My Coaching Journey – Tracy Donachie

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Tracy is a PhD Research student at York St Johns University in the UK.  She is qualified in performance psychology and currently works with various athletes, sports teams and coaches.  Below, Tracy has shared with us her journey from an 11 year old Soccer player to delivering Performance Psychology to sports Coaches.

“I played sport for as long as I can remember but started playing football when I was 11 year old. I started coaching at the age of 16 years old, with South Lanarkshire Council. Ian Steele who was the Football Development Officer gave me the opportunity to coach, and before I knew it, I was coaching every day after school, and at weekends. I think my passion for coaching came from my intrinsic motivation to help people improve, and because I enjoyed working with children. I knew that sport was a positive influence in my life, and I wanted to help others appreciate the opportunity as well as develop themselves as people and sports performers.

My dad coached for many years at my local football team, and along with my mum,  was heavily involved in the organisation of the club. I was also captain of the team I played for and felt that these skills would be adaptable to coaching. My uncle was a coach for Man City, Everton etc, and I felt that I wanted to follow his footsteps, and felt like I could regardless of my gender. When I was younger I never once thought that I couldn’t be a coach or a footballer just because I was female.

I played for a season in Iceland, and then in Australia. In Australia, I  coached Adelaide City Ladies, U11s girls team whilst coaching Mercedes College U19 Boys Team, and that was a great experience. I never felt there was any issues with me being a female coaching a male team, and felt like I was respected by all the players. Following this, I went to USA on a full scholarship and began to develop my coaching there. I started off at local club coaching player development sessions for boys and girls and bumble bee soccer (U5s). I then became the Technical Director of the girls side and started several youth girls teams there and was the Head Coach of 2 of them whilst overseeing other coaches. I also then was Program Director of Bumblebees overseeing 10 coaches and 10 helpers. This was a great program with over 120 kids. I gained a lot of experience and

opportunity in the states, and felt respected as a Coach. During my time, I also worked at different sports camps including Old Dominion University’s residential camps. I was the only female coach for the boys camps and during this time, there was a young girl who attending the camp because she played for a boys team.

I completed my BSs in Human Services Counseling, Psychology and Sociology and became interested in sport psychology, and the mental side of sport. I completed my MSc Performance Psychology at University of Edinburgh. As part of my course, I completed my dissertation on the “Effectiveness of a Positive Psychology Intervention on Optimism Levels of Female Soccer Players”. This was my first main experience of really bridging my psychology, and coaching, and found positive results at the end of the intervention.

This is when my focus for coaching changed, and now 4 years later after gaining different

performance psychology experiences, I now deliver coaching workshops on the principles of Performance Psychology for Coaches. I recently delivered at the Festival of Sport on various aspects of female coaching, and have delivered workshops to coaches about working with female athletes, as well as the barriers and challenges of being a female coach. I think at youth level there are limited barriers, however, I believe that perhaps once you reach elite level, its not often you see females coaching male teams. Shelley Kerr is someone who I have worked along side at National Camps for football, and very proud of her progress within the coaching world.

I am now a PhD candidate at York St Johns University and I am looking at perfectionism within sport. I will hopefully devise an intervention to help players with the negative effects of perfectionism (e.g. anxiety, burn-out, injury). I am very keen to educate coaches in order for them to create the most effective motivational climate for perfectionist to thrive in and have optimum psychological wellbeing.  I would be keen for any coaches who are interested in my study to contact me. I believe that coaches can help players with perfectionist tendencies and help them become more achievement striving without the negative effects of trying to be perfect and being self critical when perfection isn’t reached.”

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