Meet a South African Sport Psychologist – But Not As You Know It
Gareth John Mole was born in Transvaal (that’s what Gauteng was called then) in 1976 to a South African father and an Australian mother.
Maybe a career in sport was his destiny as he was named after the great Gareth Edwards – the standout rugby union scrumhalf (halfback) for Wales and The Lions during that era.
He attended St Peters Preparatory School in Rivonia whereby his love for all sports was formed. “Most of my memories from St Peters are sports-related” he reminisces. “Of course in those days it was mostly rugby [union], cricket and athletics” he adds.
In the 1980s, unaware that most of the rest of the country were suffering during apartheid, Gareth could be found either watching or playing sport at the family home near Kyalami (yes, the race track) with his older brother Davin and youngest sister Tamara.
“Although there was no Formula One at Kyalami in those days there was still plenty of motorsport taking place all the time. The background soundtrack to my childhood was the roar of racing cars and the screech of tyres” Gareth recalls. “It’s no coincidence that my love of motorsport and motor racing has a lot to do with the fact that I grew up five kilometres from the premier circuit in Africa”.
Although Gareth and his team of sport and performance psychologists assist athletes of all sports from right across the globe he himself has become especially well known in motor racing circles for the work he does helping drivers and riders to improve their mental toughness.
“Competitive motor racing is mentally very, very hard and although the drivers and riders have to be supremely fit it’s really their mindset and tactical abilities that separate the good from the best” he mentions.
“Nigel Mansell was far from being one of the fittest Formula One drivers during his time but he mental toughness and outstanding tactical preparation resulted in him being one of the best competitors of the Eighties”.
From South Africa To The World
At the age of ten, Gareth moved from South African to The UK to attend boarding school. It was at Oundle that the breadth of his sporting knowledge grew exponentially.
“Had I stayed in South Africa I suspect that my sporting knowledge might have remained somewhat limited. My time in England exposed me to many of the other major sports – in particular, football (soccer), hockey, squash and volleyball” Gareth says.
After finishing up at Oundle and taking a gap year, Gareth moved north in order to do a Psychology Degree at the University of Leeds. It was during the undergraduate years that his preexisting love of sport fused with his new psychology training.
“Sports psychology was only a small inclusion during my degree at Leeds but it was enough for me to think – I like this, I want to be a sports psychologist” he states.
At the time Masters degrees in The UK specialising in Sports Psychology were virtually non-existent. So in 2004, he found himself on a one-way flight to Sydney, Australia.
“Oh, how things have changed. In 2019 England is one of the best countries in the world in order to qualify as a sports psychologist – but in 2004 there were more options in Australia – so that’s where I went” Gareth declares.
After finishing his Masters and therefore becoming a qualified sports psychologist he set up Condor Performance – which had a very international perspective right from the start.
“I didn’t like the idea that I would only be able to assist athletes and coaches from Australia” Gareth recalls, “so from the very beginning we were on the front foot regarding webcam technologies such as Skype”. He goes on to say “As the technology improved word soon caught on that athletes and coaches from anywhere in the world could access our performance psychology services. Interesting, and maybe due to the dearth of sports psychologists physically located in South Africa we got and continue to get many enquiries from Cape Town to Johannesburg and everywhere in between”.
Sticking By The Term Sports Psychologist
As many qualified sports psychologists find it easier to use terms such as ‘mental skills coach’, ‘performance coach’ or just ‘coach’ Gareth has always stuck by the much-maligned title of ‘sport psychologist’.
“I liken sticking with the term ‘sports psychologists’ to those who have stuck by South Africa during the tough times,” he says. “When all the best dentists in the country leave then, of course, they are making the problem worse”. He goes on “the main reason that many choose not to refer to themselves as psychologists – despite having the qualifications to do so – it due to the stigma attached with the word psychologist”.
He concludes “the only way to remove that stigma is for sports psychologists to do excellent work and then keep using the title sport psychologist so that eventually it will not be associated with mental health problems and therapy/counselling”.
If you’d like more information about working 1-on-1 with Gareth you can email him directly at email@example.com ~ making sure to include details of your location, sport, goals and current mental challenges. He will typically get back to you within 48 hours.