Date published: March 08, 2016

Basketball star's advice for psychology students

Ex-NBA basketball star John Amaechi OBE visited the University on Monday to share some wisdom with BSc Exercise and Physical Health undergraduates.

The former Orlando Magic player and first elite player to come out spent more than an hour with first-year students, sharing his unique outlook on sport, coaching and personal development.

A known critic of sporting hierarchies worldwide, the 6ft 10ins ex-athlete spoke of corruption in sport, the blandness of sports ‘stars’ and suggested sport often failed in its responsibility to young people.

With many students on the course graduating into careers in teaching and coaching, John described being a coach-teacher as “an awesome responsibility” particularly as many coaches “have no idea what they’re doing” and can damage individuals as readily as aid them.

My dream 

Speaking of his own experience as a Stockport schoolboy, the 45-year-old said teachers and peers had sought to humiliate him and scoffed at his dream to become as professional basketball player.

“If you have goals, don’t be deterred, be bold," he advised. "If people laugh it’s often because they don’t want you to achieve something they never will.”

With a PhD in Psychology, John is now an academic, author and broadcaster, regarded as one of the leading motivational coaches of his age.

He stressed that coaches and teachers “have power to plant footprints in young people’s minds”, so he advises to “make those footprints positive, motivating messages and erase the negative, unconstructive ones.”

Life planning 

Lecturer in Psychology Ailsa Parsons, who invited John to meet her students after chatting about psychology on Twitter, said: “I’d heard he was a good speaker and we weren’t disappointed.

“I think the students took a lot from him about developing self-awareness in order to exploit your strengths and passions, and being serious and declarative about what you want to spend the rest of your life doing.

“His advice for coaches on curbing aggression, coercion and punishment and in favour of evoking intrinsic motivation and empathy, is particularly relevant for all forward-thinking leaders, and something that I myself teach students to enact with their clients.”

Check our website for more about psychology and exercise science at the University.

Image: First year undergraduates Ellie Jones and Jake Hartigan meet John Amaechi OBE who was invited to the University by Ailsa Parsons 

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