EMSEP Graduate Kanyali Ilako, a sport psychologist in Tokyo 2021

Kanyali Ilako from Kenya is a 2017 graduate of the European Master in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the University of Thessaly in Trikala, Greece. Her thesis was titled “A phenomenological investigation into how elite coaches developed effective techniques to manage their stress” and she received a double degree from the University of Jyvaskyla where she moved for one semester of her studies. This summer Kanyali made us very proud by participating in the Olympic team of Kenya as a sport psychologist. The professors of the program and our staff would like to congratulate her and were interested in learning more about this experience by asking some questions to Kanyali.


1) Kanyali, we here in EMSEP are so proud of your participation in the Olympic Games in Tokyo. How do you feel about this?

It definitely has not been an easy road, many doors have been shut to my face but i guess when you are passionate about something you keep lighting the fire within. The Olympics is a huge achievement for me in my career and I am very proud of myself and thankful for my support system a long the way.


2) What was your position and which were your responsibilities?

As team Kenya's Sports Psychologist for the Tokyo 2020 Games, I was responsible for:

- Conducting evaluations as well as sessions with individuals, teams, coaches and sporting personnel at the pre camps through to the games through one on one and group sessions

- Developing individual Mental Conditioning programs to continuously enhance de-stigmatization of mental health awareness.

- Educating coaches and support personnel on a variety of mental conditioning topics.

- Offering psychosocial support for athletes, coaches and sporting personnel affected by the COVID-19 virus as well as other interpersonal challenges


3) Did EMSEP help you develop your skills in sport psychology? If yes, in what ways did this happen?

Definitely. Not only was I equipped with theoretical knowledge, EMSEP provided a whole semester of practical experience where I was able to work with a variety of teams and individual athletes. The professors in both universities were also very helpful in the learning process through their engaging class work discussions and take home assignments. My peers helped a great deal too. It was a perfect learning environment.


4) Can you please share a small story regarding your position at the Olympic games?

Sports has always been in my blood, I was raised in a sporty home. I think for me these games were special because as a competitive swimmer,as with every athlete out there, the Olympic Games is always the dream. I didn't get to go for the Olympics in my swimming career, so Coming back into the sporting field as Kenya's first Sports Psychologist and being appointed to this role is always going to be one for the books. I was able to meet so many of the people I admired growing up both locally and internationally. Working closely with some of the big names in my country and being part of the difference made is such an honor. I hope I have inspired many budding athletes(and lovers of sports) . The journey doesn't have to end when you retire as an athlete, you can come back and make a huge difference especially because you understand the industry deeply. So, keep soaring.


We at EMSEP couldn't be happier or more proud for Kanyali's achievements. And we are equally happy to hear that her studies at EMSEP provided  the necessary experience for her to be part of her home country's Olympic team.  Our intention is for EMSEP to continue being the learning environment that makes it possible for aspiring sport psychologists to achieve their goals, no matter how ambitious those might be. Kanyali's words are an inspiration for us to keep striving towards that goal. Thank you, Kanyali!

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