Alumnae: Alumnae Profiles

Alumnae Profiles:
Margaret Ottley, Ph.D., C'92

Margaret Ottley, Ph.D., C'92, Helps U.S. Olympic Team Go for the Gold in London

“Sports has been my life,” said Dr. Margaret Ottley, one  of the industry’s most sought-after sport and performance  psychologists. An athlete herself, it’s no surprise she  works with the world’s most elite athletes, including the  United States track and field team who she worked with tirelessly to ensure they were prepared for the London 2012 Olympics. 

Dr. Ottley, a Trinidad native, played competitive  field hockey in high school and as a national player representing  Trinidad and Tobago at the U-17, U-21 and  senior levels for more than 13 years. She graduated  from Valsayn Teacher’s College in Trinidad and worked  as an elementary school  teacher. Dr. Ottley later left  Trinidad – becoming a  Spelmanite at the mature  age of 26 – and studied  child development. It was  her own questions that  sparked her interest in  sports psychology. “I  always felt that I never  really played my best game  and that I had trouble with  coaches – a communication  problem,” she explained. “I wanted to understand  the mental aspect of sports.” She earned her undergraduate degree at Spelman, her M.Ed and Ph.D. in sports psychology at  Temple University. and her post-doctoral  studies at Purdue University. 

Still searching for answers, Dr. Ottley said, “I felt that  the information wasn’t addressing me as a Black woman  in sports.” She started playing Capoeira Angola, an  African Brazilian martial art with elements of music  and dance, and looking at African aesthetics and movement.  “Playing a sport at a certain level is a highly cognitive  process and I wanted to explore it from that  prospective.” Dr. Ottley created a niche which she calls  SSI – Sports Skills Improvisations – and has since garnered  interest from around the globe. 

In 2004, she accompanied the Trinidad and Tobago  elite teams to the Olympic Games in Greece. She worked  with U.S.A. Track and Field teams at the International  Association of Athletics Federation World Youth Championship  (Morocco Africa), the World Junior Championship  (Beijing) and the Pan American Junior Games   (São Paulo, Brazil). In August 2008, she was one of two  sports psychology consultants working with the USATF  team in Beijing and graced the cover of the July/August  2008 issue of The Monitor on Psychology,a publication of  the American Psychological Association. 

Currently, she’s an associate professor at West Chester  University in Pennsylvania, where she teaches graduate and  undergraduate classes in sports psychology, motor learning  and development. She is the founder of SANKO-FA HP  (HyPower Performance) LLC, which conducts sports psychology  workshops and presentations throughout the  Caribbean, and recently held the Caribbean First  Sport Psychology Conference in Trinidad and Tobago.  She travels all over the world, consulting and working  with athletes, coaches and administrators. In addition to  working with the U.S. team, Dr. Ottley also worked to prepare the Trinidad and Tobago track and field team for the  2012 Olympic games. She does team-building exercises,  group work, and one-on-one consulting. “These are the  world’s best, most elite athletes,” explained Dr. Ottley.  “To get to them you have to impress them.” 

Recognizing she’s in a field that is grossly underrepresented  by African Americans and women she explains, “For  us as a people of African descent we have to be very diverse  and we have to be very good at what we do. We almost  have to be better.” There aren’t a lot of African American  sports psychologists, so Dr. Ottley says her mentors were  Caucasian. “I spent time mentoring them on how  to mentor me. I knew what I wanted out of it.” 

Determined to implement change and increase the  number of women of color in her field, she actively mentors  Black sports psychology students and shares her story  constantly, so they won’t have to face the same challenges she did.

Dr. Ottley is a member of the Board of the Black Women in Sport Foundation, the Pennsylvania State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, and the Frederick Douglass Institute, a University program for advancing multicultural studies across the curriculum and for deepening the intellectual heritage of Frederick Douglass, former slave, author, and statesman.