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2015 Conference Recap

by Angus Mugford, PhD, President-Elect
Toronto Blue Jays

AASP’s 30th Annual Conference has officially wrapped, and we now begin a new decade as an organization with continued enthusiasm and a future full of possibilities. My thanks go to the Conference Planning Committee and to the Executive Board who puts a great deal of time and effort into issues and initiatives in the days before the conference actually starts. This process makes for a very busy week, and I truly appreciate all who have served on the E-Board, past and present, on behalf of us all. 


Chris Carr, receiving the honor to present this year’s Coleman Griffith lecture, kicked things off in style. Dr. Carr has had a distinguished career consulting across many organizations, using both his clinical and performance enhancement skills. Indeed, he has been a key consultant for the NCAA as they have begun to take the area of mental health for student-athletes more seriously. A standout moment involved a reflection on the importance of the “doctor lounge” environment - where professionals interact to build relationships and have hard and productive discussions that make us all better. This sentiment for collaboration over competition across the spectrum of sport psychology training was refreshing, and I believe it served as a landmark moment in our community. For the first time at the conference, I consistently felt a sense of ‘we’ rather than ‘us and them’ when it came to those from psychology and kinesiology training backgrounds.

On behalf of the NCAA, John Parsons and Mary Wilfert presented a new initiative that focuses on ‘Mind, Body, and Sport’. The leadership and investment into this agenda will have a significant impact on the lives of many people in the United States. As Brent Walker highlighted in his Presidential Address, if each NCAA school has one sport psychologist, we would have over 1,200 practitioners employed. While a fundamentally North American issue and opportunity, I truly believe the related ramifications are relevant worldwide. Mental health was a theme that continued to be raised both in the program and in conversation. Continuing to develop our connections and roles for various stakeholders is key so that the public and clients’ best interests are met, along with the pursuit of excellence that is a passion for all. 

AASP has continued to listen to the membership and innovate conference programing to bring research and practice in more accessible and dynamic ways. The ‘5 slides in 5 minutes’ format continues to receive outstanding feedback, with sessions on consulting, coaching, and topics from our Special Interest Groups each receiving standing room only receptions. Just 1,000 yards away, at the NCAA ‘Hall of Champions’, another innovation was introduced this year. The “Data Blitz” (a special invitational session) featured some of our best science-practitioners to present contemporary issues and concise data-driven research in an engaging and powerful way. This event included just five presentations, each with five minutes of insight and five minutes of questions. Graig Chow, Amanda Visek, Kristen Dieffenbach, Judy Van Raalte, and Ian Connole delivered meaningful, thought provoking insight from their research, and I left the session crying out for more and hoping to see similar work in AASP’s 2016 conference in Arizona. 

With Rob Schinke working tirelessly over the last year, and Brent Walker taking the helm in 2016, AASP’s leadership is in great hands. Brent delivered an authentic view of the landscape in the Presidential Address as someone who has grown with the Organization and has his finger on the pulse of the academic and applied world of sport psychology. He provided cautious optimism and a ‘think big and focus small’ approach. Brent also reminded us that we practice what we preach through evidence-based approaches, bringing data analytics into better understanding ourselves and our markets of opportunity. As we modernize and build on a strong foundation, this practice will help us be better informed and make the best decisions we can moving forward. 

Ben Strack, Lindsay Thornton, Penny Werthner, and Len Zaichowsky delivered a keynote of significance, ‘Advancing Optimal Performance Psychophysiology’. No one can doubt the impact of the last decade’s advances in technology, both in our everyday lives and in knowledge of the brain and implications for understanding human behavior. These practitioners are doing great work and serve to remind us that regardless of discipline, it is in our best interests to learn and stay contemporary with what this field of psychology continues to offer – both the objective and subjective have a role to play. 

The final keynote on Saturday morning was worth the wait and gave us some good perspective. While many of us like to be research-driven, applied practitioners, it is important not to forget the personal stories that people live. Matt Stutzman and Cindy Abbott delivered inspiring stories of their respective journeys, and perhaps the most applicable quote here is from Matt who stated, “Don’t expect the world to adapt to you, take ownership and adapt to the world.” 

No conference is complete without the celebration of members being recognized for their scholarship and contributions to the community. There is not enough space to highlight all award winners, but the quality of these individuals was high and continues to set the bar for nominations in 2016. The accomplishments for the Organization as a whole was impressive, including the launch of the new AASP logo, which is a culmination of a better understanding of our market and efforts to create more clarity for our mission. We owe Jack Watson, along with a team of volunteers, who have worked tirelessly to create an amazing foundation to the Job Task Analysis. This process has the potential to be ground breaking for our profession by creating a gold standard practice of professionalizing the certification process for the future growth of our field, while maintaining the standards and intent of the CC-AASP credential. 

There will be much work happening beyond the conference. Having contributed to the strategic meetings that will shape the focus for the next three years, I am extremely excited by the forward thinking and commitment to maintaining our integrity and investing in our internal relationships. I am also committed to making a significant jump in the way we understand and interact with our consumers and clients. Thanks to all involved, and I look forward to the unveiling of these ideas to the membership in due course.

>> Click here to view the AASP 2015 Annual Conference photo album on Facebook