People of SFU

Renowned SFU Sports Psychologist joins athletes in BC Sports Hall of Fame

June 14, 2022
SFU psychology professor David Cox, left, with former tennis pro Grant Connell, became the first psychologist inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame. Photo credit: Search + Rescue Agency

SFU psychology professor David Cox made sporting history this past week as the first psychologist to be inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame. The highest sporting honour in BC, the Sports Hall of Fame celebrates those individuals and moments making up B.C.’s diverse sport history.

A renowned sports psychologist and chair of SportMed BC for 22 years, Cox has worked with many of Canada’s provincial and national sports organizations including Tennis Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee, and Canada Basketball. He has also worked with dozens of elite Canadian athletes such as Canadian wrestling legend and Olympic gold-medalist and SFU alumnus Carol Huynh, former tennis pro Grant Connell, and middle-distance running legend (another SFU alum) Leah Pells—many of them also Hall of Fame inductees. His passion for driving peak performance has been shared in corporate boardrooms.

“When I got the call last fall, I found it pretty emotional, far more than I had anticipated,” says Cox, who has been inducted into the Hall of Fame’s Builder category. “It’s an important honour for me, however, I think it is more important for sport science/medicine and others who work in support of athletes and teams. It’s huge for me and for my profession.”

During his career Cox has travelled with national teams and athletes to five Olympic games and other international events, including Wimbledon. Among his Olympic highlights was watching Canada’s “underdog” basketball team rise to finish 7th, working then with a team that included such names as Jay Triano (also a former SFU coach) and Steve Nash.

While his earliest sports memories involve soccer, rugby, and basketball, Cox cites his introduction to tennis at 11 years old as being the most significant.

“That was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me because it really changed my life in terms of athletics,” recalls Cox. “I started to play tennis and I loved the game.” He would go on to work with one of Canada’s premier tennis superstars, Grant Connell, who reportedly noted, “when David travelled with me on the tour, we achieved more firsts for Canada than in any other era.”

A Hall of Fame feature story on Cox notes his “incredible passion for sport,” his adaptation to growth and change in the field of sport psychology, as well as also his own athletic abilities as a nationally ranked athlete.

“I’m a big fan of excellence,” says Cox, who has taught in SFU’s clinical psychology program over more than 35 years. “What are the things that people have who achieve excellence? What’s the key? Excellence is determined by factors such as the opportunity to train and work, motivation, and support.

The two big issues are belief and work ethic. What binds it all together? You must have a passion for what you do. Passion is huge.”

Cox expressed gratitude for SFU’s commitment to sports psychology, to the profession, and to him over the years. “The support I’ve had has been important. To be able to extend what I do in the classroom - how good is that, to be able to teach about something you really love?”

As the first sports psychologist to be inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame, Cox is happy to see those working behind the scenes recognized.

“I think it’s great for sports medicine and sports science; that people who work in the background are recognized in this way. It’s wonderful. I think it’s crucial because it does recognize a very important part of sport, which is the team behind the team, or the team behind the individual.”

Cox was formally inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in the Builder category at the annual Induction Gala on June 9th at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Read the BC Sports Hall of Fame feature on David Cox here.