How Helen Richardson-Walsh – Britain’s golden girl in hockey – became a doctor of the mind for Tottenham


Having held the part-time position last November, Richardson-Walsh’s appointment could hardly be more timely. Following the new £ 8million Sky and TBEN broadcast deal the WSL secured this season, female footballers are more than ever being propelled into the public eye.

“I don’t see how that can’t affect the players and the management – the extra pressure that’s being put on managers now is going to be interesting,” Richardson-Walsh said of the additional exposure. “But it won’t necessarily be in a negative way, there will be players who thrive even more on this added pressure because that’s the kind of natural person they are.”

His pragmatic assessment is a reflection of his broader hopes for the application of psychology in the game. “I think there is a perception that psychology is something that is used when things go wrong, but I want this to be seen as a positive thing, ”she reflects. “I want this to be seen in football as something that can make a difference. We’re talking about marginal gains and one percent – that’s what psychology can do. So when you play well, how can you improve it further? “

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That’s why she co-wrote a book with his wife, Winning Together, which will be released next month. It explores the lessons the duo have learned from their own careers and draws on the branch of organizational psychology, which she employs at Spurs.

“Simply put, it means trying to improve your working life and get the most out of yourself and your teams in your work environment,” says Richardson-Walsh.

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It’s a philosophy that she still lives and breathes as the Cambridge City Hockey Club head coach and also applies strictly to herself on her first professional foray into sports psychology. Since taking on the role, Richardson-Walsh has kept in touch with Andrea Furst, the esteemed sports psychologist who was instrumental in helping Britain achieve their Olympic triumph.

“I learn every time I do something,” she says. “Being an athlete is my state of mind – I always think about how I can do something better.”

Although she has never taken full advantage of the consistent visibility the WSL now enjoys in her own career – with the exception of Rio’s historic penalty shoot-out in the Olympic final which delayed the log by 10 hours. TBEN – Richardson-Walsh identified intersections in the evolution of the two sports.

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“I can see similarities between women’s football today and where we were in 2009, when we started training full time,” she said. “When we became full-time hockey players, we were a long way from where we ended up. For these footballers now, they will be making the same journey. In that regard, it’s a really exciting time to be in women’s football. “

It is this double vision that makes the role of Richardson-Walsh so unique and that she relishes.