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 about us

There are a few core principles that all our research projects have in common, guiding us to make sure those who are impacted by the research have a say in it and that our work is relevant to the front lines of current practice.

Our work has been supported by many people and organisations, but our core research team is formed of experienced academics and early-career researchers. Meet them below.
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Our Princples


Below you'll find some key principles that underpin how we work


The origins of our work are in studying the mental skills elite athletes use  to achieve their goals, thrive under physical and mental challenges, and maximise potential. Inspired by this approach, we believe every person and group has a set of unique strengths that can be recognised, utilised and enhanced that can help them to overcome challenges.


We've learned that applied research works best by forming strong partnerships with community organisations, services, and local government. We’re committed to working with our partners to co-produce mutually beneficial research that addresses  important societal challenges. We recognise how much there is to learn from our partners, and the value that different perspectives and expertise bring.


Being psychologically-informed means basing one's work on relevant psychological theory, working from and contributing to the evidence base, engaging in regular meaningful reflection, and above all, nurturing relationships between agencies, staff teams, and with clients.

empowering communities

Long-term changes are achieved by tapping into our internal motivation – finding the inner drive to move in a positive direction. We are passionate about helping people help themselves.

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Meet Our Team


prof Jennifer CUmming

Professor and Project Lead

Prof Cumming is a Professor of Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Birmingham (UK), a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), and a member of the International Association of Youth Mental Health.

Prof Cumming’s research focuses on community-based approaches to developing practical and culturally-tailored interventions for athletes and, more recently, individuals who are traditionally considered ‘harder to reach’ including young people who are homeless or at risk for homelessness.  She has published over 100 academic papers and book chapters since 2001.  

dr grace tidmarsh

ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr Tidmarsh is a Postdoctoral Research and Teaching Fellow in Sport Psychology and Mental Health at the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Science, University of Birmingham.


Dr Tidmarsh is a social scientist with interests relating to strengths-based sport psychology, implementation, and evaluation of positive youth development interventions in community settings. She is particularly interested in aspects of evaluation pertaining to implementation processes and the development and implementation of accessible data collection methods that meet the needs of those using them to promote inclusive research.


Dr Tidmarsh also has broad research interests in mental health, youth homelessness, and girls engagement in sport and physical activity. Her current research focuses on continuing to work with community partner St Basils as well as widening the reach of the MST Toolkits.

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che nadia che samsudin

Doctoral Researcher

Nadia is a PhD student at the University of Birmingham investigating coaches' encouragement of athletes' use of mental skills using the framework of coaching efficacy model.


Her main research interests are in mental skills coaching behaviour, and motivation within sports settings.

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maria kolitsida

Doctoral Researcher

Maria is a postgraduate student on a collaborative PhD project between the University of Birmingham and One Dance UK.


Her research seeks to understand self-harm in dance with the aim of developing guidance to help dance students at risk of self-harm.  

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kirsty R. brown

Doctoral Researcher

Kirsty is a 1+3 PhD student in the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences. She is currently doing an MA in Social Science Research Methods as part of her ESRC funded PhD which will be on ADHD and athletes. 


She recently finished her MSc by Research at the University of Birmingham which focused on athlete perceptions of help-seeking for mental health. Previously Kirsty has been a Research Associate on the Therapies for Long COVID Project at the University of Birmingham.


Kirsty's research interests include ADHD and athletes, patient and public involvement in research, public perceptions of athlete mental health, and help-seeking for mental health. 

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Schachtler Dwarika

Doctoral Researcher

Michelle is a PhD student at the University of Birmingham investigating mental skills training in dance.

She has previously been a research assistant for the Resilience and Ethics in Dance (REDE) project and guest lecturer in dance psychology at the Oslo National academy of the Arts in Oslo, Norway.

Her main research interests include mental health in dance, resilience and how mental skills can enhance dancers’ mental well-being and performance.

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Niamh Callaghan

MSc Student

Niamh is an MSc research student at the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Science at University of Birmingham following recently completing her undergraduate degree there in Sport, Physical Education and Coaching Sciences.

Her interests lie especially within dance and the effects it can have on an individual’s mental health. She is currently investigating the effects that creative dance tasks have on promoting a dancer’s autonomy and self-esteem.

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Dr Mary Quinton

Assistant Professor in Sport and Exercise Psychology

Dr Quinton is interested in how positive youth development approaches in sport and community settings improve mental health and wellbeing, emotional regulation, and social connectedness in young people.


She uses sport psychology and pedagogical theories to understand how young people’s backgrounds and support needs influence their development, engagement, and motivation to learn and perform in different settings (e.g., sport, university, and homelessness).


Dr Quinton is a mixed method researcher and particularly interested in involving communities and those with lived experience in research and turning knowledge into action and impact.

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fiona j. clarke

Doctoral Researcher

Fiona is a Doctoral Researcher at the University of Birmingham, investigating Compassion in Athletes. She previously held the role of Research Associate where she helped to develop, deliver, and evaluate the MST4Life™ programme.

She has a diverse research background, specialising in mental health, nature connectedness, and social prescribing.

Her current research focusses on knowledge translation, community-based participatory research, and compassion within a sporting context.

georgia bird

Doctoral Researcher and Research Assistant

Georgia is a PhD student (Sport and Exercise Sciences) and conducts observations to help monitor fidelity of the MST4Life programme.


Her research interests include mental health in relation to sport and the potential sport has for preventing and managing mental health symptoms. 

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emma morgan

Doctoral Researcher

Emma is a part-time PhD student at the University of Birmingham, and her research is investigating self-compassion and aspects of perfectionism in dance.


She has an established eleven-year teaching portfolio delivering and coordinating dance in a variety of settings, ranging from community youth dance to higher education.


Post Doctoral Researcher

Dr Reynard is a Post Doctoral Researcher at the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Science, University of Birmingham.


She is helping with ongoing work which aims to further the reach of the MST Toolkits and also supports the wider dissemination of the team's research findings.

Sally has broad research interests in emotion regulation, mental health and the use of collaborative methods to develop digital interventions.

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DR Karen L. Shepherd

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr Shepherd is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Science, University of Birmingham.


A Chartered Psychologist with a background in Health Psychology, her research interests include the complex psychosocial effects of chronic health conditions, and the use of online peer support communities to help manage these.


As a qualitative researcher, Dr Shepherd is a keen advocate of public and patient involvement (PPI) in research, and in this capacity has been involved with several charities including Diabetes UK and the MS Society.

She is currently working on a UKRI Quality-Related (QR) funded project in collaboration with Mind, to co-create guidelines for safeguarding researchers’ mental health when researching mental health and sensitive topics.


dr Ben parry

Post Doctoral Researcher

Dr Parry is a Post Doctoral Researcher at Clemson University in the USA. His research focuses on youth development leadership.


Dr Parry's PhD research in the SPRINT Project focused on the outcomes and processes involved in Positive Youth Development (PYD) programmes, such as MST4Life.

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Richard Whiting

Research Associate

Richard is a former Research Associate with the SPRINT Project and currently a Trainee Clinical Psychologist in the NHS.


Following his contribution to research at the University of Birmingham, he maintains an interest in applying strengths-based thinking and has developed expertise in analysing the beliefs, assumptions and contexts that underpin individual actions and models of service provision. He is particularly interested in systemic and community-based approaches and the genuine application of ethics. Richard's doctoral thesis will focus on child and family mental health, aiming to integrate mainstream and critical approaches to notions of prevention.

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Dr saul shrom

Founder and Owner of Centre Court Mental Performance

Dr Shrom is the founder and owner of Centre Court Mental Performance. Here, he works with individuals and teams in sport and business to produce high-performance and wellbeing. 

Dr Shrum's PhD research in the SPRINT Project focused on the role that a tennis players’ environment has on their ability to successfully transition into the professional game.

Dr sam cooley

Clinical Psychologist

Dr Cooley has recently completed his Clinical Psychology training and he now works as a Clinical Psychologist.


Dr Cooley's research in the SPRINT Project focused on helping to develop, deliver and evaluate the MST4Life and associated programmes.

Dr Mark Holland

Senior Lecturer

Dr Holland teaches at Newman University in the field of sports science.


Dr Holland has an interest in how mental skills training can support people's well-being.


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Erin Sanchez

Manager at One Dance UK & the National Institute of Dance Medicine & Science, & Doctoral Researcher at the University of Edinburgh

Erin is Manager of Health, Wellbeing and Performance at the dance sector industry body, One Dance UK. She is also Manager of the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science, a body dedicated to providing accessible and evidence based healthcare and support for dancers. 


She is also a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh investigating the development and deployment of psychological skills for mental health and career success in dance. 


Her main research interests include dance talent development, safeguarding and abuse prevention, mental health, and psychological skills in dance.


Associate Professor in Sport Psychology at the Swedish School of Sport & Health Sciences

Dr Nordin-Bates is an Associate Professor at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences (GIH) in Stockholm, Sweden. She is also a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, who also rewarded her with the 2023 Dance Educator Award.


Sanna did her PhD in dance psychology with prof. Jennifer Cumming at the University of Birmingham (2002-2005). Her research has mostly focused on dance, and has been presented in 50+ journal articles. In 2023 Sanna published the first textbook in the area, Essentials of Dance Psychology, with Human Kinetics.


Besides her work at GIH, she teaches psychology to students at the Royal Swedish Ballet School and hosts regular courses for dance educators..

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