thletes are taught to recognise their own strengths and use them to perform well under pressure. But not everyone benefiting from sports psychology is gearing up for a medal – the same methods are being used to help young homeless people in Birmingham get back on their feet.
Academics have combined forces with frontline workers to create the unique programme My Strengths Training for Life (MST4Life). It all started in 2013, when the university’s sports psychologists began working with academy players at a local football club. “It just so happened that one of the parents worked for St Basil’s,” says team lead Dr Jennifer Cumming on how the youth homelessness charity and Birmingham’s School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation crossed paths. That parent thought these techniques could go some way to helping young homeless people build self-confidence and work towards their goals. Some discussion and a consultation project later, both bodies decided to team up to target hard-to-reach 16 to 24 year olds, often classed as NEET (not in education, employment or training).