This week, is the first of our new writers, we’re kicking things off with Connie Draycott, (she/they) grew-up in Canada and has called Scotland her home for over a decade. In her youth, you would often find Connie spending much of her free time participating in recreational and organised sport. Some of her favourite memories are of playing with her high school volleyball team and being part of the earlier generations of the Women’s Parry Sound Phantoms ice hockey team. A team that, in its conception, faced many difficult roadblocks attempting to get equal access to ice time and to changing rooms as the men’s teams. Connie also had the privilege of playing varsity lacrosse for the University of Guelph, during her time there.

Connie has a keen interest in the intersection between mental health and sport and is committed to furthering the case for pay equity at the elite levels of women’s sport. She also has a passion for growing worldwide recognition for women’s sport, and for showcasing female role models that she feels she would have loved to have seen when she was a young athlete.

Athletes are more forthcoming about their mental health and how they are dealing with it through sports psychology. Naomi Osaka has courageously spoken publicly about her struggles with mental health on and off the court and has since become a popular advocate for the cause. Simone Biles withdrew from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for performance related issues due to mental health difficulties. She has now become a fierce supporter of athletes and their mental health and wellbeing.

There is a question that needs to be asked: Is sports psychology only for elite athletes? Here at SW/S, we spoke to Dr Zoe Black, PhD in Sport and Exercise Psychology to figure out if that was the case.

Dr Black resides in Melrose but also spends part of her week living and working out of Glasgow. She is a fully qualified Sport and Exercise Psychologist, but also lectures on both Sport and Exercise Psychology, as well as Psychology. Dr Black is an enthusiastic practitioner and believes in a holistic approach when working with clients.

“Ultimately, I think a happier person is going to make for a happier athlete, a happier performer and that’s when we are going to get the best of people”, she pointed out.

“Sport psychology is about enhancing performance, but also about personal development and mental wellbeing.”

A common misconception of sport psychology is that it is only for the elite in the industry. Dr Black wants to help clear up this misunderstanding: “I think that is an important part of the title – Sport and Exercise Psychologist. There are the two aspects there of it.”

She went on to say: “It is definitely not just for the elite. It can be for anyone, from the amateur, to the people who are trying to find and to motivate themselves and get back into sport or exercise.”

Coaches, referees, teams, and parents have sought help and found benefits to working with a sport psychologist, but if you are someone who simply wants to improve, or is wanting help with getting started, a sport psychologist might be exactly what you need.

Sport psychologists use a variety of techniques with their clients depending on their needs. Some of the more common techniques she uses to help her clients get into the best frame of mind are visualisation and imagery, confidence building, managing anxiety and nerves, and mindfulness: “I am a big advocate of mindfulness and acknowledging the power of our body and our breath, and using our breath to really ground us and bring us into the present moment.”

Dr Black feels that there isn’t just one issue that is specific to women, but that most commonly they are looking to deal with confidence, self-esteem, enjoyment in sport, and motivation to continue in sport: “I think sometimes, as females, we can be more likely to put pressure and have higher expectations on ourselves. We don’t want to let other people down.”

Dr Black sees considerably less men coming through her door and they are usually presenting themselves quite differently, with a very specific focus on their end goal. This is not to imply that the women she works with do not have a goal in mind, but they are more exploratory in their approach.

When it comes to being open about one’s mental health, women, are more likely to speak out. Men have a tendency to wait until their careers are at an end.

“Recently,’ said Black, “Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles had the courage to be vulnerable enough and say ‘I am really struggling, and I need to do this for me. My health is more important than standing on this stage.’ Their actions have set a precedent to enable women to put self-care into practice and say ‘actually, I need to look after myself before I perform.’ Women are more acknowledging and accepting of this and drive home the importance of self-care, making sure we are all well, healthy and happy.”

But has this willingness to open up, completely eroded the stigma pertaining to poor mental health? Despite improvements and more honest discussion, some continue to view it in a negative way. 

According to Dr Black, talking about our problems openly is the key to more success. “I think the public needs to be more considerate of how we speak about athletes and about sport.”

It is clear that the stigma around mental health difficulties in sport needs to change. But how can we achieve this?

We simply need to talk about it more, she says: “I think it needs to be publicised more and we need to stop glamorising sport.”

Despite athletes showing up and trying to perform at their best, they are often harshly scrutinised in the media. These comments can sometimes have repercussions or lead to negative outcomes and it’s simply not fair: “I think the public needs to be more considerate of how we speak about athletes [and] about sport,”

Adding: “We need to keep having those difficult conversations.”

Taking those first steps into sport psychology may be daunting, but there is help available should it be the right route for you. Typically, clients should expect between six to twelve sessions with prices starting from £40 per hour. Black says she frequently sees people beyond this timeframe.

If you are interested in what has been discussed in this postthen Sporting Bounce could be the tool you’re looking for – Sporting Bounce is an online directory of sport performance specialists. You can also find a therapist on the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) register

Most sport psychologists, including Dr Black, will offer an initial session free of charge to decide if both client and practitioner feel that they are a right fit for one another. In all therapy, it is important to find a practitioner you feel that you can work well with and aligns with your values.

“Sport psychology is absolutely for everyone”.

Black’s message is clear: Take the chance and you may find yourself on a fulfilling and surprising adventure.

If you are interested in working with Dr Zoe Black you can find her on social media or via her website:
She can be found at

If you’re struggling with mental health issues, you can get support at the Scottish Association for Mental Health and in the UK and Ireland Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email or Other international helplines can be found at

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Mark says:

    This is a great interview and it really shines a light on things that need to be spoken about and de-stigmatised. Good job on highlighting a really important issue!

  • Ashley says:

    Great read! I’d love to hear more conversations about how sport at the recreational level can be beneficial for mental health, and how sport psychology can help empower women to get involved in sport.

    • Maureen McGonigle says:

      Thank you for your comments – we will certainly visit this topic again in the future.

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