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Talking Tennis: From Podcasts to PhDs to Training Programmes

Updated: May 9

Whether you’re a tennis player, avid tennis fan or simply an observer of the annual Wimbledon Grand Slam tournament, you will have an appreciation of the sometimes gruelling nature of the sport and how inspirational professional tennis players can be.

Image description: A photo of a female tennis player hitting a tennis ball over a net with a tennis racquet.

Keeping this in mind, the SPRINT Project’s Professor Jennifer Cumming recently appeared on an episode of the Front Porch Book Club’s podcast with hosts Nancy Shank and Linda Culbertson to discuss the best-selling novel Carrie Soto is Back. Written by author Taylor Jenkins Reid, the novel follows fictional character Carrie Soto, who is a tennis player attempting to make a return to professional tennis at the age of 37. This follows six years of retirement from tennis and a record of twenty Grand Slam titles. In the novel Carrie is framed as having something left to prove in a sport where she is referred to as the ‘Battle-Axe’.

Through discussing the twists and turns of the novel, Jenn was able to draw on research led by former SPRINT Project PhD student Dr Saul Shrom. Saul’s PhD research investigated the lifestyle challenges and mental health of professional tennis players. His research demonstrated how the nomadic existence of the professional tennis tour can sometimes come at a cost to tennis player’s mental health and make it difficult to maintain relationships and connections with others. This research was originally reported in 2023 within the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology and you can read it here. It was also selected by the International Society of Sport Psychology’s (ISSP) Academy of Science to appear in their new book Mental Health in Sport and Physical Activity.

As well as mental health and social relationships, Carrie Soto is Back contains a variety of other sport psychology themes observed in professional sport including:

  • Early specialisation & deliberate practice

  • Athlete identity

  • Coach-athlete relationships

  • Gender inequality

  • Sportspersonship, including pro-social & anti-social behaviours

  • Motivational regulations

  • Career transitions

  • Perfectionism

  • Resilience

  • Injury


Jenn also discussed sport psychology derived mental skills training and how anyone can benefit from it as it is not just beneficial for professional athletes. The MST4Life™ training programme for young people experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness is just one example of how the SPRINT Project are using mental skills training in an applied psychology research context. 


Interested in finding out more about the Front Porch Book Club’s podcast? Access it on Spotify and via YouTube. You can check out previous guest’s episodes including New York Times best-selling authors Robert Kolker, Candice Millard, Nadia Hashimi, Joe Starita, and Shelby Van Pelt, as well as university faculty from across the globe.

You can also access the book Mental Health in Sport and Physical Activity: Selected writings from the ISSP Academy of Science here now!


Image credit: Canva.

Written by Prof Jennifer Cumming, Professor of Sport and Exercise Psychology and SPRINT Project Lead, and Dr Sally Reynard, Post Doctoral Researcher in the SPRINT Project.

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