Extending skills training beyond field, pitch and pool deck for student-athletes

The international school raising the game in sport performance programs for student-athletes in Singapore

At GEMS World Academy in Singapore, Danny Tauroa Director of Sport and Physical Education, is carving out a sport performance program that goes far beyond winning and losing. The former elite New Zealand rugby player and Singapore national coach is separating GEMS sport programs from the rest by providing a truly holistic learning experience on and off the field. Danny has created opportunities for the students to build an array of high-performance skills from sport to life.

The past year has seen many challenges for athletes world-wide with restrictions due to COVID-19 dramatically effecting training and competition schedules, not to mention the ups and downs in motivation. Danny saw the downturns as an opportunity to create new experiences. Connecting the student-athletes with external experts in sleep science as part of an ongoing intervention to improve sleep habits, is just one of these unique opportunities.


Getting Started

In March this year, Danny got in touch with me to run my most intensive sport psychology program to date. The power packed 12-week program was not only focused on skills for high performance in sport but included an equal number of sessions for academic performance too. This is the first school in Singapore to take on such an intensive program. As a sport psychologist, there is nothing better than witnessing a team build momentum from one week to the next. To witness the awareness building and learning curve of the students was inspiring.

The student-athletes involved ranged in age from 11 to 18, male and female, and from a spread of sporting codes that included football, rugby, basketball, triathlon, fencing, swimming, touch and netball.

Each week, the 1-hour session involved a mix of guided self-assessment and interactive activities using live polling and action planning. Between sessions, athletes practiced and experimented with a new mental or behavioral strategy in training or competition.


The High Performance Program Series:

The program kicked off with a look into The Champion’s Mind. Allowing athletes to connect with the thought patterns, attitudes and actions that lead to peak performance experiences in all arenas.

Managing Pressure and Anxiety and Developing an individual A-game Mindset were central themes in the following sessions. Athletes had a chance to profile when they are hot and when they are cold and connect with their unique thoughts and actions that lead to their individual best performances.


“One of my key goals was to help the students learn to ‘back themselves’ and understand how to effectively use self-talk to take control of doubts and worries on a daily basis.”

Dr Jay-Lee


Most athletes are accustomed to hearing the message, “Focus on the process not the end result.” However, the core thoughts and actions that make up the process can remain elusive.

Building awareness of the key ingredients in a performance PROCESS was a big component in the sessions. Deliberate effort and commitment, present focus, self-talk, and responding well to mistakes were tagged as highly important components in a peak performance process. We spent time talking about these key ingredients and building strategies to activate them. Learning how to measure these ingredients and reflect on these skills was also a key part in the learning curve.

Interestingly, one of the most highly requested topics from the students was how to switch on and off in their multiple roles, from student to athlete. In their world of competing demands and increasingly busy schedules, I understand how valuable it is to learn how to shift gears and begin practicing work-life presence.

Mindfulness training, Breathing techniques, and progressive muscle relaxation were practiced in a team setting to introduce tools for managing one’s physiology. These techniques are useful not just in competition but also exams.


The Academic Series:

We applied the Power of an Hour technique to reduce procrastination in study and establish simulation training for exams.

Common dilemmas during exams such as, panic, indecisiveness, misreading questions were tackled with similar strategies applied to sport scenarios in earlier sessions. Strengthening the students’ exam taking PROCESS and putting a spot-light on key habits was a simple but powerful building block for confidence and consistency in any exam moving forward.


“With the rate of teenage anxiety and depression on the rise, the strategies our young athletes have taken from Dr Nair will be valuable tools that they will use to stay calm, be in the moment, keep a sense of perspective and work their way through the various ’stressful’ situations they will encounter through both their sporting and personal lives.”

Danny Tauroa  Director of Sport and Physical Education at GEMS


What the students had to say about their experience:

“Learning about my red and green zones”

“Breathing and body scan.”

“Learning new things in class and also getting work done more efficiently.”

“I learnt that there are internal and external factors affecting our mindset, and if we can manage them, we can keep everything under control.”

“The importance of self-management and more about how I can enhance my performance and the negative factors that affect my performance”

“Personally, I have learned the breathing techniques that help me the most. I now recognize what my weak areas are and how to work on them.”


The mental side of the game in sport and academics is often over-looked in most programs. But the impact of dedicating quality time to mental skills training can extend well beyond the boundaries of the field, pitch, and pool deck.

Dr Jay-Lee Nair PhD | Psychologist MAPS
Book an appointment with Dr Jay-Lee at the Singapore Sports Medicine Centre to master your own pre-performance routine, with or without fans.