Prof. Dr. Jürgen Beckmann has been head of the Chair of Sport Psychology at the Department of Sport and Health Sciences since 2006. On March 31, 2021, the habilitated psychologist officially retired from the TU Munich.
After studying social sciences with a focus on psychology at the Ruhr University in Bochum (1981), he received his doctorate in psychology from the University of Mannheim in 1984 and his habilitation in 1988. From 1984, he was a project leader at the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Munich. In 1990, he received a Heisenberg fellowship from the DFG and was at Florida Atlantic University in 1993. After an appointment to the professorship of sport psychology at the University of Potsdam (1997), he took over the Chair of Sport Psychology at TUM in 2006. Since 2006 he was a member of the Department Council. From 2007 to 2013, he was Dean of the Department of Sport and Health Sciences.
Prof. Beckmann has published over 220 papers during his career and is one of the most cited sport psychologists worldwide. His h-index, a measure of how a scientist is perceived in professional circles worldwide, is 39, meaning that 39 of his publications have been cited at least 39 times. The i10 index is 93, which indicates how many publications have been cited at least ten times. According to Google Scholar, he has been cited a total of over 7,000 times to date.
In this interview, Prof. Beckmann talks about his time at TUM, the development of sport psychology and his (in)retirement since April 1, 2021.
Dear Prof. Beckmann, you have been at TUM since 2006. What did you enjoy most about your work?
"I found the opportunities to do research with really outstanding colleagues in very different, very innovative fields extremely exciting. Building up new areas, such as psychocardiology, was also very, very fun for me. Also, the contact with the students was always very interesting."
You were Dean of the Department from 2007 to 2013 - how did you experience this time?
"I never saw myself as someone doing an administrative job. I always perceived myself as a researcher first and foremost. That's where my lifeblood is. At that time, I was put in charge by TUM President Wolfgang A. Herrmann and was given clear objectives. Among other things, I was given the task of expanding the Department to twelve professorships, which we were able to achieve at the beginning of 2011. In particular, I had the task of bringing more stringency to the Department, as things were not going very well at the time. Of course, there was a lot of resistance to the corresponding developments towards more internationality and more scientificity, which were given to me, but of course also corresponded to my own ideas. That really took a lot out of my nerves. My time as Dean also saw the expansion of the Department of Sport Sciences into the Department of Sport and Health Sciences, which was very much supported by the president of TUM. That was a good development that was also well supported from sports science."
What were the best moments at the Department?
"I was always happy when I had good students who completed a super doctorate and what was then also rewarded, as in the case of Vanessa Wergin. What she has won in awards in the meantime is quite extraordinary."
How has sport psychology changed during your academic career?
"It was very important to me to use my scientific background to make sport psychology a respected academic subject and to establish it as such. Since the 1980s, there has been an evolution from scientifically reflective to scientifically grounded sport psychology. We have implemented it as a scientific subject and are producing sound findings using respected scientific methods that are also internationally respected. At the same time, I have tried to advance the training up to the licensing of sports psychologists. In doing so, it was important to me to include essential elements that I consider decisive for the sound work of a sport psychologist. We are currently trying to obtain a corresponding license for sport psychologists at the European level."
How has sport psychology changed during your time at the Department of Sport and Health Sciences at TUM?
"We have changed, of course. We've developed new areas. When I took over Insa and Raphael Nixdorf's thesis in 2009, we started to develop clinical sport psychology. That was an absolutely new field and there we are among the top worldwide. Our 2013 publication in the 'Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology' has now become a standard publication that has already been cited about 150 times. We have entered a new field here, where we have been repeatedly asked and also invited to give keynotes. My original interest has also been to work in neuroscience, so changes have also occurred in the field during my time at TUM. With the hiring of Fernando Cross-Villasana and later Arash Mirifar, we have come very, very far in that. We developed groundbreaking research, some of which basically disproved established assumptions in psychology, and developed newer approaches to it. We have again broken new ground with the question of whether the new findings in the field of neuroscience can also be used for mental training by means of neurofeedback. We see approaches and potential in this area. In this respect, I find it very sad that TUM has decided not to continue with sport psychology, as we have gained worldwide reputation as a Chair in the two areas of clinical sport psychology and neurofeedback."
Currently, projects of your Chair are still running - which projects are these and what is their duration?
"On the one hand, the Digimed Bayern project is currently still running, which is funded by the Bavarian State Ministry for Health and Care until 2023. Then there is the project 'Dealing with Set Losses and Defeats in Beach Volleyball' with funding from the Federal Institute for Sports Science until 2021, in which Dr. Vanessa Wergin and Wiebke Hähl are involved. The third project 'Go Green Cities' with a duration until 2024 has meanwhile been handed over to Prof. Demetriou and her Assistant Professorship of Educational Science in Sport and Health, as this was no longer affordable for us. Currently, we have been granted a new project entitled 'Analysis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Adults with Congenital Heart Defects (ABS-AHF): Preparing for a Holistic Care Concept', which is funded by the German Heart Foundation until 2023. Also, starting this year, I'm co-editing 'Advances in Recovery and Stress Research' with my Bochum colleague Michael Kellmann at Routledge Publishing in London."
You're not retiring completely now - what new challenges do you have coming up in the near future?
"I still have many ideas, in particular I am very interested in the area of 'experiencing meaning', in which I will certainly do some more. On the other hand, humanitarian psychology and humanism in the world is very important to me. I have been offered the chance to build an academy that includes Human Relations 2.0. I have been dealing with the human resources development of starcode GmbH company since April 1, 2021. In particular, the owner wants me to make the young talents fit for leadership positions. Step by step, I am to develop an executive academy that has self-awareness as its central object and is also to use sports experience for this purpose. In addition, the owner sees appreciation as a central cultural element of his company. I think that's great."
Are there any hobbies you will be pursuing more from now on?
"I will certainly be riding more in the future. In addition to that, there's golf, which I hope to play a little more than I used to. What I'm definitely doing more of is more fitness. I've set up a gym in the basement that I use every day. In addition, I'm also doing more music again. I studied jazz in the evenings at the Free Music Center in Munich in the 1980s and played in various bands in Burghausen. Since I have my own recording studio in the basement, I record music myself and play all instruments except drums. I can play guitar best. I had no time at all for my hobbies, especially during my time as Dean. I'm all the more looking forward to being able to devote more time to them again."
Finally, on which ski slopes will we meet you more often in the future?
"The closest ski area for me is Brauneck. That's where I'll probably be more often again next season, pandemic permitting. For me, quick accessibility and, if possible, no big crowds are always important. I achieve that when I can leave during the week and as early as possible."
Thank you for the interview and all the best for the future!
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Beckmann
Sport Psychology Unit
Text/Interview: Romy Schwaiger