Helen Richardson-Walsh: How Olympic gold medallist is helping WSL side Spurs

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Helen Richardson-Walsh won 17 medals for Great Britain and England hockey. In March 2021, she was appointed part-time performance psychologist at Spurs.

Helen Richardson-Walsh is a British sports legend, winning 17 medals for Great Britain and England hockey and 293 international caps.

After a distinguished 17-year career, the 40 year-old Olympic gold medallist studied psychology and completed a masters in the subject.

After retiring in 2016, she now uses her international hockey experience as well as her degree to work part-time for Tottenham Hotspur women's performance psychologists.

Richardson-Walsh discussed the role in an interview for BBC Sport. She also talked about her childhood memories as a Spurs fan and winning Olympic gold.

"I sometimes have to pinch my self"

Richardson-Walsh, a lifelong Spurs fan, is also a patron for the Proud Lilywhites. This official LGBTQ+ association in Tottenham.

She said that Tottenham was a club she loves, and spoke to BBC Sport.

"I am a Spurs fan and have been for a long time. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I consider how I got here. It's amazing to see the club from my perspective.

"Hockey was my first passion, but they were a team I grew up cheering for and supporting from the sidelines. I can still remember the 1991 FA Cup final. I also remember Gary Lineker and Gazza watching. They were huge for me when I supported Spurs.

"I've seen pretty much everything."

Richardson-Walsh was awarded gold by Great Britain at Rio 2016.

Richardson-Walsh suffered a variety of injuries throughout her distinguished career. She was forced to miss long periods of time due to mental illness.

She was able to fight her way back into international competition and won gold at the Euros. Then, she scored in the penalty shootout at Rio Olympics. GB won gold.

She said, "I believe I've seen pretty much everything there is as a professional athlete," she continued.

"The winning, losing, injuries, and not being selected are all part of the sport. Through some difficult years, I struggled with my mental well-being. That's part of what I see as my role at Spurs.

"Performance for me means wellbeing. People who are healthy, both mentally and physically, will perform at their best. These two aspects go hand in hand for my mind.

Richardson-Walsh and her wife Kate were invited to Spurs in 2018 to give a motivational speech to the women's soccer team, who later on that season was promoted to the Women's Super League.

They spoke out about the winning culture that brought Great Britain hockey to Olympic gold 2016.

She explained that unless you have been an athlete, you don't know what it's really like. This helps me to relate to players' feelings.

"Working with a team of athletes was a natural fit for me when I became a psychologist. We are seeing women's sports grow so much lately that it is one reason I decided to join Spurs."

"We compared medals. Hers is shinier."

Richardson-Walsh wasn't the only Olympic gold medallist from Hotspur Way. Shelina Zadorsky, Spurs' defender, won gold with Canada in Tokyo 2020 at the delayed Games this summer. Since then, the pair have compared medals and shared experiences.

Richardson-Walsh stated, "My medal probably is old news now."

"We did a piece together with the club where we compared medals, and talked about our experiences in the Olympic Games.

They were almost identical in size. However, the Rio ones are duller than hers.

"What is great about her story? How important Canadian culture was to them. There were many similarities between the GB and Canadian hockey teams in terms of their environment and team ethos.

Performance psychologists: What is their role?

She earned her psychology degree during her playing days and then went on to earn a master's degree in the subject.

She works closely with the players and the management team to improve and develop the psychological performance of the club members.

"The job of a psychologist is to make the best out of everyone. As human beings, we are capable of so much more than what people believe.

"Psychology is an integral component of modern sport and the impact that a psychologist can have when used properly is enormous.

The best athletes are those who strive to get that extra 1%. It's important to understand how your mind works so you can get the most out of everything.