Prior to this role, he worked for Hawthorn FC, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, St.Kilda, Cricket Aus, and Olympic individuals/teams. Matt is an experienced Psychologist with an extensive history of working in the sports industry with individuals, teams, and organizations. He is skilled in Sports Psychology, Mental Health and Wellbeing, Sports Management, Coaching, and Performance Psychology. He has a strong community and social services professional with a Ph.D., Master’s degree, and Certificate of Practice in Clinical Neuropsychotherapy focused in Neuropsychotherapy from Medicos.

Topics we discussed:

  • People who influenced him early in his career
  • Things footballers need to start practicing for their mental health
  • Biggest challenges in his career
  • Advice for dealing with trauma and self-care
  • Highlights of his career
  • Fave movie or tv series that impacted him

People mentioned:

  • Phil Hughes
  • David Williams
  • Lisa Stevens
  • Travis Boak
  • John Mccarthy
  • Hannah Davis
  • Shaun Burgoyne
  • Mark Anderson

Connect with Matt McGregor on Linkedin:

Listen: iTunesSpotify

Interview Transcript

Jack: Welcome back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ live chat show. My name is Jack McLean. I’m the host and tonight my guest is Matt McGregor. He’s the sports psychologist for the AFL Players Association and has been for the last four years. Prior to his role for the PA, he worked at the Hawthorn Football Club. That’s where I was lucky enough to meet Matt. He’s worked at Port Adelaide Football Club, Western Bulldogs, consulted in St Kilda, and he’s worked with Olympic teams and individuals.

He’s an experienced psychologist with an extensive history of working in the sports industry with individuals, teams and organizations, skilled in sports, psychology, mental health and wellbeing, sports management, coaching and performance psychology. Strong community and social services professional with a PhD and Master’s degree and a certificate of practice in clinical neuropsychotherapy. Focused in neuropsychotherapy for medicos.

Before we start tonight’s episode, for those new to our podcast, we’re here to empower aspiring athletes and staff with practical knowledge from some of the industry’s most inspiring individuals and to strengthen the AFL community. If you like the show, please show support by following us on Instagram and subscribing to the podcast. We are on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

Welcome, Matt. Thanks for jumping on, mate.

Matt: Good night, Jack. It’s nice to see you again. As you were doing that, I was just thinking, when was the last time you and I saw each other face-to-face? And I’ve got a feeling it was when you were making professional footballers dig up sand at Fairhaven beach at about six in the morning, torturing them for half an hour.

Jack: Of course. Fairhaven. That was a good bet. That feels like light years ago with everything that’s going on since then.

Matt: Doesn’t it? They had a lot of fun. And then all of a sudden the faces started to turn a bit, as the footies they were trying to dig out of the sand, they just couldn’t find. 

Jack: Now that you mentioned that, I haven’t thought about that one, but I reckon everybody was looking at me like, ‘If we found all those footies…’ There was one that was never found. The golden football, the yellow one.

Matt: Perhaps we should give the Fairhaven Surf Club a call and tell them they can dig the beach up, get the nippers out there and find it for us.

Jack: Yeah. I wonder if I’ve seen kids having to kick it for Hawthorn football out there at Fairhaven. I’ll have to have a look this summer when I go down. Yeah, thanks for jumping on, mate. I’m really looking forward to sharing your story. Take us back to the beginning. At what age did you discover you had a passion for sports psychology? 

Matt: Well, it’s a great question. And I think like a lot of people who end up working professionally in sport. I probably had that interest, passion before I knew anything about psychology.

I was a pretty mediocre athlete. Loved my sport. But I was always a bit fascinated that there seemed to be more physically talented, skilled, powerful athletes. And I was always able to compete at a certain level. And there was a bit of intrigue there for me about why is that possible. And I guess that was the beginnings of thinking that there must be something other than just skill and power and strength and things.

And I was not a particularly interested student at high school in the subjects that I was being dished up. It wasn’t until I left school and was aimlessly wandering about, doing a whole bunch of part-time jobs and whatever, that I came across a psychology course and did a short course and thought, ‘Oh, hang on. This is pretty interesting. And this is the stuff I’m way more interested in.’

And even then I didn’t know that there was a career called a sports psychologist or a profession called a sports psychologist. And again, just through luck almost I found myself in a sports science degree. I did enough psychology units in my electives. And then in the mid to late 90s, found out about a Master’s course where you could actually train to be a sports psychologist. And that’s where it started.

But even then, as I was doing my Master’s, lots of the really experienced psychologists ahead of me were saying, ‘It’s not really a career for most people. There’s only a handful of people in the country who get to practice and be full time sports psychologists.’ So, I was doing bits of coaching and bits of psychology teaching at university and things like that, while doing tiny bits of psych along the way. And it was gradually bit by bit painstakingly taking shape as something that I could genuinely do as a career. But it took quite a while. 

Jack: So, the industry itself and in sports psychology has grown a lot. Is that specifically to Australia? Were we a bit behind? Or is that just a worldwide growth? 

Matt: Well, I think around the Olympics, which is the Sydney Olympics, when I say it, so that’s 2000, I graduated, I finished my sports psych specialist training. And I think people here were saying, ‘Oh, there’s so much visibility about sports psychology. You all must be getting work left, right and center.’ But it still wasn’t a particularly viable profession for a lot of people.

North America – certainly, through the college sports system. All the universities have big athletic departments and they’ll hire a couple of sports psychs who work in their kinesiology departments. But we were probably a little bit behind that. The professional sports here had some part-time roles, but they were few and far between.

And then there were a handful of roles in the Olympic system. And I was pretty lucky that after whacking away for a couple of years I did get a gig at one of the Sports Institutes and therefore got my first opportunity to become a full-time. That’s all I do. I’m just completely immersed in sports psychology.

That was an amazing experience just to come across all these different athletes and sports that I had no idea about. Have been a bit of a footy and cricket man through my own sport and dabbled in a few other things. But all of a sudden I was exposed to a whole bunch of different sports: team, individual, development athletes, 12, 13, 14, and then senior World Champion and Olympic medalist athletes as well.

Jack: Wow. And for the sports psychologists listening to the podcast, your mentors had mentioned that there was not a lot of full-time opportunities, so you wanted to get experienced in other areas. So, I guess, you were making ends meet. You did coaching and you did some lecturing. Looking back now, do you think working in those different roles has helped shape you as a sports psychologist? When you took on your first full-time gig, did those skills transfer?

Matt: Well, yes and no. There’s some pros and cons. I think coaching certainly helps to get a perspective of what the coaches go through, because they’re one of the make-or-break people for psychologists. If you don’t have the coach on board, it’s not impossible, but it certainly makes life much, much tougher. If you have a really supportive coach, who’s had great experiences with psychology, is quite psychologically-minded, it makes your job so much easier to work with the athletes and the teams. So, certainly the coaching stuff helped.

And even just to get that understanding of sport systems. How do they work? How does funding come to a sport? How does the selection process work? All of these things that when you then start working with an athlete, often they’re the things that they want to talk about. I’m not getting picked or I’m getting picked.

So, I think to have a broad understanding and even work with some strength & conditioning coaches and physios, all those other sports science, sports med people. The broader your experience can be, the better.

Jack: And who were some strong influences on your career early days in terms of your own personal development? 

Matt: Well, I was lucky in that there’s only two courses where you can train as a sports psychologist in Australia, and actually one of those folded couple of years ago. So, you queue in Queensland and Victoria University here. And I had some amazing academic mentors through VU. Mark Andersen, Daryl Marchant, Harriet Speed were really influential and they’re some of the really heavy hitters in academia. And interestingly, I’m crossing paths with all those guys again, after a long period of time.

But then, when I got into the applied field and I was working. At SASI, which was the South Australian Sports Institute, where I was in the Institute system, there were some great sports scientists. Greg Russell and Sarah Wolford, who are physiologists. Had been there, done that and worked with national teams and knew all about those national championships and selection events, and international tours and how all that stuff worked.

And then, more recently as I’ve come back to Melbourne and got involved in the AFL PA, Dave Williams, who I work with really, really closely now, and Lisa Stevens. And they’re both psychologists with sport and exercise endorsements as well. And they’ve worked in multiple sports and we’re half peers and half mentors for each other, I guess.

It’s great just to have people like that. You can’t help, but learn, when you’re around people like this. And I hope it’s a little bit the same with them for me. We just share ideas and information and stories and debrief things with each other. So, I’ve been really, really fortunate, I think, across my journey to have all sorts of people who’ve collaborated, worked with me, mentored me and I’ve mentored them at times. 

Jack: Absolutely. It’s definitely a two-way relationship, isn’t it? And you mentioned the work with SASI and getting that foot in the door and cutting your teeth with a whole range of different age athletes. How did you go about getting that opportunity? Was it speaking to those colleagues? Was it cold emailing? For the sports psychs or even anyone that wants to work in elite sport that’s listening in, what’s some of the ways that you found effective to get opportunities where maybe you don’t have a big network base yet?

Matt: And lots of the opportunities are never advertised. Some are, particularly those in the Olympic system. Because of the government influence in those programs, they tend to have to advertise. Lots of other opportunities, though, are a bit more word of mouth. So, networking is just worth its weight in gold. And going to events, seminars, PD type things, introducing yourself.

It’s not something I was really comfortable with early on. But just picking up the phone and speaking to some people who you know about, you might not know them personally. But giving them a call and saying, ‘Well, what do you know? I’m just starting out. Are there any opportunities? What would you recommend?’

I did a little bit of that stuff early days. Was quite lucky that there were people who spent some time with me, who would say, ‘All right, well, buy me a coffee and I’ll let you know what I know. And I’ll introduce you to this person.’ And lots of those people are still in one way or another around me professionally now.

Jack: And for the developing athletes, mainly footballers, listening in, what are some important things for young footballers to start working on in terms of mindset and psychology? What are some common things that you work with with younger athletes? And what are some things, some skills that you can start practicing?

Matt: The way I conceptualize it when I’m working with athletes, there’s two areas that we work on. One is the more general mental health and wellbeing stuff. And often athletes, whether they be developmental or senior high performance athletes, want to shove that to the side and say, ‘No, no, just get to the performance stuff. Let’s just work on the performance.’

But, ultimately, that little apex, that top of the pyramid of performance, you’re not really capable of doing much there and sustaining it unless you’ve got a really good solid foundation around the general mental health and wellbeing stuff. So, I tend to recommend people spend a bit of time there. And here we’re talking about stuff like understanding your personal values and strengths and things like that. Even having a good sense of your own identity, who you are, what you stand for. So, spend a bit of time on that stuff.

But then, in the performance domain, probably the two things I work on most are arousal control, just understanding the gears that your mind and body can move through, and then focus. And those two things are quite close cousins. They work together a bit. Your arousal level will impact how much and what you can focus on, and vice versa. So, they’re probably the two things that I’d suggest to young athletes.

Read as much as you can, listen to as much you can, ask a lot of questions. If you do have someone who’s maybe made the next level above you, who’s in your orbit, grab them and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing in those areas? How do you manage your energy and arousal levels around competition and training? And what do you do to help you focus on the right things at the right time?’ And just be an absolute sponge.

And if you get access to a psychologist, that’s fantastic. But there’s also a lot of coaches, and even strength & conditioning coaches. I’ve worked with lots of great strength & conditioning coaches who are quite psychologically-minded. Who may not have had decades of training, but will be able to just make a suggestion or two around certain routines, for instance, which often are a little tool for organizing your focus. What do I need to be focusing on now?

They’re probably the two main performance areas that somewhere along the line all the athletes I’m working with, we’re going to be talking about those two things. 

Jack: That’s amazing. Thank you for sharing that. There’s a few gems to unfold. You mentioned identity. How important is it to have your own identity that’s disconnected to the sport you play? Because it can be quite common for athletes, where their whole identity is their sport or being an athlete. How do you go about building awareness around that? And then how do you go about having a healthy relationship, being a high performance athlete?

Matt: It’s critical. And it’s critical for when your sport is not going so well. And we all know that the longer you’re in sport, the more likely it is that it’s not going to be going well at some time. Nobody, even the Tiger Woods have not been able to stay at the absolute peak of their game just perpetually. So, lots of ups and downs. And it’s in those down times when it’s vital to have a sense of who you are when you’re not a footballer or a golfer, or a tennis player.

And yet, the amount of times, Jack, where I’ve sat with an athlete, who’s going through a bit of a slump, and here we’re talking about Olympic medalists and 200-game AFL players, and say, ‘Well, who are you, mate? Who are you when you’re not a footballer?’ And they don’t know. They literally don’t know. ‘I don’t know. This is all I do.’

And it’s fine when your sport’s going really, really well. You’re on top and life’s on your terms. But for those times when things are not going well, it’s critical to have that other aspects of yourself, where you can say, ‘Well, yes, footy is not going that well at the moment, but I’m still a great friend and a son, and I’m a commerce student, or I’m a blogger, or I’m a whatever,’ and have these other selves. You’ve still got your footy self, but you just need to have a good sense of these other selves.

I think sometimes we give the messages to young developing athletes that this is really, really hard what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to be elite at something, so you’ve got to focus all your time and energy on it. There’s no time to do anything else. And it’s almost inevitable that they will end up being this very narrowly-focused in terms of their identity, very narrowly-focused people. 

Jack: I love that. Thank you for sharing your philosophy around that. And, no doubt, that’ll be really helpful for everyone listening to start noting down maybe some different layers you have in your life that make you who you are.

Matt: Yeah. And then, before we move on, the term that we use there is about balance. And sometimes people think that I’ve got to do equal amounts of football and equal amounts of school. And it doesn’t need to be equal time or equal passion, but these other things just need to be in there somewhere.

Jack: So, you can still hang on them.

Matt: Yeah. You can still spend six hours a day training for footy, but you just need to have little pockets in there of music or time with your mates. Phil Hughes, I often use him as a bit of an example. For those who don’t know, he is an Australian Test cricketer, real character. He loved batting and making runs, but his passion was cows. He just loved cows. And if you stop for five minutes, he would bend your ear about cows auction. I’m going to buy this one and that one.

And so, he just had this other part of his life. And if cricket wasn’t going well, he could just dive straight in and call his parents back home on the farm and talk till the cows come home, pardon the pun. 

Jack: That actually raises a good point. I imagine you’ve worked with athletes that are like, ‘Well, Matt, what should I do? I literally don’t know what my identity is outside of football.’ What’s the first step? What do you recommend? It doesn’t have to be athletes, professionals, whatever it is, but someone that’s high performing at what they do, they’re obsessed about it. But identity outside of that, they’re not sure. What would be your advice? 

Matt: Well, we’d certainly have conversations about, ‘Talk to me about some times in your life, that weren’t football or that weren’t you sport, where you just felt good, you enjoyed it. You felt like your authentic self.’ Sometimes I’ll use that language. And they might only be little snippets in time, a little project they got involved with at school, or something outside of their sport. And just about everybody can identify those things. They just haven’t spent much time exploring them.

And we might do a little values exercise to say, ‘Well, what do you think of the values that sit under your sport as well? Why does footy mean so much to you?’ And often these values will pop out. And then what we can talk about is, ‘So, you can live out that value in other areas of life.’ Footy is a great environment for, let’s say, achievement is one of your values. Life’s not worth living unless you’re really striving to be the best you can be. And that’s great. But at some point footy will finish, but you can still live out that achievement value in all these other areas of life.

We often have conversations around those topics, trying to understand: yes, there’s a football self, but there’s a few other selves in there. A few other roles that you play and may not have just spent quite as much time and energy in those roles yet.

Jack: I love that. Thank you for sharing. That’s great advice and, hopefully, those tuning in are taking this on and thinking about these things. And in terms of the arousal control, I think that’s a good topic to talk about around game day, leading up to the game, and something that’s mentioned a lot in high performance sport.

That you want to have an individual approach, practice different methods, but ultimately have a preparation that really probably starts from the start of the week on how well your recover. And it happens all the way through the week. You have what allows you to prepare. And athletes that you hear about, like Travis Boak, spring to mind on how they find this routine, and they’re accumulating momentum leading up to game day. That works for them.

There’s different base. On some game days they want to be hyped up and then there’s others that want to be super calm and relaxed. For those that aren’t sure where they sit on that spectrum, what would you recommend to do to help discover what is your best preparation on game day?

Matt: I think you literally have to experiment. Pre-season games are a great opportunity. They are match-like. They’re not quite the same intensity as a regular season or a finals game. But they’re a great time to experiment with a couple of different approaches. The ideal, you don’t want to try something once and go, ‘Oh, that didn’t work.’ You want to have a couple of data points to look at. I often will recommend that we try a few different things.

Most people have got a little bit of a sense of whether they’re going to be a high-energy person. ‘I get my best games when I’m really charged up and buzzing.’ Or, ‘I’m one of those quieter types. I like to just slightly prepare, get a song, whatever, sit in the quiet corner.’ And you’ll often see players gravitate to those that they’re like. So, there’ll be the chill-out dudes over in one corner and there’ll be the high-energy dudes in another corner that’ve got the tunes on blaring. But you really do have to experiment a little bit.

And for those who are tuning in today, the AFL guys are still doing this. A couple of them that I’ve worked with at the Hawks over the last few years, part of what we worked on is this. So, which one am I? Does it work for me to get in early into the change rooms and allow more arousal levels to come up a little bit, possibly too high? And then I calm down and relax. And then I can gradually build up. Or does it work better for me to try and push that spike of arousal as late as possible to stay very, very chilled. And almost as we’re running out onto the ground, that’s when I’ll let it go off. Takes all types.

And it’s been good. It’s been one of the really nice things to see over the last 10 or 15 years. When I think back to my early start, we treated all athletes the same. We could gather them all together. Everybody had to get pumped up. Everybody had to do the same thing. We’re now a bit more understanding of differentce. And we’ll trust the athletes. ‘You’ve got to be working on it and you’ve got to do something to get yourself where you need to be. But we’ll trust you to do that yourself.’

Jack: And I imagine, like you said, you want a few data points and you want to practice. Particularly for football, it’s a long game. So, maybe you’ve had an amazing first quarter, but you’re so mentally burnt out, you can’t even concentrate at the half-time speech. Because you arousal levels were so high. So, it must take a bit of practice. Not only to be able to start well, but also be able to not be burnt out throughout the whole game mentally as well. That’s probably more leading up to the week, the day before the game and things.

Is that just, again, practice and then speaking to your coaches and your psychologists about reviewing these things? Would you have a quarter-time routine? You talked about how routine helps you focus. And a half time and three quarters? Is it that controlled or is it a bit more fluid?

Matt: Well, it tends to be a bit more fluid. But nobody gets up to that peak point, that optimal point, and stays there for the full game. There’s just these little peaks and troughs and people have got to figure out where their bandwidth is. And there’s lots of trial and error with it, as I said before.

But some players, we’ll find that they’re really good at getting up and staying up and about. But then they’ll come in at half-time and not need to recover and relax a bit, but find it difficult to pick their levels up again for the start of the third quarter. So, they might need a little tweak to their routine. They might need to do something a little bit more intense when they get back out on the ground after half time.

Or when you come to the bench is another time when your arousal levels will change, usually drop. In some players that’s a very necessary thing. Others will need to, before they come back on the ground, do something to just get a little bit charged and energized. So, there’s lots of nuances to it.

But if you think about arousal levels fluctuating like this, and we just try and figure out what the right bandwidth is for you. For some, ‘This? That’s great. I need to really, when I come to the bench at a quarter time or half time, I really need to just park it and let some steam out. And come right down and I’ll pick myself up.’ Others are, ‘Nah, I can stay pretty close to my optimal level most of the time.’ 

Jack: And within that, like you said, it’s not just the start of the game, it’s throughout the whole game. Do you think sports psychologists have a role on the bench from a performance point of view and being able to reset and then get the arousal levels back up and help the players with that?

Matt: Yeah, they can. My philosophy is that if the player and I have done all our work well, perfectly, you don’t need me at all on game day. I’m just a casual observer. Reality is that we don’t always get it right and things go wrong. And some players do like to have someone on the bench that they can come to and who can help them if they just can’t quite calm down.

Or if there’s something that’s just steaming, because they made an error or there was a bad decision given against them. And it can be really helpful for those players to have someone that they can go, ‘Hey, Jack, you know my thing, you know my routine, you know what to say and do that just gets me to chill and relax and refocus.’

And I think I did it once or twice when I was at Port. As I mentioned, you can certainly pick up a lot more when you’re that close to the action, as opposed to being, ‘I’ll watch you on TV or in a viewing room, or elsewhere.’ You can see who is coming to the bench and looks like they’re going through their refocus routine and who’s not, who’s still losing it a bit and might need a bit more nudging, cajoling.

Jack: That’s great. And it’s interesting to see like, it’s about education and giving them the tools, it sounds like, so then they can be able to cope throughout the game.

What about individual athletes that you’ve worked with or maybe colleagues that you know that have worked with maybe NBA athletes, and you know it’s quite popular in America that you have your own strength & conditioning guy. I imagine, you have your own team, basically. Because there’s a fair bit of instability in trade and it’s very different to the Australian culture.

Is there sports like that, where they do have their person when they go to the bench or in the quarter time? Or is it still the traditional ‘player has the tools, they’ve got the head coach’?

Matt: Yeah. And even in our sport. You’re right, the kind of culture in NBA is a little bit different. You have your coaching staff and then each individual player select their own support team. And they might have a sports psych and they might have a physio and sports med people and strength & conditioning coaches that are like their entourage.

But that even happens to a degree in our sports here too. There are people like me who are available to the whole team. But certain athletes will have someone that they really trust who they think knows them and knows what their mindset is and what they need to do.

And in the individual sports, I suppose, the culture is a little bit more around… Say, a good sport like golf, where golfers will have their sports psychologist and you’re not necessarily available to everybody.

Jack: Very interesting.

Matt: I’m fascinated by that stuff. Just the different cultures in different sports and there’s no necessarily right or wrong way to do it.

My philosophy is I like to be embedded. I like to be in the team and at training and part of it. Because I can see and hear a lot of what’s going on. Whereas I’ve had other sports where I’ve been a consultant where people will train and play and then come and see me later. You’re then reliant on them saying, ‘Oh, things went well.’ Or, ‘I did this in the moment. I didn’t do that.’

Whereas when I’m there, I can actually see things and hear things and go, ‘No, actually you didn’t talk at all. I was on the boundary line and you went right into your shell. I couldn’t hear your voice at all.’ That’s something they may not have been aware of themselves. And if they were reflecting back to me a week later, maybe it doesn’t come across. 

Jack: And going back to your career progression, you’ve worked in a range of different AFL clubs. Was that something that you focused on early days and you had a passion and almost a goal towards working in AFL clubs? Or did it come naturally to you?

Matt: It was probably a little bit more organic and sort of circumstance. I really enjoyed footy as a sport myself, but I’m a bit of a sport nuffie. And I’m one of those idiots who can watch kids skipping at the park and think that’s interesting. Just movement and how people do things in sport differently.

It was circumstance to start with. I knew someone who was down at the Bulldogs, leadership position. And it was very hard to get opportunity, so I just called him (he was at that GM footy level, I played cricket with a guy) and said, ‘Can you help me get my foot in the door here?’

I’ve certainly enjoyed my time in footy, but it’s tended to be circumstantial. And I thoroughly enjoyed the seven years I had in the Olympic sports and doing all those… There was a stage there where I was the national sports psych for the canoe polo team. Now, canoe polo is a sport where you’re hopping up a boat in a pool with a paddle and a ball.

It’s just like this hybrid of about 4 different sports. And somehow I just ended up being the sports psych for the national team there for a little while. Which was great, fun. Just meeting those cool people who are some of the best in the world at what they do and learning about this bizarre different sport.

Lawn bowls and croquet, and rowing, swimming, hockey, all sorts of different things. I’ve tended to just go where the work is. And when something will interest me, I think, ‘Oh, it’s interesting. I haven’t done that before. I might give that a go.’

Jack: And we mentioned there’s two main focuses as a sports psych or two big rocks, I guess. The wellbeing, mental health, and then the performance side. And athletes tend to want to, probably it’s more comfortable to talk about the performance than their mental wellbeing, but they’re so interconnected. How do you try and get athletes to understand that to work on the performance side we do need to open up and talk about your values and who you are as a person? How do you create that comfort and build that rapport with an athlete? 

Matt: And that’s probably the key part, Jack. I think there’s really high awareness now. Going back to when I started, 20 something years ago, you’d really struggle to convince anybody that it was worthwhile talking about. ‘Mental health and wellbeing? No, no, no. That’s for people who, perhaps it does need to be in hospitals and stuff. Let’s just talk about the sport.’

Now, if I think about the Hawthorn boys, for instance, big chunk of them were really happy to talk. They understand how important mental health and wellbeing is. So, really happy to talk about it. And it was probably about a 50:50 split between people who go, ‘No, no. Footy’s taken care of itself. I’m pretty cool with that. Let’s just talk about me and what I’m like off the field and all of that.’ And the other 50% who said, ‘No, I reckon I’ve got that stuff sorted. How do I stay focused?’ Or, ‘How do I not get nervous before games?’

And so, I think that the awareness is high. It’s the building of the trust and rapport piece for that wellbeing stuff that’s a bit more challenging, because we have to be a bit more vulnerable. It’s a safer area for all of us to talk about your sport. Because we all love sport, know sport, and there’s certainly no stigma around that. It’s just building up enough trust and rapport where people can say, ‘Oh, yeah, there’s this other part of my life that I’m not all that comfortable with and I just want to make some changes.’ 

Jack: And for a sports psych that’s working in a team, whether it’d be an Olympic, AFL, how much are you involved in team dynamics and team cohesion and working with the coaches on those attributes? And how much is it one-on-one in a consultation room, supporting the athletes, giving them these tools on a more individual level? And what’s the balance there?

Matt: It varies from program to program. And it’s a really important thing to clarify, when you start working with a group, is what is it that you want me to do?

Because most sports psychs have skills and abilities in different areas. And some might pigeonhole themselves a bit and say, ‘No, no, I’m just team dynamics guy. And I don’t do too much of the one-on-one.’ I’m probably a little bit more the other way. But we’ve certainly all had the training in team dynamics and culture, and things like that.

But it’s definitely something that you try to figure out and establish with the leadership, whether that be the head coach or the general manager, or sometimes the captains and senior player leaders. To figure out what is it that the team wants me to do? What areas do you want me to go into? And where are my strengths and skills? Where it really starts to hum is where you get a good click between what the team, the organization want you to do and what you’re really passionate about. 

Jack: That’s great. And then you mentioned how important it is to have a strong relationship with the head coach. I can imagine in your experience there’s times where you haven’t had that luxury. Have you had an experience where you’ve been able to not turn that coach, but you’ve been able to build a strong relationship to the point where it’s flipped? Where at the start it was a real challenge and then ended up changing over time, where you were able to implement the things and really make an impact on the program?

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. And I’m asked this question from time to time and the program I always talk about, when I got to SASI, one of their flagship programs was sprint kayaking, flat water kayaking. And they produced medalists, national team athletes over the years. But when I got there, it’d been one of my blue ribbon programs to work with. It was my number one.

The coach and the athletes were all already overseas. So, I potted around for the first few months at home, doing other work, but back in Adelaide, while they were all overseas. And so, I felt like a bit of a shag on a rock, to be honest, for quite a while. And when they got back, then they wanted to have a bit of downtime.

And I was a bit, I reckon, overeager to start with. And they’d also had some really good consulting experiences with previous psychs, which helped in the end. But compared to those people, they go, ‘Oh, we loved so-and-so. But you’re not one of them.’

But in time, I traveled with that team a lot, worked with all the athletes, the coach and I became really close. And if I’m honest, in our final few years there almost the way it worked was I was the head coach’s right-hand man. And he’d always be saying, ‘Look, you’re my psychologist. If you happen to do some good work with the athletes, that’s the icing on the cake.’

But we’d room together. He would talk to me about, ‘This athlete’s got a big race tomorrow. How do you think we should approach it? What should I say to them?’ So, it was almost like I was there for him. And I still worked with the athletes quite a bit, but that was how he was.

And it was a great consulting experience. And we are still mates now, living in different states. But it’s one that took a little bit of time just to build, but in the end it was really worth it. 

Jack: That’s awesome, mate. Great work. And it sounds like a challenge, but something that you’ve overcome and navigated your way through it. And then in the end it became highlights of your working relationships.

So, is that the optimal? Where it is you and the coach, and behind the scenes you’re consulting the head coach, supporting them? Obviously, there for the players, but ultimately just being able to help the coach deliver their best self to the athlete? Is that where you feel like you can make the biggest impact as a sports psych? Or is it circumstantial depending on what the head coach is?

Matt: It really is a bit circumstantial. And as I said at the start, it’s really difficult if the head coach isn’t onboard, isn’t overtly supportive.

They’re the most powerful people in the player’s eyes, in the athlete’s eyes. So, if the head coach is saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got a psychologist. He’s really good. Worthwhile. You should all do it.’ Or almost marching them into your office and booking them in to see you and that sort of thing. You can still do good quality work, but it’s just that little bit harder. And that balance about where you spend your time.

There’s an element here of the trust that the athletes have in the whole system. Because if you’re seen as too heavily aligned with the coach and talking to the coach all the time, there’s a small group, but nonetheless, an important group of people who will go, ‘Ah, perhaps I won’t share that bit of information with Matt, because he’s always over there with the coach and I don’t know if I can trust him and if that information and stuff…’

So, it’s quite a fine line that you have to walk as a psychologist and not necessarily be seen to be too close to any particular group.

Jack: Yeah, tricky.

Matt: Because often the people who are the most vulnerable, if you want to use that word, don’t trust easily. And it takes time to build those relationships with them and to get them to open up a little bit. And they’ll never do that if they think that you’re going to run off and say something straight to the head coach or to the chairman of selectors, or whatever it might be.

Jack: And what are some attributes that you get excited about from an athlete that, with all the world-class athletes, AFL players that you’ve worked with, now when you sit down with an athlete for the first time, you pick up those attributes and you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re onto a winner here’? What are some strong mindset things that you like to see when working with someone?

Matt: I think I’m really glad that we’re starting to use this term ‘mindset’. There’s certain buzzwords that get bandied around for five minutes and everybody’s all about griff’s or everybody’s all about mental toughness. And then we shift. But my training and my background is in neuroscience. So, ‘mindset’ is 100% exactly the term that we should be using to talk about what is it that happens up here.

We’ve got all these literally millions, billions of mindsets. And so, there are a lot that contribute. But I guess a couple that last 20 plus years really seem important to me, and particularly recently, because of all the volatility and change that happened in our lives. One is psychological flexibility, which is a person’s ability to just not be too rigid with what they’re thinking and what they’re doing. And you hear it in other ways. We pivot and we’re being agile.

And so, those athletes who have an ability to say, ‘Well, this is the way I like to do it. And this is how I prefer to do it. But if certain circumstances don’t allow it, I can change. I can win another way. I don’t have to have my footy gear all pointing north out the bedroom door, so I save 1.2 seconds in the morning to get from my house to the ground.’ That sort of rigidity. 

Jack: Which is interesting. Because you mentioned routine and how important that is. So, there’s obviously a bit of a fine line. 

Matt: Absolutely. And I love those discussions. And the story I tell, I’ve done this with a group of cricketers. And one of the players went away and did his own thing for a little while. And then pulled me up at training and he said, ‘I think I might’ve taken that routine thing too far. So, what I’ve done is when I go to bed…’

And that’s where I say ‘my cricket bag pointing north’. He said, ‘Yeah, I pointed out the door with the handles facing the right way.’ And I went, ‘Yeah, you’ve taken it too far.’ That’s not what we’re meaning. We’re just saying: organize yourself a little bit, do the big things, but there’s a tipping point where that becomes rigid, inflexible.

And certainly, if you think about the footy world, we’ve been in hubs, we’ve been out of hubs. We’ve had 20 minute quarters, we’ve had stand on the mark, don’t stand on the mark. Lots of change. And those players fluid in terms of their positions. If you’re just the center halfback and that’s your mindset, you can only play center halfback. You’re probably not going to have that 200, 250, 300 game career. Most players, even the absolute champions. You’d have a look at Shaunie Burgoyne.  

Jack: I was thinking of him.

Matt: How many positions has Shaunie played?

Jack: He performed so highly at all of them. 

Matt: And clearly there’s a flexible mindset in there, where he said, ‘Okay, I probably do like to play mid, but I can go forward and win a game. Or if I’m needed to plug a hole in the back six, I can do that too.’

Jack: Yeah. Flexibility. And are there other mindsets that spring to mind as critical ones for consistent high performance?

Matt: Yeah. And I guess, sort of related to it, and it has been another over the buzz terms. But just resilience. There are so many setbacks. And in sport, in most sports, there are more losers than winners. Only one team, one athlete gets to win the gold medal, grand final.

So, it’s just critical to be developing those resilient mindsets, where you have setbacks, you have failures and they’re not seen as the end of the road. And in fact, in a really weird way, we almost embrace them and go, ‘Oh good. I failed here, because it will teach me something about what I need to do next time.’

And I think those two things. Probably a third one is just openness. If you talk about your Travis Boak, just eager to learn, always open, something new. ‘What have you got for me?’ You can almost see them going around to each different person, expert that they meet, and going, ‘Oh, okay. Well, what’s this about? What have you got?’ Just curiosity and openness, willingness to learn.

Jack: Thank you, mate. That’s great. So, the psychological safety, the resilience, to be able to cope with setbacks and embrace them and almost use them to make you better. The openness, to have an open mind. And I guess, is that managing the ego a little bit that opened this?

Matt: Yeah. And it’s really challenging because a lot of athletes, particularly those elite high-performers, a big part of why they’ve got to where they’ve got it is being driven, is being super confident a lot of the time with what they do and being really conscientious and focused. And so, this idea about embracing… I reckon there are a lot of coaches who are fearful of that too. ‘We’re going to fail, we’re going to lose some stuff and that’s okay, as long as we learn something from it.’ So, it does butt up against that driven, achievement, win mindset as well. 

Jack: And you mentioned confidence. What’s the difference when an athlete is being confident, compared to arrogant? 

Matt: I’m probably a little bit different to a lot of others on this issue. Confidence for me is a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some incredibly high-achieving athletes. One, who is twice World Champion and Olympic medalist, who was always in trouble with his teammates, because they’d ask him, ‘How do you think we’ll go today?’, wanting a confidence message. And he’d say, ‘Well, I reckon we’ll struggle. That team over there, they’re pretty bloody good. I reckon why didn’t they beat us last time?’

And he was just quite literal and honest with it. And he was kind of saying, ‘I’m not all that confident, but I’ll tell you what. There was no harder worker…’

Jack: He would bring his best.

Matt: He would get into the process and he would say, ‘All right, well, let’s just…’ And he was a rower. He’d say, ‘Okay. Let’s just row our hardest and we’ll see who wins at the end.’

So, I’m probably a little bit different where it comes to confidence. Lots of people want to work with you on it. But it’s certainly not the top of my tree, there are other things that I’d like to work on first.

And being highly confident is not a bad thing. The arrogance thing is, though. Because you start to, I suppose, underestimate your opponents a little bit when you’re arrogant. You dismiss them. You then don’t put the time into figuring out their game plans. And so, it’s a bit of a slippery slide.

But, certainly, being highly confident, I think, you’d find a lot of our top performance, just through that cycle and process of setting targets and goals, performing, achieving, reflecting, ended up having a really good, solid basis of confidence, anyway.

Jack: And what about yourself personally? During your professional career, what has been some of your biggest challenges? And then, what have you learned, how have you grown from those challenges? I know you were in the hub for seven weeks, I imagine that was a challenge. But are there other ones that pop up, spring to mind, where they are really hard to navigate through, but at the other end, you really grew from it? 

Matt: Yeah. I don’t want to get too morbid, but I had a period of time, there was probably 18 months, where three athletes in different programs that I work with died. Different circumstances. But John McCarthy passed away when I was at Port, not long before that a young jockey Caitlin Forrest had a race fall and died, and then ‘Hughesy’ Phil Hughes passed away. I’d shifted over to cricket by then.

And these are just incredibly traumatic events. Young people in the prime of their life. And sport tends to create these really intense relationships. Being around and being the psychologist for those three groups was incredibly difficult. I spoke to someone who was involved as an athlete in one of those deaths the other day. And we’re going on 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years. And he was saying, ‘I’m still affected by that.’

So, they were really, really challenging times. Professionally, I learned so much, because people just need you more than they need you at other times.

Jack: They’re in genuine need, I can imagine that. 

Matt: Absolutely. And I guess the story I tell when I’m doing mental health training now, particularly about the difference between how I personally handled J-Mac versus Hughesy was about self-care.

And if anything, I was closer to Hughesy than I was to J-Mac. But I’d just learned so much by the time I came to deal with Hughesy’s death that, even though it was intense, even though there were late nights, it was incredibly emotional for everybody. It was the same, but I was just doing these little bits of self-care throughout it.

That meant that at the end of that time, I was still functional. I was still helping people, was still able to do my work. Whereas the J-Mac, and we weren’t mates, and, to be honest, I hadn’t really worked with him all that much, but I was exhausted after two weeks of that.

And so, it was incredibly intense 18 months. But yes, it taught me so much almost about myself more than about me as a professional. 

Jack: Sorry to hear, mate. That’s incredibly challenging time. And being in the position that you’re in, to be able to cope with that personally, and then also be able to be there for others is pretty special.

Matt: Yeah. There was a time when I thought they were going to start calling me ‘Dr. Death’, because every program that I’ve worked with someone passed away. But, thankfully, that’s all behind us now. 

Jack: And you mentioned self-care. The last couple of years has been quite traumatic for everyone in different reasons. Well, due to COVID largely. But when you’re dealing with trauma, what are some good things to do when it comes to self-care? 

Matt: All the really simple, basic things of health. So, doing your best to eat, even when you don’t feel like eating. You’re stressed, you lose your appetite. Sleep. I’m a meditator. When you’re busy and thinking and caring about everybody else, they’re the things that slip off your radar.

So, I was always really conscious just when I had a little window, for instance, with Phil’s passing, where I would switch the phone off for a little bit. I would try and do my meditation in the morning, a little bit of exercise. I like going for a run and that’s quite a de-stressing thing for me. Get out in nature and do a nice little run or something.

So, all those really basic things are critically important. In fact, they’re the most important things for people to do when something traumatic has happened. Because you need to help, even just subconsciously, your brain start to say ‘Oh, I’m safe. Something awful has happened. It’s been overwhelming. But I’m actually safe. There’s a few things that feel a little bit normal to me. A bit familiar, a bit comforting.’

People, connections. We’re all a little bit different with how much connection we need. But to try and stay connected to people somehow, just the people close to you. They’re all things that everybody knows, but it’s just about keeping them on your radar when times are really stressful and traumatic.

Jack: Yeah. Where it can be easy just to let them go, like you said, not eat. Certainly, sitting and just not being distracted and meditating would be incredibly challenging during trauma, but sticking to the habits, that’s great. And that’s good advice just in general, isn’t it? For self-care. Well, what about highlights of your career that you look back fondly and that you are proud of? 

Matt: Well, just before we came on, I said to you, I was really lucky when I got into the Olympic sports. Typically what happens is it’s a four-year cycle and staff leave, get to Olympic games. It’s been a huge build-up, really exhausted and leave. So, there’s often jobs and opportunities in that first year or so.

I actually got in right at the tail end of an Olympic cycle. So, I kind of parachuted in. The kayak team was one of the first teams that I got to work with. And we had an Olympic athlete in Hannah Davis, and she won a bronze medal in an absolute nail-biter of a race. And I wasn’t there, but I was watching it at home. And I was just jumping off the couch. It was the most thrilling thing.

I haven’t worked with an AFL team who’ve won a premiership. But you can imagine just the intensity of being this long build-up, you’ve all been working together, try and achieve this thing. And this was one of those races where it was literally like that. And it was the last stroke they got across the line to win a medal. So, that was pretty exciting.

But I actually get a lot of pleasure and a lot of joy out of working with that individual, who’s a straggler. And you can then see what they’re trying to do. And they just execute something out on the field, in competition. They’re probably the moments where you know somebody’s working so hard on this and it might’ve taken them months or sometimes years to be able to develop a particular mental skill or handle a certain situation.

And there’s just so much satisfaction in watching that moment unfold. Not everybody knows, but you know. ‘Oh, they nailed that. That’s something they’ve been trying to execute for so long.’

Jack: You can see there is a lot of similarities with the coaching element of sports psych, it seems like. Or it was certainly with your philosophy and the care that goes into it, with the celebrating those small wins along the way.

Going back to the Olympics, it really is the pinnacle of high-performance, especially the nature of the four years, that one event, someone’s training their whole life for that moment. You mentioned setbacks earlier. How do you consult someone that has had maybe a hamstring strain leading up to the event or something significant? They fall sick or whatever it might be.

Is there ways around navigating it? Obviously, if it’s severe, they won’t be able to compete. But is there a bit of a middle ground, where you’re like, ‘I think we can still try this out,’ and you’ve turned it around and they’ve been able to still compete at a high level, where maybe they thought that it was all over?

Matt: There are so many uncontrollables in sport: somebody is going to get sick, somebody is going to get injured, the team bus isn’t going to arrive. You do what you can to prepare people for those and do a bit of what-if planning. But certainly in terms of the strategies, if they are able to compete, but perhaps it’s looking like they can’t compete at their absolute best… Even regardless, as you get close to game time, you want people to shift from that outcome focus and get really into process.

So, the conversation might be around: ‘Look. Yeah, you were crooked last night, the night before the gold medal race, and you’ve had no sleep. Talk to me about your race plan. What are you going to do? Let’s take the medal and the time and whatever off the board. What do you know how to do? What are you confident that you can do? Can you now do those tumble turns? Or can you follow your pre-match routine?’ And just get them to focus on the process.

And sometimes people are capable of surprising themselves. And certainly there’ve been many, many performances, often people wouldn’t know, but where the athlete got no sleep the night before, or had some niggling injury that they’d carried throughout a final series.

And reality is that most athletes at the end of a long preparation or season have got some sort of pains. There’s not too many AFL players go into a grand final feeling completely all right. It’s probably more the other way that they’re all carrying something, some sort of shoulder, knee, back, hip, ankle, whatever, that’s giving them grief.

Jack: And that goes back to that resilience mindset, it seems. About athlete being able to cope with that setback and, like you said, focus on the controllables and the process. So, do you think with resilience, because, like you said, it does get thrown around a lot, is it like kicking ability? Is it a genuine skill that you practice? 

Matt: Yeah. What we know about mindsets is that mindsets that get activated are more likely to be activated next time. They get stronger. They’re like muscles. So, if you work out your resilience mindset or muscle, it gets stronger. So, we actually need people, if they’re going to be able to cope with those stresses of game day and big matches and so on, we have to expose them to that, to that stressor, so that they develop the strategy. So that that mindset is there. It’s strong, it’s powerful.

And one of the things I think that resonated for the Hawthorn coaches what we were talking about is, I talked a little bit and I wasn’t in the British Olympic team, but we certainly heard lots of stories about these guys who were renown as being these amazing athletes, technically brilliant, who won nothing. Because they just folded in these big pressure races.

And so, what their coaching staff did in the lead-up to the London Olympic Games was just saying, ‘We’ve got to compete more. We’ve got to develop the compete mindset.’ So, at every opportunity they just made them compete. It didn’t matter whether it was who could get out of the water the fastest or who could carry the most oars, they just had to compete, compete, compete. And on the whole they just got better at competing.

And it’s the same with resilience that if we want people to be more resilient, we have to expose them, in their window of tolerance, but we have to expose them to that. Just like you would in the gym. Muscles don’t get stronger if we apply the same stimulus the whole time. So, we can’t go like that because we’ll break them. But we have to find where that window of tolerance is and stretch the limit a bit.

And then that system gets stronger and develops. And then we can up that window a little bit. And that’s really what happens with resilience. It’s lots of little micro bursts of activity. 

Jack: What a gem. That’s great, mate. We’ll go into the lighter part of the podcast. This is the personal side, a bit get-to-know-Matt side. A bit of fun. The first one is which movie or TV series has impacted you the most and why? 

Matt: I’m going to show my age a bit here. I’ll give you two. ‘Star Wars’ came out when I was in primary school. And it was the absolute hit. I think I was in grade five. And every kid for their birthday that year… So, 30 kids in your class, every kid gets invited to every other kid’s birthday party. We’d go and see ‘Star Wars. So, it’s kind of imprinted in my brain. I’ve been a bit of a ‘Star Wars’ nephy ever since. And last lockdown 2020, I got my kids into it. So, they’re sort of ‘Star Wars’ nephies.

And then the other one, I’ll have to hate to say it, but I’m a bit of a closet ‘Survivor’ fan. And I think it’s the kind of game play, the psychological stuff. It’s almost like sport, but you’re in the outback, there’s all these interesting dynamics. It’s not always the strongest player that gets through. And I just like how it works at multiple levels.

Jack: It’s a puzzle to work out, isn’t it?

Matt: It’s a bit of a dark secret. And a lot of people think it’s a terrible show. So, I don’t spread that one around in public too often. 

Jack: I’ve watched some ‘Survivors’ before, but I completely understand where you’re coming from. It does get butchered a bit probably with the ads and whatever, but the concept is awesome. And a good one too, from that psychology point of view, to analyze and try and work out, how’s this going to work out. Because we are pretty complex species, aren’t we, humans? 

Matt: And it’s that interplay, always between physical, mental, and social. You’ve got to be doing something in all those different areas. If you’re completely a hack with all the physical stuff, I’ll probably vote you out because you’re too weak. If you’re not mentally strong enough. But if you’re not playing a bit of a social game as well, and working on the relationships and tuning into all the dynamics. So, I find it fascinating.  

Jack: Transferable skills to elite sport.

Matt: There is a footy club out there who will tell you I tried to get them in a pre-season, I didn’t tell them that that’s what we were doing, but we were doing a bit of a survivor exercise.

Jack: What about your favorite inspirational quote or life motto? 

Matt: Well, it flows from the previous one. It’s ‘Star wars’. So, my all-time favorite sports psych quote, and when I was teaching sports psych at uni, I used to throw this up and say, ‘You tell me which of famous figure characters said this: ‘Do or do not. There is no try.’’ And people would say, ‘Oh, that was Kevin Shady. Or it was Tyler Woods or it was Bjorn Borg. And I was, ‘No, it was Yoda. Yoda from ‘Star Wars’ says training Master Jedi, ‘Do or do not. There is no try.’ 

Jack: I like that. That hasn’t been mentioned yet either as well. I’ll have to add that one in the show notes.

Matt: Got that quote myself.

Jack: Yeah. It’s awesome. Yoda’s made a people-mentioned list. He’s, obviously, not a person, but anyway, we’ll add him in. What about in your work life, what makes you angry? What are your pet peeves? 

Matt: I think I’m a scientist at heart, so I want things to be evidence based. And it’s really challenging in my discipline in particular, but we should be trying to measure some stuff. And I reckon a lot of sport is ‘I reckon’. It’s, ‘I reckon this works. We won the game and I got there early, so I should get there early every week. That’s a bit of an ‘I reckon’, should we make it scientific?’

And I think a lot of our decision-makers haven’t come through that scientific tradition. Strength & conditioning coaches and physios and doctors and psychologists, we’ve been trained as scientists. We have some hypotheses, but we want to be able to prove them and we want to remove as much doubt and bias.

And I think a lot of our decision-makers in sport are, ‘Oh, that sounds like a good idea. Oh, that’s a ripper. Yeah. Let’s go for that.’ Or, ‘That worked for Richmond, won the flag. So, we’re doing that too.’ Maybe we’re different. Maybe what you think was the magic ingredient for Richmond wasn’t the magic ingredient for Richmond. So, that’s probably the one that does get my hackles up a bit.

Jack: Fair enough. Good point. These two are both COVID-free world. What’s your favorite way to spend your day off? 

Matt: I’m a bit of a morning person and it’s going to sound tragic, but what I really love to do is to get up early, at sunrise. Get out for a bit of a run, nice leisurely run. Hopefully, a little trail run somewhere out in the bush or along the river. Come back, have a nice brekkie. I like tea and I’ve got a little home tea brewer, so I have a nice green tea. Wait for the family to get up and then spend a bit of time with the family. It’s pretty tragic. Nothing too earth-shattering, that’s the stuff that gets me up and about these days.

Jack: And you mentioned you’ve got kids. How old? And whether you’ve got a couple of kids, one child? 

Matt: Two girls. So, they’re 11 and 9. But still at primary school and making their way in the world. And I’ll tell you what, I’m very glad they’re back at school. Any of the parents out there will know exactly what I’m talking about. Homeschooling while trying to work… And my poor wife, when I disappeared for seven or eight weeks last year to go into the hubs, she was heroic in just trying to keep life going. Because it was really hard work. 

Jack: It’s amazing what people have been able to cope with over the last year. What about favorite holiday destination and why? 

Matt: It’d have to be a beachy place. I haven’t done a whole lot of international travel. I had a fabulous holiday a while ago, pre-kids, in Thailand. Just loved the mix of culture and food and mountains and big cities and beaches and stuff. There was just so much to see and do. But, certainly, domestic life, when I get a little window to have a bit of time out, we’re usually going to find ourselves at a beach somewhere, getting a nice little Airbnb and spend some time near the beach.

Jack: Good. It’s coming to that time of year as well. Melbourne’s starting to perk up a little bit. We’re getting some sunshine.

Matt: It is. I’m buing off some time. 

Jack: Summer’s approaching. It’s great. Well, thank you so much for sharing that. It’s one thing to have the knowledge and the information, but the way that you’ve helped us with implementing the practical tools and having awareness around the big rocks when it comes to sports psychology and having a balance between mental wellbeing and high performance and how important that is, that connection. And then sharing your stories across all the different sports that you’ve worked in, both individual and team sport. Mate, it’s been great.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. And I know our guests have taken a lot out of it, those listening live and listening in the podcast world, whatever day or time it is in podcast world. But last question for you, mate, what are you excited about for the rest of the 2021? What’s on the horizon for you, Matt?

Matt: Personally, as we were just talking about, just having a bit of time out over Christmas and spending time with friends and family. That’d be nice.

But on a professional level, I’ve been doing a little bit of work over the last year or two with a private institution, The Institute for Social Neuroscience. Up until now been a training organization for psychologists. So, I’ve done a little bit of work with them, but we’re just broadening our scope a little bit, looking at things we do. And we’ve got some ideas to take some of what we’ve done, people like you and I at elite sport level, just to community sport.

And so, that’s going to be pretty exciting. We’re probably a little way off at the moment, talking about it too much, but I’m really looking to it. And that’s the new thing. I’ve always like having something new I haven’t really done before. So, there’ll be a bit of work in that space, I hope, in the next 12 months. 

Jack: Amazing. Well, that’s really exciting for community athletes, because it is so important and probably something we took for granted and really appreciate the moment now, with being in lockdown, how important the community of a local club is, and the impact that has. And to have people like yourself work and consult with clubs would be a massive help. 

Matt: And we know that there’s an apetite out there. They’re asking already without us having to go to them and advertise, they’re already asking. So, we know that there’s an appetite. It’s just how to bring some of the things that we do in the professional elite environments in a way that they can access at a community level. But should be fun.

Jack: Fantastic. Awesome. Well, thanks again, mate. Thanks for jumping on. 

Thank you for listening to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast. If you liked this episode, it’d be a massive help, if you could like, follow, rate, give a review or even share with your mates. The show is recorded in Melbourne, Australia. Be sure to follow our Instagram page for all updates on our latest and greatest. If you would like to get in touch to suggest a guest or advertise with the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast, please email me at Thanks so much for tuning in.

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