It’s Individual…

To kick off our refreshed new look, it was time to put some thoughts into a blog…

I started my career with ambitions of filling my days working with elite athletes on an international stage. Now I do. This is not a “well done Andrea” moment – quite the contrary. It means more than ever I am learning about my craft with every interaction I have with these extraordinary human beings as they pursue athletic greatness in whatever discipline they have chosen.

I am fascinated with people and what they do to perform at their best. I want to help them perform as consistently as they can to be their best while helping them understand how to look after their mental health.

I test and try things with them as I see each individual as unique. I don’t have a ‘ten steps to …’; I have always struggled to apply one way of doing things to most people despite the financial benefits of quick fix rules to live by, which sometimes seems to appeal to the masses. I assess the performance challenges and then aim to address them with a combination of therapeutic techniques and strategies.

It’s fair to say that I am a bit of a bowerbird … constantly collecting new methods and strategies based on continual learning in the field.

When asked questions at conferences, it pains me to simply answer, “it’s individual” or “it depends on …”  It would be much simpler to have the ten (or seven or three!) steps as if it’s something that can apply to all (because it sells). The reality is that it won’t work for everyone. Contrary to all of the business development advice I receive with respect to scaling products for larger fee-paying audiences, for me, I focus on what’s going to work for the individual and team in front of me. My solutions are bespoke. I treat each performer and the work we do together like an ongoing n=1 experiment.

We are always learning more about the human mind. Our conclusions about what’s possible constantly evolve, which means my way of working must always evolve. It is however confirming the fundamentals of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – we can change our thoughts which in turn alters our behaviour.

I won’t bang on about who I’ve worked with and the successes we’ve had working together. Yes, there will be times when I post something about a team or an individual as I’m ‘proud’ to be a part of the journey; it’s a raw and exposing one (compared to most occupations). I am more than likely to post things about teams or individuals that inspire me and my work and that I can learn from, or more importantly that I aspire to be like.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise then that I also have just as many stories of when I’ve/we’ve got it wrong, the opposition was much better, it wasn’t our day, etc. On days when we get beaten, we reflect, and we learn.

Then the ‘next day’ we try again, keeping what’s worked and learning from what hasn’t, potentially experimenting with a new strategy. That’s part of the way I work; I want to be better as I work together with you to be better.

How does this relate to the new look for Mental Notes?  It represents where my forever evolving head is at right now after just shy 20 years working with elite athletes, coaches, sports scientists, sports medicine professionals and management.

Despite it being this long (!), I’m stuck using pen and paper. I am often the joke of my fellow sports scientists and sports medicine professionals as I carry my copious notebooks, both leather-bound A5 and cardboard-bound A6, in addition to my A4 white notepads, around the world.

I scribble and jot and draw (that’s probably being too kind). It’s my way to make sense of the stories people are telling me…

Through this process I help people reflect and in doing so they and I change the way we do things to lift our collective games.

I’ve noticed I am not reading or writing as much since my days are filled with working with those at the top of their game, but I am observing and listening and talking more. I’d like to readdress the balance. One blog each month – stories of what’s worked and what hasn’t, with plans of some of the athletes I have worked with in the past or I currently work with sharing their take on what aspects of our work make the most impact to them. Your job is to help me keep to it!


Andrea Furst PhD | Sport & Exercise Psychologist CPsychol HCPC Registered
Get in contact with Andrea –  Andrea is based in London and provides both face-to-face and virtual sport psychology services to athletes worldwide.

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