“How can any of us ever believe that we have learned enough or are emotionally intelligent enough or should stop working on personal development? Every day is a school day and I think my ethos is that of seeking knowledge.”
I met Alexandria Olton a year ago on Maracas Beach for a day of Caribbean sunshine and good vibrations. What struck me the most was her ebullient personality and free-spirited nature. She exudes a natural confidence that could make the most anxious person calm in her presence.
Alexandria Olton is a qualified Sport and Exercise Psychologist, certified RFU rugby coach, and the Director of Mindology Trinidad, a holistic sport and exercise psychology practice.
“We offer mental skills training to athletes of all ages and competitive levels, enabling athletes to achieve optimal performance by fostering the development of positive mental practices, in areas such as concentration and focus, goal setting, pre-competition anxiety, sport confidence, stress management.”
She also works full-time as a sport psychologist in the Elite Development and Performance Unit at The Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT). She is passionate about fostering and developing the practice of mental skills in youth sport to achieve optimum athletic performance.
Alexandria believes that the road to sustainable youth sport in Trinidad and Tobago is through the mental well-being of all athletes. To this effect, Mindology Trinidad has partnered with The Can Bou Play Foundation to host a ground-breaking six month (July 2019–January 2020) mental health project that uses sport (primarily football) as a tool for therapy and the gateway to tackle mental health issues and promote mental well-being under the guidance of certified professionals.
How did you become involved in sport psychology? “Sport is where I have always found my balance. It was and still is my escape from academic or work-related stress. I pursued psychology and sociology at the undergraduate level and it was only fitting that [when] moving into my Masters I attempted to combine my academic pursuits with that of my life’s passion. I conducted extensive research around the field and possible career choices and came across sport and exercise psychology.”
What has been the proudest moment of your career? “This answer may be premature in nature as I still consider my career somewhat in its infancy, but I am certainly incredibly proud of the recent launch of the Sport in Mind project I have been working on with The Can Bou Play Foundation. I am incredibly proud of the vision and foresight of the Foundation, Mindology and a number of local businesses that have joined us, on understanding the importance of creating an environment in which young people can feel safe and free to express themselves and learn positive mental health practices from qualified individuals.”
What is still your most elusive goal as an athlete? [infectious laughter] “To be honest I think I managed to achieve all my goals as an athlete because I was realistic in setting them. I managed to play at a relatively high competitive level of rugby in the UK, and was incredibly honoured to have teammates who were English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish national players. I wished I had represented Trinidad and Tobago at a competition. Maybe the goal now turns into making it to a national level as a women’s coach?”
How has your field become more relevant in the local context of sport? “My field is still BECOMING relevant particularly at the grassroots and developmental sports level which personally, is the level I believe is most crucial in instilling those positive mental practices, to truly develop top performing athletes. While I will say we are making progress with some recognising the importance of the mental health of athletes, we still have a long way to go. But the work that the few sport psychologists in the country are doing is making a great impact.”
Who has been the most influential person in your life? “I have to say my mum. She is the greatest example of strength and ambition for me, and was the driving force behind my academic success and ultimately, now, the success in my career. She instilled in me that balance of ‘never give up’ and ‘fight for what you believe in’, and the need to have faith and trust in God’s plan.”
What’s your personal ethos? “That’s a big one! I believe that it’s important to continually learn and seek knowledge and gain experience, and I don’t just mean in a career path but in life generally. A friend once said to me, ‘Alex you rest, you rust’, and that has stayed with me ever since.”
Alexandria Olton can be contacted via: LinkedIn: @Alexandria Olton;
email: firstname.lastname@example.org; 735-2362; Instagram: @mindologytt
Jamila Cross is a triathlete, former professional footballer for Sevilla FC women’s Club Spain, and mother of three boys Tishad, Akim and Santiago. She is the founder of the Mariama Foundation, a registered non-profit organisation raising the storytelling bar for the Caribbean’s female athletes.