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Aidan Moran

Aidan Moran, a Full Professor of Cognitive Psychology at University College Dublin (Ireland), sadly passed away on March 16, 2020.  Moran had a passion for internationalization – during a Fulbright Scholarship in the mid 1990s, he facilitated research at the USOC, University of Florida and University of New York (SUNY) forging collaborations with Sean McCann, Shane Murphy, and Robert Singer. During this time his most notable work was conceived, The Psychology of Concentration in Sport Performers: A Cognitive Analysis (1996). This was just the beginning of his influence on the field of sport psychology. A meta-analysis of mental practice was among his classic works (cited 1,500 times) and his collective research has generated over 7,000 citations.

For a scientist-practitioner who influenced the field greatly, he was reluctant to assume the label “sport psychologist”. In  Moran’s own words, captured in Becoming a Sport Psychologist by Paul McCarthy and Marc Jones, he stated, “I don’t regard myself as a sport psychologist at all. …since I don’t have any formal qualifications in sport psychology.” Sport, for Aidan, was both a playground for his own pursuits in competitive tennis and a natural laboratoryfor the study of the cognition and action. 

Aidan posed difficult conceptual and theoretical questions about cognitive psychology on topics, including  motor cognition, attention, concentration, mental imagery, meta-cognition and the cognitive processes underlying expertise in skilled performance. In 2006, he was appointed inaugural Editor-in-Chief of the International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, which grew to become a leading journal in the field and created further opportunities for connectivity with scholars worldwide. His door was always open to conversations on the perennial questions in the field and Dan Gould, Bob Weinberg, Anders Ericsson were among those who passed through it.

As a practitioner, he guided the professionalisation of the discipline in Ireland with a special issue of the Irish Journal of Psychology in 1998, consulting with many elite performers including three-time major winning golfer Padraig Harrington and more recently chairing the Sport Ireland Institute Quality Assurance Committee (2008-2012). Moran gave a keynote presentation entitled “Exploring Cognitive Processes in Sport: Old Problems and New Directions”  at the AASP 2016 Conference in Phoenix. He inspired the audience with his humour, passion for deepening our conceptual understanding of psychology, always with one eye on the historical antecedents. Aidan was as likely to cite William James, Roger Bartlett, as any research contemporary. As he often remarked, if you want to find a new idea, look in an old book. This thoughtful thinker, wonderful mentor with an abundance of kindness will not be forgotten in the history of sport psychology. Our condolences are with his wife Angela, son Kevin, his family and friends. 

I leave the final words to another great Irishman, Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney and his poem Markings: 
We marked the pitch: four jackets for four goalposts,
That was all. 

Youngsters shouting their heads off in a field.
As the light died and they kept on playing
Because by then they were playing in their heads.

Written by
Tadhg MacIntyre
University of Limerick