Staff profile

Dr Sally Akehurst

Head of Department, Life Sciences


Sport and Exercise Science


College of Life and Natural Sciences


School of Human Sciences


Kedleston Road, Derby Campus



I am Head of Sport, Outdoor and Exercise Science, a Discipline Area within the College of Life and Natural Sciences. The Discipline Area spans sport and exercise science, sport coaching, education, management and development, physical activity and health, sport therapy and rehabilitation and outdoor activity leadership and management, adventure sports coaching and outdoor learning in the environment.  I lead a team of 24 academics across three sites both in Derby and Buxton and enjoy the dynamic, team ethos we have with regard future looking, quality focussed, delivery of expertise in all three areas of learning and teaching, research and consultancy services. We are driven by passion for our subject and fuelled by curiosity, always seeking to enhance our provision and endeavor.

I am also an active researcher within sport and exercise psychology and provide consultancy services in applied sport pscyhology for athletes, coaches and officials. We have numerous partners in the Region with regard applied services and work collaboratively with colleagues in terms of research activity.

Teaching responsibilities

In my current leadership and management position I occasionally teach on modules focusing on sport and exercise psychology on the undergraduate and postgraduate sport and exercise science programmes. Including modules such as: 

I also supervise research students in the area of sport and exercise psychology on the undergraduate and postgraduate sport and exercise science programmes, including the MRes Sport and EXercise and MSc Applied Sport and Exercise Science (psychology pathway).

Professional interests

I was appointed Head of Sport and Exercise at the University of Derby in 2012, this recently expanded into the role of Head of Sport, Outdoor and Exercise Science, and Deputy Head of Life Sciences in 2014. This is a strategic leadership and management role within which I also research, practice as a Sport and Exercise Psychologist and teach at a Senior Lecturer level.

I became a BASES Accredited Sport and Exercise Scientist in Psychology Support in 2008 and reaccredited in 2013. Since then I have registered as an HCPC practitioner Sport and Exercise Psychologist and as a Chartered BASES Sport and Exercise scientist. I was initially appointed as a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Derby in 2010, which prior to this I held a Lecturer in Sport and exercise Psychology post at Aberystwyth from 2005.

I completed my PhD in 2006 at the University of Bangor in Sport Psychology after being awarded a university funded scholarship in 2001. Whilst completing my PhD I also completed a PG Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education and became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, having been teaching in Higher Education since 2001. Prior to this, I completed an MSc in Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology at Bangor University 2000-2001 and a BA H Leisure and Sport Studies at the University of Brighton 1997-2000.

Research interests

Research Areas

My research investigates performing under pressure in relation to individual differences. My early work focused on the mechanisms by which performance breaks down under pressure and then moved towards exploring the influence of individual difference factors. In particular, my research focuses on the relationship between confidence, effort and anxiety and the interaction of narcissism and trait self-consciousness on choking.

Further areas of interest include: passion in sport; exercise dependence; perfectionism in sport; excelling under pressure; transformational leadership and narcissism, and impression management in sport and exercise contexts.

PhD Supervision

I co-supervised Dr Simon Payne in his thesis 'Impression Management in Sport' at Aberystwyth University, completed 2011.

I currently co-supervise a PhD student Philip Clarke in his thesis exploring the Yips in sport at the University of Derby.

I currently co-supervise a PhD student Mark Fagy in a physiology-based thesis at the University of Derby.

Membership of professional bodies


Undergraduate qualifications

Postgraduate qualifications

Research qualifications

Professional qualifications

Recent conferences

Invited Presentations and Symposiums:

Recent Conferences:

Experience in industry

As an applied practioner in Sport and Exercise Psychology, I have worked with various clients within the sport sector including athletes ranging from recreational to International level of all ages and multiple sports, for example: tennis, archery, golf, sailing, athletics, badminton, kayaking, and football. Similarly, I have provided coach education workshops and also worked with officials including futsal referees at an individual and group level.

As professional practitioners within Sport, Outdoor and Exercise Science we provide a range of services and work with multiple partners in the Region providing one-to-one support, group and team based workshops, testing and monitoring services, educational workshops, performance profiling and rehabilitation support.

International experience

In 2008, I taught Sport and Exercise Psychology in Trinidad during the summer at the University of West Indies.

Additional interests and activities

Research Awards

Winner of the Sportesse Sport Science Award for best oral presentation of Established Researchers at the British Association of Sport and Exercise Science National Annual Conference at the University of Glasgow, UK (2010).

A little self-doubt helps (S. Akehurst, T. Woodman, L. Hardy, & S. Beattie). 3rd Prize in the Young Investigators Award at the Nordic International Conference in Halmsted, Sweden (2008). Two studies investigating the interactive effects of narcissism and trait self-consciousness upon dispositional choking, and the role of confidence (S. Akehurst, T. Woodman, & L. Hardy).

Research Grants (Successful)

Akehurst, S., & Oliver, E. (2010). Establishing the influence of personality and intrapersonal regulatory style on performance under pressure. Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships, Aberystwyth University (£14,000.00 - Successful).

Oliver, E., & Akehurst, S. (2010). Motivation for individual study engagement: The roles of competency and autonomy. Learning and Teaching Enhancement Fund, Aberystwyth University (£1393.97).

Akehurst, S. (2009). Investigating choking resilience and susceptibility in golfers. Department of Sport and Exercise Science Summer Bursary Fund, Aberystwyth University (£480.00).

Akehurst, S., Woodman, T., & Hardy, L. (2008). Interactive effects of narcissism and trait self-consciousness on choking under pressure in aesthetic sports. Aberystwyth University Research Fund (£2000.00 ).

Recent publications