James King - Preparing for Pressure & Democratising Access to Psychological Skills

andy mcdonald performance blue head state challenge extreme conditions james king peak performance performance psychology performance zone psychological skills red head state rest and recovery self-regulation sports performance talent identification training Jun 03, 2024


Episode 147: Dr Andy McDonald chats to James King. James holds a first class degree in Applied Sports Science, and an MSc in Performance Psychology, both from the University of Edinburgh. James has counselled government agencies and specialist military units. He also provides guidance to coaches, managers and athletes within the English Premier League (EPL), Team GB, and the National Basketball Association (NBA) and has presented case studies on his work for the MBA programs at the University of Oxford, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In this conversation, James and Andy discuss the importance and application of psychological skills in sports performance


Topics Discussed  

  • Assessing Performance in Sports Psychology
  • Personalising Development
  • Bouncing Back: Recovering Quickly from Setbacks
  • Understanding the Problem Before Implementing Solutions
  • Democratising Access to Psychological Skills


Key Take Aways

  • Talent identification is crucial for optimizing performance by selecting individuals with the capacity to meet the demands of the craft.
  • Learning by doing and self-regulation are important for skill acquisition and development.
  • Training must be specific to address areas of weakness and improve performance in competitive scenarios.
  • Exposure to extreme conditions in practice prepares individuals to handle high-pressure situations in competition.
  • Taking ownership of development and embracing challenge are key factors in maximizing performance. Psychological skills are crucial for sports performance and should be developed alongside talent identification and skill acquisition.
  • The three key psychological skills are..
    • The ability to switch on and access technical ability under pressure
    • The ability to bounce back quickly from setbacks
    • The ability to switch off and recover effectively.
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration is essential for optimizing performance, and practitioners should have a deep understanding of the problem before implementing solutions.
  • Psychological skills can be measured objectively using tools like personality traits assessments and HRV monitoring, but individual perception and self-awareness are also important.
  • Democratizing access to information and upskilling practitioners in psychological skills can lead to better performance outcomes for athletes and organisations.


Where you can find James:



VALD Performance, makers of the Nordbord, Forceframe, ForeDecks and HumanTrak. VALD Performance systems are built with the high-performance practitioner in mind, translating traditionally lab-based technologies into engaging, quick, easy-to-use tools for daily testing, monitoring and training


TeamBuildr: A platform for any coach in any setting. Every day, thousands of coaches log into TeamBuildr to write training programs, build questionnaires and access athlete and client performance data. Teambuildr is a complete platform. Whether you're building your own programming, looking to create custom reports or give athletes a tool for accountability, they've built it out.