New Staffs Sport and Exercise PhD Student Jenni Jones explains why she left Thailand for Stoke-on-Trent to read for her doctorate in Sports Psychology

I had made the move from my then home in Bangkok Thailand to Staffordshire Jenni Jonesto study with the best in my field of Sport and Performance Psychology here at Staffordshire University.   I came to study psychology as an undergraduate a little late but when I look back psychology and the human mind have always fascinated me.  Life has initially took me on another path but eventually I found my way back and embarked on my under graduate degree before embarking on my Masters via distance learning in Sport and Exercise Psychology   at Staffordshire University.

The MSc program offered me a win-win since I could stay in Thailand and still pursue an MSc which also gave me my stage 1 training towards becoming a charted Sport and Exercise Psychologist, the icing on the cake though is that the Sport Psychology team are leading in the field currently producing great and exciting research and taking the profession forward.

Having completed the MSc in 2014 I was determined to continue my studies and self-fund a PhD.  My Master’s degree had ignited a passion for research in the field and the scope for really helping people became apparent to me, but this time I wanted to be a part of the culture, to experience the experimental research process within the lab and to be amongst the culture on a daily basis so I moved nearby and haven’t looked back.

First as a PhD student, I was both nervous and excited.  My supervisors (Dr Jamie Barker  and Dr Martin Turner) greeted me and made sure I had everything I needed to go and get on with it all, introduced me and made sure that everything was going ok.  I had my apprehensions about the move but it has turned out to be the best decision I have ever made and my supervisors have been amazing!

The team here at Staffs provide an encouraging growth culture. We want to achieve excellent standards of work that aim to have a wide ranging impact on people’s lives, it’s a privilege to study here.

If you are interested in studying our MSc in Sports Psychology or Applied Sport Psychology by distance learning take a look at our website course page, where you can also find information on our on-campus MSc Applied Research and MA Applied Research that you can study in any Sport, exercise or Psychology related subject and details of self-funded PhD and our research opportunities.

BA Sports Development and Coaching Students offered unique visit to Camp Nou

A group of BA (Hons) Sports Development and Coaching degree students, who are currently taking the Football Culture module, are set to travel Barcelona next week for a unique introduction to the Spanish football business. The four day trip will not only offer behind the scenes access to FC Barcelona’s training facility, but the group will also get to meet the backroom staff who are responsible for the medical well-being and fitness levels FC Barcelona Stadium

of one of the world’s most famous teams.The group is lead by Professor Vish Unnithan who has worked with FC Barcelona for five years, and Alison Bambridge who is the module leader for Football Culture. As part of the experience the students will hear Professor Unnithan give a lecture on The Effects of High Intensity Soccer Training on Changes in Cardiac Structure and Function in Elite Youth Soccer Players to the Medical and Coaching staff at FC Barcelona at their training ground. The students will also receive a talk from Dr. Luis Til (Sports Medicine doctor of FC Barcelona) and a behind the scenes tour of the FC Barcelona training facilities.

Prof Vish Unnithan

As well as exclusive access to the current La Liga and Champions League winners, the students are also getting an insiders tour of another Primera Liga team, RCD Espanyol. The group shall be spending a day at the University of Ramon Llull, where the Staffordshire University students will get to exchange their experiences of studying sport with Spanish students enrolled on similar courses. This is the kind of cultural exchange which strengthens the ties, not just between the two universities, but between the footballing cultures as well. With Stoke City already boasting four ex Barcelona players in their squad, Marc Muniesa, Bojan Krkic, Moha El Ouriachi and Ibrahim Afellay, the connection is already being cemented between the two cities.

A look around the Camp Nou stadium and museum, and dinner at an authentic Spanish restaurant where the group can sample octopus rather than oatcakes, is also on the menu!

The trip culminates with a trip to the Champions League match between FC Barcelona and Roma, a game that, everyone hopes, will see the return of Lionel Messi! The stadium has just been voted the second best stadium in the world and in terms of experiencing the spectacle of sport, this will hopefully be a fantastic end to the trip.

Level 6 student Tom Robinshaw states that “I the visit to Barcelona will provide me, not just with a great experience, but will also an idea on how careers in and around elite football are nurtured and developed.” This is the first time that this 4 day trip has been offered to students and as the Sport and Exercise seek to futher enhance its relationships with elite sports clubs, on we are hoping to build on to be able organise the trip again for future cohorts.

For further information about our BA (Hons) Sports Development and Coaching programme please visit our course page, or find out more about the work of Professor Vish Unnithan

2015 Sports Therapy Graduates Breaking into Football

2015 BSc (Hons) Sports Therapy graduates Matt Roach, Saffron Mann and Chris Loughran have all recently gained employment in elite football. In what is an incredibly competitive industry to gain work, these three graduates have shown the value that being a Staffordshire Graduate can bring by beating other, sometimes more experienced, candidates to these roles.


Matt has begun with Championship side MK Dons, taking up a role as the Academy Sports Therapist. This role will see Matt working with all the Academy teams up to th
e under 15 age group team. Matt’s duties require him to provide pre-match and pitchside care, attend training sessions and oversee the rehabilitation of these players. Recent graduates through the MK Dons Academy have included players such as Dele Ali who was recently sold to Tottenham Hotspur and gone on to earn full England International honours. On landing his role Matt said “I think the placements that i had while at Staffs with a professional football team helped me get this job. The exposure to these big names environments during the course well as being a good experience only help your CV on graduating”.

Chris has recently been employed by the Irish Football Association to provide Sports Therapy provision for the Northern Ireland under 19’s side. Earlier this month Chris traveled with the squad on a trip to Iceland, providing the medicalChris Loughran in Iceland support during two friendly fixtures against their hosts, one resulting in a 2-0 defeat and the other a 1-0 victory. Chris who was awarded the Contribution Award Prize in his final year of study said of this experience “Thankfully there
were no major incidents to deal with on this trip, and all the players have remained fit for selection. As an Irishman this has absolutely surreal experience being given the opportunity to come on board and work with an international team. I’ve worked with a few football Chirs Loughran NI line upteams before but never had the opportunity to travel to various countries around the world so being given this opportunity has been truly amazing topped off by being able to see the Northern Lights and Blue Lagoon during the down time on to the trip.”

Chris will be travelling away again with the side ahead of the Under 19 European Championships in Russia. The team take on Norway in the opening group stage match before playing Russia and Slovakia.

Finally Saffron Mann has also been appointed Academy Sports Therapist with Shrewsbury Town Football Club, having impressed during her time on placement with the club. Saffron now works with 7 teams in total, ranging from U9 – U16 (boys) and the Shrewsbury Town Ladies teams. Like Matt, Saffron provides Saffron Mann Shrewsbury town FCthe pitchside emergency trauma during fixtures and runs a clinic during their training sessions covering everything from injury assessment to progressing rehab programmes.



These graduates, alongside previous reported student employments in football further illustrate the growth in strength and reputation of the BSc (Hons) Sports Therapy programme, which is one of only two Sports Therapy programmes to gain 100% overall student satisfaction in the National Student Survey earlier this year.

To find out more about our Sports Therapy programme, book onto an Open day via , or find out about the experiences of our students follow us on @SUSTclinic or Facebook: Staffordshire University Sports Therapy (SUST) .

“I feel I belong at Staffs”: Welcome Week in Sport and Exercise


In a fun-filled and team building-focussed Welcome Week, Sport and Exercise students have been thrown in at the deep end (literally!) participating in a range of on and off-campus activities. Led by Dr Matt Slater, the Sport and Exercise staff organised an inter-tutor group Rounders tournament, a BBQ, a ‘SelfieTour’, together with an Activity Day with Peak Pursuits ltd at Astbury Mere Country Park.raft build 2 In addition to introducing students to Higher Education and University processes, the focus of the week was to strengthen students’ sense of belonging with the subject area (Sport and Exercise) and the University as a whole. This is something that was clearly achieved, with one student stating: “I have bonded with other students and become more apart of Staffs”, whilst another indicated: “Welcome Week has made me feel comfortable in and out of campus, and provided a sense of belonging”.

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Developing students’ sense of belonging is something that is at the heart of what the Sport and Exercise subject area, and the broader Faculty (Health Sciences), do. Students’ sense of belonging is actively encouraged and developed in our Faculty. Welcome Week initiated the first of many team-focussed activities that students within the Faculty of Health Sciences will be involved in throughout their studies with us.

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Dr. Matt Slater

Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology

Level 4 Tutor

Twitter: @DrMattSlater

Sport Therapy Students Impress with Professional Sports Clubs

Level 6 BSc (Hons) Sport Therapy student Andrew Nicholson, Saffron Mann, Chris Loughran and Kate Highy have all been making their mark in professional sport over the course of their final year of study.

Andrew (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Saffron (Shrewsbury Town FC), Kate (Sale Sharks RFC) and Chris (Notts County FC) all completed their final year placements with professional clubs in football and rugby settings. These placements have provided the students an excellent insight into the working practices of sports therapists within professional sports clubs.

The students have gained hands on experiences of dealing with acute and emergency traumas during pitchside and matchday events, the management of players during long term injuries, and the maintenance of player fitness during the competitive season.

On reflecting on her experience Saffron stated “Getting to work hands on with the players and seeing the way the skills we have learnt are put into practice has been great, and help to reinforce the learning we’ve done in lessons.”

Over the course of their studies the students were required to complete a minimum of 200 hours of work based learning and these external placement opportunities supported the learning and experiences that students gained within the SUST Clinic and combine to raise the overall employability of the students on completion of their degree, and help shape the future career paths they wish to pursue.

When asked how these opportunities have helped him, Andrew reported that “The chance to work across different areas of Sports Therapy, such as private health care in the SUST clinic, and with elite professional footballers this year has really made me feel ready for the workplace and built up my confidence.”

For further information on Sports Therapy at Staffordshire University please visit our course page; or to find out more about what our students are up to follow us on twitter @SUSTclinic or find us on facebook on Stafforshire University Sports Therapy.

Use of ankle foot orthoses in cerebral palsy for addressing gait issues.

As part of our series celebrating the cerebral palsy World Cup at St Georges Park Nicola Eddison, PhD student at Staffordshire University and principle orthotist at the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and Nachiappan Chockalingam, Professor of Clinical Biomechanics At Staffordshire University write on the biomechanics of cerebral palsy and use of ankle foot orthoses for addressing gait issues.


Cerebral palsy (CP) is defined as a group of permanent disorders in the development of movement and posture causing activity limitations that are attributed to non-progressive disturbances that occurred in the developing foetal or infant brain.  The motor disorders of cerebral palsy are often accompanied by disturbances of sensation, perception, cognition, communication and behaviour; by epilepsy and by secondary musculoskeletal problems.  The result is a lack of co-ordination, muscle imbalance and an increase in muscle tone or paresis.  These issues can be addressed by the use of orthoses to change the wy the foot works and provide cushioning and support.


Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFO’s) are prescribed in a wide range of gait pathologies, including CP in an attempt to influence the kinetics and kinematics of gait and to manipulate the GRF bringing it closer to the joints and thus reducing energy expenditure. There are a wide variety of AFO’s used in clinical practice, they are characterised by their design, the material used and the stiffness of that material.  Changing any of these 3 components will alter the control the AFO has on the patient’s gait.


Whilst, previous research demonstrates a positive effect of AFO’s on certain gait parameters, they are not all in agreement as to which gait parameters are improved with the use of an AFO. The primary aim of the work at Staffordshire University is to determine the effects of tuning ankle foot orthoses (AFO) in combination with footwear (AFO-FC) compared to an un-tuned AFO-FC on the gait parameters of children with cerebral palsy.  Our current experimental work involves the use of ultrasound to measure structure and function of the muscles in addition to physiological and biomechanical measurements involved gait assessment.

We are hoping to develop a more practical way to enable clinicians to effectively tune AFO-FC’s in a clinical setting without the use of three dimensional (3D) Gait analysis.


(This work on The effect of “tuning” in ankle foot orthoses on the gait parameters of children with cerebral palsy, is conducted by Nicola Eddison, who is a principle orthotist at the Royal Wolverhampton NHS trust under the supervision of Professor Nachiappan Chockalingam at the Biomechanics Facility within the Faculty of Health Sciences, Staffordshire University).

For more details of the Undergraduate degrees and Masters degrees we offer in Sport and Exercise check out our webpages in the School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University.  We are a leading UK University for Sport degrees in the heart of England.  We produce Internationally recognised research which is driving knowledge in this area forward and we work with leading national sporting teams and our degrees are ranked in the top 10 of new Universities in the UK in the Guardian League Table.




From St Georges Park to Rio 2016….…Working as a sport psychologist with the Senior England Cerebral Palsy team

As the Cerebral Palsy World Cup comes to St Georges Park in Staffordshire, Dr Jamie Barker, the England CP Teams Sport Psychologist and Associate Professor of Applied Performance Psychology at Staffordshire University writes about working with the team in the build up to the championships.


Being part of the senior England Cerebral Palsy (CP) Football team has been one of the most intriguing and rewarding situations I have found myself in during my 16 years as a practicing Sport Psychologist. As we rapidly approach the CP World Cup which will be hosted at St Georges Park, Burton-on-Trent from Mid-June, I am genuinely excited at the potential I have witnessed in our team and how far we can go in the tournament-but as a Psychologist I guess I would have to be positive in my outlook!

As a newcomer to CP football I have had to educate myself around CP, the implications of players having CP, classification processes, and the tactical nature of 7-a-side CP football. Within in our team we also have a number of players who have suffered brain trauma through horrific accidents, or stroke and therefore trying to understand the challenges and frustrations of these individuals has been fascinating and allowed me to reflect on my own expectations and beliefs! Listening to the many challenges that all of our players have experienced whether dealing with CP from birth or having a professional football career terminated because of a freak accident has been enlightening as well has humbling.


From a psychological perspective we would typical work with coaches, help to create a relaxed and comfortable performance environment, work individually with players to develop robust confidence, deal with pressure more effectively and become more rational in how they see themselves and the world in which they perform.

Indeed, much of our work with elite sport is drawn heavily on the research and applied excellence of colleagues at Staffordshire University.

First, we get players to “be better coaches to themselves” (thanks to Professor Marc Jones), to not beat themselves up when things don’t go to plan. Much of our work is about challenging players on their expectations-does perfect football exist? Do players make mistakes? The idea behind challenging such beliefs in athletes is to allow them to have logical and helpful expectations which in turn will yield helpful emotions relative to football performance. In our research with we call this Smarter Thinking. Smarter Thinking is very much at the forefront of our applied philosophy and the performance culture we try to create. ‘Smarter Thinking’ encourages individuals to have realistic, yet helpful expectations.


An introduction to the rules, regulations and playing of CP football

Second, much of our work is also about developing a challenge culture which has been derived from the work on challenge and threat states by Professor Marc Jones and Dr Martin Turner. As support staff working in elite sport it is important to remind players of past success, controllable factors, and things they need to do to perform well. Believe me when I say this (and I am biased) but England CP players are one resilient bunch-they have dealt with so many life stressors due to CP or brain injury that when playing football there is an sense of freedom and expression-pressure is something they look forward to and thrive on.

Finally, we would also support teams from a leadership and cohesion perspective. With this in mind we establish a performance culture which is similar to that used by the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Union team and draws heavily on the contemporary research on leadership developed by my colleague Dr Matt Slater. Indeed, given Matt’s leadership expertise he is integral in looking at how teams function as a group and how they can maximise their potential. Accordingly, it is important to develop a vision and values system which draws on the aims of the staff and players.

With the CP World Cup just around the corner the excitement is increasing as we look forward to the challenge of competing against the best players and teams from around the world. To reach the Rio 2016 Paralympics England are required to finish within the top 8 at the World Cup so the stakes are high but the players are ready- my only concern remains that I can practice what I preach and hence see the tournament as a challenge not a threat, be a Smart Thinker and provide the necessary leadership when required!


For more details of the Undergraduate degrees and Masters degrees we offer in Sport and Exercise check out our webpages in the School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University.  We are a leading UK University for Sport degrees in the heart of England.  We produce Internationally recognised research which is driving knowledge in this area forward and we work with leading national sporting teams and our degrees are ranked in the top 10 of new Universities in the UK in the Guardian League Table.



Dr Jamie Barker is an Associate Professor of Applied Performance Psychology at Staffordshire University.  He is currently Chair-Elect British Psychological Society Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology.  He has researched and published extensively the field of performance psychology as well as being a consultant to Sport and business.  Jamie is also a PhD & Stage 2 Supervisor. Follow him on Twitter @DrJamieBarker during the World Cup.

Gerrard’s last game – the end of an era for English Football

This Sunday sees the final game of the season for Stoke City FC at the Britannia stadium against Liverpool FC.  Tickets for the game sold out a long time ago and are now selling for thousands pounds on the black market.  But this is not because Stoke have had a very good season (although they have).  Nor is it because a title or cup is at stake (because it’s not).  It’s because it is the last game in a Liverpool shirt for Steven Gerrard.  At the end of the game Stokies and Scousers alike will stand and applaud the number 8 who has given so much to English football


Mathew Knight from our Staffordshire University Staffs Squad U-17 academy explains why....

Mathew Knight from our Staffordshire University Staffs Squad academy explains why….

Steven George Gerrard of Liverpool Football Club, has enjoyed one of the most lucrative, and heroic careers playing the sport he loves. Memories such as working with icon Kenny Dalglish, playing in the World Cup, or arguably, most prestigious of all, winning the Champions League in such a manner as he did. A true maestro in the centre of midfield, Gerrard always looked bound for a great destiny as he stepped out against Blackburn Rovers, November 1998 making his first professional debut for the club he loved.  So why is he so iconic?

An inspiring  leader in difficult times

Where else could we start but Istanbul, 2005? The night that defined Gerrard as possibly one of the greatest centre-midfielders in the history of football. 3-0 down with hope dwindling, he stepped up to the mark and effectively won the game on his own. That night in Istanbul was the point in his career that fans and player alike, started to realise what a very special player Gerrard is.  The way he motivated his disheartened Liverpool side to pull back the deficit and eventually win the match was almost unheard of in the footballing world. He has a bit of everything a pundit once said “a touch of Scholes; a drop of Lampard; and a bit of Xavi”.

A player like no other

Gerrard is unlike any other midfielder, he can ping a ball 50 yards to a players feet, can crunch any United player when needed, or sit in front of the defence and break up play like he was in the park on a Sunday afternoon. The final point being illustrated last season where the ‘Gerrard’ role was invented effectively, where he would sit in front of the defence, sweeping up counter attacks, and starting quick forward breaks of his own. You could say that Gerrard is up there with the midfield greats, the likes of Zidane or Zico.

Gerrard is simply one of a kind. Maybe what differentiates Steven to many other midfielders is his loyalty, and attitude towards the beautiful game. The fact that he has never left Liverpool, his beloved club is unheard of in the modern era.  He has been there through thick and thin, bad and good, Roy Hodgson, Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson (the un-talked about era in the minds of Liverpool fans due to his awful record). The sheer loyalty that Gerrard possesses, the way he has stayed with Liverpool no matter what, coaching the youngsters, or scoring vital goals to win vital games. He has been so influential both on and off the pitch.

The fans’ player

Being a fan himself, Gerrard knows how much this prestigious club means to people, and this has been evident throughout his performances and the way he handles himself no matter where he is. For example the way when he was injured he watched from the stands with the supporters, just shows his significant presence and great attitude to the fans that adore him.  It seems like every action is in the fans best interests, not only does he think like a fan, he is a fan, and forever will be as he ventures onto his new adventure in Los Angeles, where no doubt, he will continue to ping the ball left, right centre for fun.


Steven George Gerrard

No matter which club you support, or if you are just an avid sport watcher in general, we can all agree that Gerrard is a truly spectacular sportsman who has been one of the best in his generation, showing key characteristics of skill, technique, and most importantly of all, loyalty. A player that only comes around once every blue moon, he will be deeply missed by all football fans alike, and his presence will be solely missed in the Premier League.  Gerrard is an icon, a hero, a true master of the beautiful game…


Matthew Knight is currently completing his A levels at Moulton School and Science College, Northamptonshire. He is an Academy member of Staffs Squad, a collection of  academics and experts who write and love the beautiful game


For more details check out: School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University.  We are a leading UK University for Sport degrees in the heart of England, we produce Internationally recognize research which is driving knowledge in this area forward and we work with leading national sporting team

For more information or details of the wide range of sport related undergraduate and postgraduate degrees on offer at Staffordshire University check out our webpages

Happy 40th Birthday Becks: How Long Can an Ex Celebrity Last?

As David Beckham enters his fifth decade, Lecturer in Sport Sociology At Staffordshire University Alison Bambridge, celebrates the phenomenon that is David Beckham and asks how long an ex celebrity can last? 


Celebrity can be a cruel mistress. She lures you in, massages your ego then the minute you turn up late or forget the flowers you are dead, your once-prime body tossed into the scrap heap or destined for C-list daytime TV appearances or bookings to open leisure centres in Macclesfield.

In all areas of culture, stars rise, fall then disappear from the public domain in mere nanoseconds. It is rare then to discover a celebrity who has survived the normal onslaught of disinterest, character assassinations, scandals and run of the mill mockeries. David Beckham, ex footballer and current megastar is one such man.

The vagaries of celebrity shelf life are perhaps not as marked within the world of sport as they are in the more constructed worlds of music and TV but then the lifetime of an athlete is already limited. For sporting celebrities, those who rise above and beyond their initial sporting success to grasp onto a wider platform, the potential rewards are phenomenal. In recent times it is probably David Beckham who has encapsulated this more than anyone. He has been transformed from a footballer, to a national sporting hero, to a spokesperson, to an entrepreneur to an institution. He is ubiquity personified. To put it simply, despite the fact that he no longer does what he was famous for, there seems no escape from Brand Beckham. Or is there?

Despite earning £20,000 a week from image rights alone ( in fact to use an image of him here would cost me £2.75) and millions in contracts connected to advertising and sports promotions Beckham himself is aware that he may possibly have a celebrity shelf life. After retiring from playing, last year he suggested that at 39 he might not be able to carry on being the torso of H&M’s underwear campaign, a decision that would leave a multitude of women sobbing into their copies of OK. Now, as he reaches 40, there is a debate on whether without the boots and the body the longevity of Brand Beckham is under threat.


One of many David Beckham look-a-likes (  Despite the real David Beckham earning £20,000 a week from image rights alone to use an image of him here would cost me £2.75!

In his favour, Beckham has created a well crafted all round nice guy persona; he interacts with his multiple children, appears devoted to his wife who herself is similarly branded, and has connections to so many charities, sports franchises and media outlets that one begins to suspect he must have hired a slew of body doubles to be able to be so many places at once.

Perhaps spurred on by the double-retirement Beckham recently announced his decision to launch his own sporting brand, a joint venture with Simon Fuller that takes him away from the lucrative sponsorship deals and into a new domain. This is not without risks; there are many other celebrities who have attempted the same move into clothing lines and failed, dramatically. Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, Kanye West and Paris Hilton, all celebrities with avid fans and all with constant media attention. One of the suggestions behind the sartorial fall outs is that the level of hype and expectation can never be realised by what is in essence a pair of jeans with some sparkly bits on them. So how to make a tracksuit a global commodity people would kill for might even be beyond Beckham yet for the man at 40, there is also an obvious need to reinforce an iconic status. For the majority of the consumers that Brand Beckham  will undoubtedly be aimed at, Beckham’s Manchester Utd. playing days are just  folk tales as it’s 12 years since he played in the Premier League. Perhaps for the sportswear shoppers of today, a Harry Kane range would be more appealing.


Hilarious Guy Richie directed Beckham Underwear advert for his H&M range

Whatever David Beckham chooses to do post 40; management, media or even politics (now there’s a thought) it seems unlikely that the robust self-confidence that informed his playing days will desert him. Beckham appears to have manufactured himself perfectly, appealing to everyone, disappointing no-one. Brand Beckham likewise will probably roll on, Brooklyn and Cruz in the wings of a franchise that seems, at least at the moment, unstoppable.



Alison Bambridge (; @alicrime) is a Lecturer in Sports Sociology in the School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University

For more information or details of the range of sport related degrees on offer at Staffordshire University check out our webpages


I must get a first (part 3) – by Martin Turner

In part 1, I introduced the notion of irrational beliefs in students and the potential use of REBT principles to help students to deal with adversity and pressure. In part 2, I focussed on two of these so called irrational beliefs; demandingness and awfulising. Now in part 3, I move onto two more irrational beliefs:
1. Frustration Intolerance. I can’t stand it…I can’t bear it…I can’t tolerate it…
2. Depreciation. I’m an idiot…I’m a failure…I’m worthless…

1. Frustration Intolerance.
In 1972, the Robertson family were shipwrecked by killer whales in the Pacific Ocean for 38 days on a dingy with no food or water. They killed 13 turtles and a 5-foot shark using a spear fashioned from a paddle, for food. For water, because the rain water in the boat had been poisoned by the turtle blood, they took enemas to hydrate, bypassing the stomach and the side effects of the poisonous water. They survived to tell the tale…and you can’t stand exams?!?
Frustration intolerance is about believing that you can’t stand or tolerate adversity. But actually, we know that the opposite is almost always true. It is adversity that shapes us. The old maxim “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is really what I am getting at here. When a student says “I can’t stand presentations” I ask them whether they have done any before. If the answer is no, I enquire as to how they know they can’t stand presentations if they have never done one. If the answer is yes, I remark that if they couldn’t stand presentations then previous experiences would have killed them. Since they are sitting with me having a conversation, this has obviously not happened! To not be able to stand or bear something suggests that in the face of that event one would simply perish. This is rarely the case for exams and presentations.
But it is no wonder that some students want to avoid presentations and exams if they believe that they “can’t stand” them. Students can stand exams and presentations, and they will face much more significant adversity that they will also be able to stand or tolerate. Students all have a natural propensity to be resilient in the face of pressure, it’s just that many of them don’t know it or cannot harness it.

2. Depreciation.
All human beings are fallible. And since we are all born human, we are fallible. Many of us have jaws that are too small for wisdom teeth, so when we grow them we experience immense pain. The appendix is pointless. Mine has been removed because it got infected and nearly killed me. I don’t miss it (I have it in a jar…just kidding!). The windpipe is right next to the gullet, making choking common. Not good. We are born fallible!
The point here is that we can expect to fail and accept that failure is part of our DNA just as much as success is. But more importantly, accepting ourselves when we fail is crucial for long terms well-being and goal attainment. We fail. Failing is bad. But one failure does not make me a complete failure. Just as one success does not make me a complete success.
It is not a surprise when students start to feel depressed when they don’t perform well if each time they fall below their expectations they brand themselves as “failures” or “idiots”. One really effective way to reverse this belief is get students to think about their role model, or somebody they have the utmost respect for. Then ask the students to think about all the times that person has failed. There are lots of famous successful people who failed quite badly prior to being successful. Abraham Lincoln first went into politics at the age of 23 when he campaigned for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly and failed. He then opened a general store which failed after only a few months. Steven Spielberg dropped out of high school and applied to attend film school three times but was unsuccessful due to his C grade average. Walt Disney was fired by the editor of a newspaper for lacking in ideas. There are loads more here:

This helps students to accept failure as a part of being successful. Ultimately, the belief “failure is bad, but it just shows that I am a fallible human being” is what to aim for here. Those able to approach exams and presentations with a desire to succeed, realising that failure is bad but not awful, that they can stand set-backs when they arise, and that realise that one exam does not define them, will enjoy their assessments and are therefore more likely to fulfil their potential.

I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings. You must enjoy this blog, and I can’t stand it if you don’t! I really believe in REBT and have seen its power in helping people to deal with adversity and face pressure.

Being more rational is not about saying “don’t worry about exams” or “it’s only an exam”. Being rational is about recognising the importance of such events, but then also recognising that just because you want to succeed, does not mean that you “must”.

Helping students to be more rational in their thoughts about success and failure is an important part of what I do, and I hope that this blog inspires others to help create a rational culture around assessment and achievement.


For more information about our Sport Psychology courses at Staffordshire University please visit


or follow us on twitter @SEPsychStaffs