Kensa Gunter, PsyD, CMPC, AASP President-Elect, Gunter Psychological Services
Portland, OR served as a great host city for AASP’s 34th Annual Conference, which saw record numbers in conference attendance (1,325 attendees), and the association reaching the largest membership in its history with 2,560 members from 55 countries. AASP is growing; and before I go any further, I’d like to take a moment to thank you all for your continued support of the association. Whether you’re a new or seasoned member, a student or a professional, if this was your first conference or your tenth, thank you. Your presence was appreciated and contributed to this year’s success.
To the Conference Planning Committee (CPC) and the Executive Board, thank you for your leadership and for all of the time, energy and effort you put into creating a program that strives to meet the needs of a diverse group of students and professionals. This is not an easy task and yet this conference provided opportunities for learning, professional development, networking, presenting, and connecting with colleagues – all of which were among the top reasons people cited for attending the conference this year.
In addition to the familiar programmatic elements, some new initiatives were introduced during this conference including the Women of Color Empowered in Sport Leadership (WE Lead) Institute, the International Jamboree, the Science Slam, and the JASP Science to Practice Symposium - two invited sessions focused on the use of research to inform practice, and the interactive Burt Giges workshop was devoted to illustrating the “how” of sport psychology consulting. These efforts directly reflect a commitment to the strategic plan by offering innovative programming each year. Incorporating member feedback is also important and was evident in this year’s keynote lineup as the CPC secured some notable names that have been repeatedly requested by members.
The 2019 keynote speakers included Dr. Michael Gervais, Karch Kiraly (Performance Excellence Award recipient), Angela Hucles, Dr. Tobias Lundgren, George Mumford, and Dr. Rich Gordin (Coleman Griffith Lecture). Through their collective words, we were encouraged to think of ourselves as the custodians of sport psychology with the charge of defining ourselves, developing our craft and educating others. Through sharing personal experiences, we learned how managing expectations, handling difficulties and growing from failure contribute to optimal performance. Sport is so much more than a game and we were challenged to be active in the area of sport advocacy in order to make sport an inclusive space for everyone. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and mindfulness can be powerful performance enhancement tools. We were reminded that “whatever is on our mind is our meditation,” so learning to look at things with “fresh eyes” is an important element in mindfulness practice. Dr. Rich Gordin echoed some of these points during the Coleman Griffith lecture as he highlighted the importance of curiosity and continuous learning across one’s professional lifespan. He also shared his perspective of the field’s progression thus far and reminded us to enjoy the ride as we continue to move forward in shaping the world of sport psychology.
In her Presidential address, Dr. Natalie Durand-Bush modeled strength and vulnerability as she shared very personal experiences highlighting the power of resilience through adversity. Regarding her vision for the organization, she emphasized the importance of proper training, using research and science to inform practice, and focusing on clinical issues in sport and performance. She also expressed a commitment to diversity initiatives and encouraged people to identify ways to get involved within AASP.
In addition to the program, a major strength of our conference lives in the interactions and the informational exchange and growth that comes from sharing space with like-minded people. We have wonderful people in our association, and I imagine like myself, many of you left Portland feeling grateful, energized and reminded of your passion for this work. So again, thank you to all who joined us in Portland, and we look forward to seeing you in Orlando!