Derek Robinson, Faculty of Education alumnus and former University of Lethbridge Pronghorns men’s hockey forward had an interest in psychology that he wanted to pursue but it wasn’t until a career counsellor at the U of L affirmed it was a realistic path, that Robinson really believed he had the right stuff.
“Most of the guys I played with were in education or management and pretty much told me I’d never get a job in psychology,” says Robinson, who is now a mental training consultant at the Canadian Sport Centre in Calgary working primarily with Canada’s National Long Track Speed Skating team.
So he continued on, studying psychology but never fully committing to a major until his third year
“I always wanted to be a psychologist and obviously loved sports but I was a hockey player, I swore in the dressing room, drank beer in the pub and never really thought I had the material to be a psychologist,” he says. “I think back now to the sessions I had with the counsellor and everything we talked about I actually ended up doing.”
The events he refers to include research projects, working with elite athletes and coaching at the highest level of sport. Robinson worked with the Canadian long track speed skating team this year at the Vancouver Olympics.
A Victoria, B.C. native, Robinson found the U of L to be a perfect fit when he came to campus in the fall of 1995. The size of the city suited him well and he was joining a hockey program fresh off its first national title. However, the University would prove to be much more than just a hockey stop.
“The U of L was a great fit,” Robinson says. “Lethbridge is a great place to go to university and it was a really good experience getting my BA there and playing for the Horns. Obviously I liked it enough to go back and complete my master’s degree.”
The research focus for his master’s thesis was on the prevalence of mental training in hockey, specifically the Alberta Junior Hockey League, and whether the league’s coaches felt it would be beneficial. The majority did but were lacking the resources to add a mental trainer to their staff.
“Over the course of my thesis, I formed a great relationship with Dr. Kerry Bernes,” Robinson says. “Both he and Dr. Kris Magnusson, who was coordinating the M.Ed. Counselling Psychology program in the Faculty of Education, were pivotal through my master’s and were really helpful for my career.”
He’s looking for a career high note in February, after which he’ll try and curtail his travel schedule and devote more time to his family.
“Working with the athletes on such a personal level, it’s very exciting to see them excel.”