Newman Senior Lecturer presents to Olympic and Paralympic Committee in Israel

07/01/2020 by Sinead Staunton

Alex Powell, Senior Lecturer in Coaching Science at Newman University, Birmingham has recently returned from Israel where he presented at the National Competitive Coaching Science conference.

The conference, which took place between 18th and 19th December at the Wingate Institute, saw over 850 instructors, coaches and sport scientists in attendance and international experts from across the world presenting.

The conference was organised by the Wingate Institute, the National Institute for Excellence in Sport and the Ministry of Culture and Sport and formed part of the preparations for the upcoming 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games in Tokyo. Designed for the Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Olympic and Paralympic Coaches for Israel, as well as the Eilat Association (non-Olympic sports association), and the Israeli Sports Federations, the organisers called upon experts such as Newman’s Alex Powell to share their research to help prepare athletes for the upcoming games.

Alex’s PhD research focuses on mental toughness for athletes and he specifically focussed on his studies with Team GB Paralympic athletes when presenting at the conference. Alex comments “Mental toughness is a key psychological variable related to perseverance and success in performance domains. Mental toughness and its development has been investigated across a range of contexts and across different sports, however, no previously published research has explored mental toughness in relation to Paralympic athletes. As such, the overall, the aim of the initial study was to investigate mental toughness and its development in Paralympic sport by exploring the perceptions and experiences of 10 mentally tough Team GB Paralympic athletes. The findings have informed strategies that can be applied in performance and training environments which embed coaching activities, sports science, support structures and psychological strategies.”

Dr. Osnat Fliess Douer, Director of Science and Technology for the Israeli Paralympic Committee, commented on the importance of said topic:

“The request to have an expert in mental toughness came from the coaches, especially those who coach young athletes, this was because the coaches believe that mental toughness is extremely important in the development of athletes in general and of Paralympic athletes in particular.  Some of the Paralympic coaches have expressed concern that some of their athletes are not tough enough – especially athletes with a congenital disability and that sometimes the parents protect the children too much, the coaches have associated this with producing some fragile athlete characteristics.”

“The coaches had requested applicable tools to contribute to the development of the mental toughness of their athletes. In response to our request, Alex provided mental toughness scales to promote awareness for coaches, athletes and parents, examples and models for development and these were considered and personalised during the practical and interactive sessions.”

Dr Fliess Douer went on to praise the contribution of Alex’s work at the conference, commenting:

“The lectures and workshops that Alex delivered were excellent. We received very positive feedback from the participants who expressed their wish and hope that next time there would be even more time available for him and this topic in future workshops. The lectures were very systematically constructed and it was easy to follow the rationale. The incorporation of research findings, videos, case studies and coaches’ participation in decision making and finding solutions have greatly contributed to the success of the workshop.”

Alex comments “It was a real privilege to present my PhD research findings to elite national coaches at the prestigious Wingate institute. It was very interesting to observe the cultural similarities and differences in coaching practice and particularly ideas of mental toughness development. I am very grateful for the invitation and excited by the opportunity to continue work with the Israeli Paralympic Committee. I wish the whole team the very best for the Tokyo games later this summer.”

For further information on the research conducted by Alex Powell, visit the Newman University website and read Alex’s latest published article ‘Developing Mental Toughness: Lessons from Paralympians’.