Matilda Mayne, MSc Performance Psychology 2016
'This is the only programme in Europe that focuses not just on Sport but on Performance as a whole. To me this is a no-brainer – other areas such as the military, the arts, business, emergency services etc, also call for the same mental skills required by athletes and sports coaches.'
What were you doing before you studied at the University of Edinburgh?
After a BSc in Human Sciences at UCL (a multi-disciplinary degree covering all ‘sciences’ from biology, physiology and genetics and to psychology, anthropology and philosophy), I took a gap year in London. Through my experience in sports, I became very interested in the psychology of stress, and was keen to explore high-pressure environments on a practical level. I took a job as a commis chef in a big hotel restaurant, and got what I was looking for! After spending 6 months in the kitchen, I had burned out quite severely, and so spent the following 6 months recovering and doing some work in the security/bodyguard training industry, which had always fascinated me. Throughout that second half of my academic hiatus, I realised I wanted to learn more about how people can cope in high-pressure environments – but skilfully. That’s when I applied to the Performance Psychology masters in Edinburgh.
Why did you choose to study at the University of Edinburgh?
This is the only programme in Europe that focuses not just on Sport but on Performance as a whole. To me this is a no-brainer – other areas such as the military, the arts, business, emergency services etc, also call for the same mental skills required by athletes and sports coaches. Although it seemed obvious that these different domains can and should learn from each other, only the MSc at Edinburgh was offering a holistic perspective. Because of my particular interest in unconventional performance environments, such as with chefs and close protection operatives, I knew it would be ideal for me.
What did you enjoy most about the programme?
The quality of experience and expertise brought about by the staff/lecturers was outstanding. They each had very diverse specialisations, teaching styles and skills for us to learn from. Plus, at the time I was studying within a cohort of about 16 people. These very small numbers meant that we had a huge degree of interaction, lots of attention from the staff, and created a great micro-community.
What specific skills did you develop?
Research skills were high on the priority list, critical thinking being its cornerstone. It’s something I’ve been grateful for ever since, on the one hand, because there can be a lot of pseudoscience going around in performance psychology, and also because research doesn’t always directly inform what you should do as a practitioner. Being able to refine my judgement continuously has been invaluable.
What was the most useful thing you learned in your lectures, workshops and tutorials?
Check your thinking!
Why would you recommend the programme to others?
It’s so unique in its broad perspective, connecting dots that I don’t think you could if you were only studying sport.
What advice would you give to someone considering studying this programme at Edinburgh?
Do your research about what happens after the programme – what doors can open and what may be further required to be professionally qualified. The MSc doesn’t make you a psychologist, it’s just a first step towards that.
What is your current role or occupation?
I work for myself as a Performance Psychology Coach and Consultant. My main role at the present moment is as Mental Skills Coach for the University of Edinburgh’s Performance Sport athletes and coaches.
In what way do you think the degree has contributed to your career?
It has been the starting point, the foundation. I can’t imagine doing what I do now without having studied this at Edinburgh. However, graduating from the programme has also made me keenly aware that knowledge is one thing, the application of knowledge is quite another.
How did your experience at Edinburgh help you get where you are today?
It was particularly useful for me to do a dissertation on sports coaches’ decision-making, which lead me to interview 4 head coaches from the University’s Performance department. That landed me my first consulting gig a year later.
What advice would you have for someone looking to work in your industry?
If you really want to do it, buckle up. It’s a chaotic industry that is changing fast, but with plenty of opportunities to create a career for yourself that is unique and can have a profound impact on people.
Matilda Mayne on the Teaching Matters blog: 'Performance Psychology Mentoring: Bridging the gap from university to professional world'