The organisation and provision of mental support has become a significant factor in the development and performance of talented, elite and Olympic athletes and teams. Mental factors play a significant role in many aspects of elite-level competitive sport. During the past years, coaches have not only become more knowledgeable about the influence of mental factors in elite and Olympic sport, they also have been using mental techniques and strategies and have been working with sport psychology support providers and mental coaches to optimise the mental support for their athletes and teams
Sport psychologists and sport psychology support providers from around Europe have clearly contributed to initiating and supporting this active interest of elite coaches, athletes and teams for the role of mental factors as well as for the provision of support services at elite and Olympic level. This importance is reflected in the active involvement of sport psychologists and mental coaches in working with elite coaches, athletes and teams on a day-to-day basis, as well as in the growing on-site support provided at major international competitions and tournaments at European and World level such as European and World Championships, Grand Slams, and Olympic Games.
In support of this growing trend, the European Federation of Sport Psychology (FEPSAC), the National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance (INSEP) and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) joined forces in combining their expertise on sport psychology/mental support service provision in elite and Olympic sport in the expert-level program Psychological Excellence for Elite Performance (PE4EP).
Signing of the collaboration between FEPSAC, INSEP and the VUB
With PE4EP a unique European-level continued professional development program has now been made available for professionals in sport psychology support provision. PE4EP has a thematic approach, focussing on specific aspects directly relevant for coaches, sport psychology support providers and other service providers working with elite and Olympic athletes and teams.
PE4EP is a joint initiative of the European Federation of Sport Psychology (FEPSAC), The National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance (INSEP) and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).
The European Federation of Sport Psychology (FEPSAC) has been the the foremost European organization on sport and exercise psychology for more than 40 years, bringing together more than 20 national/regional sport psychology associations from around Europe. Many sport psychologists with expertise on sport psychology/mental support service provision in elite and Olympic sport can be found amongst the more than 3.000 sport psychologists FEPSAC represents,
In 2003 this expertise was brought together in the Forum of Applied Sport Psychologists in Topsport (FAST) as a CPD initiative under the patronage of FEPSAC. FAST joins professional practitioners from around Europe (France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and Belgium) who provide applied sport psychology services at the elite/Olympic level from private practices, academia, and elite sport organisations. FAST has been meeting annually on invitation by a national Olympic Committee and/or high performance centre before or during a major sport event (e.g., in Athens before the 2004 Olympic Games, in Beijing before the 2008 Olympic Games, and in London before the 2012 Olympic Games) to provide professional workshops for elite coaches, athletes, managers, and local ASP practitioners. PE4EP has the honour of hosting four FAST-members during its 2012 edition.
While FEPSAC already patronages the European Masters Studies in Sport and Exercise Psychology (EMSSEP), PE4EP is the first FEPSAC certified continued professional development program.
The National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance (INSEP) in Paris is the reference institute on sport in Europe, and more particularly on the development, support, research and education in elite and Olympic sport. Since its inception in 1975, INSEP has been, and still is, developing many European, World, and Olympic and Paralympic champions. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, 21 Olympic medals were won by athletes training and developed at INSEP.
INSEP not only prepares athletes and teams for Olympic and Paralympic Games, but also provides services to sport federations and is responsible for the national network for elite sport. Furthermore, INSEP focuses on the double project of research into athletic excellence and into the academic and vocational success of elite athletes.
PE4EP is part of INSEP’s mission of not only ensuring the continued development of elite and Olympic coaches as well as of support staff and sport service providers working in elite and Olympic sport, but also of its continued international collaboration with other institutes, organisations, and centres of excellence.
The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is a dynamic and modern university situated in Brussels and home to seven faculties, a medical campus, and a university hospital. With its high quality education and research and its research teams internationally recognised in many disciplines of fundamental and applied research, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel is one of the biggest centres of knowledge in the capital of Europe. Together with the Université Libre de Bruxelles, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel has joined forces in the Brussels University Alliance, thereby positioning Brussels, the European capital, as an asset of expertise in the international environment.
Sport Psychology and Mental Coaching (SPMB) is the unit at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel which provides the experts in sport psychology. Their expertise includes research into the career development of talented, elite, Olympic athletes and retired athletes, to the mental preparation, support and coaching of talented, elite and Olympic athletes, to the development of elite coaches, and to the development of sport and performance psychologists as well as mental coaches and sport psychology support providers. SPMB provides also extensive applied sport psychology services to talented, elite, and Olympic athletes in archery, cycling, 3-day eventing, fencing, figure ice skating, judo, sailing, swimming, tennis, and track and field, as well as with national teams in archery, basketball (national seniors), soccer (national U15 and U17) and tennis (Davis/Fed Cup).
SPMB is part of the department Sport Policy and Management (SBMA) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel which is involved in research, education and services related to a number of social sport scientific disciplines or areas (i.e., sport management, sport policy, sport sociology, sport psychology, sport education/development) within different contexts and at different levels of sport including elite sport. SBMA provides services to organisations, policy makers, managers, coaches, and athletes with regard to, amongst others, consultancy and formation in elite sport policies and competitiveness and mental coaching of coaches and athletes.