hope for The Psychologist
As incoming Chair of the Policy Committee, I hope to see the publication continue to reach larger and more diverse audiences.

One moment that changed the course of your career
Joining the Sport and Exercise Psychology Section (now Division) of the BPS. I’m chartered through the Division of Counselling Psychology but have research interests in sport and exercise contexts. I’m now Head of the Department of Sport and Exercise Science at Aberystwyth University.

One alternative career path you might have chosen
A well-known career assessment inventory suggests I share interests with psychologists, sports coaches, meteorologists and people who work outdoors. A golf caddie, perhaps.

One psychologically interesting thing about golf
Golf is a game with a considerable amount of ‘down time’ between shots during which distracting thoughts can occur. Because it takes only a few seconds to swing a golf club and usually no more than one minute to plan and execute a shot, a golfer who shoots level par during a round will be directly involved in planning shots for about 25 per cent of the time. To play well a golfer needs to be able to focus on the shot/putt at hand and accept that mistakes will be made. Interestingly, professional golfers are often able to accept the relatively few mistakes they make more than recreational golfers.

One thing that you would change about psychology
For psychology to work more towards being a unitary discipline, rather than perpetually fragmenting itself.

One cultural recommendation
An Irish artist named Paula Higgins, now based in Queensland, Australia.

One book that you think all psychologists should read
Semrad: The Heart of a Therapist. This book is a collection of quotes and anecdotes from Elvin Semrad, a psychiatrist who practised in the United States in the second half of the 20th century. He consistently emphasised that the first and most important task of the trainee practitioner is to learn to sit with the patient, listen to and hear them, and help to stand the pain they could not bear alone. Semrad wouldn’t have agreed with my choice here as he believed ‘the patient is the only textbook we need’.

One hero who has had a large impact on psychology
Noam Chomsky.

One problem that psychology should deal with
Many psychologists are already trying to deal with the problem of how to reverse the trend of an increasingly sedentary society. Epidemiological research clearly documents the health risks associated with inactivity and psychology is helping to better understand determinants of physical (in)activity, how to help sedentary individuals adopt and maintain higher levels of physical activity and the effects of physical activity on psychological outcomes.

David Lavallee
[email protected]

One nugget of advice for aspiring psychologists
Don’t be afraid to approach well-established psychologists for advice. I always have, and continue to be amazed at how revered and extremely busy psychologists find the time to offer advice willingly.

One hope for the future of psychology
That it recognises it could be more effective and address the most important matters facing society with a greater reciprocity among adjacent fields.

One challenge you think sports psychology faces
Continuing to establish credibility within the wider psychological community. Sport and exercise psychology is gradually becoming more accessible within, and accountable to, the parent discipline. The establishment of the Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology has helped in this regard.

One proud moment
Being invited as a doctoral student to meet John Harvey, then Head of the Department of Psychology and now Emeritus Professor at the University of Iowa. Having read a great deal of his work on attribution theory I wrote to him (see one nugget of advice above!) with several questions related to my research interests. He replied with some very helpful advice and over time we have become good colleagues. I am also proud to have been asked to contribute to a Festschrift to mark his retirement.

One thing that ‘organised psychology’ could do better
Make more effort to encourage public engagement with psychological science.