A simple encounter over coffee and a sweatshirt was my warm up for the Association for Applied Sport Psychology’s conference.  Sound strange? Let me set the stage:  

I was at the Phoenix airport (where the conference was located) and I had just decided to use my Starbucks birthday reward on some coffee. However, the cashier forgot to apply the reward to my purchase and I ended up having to pay airport prices for an already expensive Frappuccino with all the fixings. (It should be known that I am not a morning person without my coffee.) I was pretty upset about the damage to my bank account, but quickly had to let it go when a gentleman approached me and asked if I went to DU. Mind you this wasn’t too creepy because I was wearing my University of Denver sweatshirt.

He told me that he had attended DU for his Master’s. In fact, he had received his Master’s in Sport and Performance Psychology (the same program I’m currently in) and was now in his 2nd year of Florida State’s PhD program. Before I could tell him about our shared schooling, he mentioned that there was a big sport psych conference this weekend in Phoenix and that it was why he was at the airport. 

Once he finished talking, I could barely contain my excitement. (A familiar face among all of the strangers in the airport, a connection that would be beneficial to my growth, another aspiring SPP student who I could discuss upcoming events with.) I didn’t know where to start. I had so many questions, but I knew I would have time later on in the week.

Since we were on a time crunch, both awaiting our rides from the airport to the conference site, we discussed the MASPP program and our common interests in the field. After bonding over knowing similar people, he asked the question that would probably come a million times this weekend. 

What are you pursuing for your Master’s Project and what are you looking to do post graduation?

I told him my colleague and I would be using Imagery Interventions to build resilience with one of the teams I was working with. 

He stopped me mid-sentence by asking me why I didn’t tell him what team I was working with. 

Our professors would be proud. At this moment, my ethical antennas went through the roof and I immediately just stared down my newfound connection. After realizing it would be weird if I didn’t answer his question, I summed up my answer to one word: Confidentiality 

Lesson #1: Never ever break confidentiality with your clients. Even if you are chatting with a fellow Sport Psychologist. You owe it to your clients to respect confidentiality. Get in the habit of not disclosing or name-dropping with whom you are working. Unless they’ve expressed that that’s okay. 

This new connection was surprised by my answer as a Master’s student and was so proud of my answer that he called one of his fellow colleagues over to introduce me to him. 

This was humbling to me but it was also hard to swallow that other students have not had ethics drilled into them the way that I have. For me, this helped to further confirm how good my current program is. 

Lesson 2: Do not be afraid to stand your ground and uphold your own morals as well as ethics. Make sure to wear your ethical antennae wherever you go. 

We briefly discussed my future goals and plans for a PhD program. I was bummed to cut our conversation short to catch my ride, but I knew that this new connection would be someone I could reach out to in the future.

Lesson 3: The field of Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology is growing, but it is still a small field. Reach out and make connections with other aspiring consultants whenever you can. You would be surprised how many people know each other or what they can teach you.

Lesson 4: Collaboration over competition. Help those around you to continue to grow the field of sport psychology. You might not see the benefits now, but help lay the foundations to see the progress in the future. 

This encounter stuck with me as I rode over to the conference, and it helped to provide a foundation for my learning throughout the week. But that’s another story. 


Most of the MASPPers. Aren’t we gorgeous?

– Tavia Rutherford –