Attachment and Sport: affliction or therapeutic experience?

A conjoint project, as part of a developing collaboration between the Bowlby Centre (BC), the Institute of Group Analysis (IGA), Supporting Relationships and Families (SRF) and the International Attachment Network (IAN).

The workshop will be chaired by Janice Gittens, Chair of Supporting Relationships and Families.

From an attachment perspective, Bowlby said, sport is a form of exploration which can contribute to healthy personal and social development. Team or individual sports would not have come into existence without group co-operation. Sport always involves being part of a group and forming attachments. Through sport, optimally, we grow and learn with others about motivation, resilience, respect and recognition of limits, as well as mutual consideration, companionship and solidarity. When we are meaningfully connected with other people towards a common goal, when body and mind are at one, life feels harmonious.


However, things can go terribly wrong. Young people can be abused and exploited. In their search for talent, big clubs can disrupt family attachments from an early age. Competition and rivalry can be fierce, leading to corruption, performance-enhancing drugs, depression and suicide.


We shall aim to explore the universal language of sport from an attachment and group-analytic standpoint. Speakers will endeavour to form a team with the audience to think together about the emotional ups and downs of life, about defeat and victory, failure and success, anger and love, attachment and loss. Everyone will have a chance to participate and exchange experiences, whether traumatic or therapeutic, in the reflective space provided by the large and the small groups.


Arturo Ezquerro (AE), an IGA group analyst, consultant psychiatrist, and psychoanalytic psychotherapist, will present an in-depth scrutiny of, both, tragic and beautiful moments in the sport world, as they relate to the quality of the attachment histories of their protagonists. 

Damien Greaves (DG), a former Olympic sprinter, hurdler and bobsledder, will take us to a journey of personal exploration through his struggle to become attached, to survive, and to grow as a successful athlete with the support of first class, sensitive coaching.

Donna Knight (DK), a former England International Women’s Basketball Player and American University Basketball Scholarship recipient, will give us the gift of a poignant and moving story, full of hope and love. Her journey will affirm the important role of attachment in sport.

Rob White (RW), an author, photographer and Sporting Memories Network facilitator, will invite us to be with him in his captivating journey in search of his father (Spurs & Scotland legend John White), who tragically died at the peak of his career when Rob only was a few months old baby.

Val Lowman (VL), OBE, founding and non-exec director of ‘BeOnsite’, fighting for socially responsive organisations, will give us a breath of fresh air and insights into her new youth, in which she has further developed her passion for life through an attachment to triathlon.


09:30 AM
    Registration and coffee
09:55 AM    Welcome, Elaine Arnold, Director of SRF
‘Pain and beauty in sport’ (AE) 
‘Attachment made me love sport’ (DG) 
‘A story of love, attachment and loss’ (DK)

11:35 AM Short coffee break
11:45 AM    Small groups 
01:00 PM Lunch (provided)
02:00 PM        ‘The life-long search of my father’ (RW)
‘When body and mind are at one’ (VL)
03:00 PM        Large Group convened by Maria Canete, IGA
04:30 PM Light refreshments (ends 5:00 PM)

FEES (early bird to 30 April/ full fee after 1 May)

IGA/BC Students £35/£45
IGA Members  £45/£55
BC Members £45/£55
IAN Members £45/£55
SRF Members £45/£55
Public £55/£65

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