Clinical Psychologist, Dr Koketjo Tsebe’s aim is to grow a comprehensive scholarship in sports psychology and work more with different professional sporting codes and federations to make a notable contribution in the field of sports and mental health.
The University of South Africa lecturer’s passion for research and sport has seen her contribute significantly to the Psychology department, guiding many students to their Masters and Ph.D. degrees.
The Mahwelereng-born also plays a vital role at Softball South Africa where she promotes mental health and provides effective support for all athletes.
To date, Tsebe regards obtaining her Ph.D at the age of 30 and receiving an award from the Limpopo Department of Sport, Arts and Culture as her career highlights.
Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Tsebe sheds light on assisting athletes dealing with pressure and offers advice on how to bounce back ahead of major sporting events after the impact of Covid-19.
Dr Koketjo, thank you for taking time out to chat to gsport! We know that you are a Sport Psychologist, Clinical Psychologist, Lecturer and an academic who is passionate about research and sports. Where does your passion for sport and psychology stem from?
Thank you so much for the interview. I appreciate it!
It comes from my family and township I grew in. I grew up watching all different types of sporting codes with my father and brother. We used to and still do watch soccer, cricket, boxing, etc. In addition, most of my brothers and cousins from my paternal side played softball and I joined the home team (Mahwelereng Spikes) when I was in primary school. Also, during my childhood, Mahwelereng was also known for different sports such as Mahwelereng Real Rovers (football), Spikes Softball Club, Vultures Cricket Club, and Vampires Basketball team. The township embodied sports. So, when I was in high school, I learnt about the field of sport psychology and I knew that I wanted to follow that career path.
Please tell us what your life was like growing up and what were your interests.
I grew up in a religious, strict yet loving and peaceful family. I was a tom boy (I am still one) so I hung out with guys most of the time. My interests were school and playing sports (softball and baseball). I was also interested in watching other sporting codes on TV.
What has your journey been like to date?
“It has been fulfilling because ultimately, I am living my dream.” – Clinical Psychologist, Dr Koketjo Tsebe
It has been fulfilling because ultimately, I am living my dream. Obviously to make it through to become a Clinical Psychologist is challenging. Apart from many years of studying, one must undergo through a selection criterion to be accepted into the Masters program. Also, the training itself is quite demanding. In addition, to establish myself in sports has not been easy but I am grateful of the progress made thus far and remain hopeful.
As a lecturer, please tell us about your duties.
I am teaching postgraduate modules at UNISA. I am a module leader for Sport Psychology (honours module) as well as supervising master’s and Ph.D. students pursuing research in the same field. My primary role is to provide significant leadership in sport psychology module: teaching sport psychology re-curriculate module content, publish peer-reviewed journal articles, supervise research projects for Masters and Ph.D. students and present at conferences. I am also involved in the Masters Clinical Psychology Training in which I teach the following modules: Relationship and Family Therapy, Neuropsychology and Psychological Assessment. I also serve in departmental committees and participate in community engagement.
You are also the team psychologist for Softball South Africa. What is it that you do to assist athletes to remain in a positive mindset?
There are different evidence-based approaches that I adopt to assist the athletes to remain in a positive mindset. Psychology modalities are usually informed by athlete’s overall presentations because of various factors being involved. Some approaches include Mindfulness-Acceptance-Commitment approach which was a method I did in my PhD thesis. Overall, I promote mental health and provide effective support.
We are currently in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. What has this period been like for athletes?
Well, it can be hypothesized that some athletes might struggle to cope during the pandemic and start to experience a wave of emotions such as frustration, experiencing excessive anxiety and high stress levels. On the other hand, some have adjusted and coping. The emphasis is that individuals respond differently to global pandemic experiences. Factors such as one’s personality, how they functioned before the pandemic, support system and coping skills could determine how they respond to the pandemic.
What advice would you give to athletes bouncing back after the impact Covid-19 has had on sport and ahead of major world events?
“Adopt healthy coping techniques such as mindfulness. Seek professional help if it’s overwhelming beyond your capabilities.” – Tsebe shares advice to athletes bouncing back after the impact of Covid-19.
Establish a routine and keep active both physically and mentally. Recognize feelings and thoughts. It is normal to feel disappointed and worried at times. Adopt healthy coping techniques such as mindfulness. Seek professional help if it’s overwhelming beyond your capabilities.
We understand that athletes are always under pressure to perform and remain on top of their game. How does this affect them mentally and what are the solutions to dealing with these pressures?
Athletes respond differently to pressure. Common psychological reactions are usually frustrations, anxiety and high stress levels. The solutions to deal with pressure include a thorough mental preparation during practice so that they can be able to cope during a match.
What has been your biggest highlight in your career to date?
There is a lot to be grateful for! Obtaining a Ph.D. at the age of 30 remains close to my heart. Also, receiving an award from the Limpopo Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.
What plans are you working on for the future?
I would like to grow a comprehensive scholarship in sports psychology. i.e., in the academic space, to play a role in effective tuition and teaching that is student-orientated, successfully supervise Masters and PhD students to completion, publish (independently and Collaboratory) in high-quality journals, obtain research grands and ultimately become a rated-researcher and a Professor.
I would also like to work more with different professional sporting codes and federations. I just want to make a significant contribution in the field of sports and mental health.
Photo 1 Caption: Dr Koketjo Tsebe pictured with her award from the Limpopo Department of Sport, Arts and Culture. Photo: Supplied
Photo 2 Caption: Dr Koketjo Tsebe’s aim is to grow a comprehensive scholarship in sports psychology and work more with different professional sporting codes and federations to make a notable contribution in the field of sports and mental health. Photo: Supplied
Photo 3 Caption: The Mahwelereng-born Dr Koketjo Tsebe plays a vital role at Softball South Africa where she promotes mental health and provides effective support for all athletes. Photo: Supplied