Sports Psychology for Football or Soccer
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What does working with a Sports Psychologist on a 1-2-1 basis look like for a footballer?
We often get approached by footballers from motivated youngsters out of the academy system, talented footballers in professional football club academies and professional footballers from the lower league’s up to elite internationals playing in the premier league.
As we are not associated with a specific club and your privacy is assured we find that we are very quick in building trust with our footballing clients. There is an understanding that the details discussed in sessions will not be passed on to team-mates, coaches or the manager of your club without your permission.
Are Online Soccer or Football Psychology sessions an option?
Since March 2019, when the Coronavirus first struck we have found that an online service has been increasingly used, and with a big positive impact. We support footballers all over the globe from the West Coast in the USA over to Australia and New Zealand. Zoom is our preferred platform for video calls as we can share resources easily. However we recognise that this is not possible with all clients so we are happy to adapt and use Teams, Skype, Facetime, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. We vary the session length to suit the clients age and needs too. Some sessions will be as short at 30 minutes, whereas others may take up to 120 minutes.
Do you do Football or Soccer Psychology sessions outdoors on pitches?
We organise sessions that have a practical element to them. Where we go on to the football pitch to re-create scenarios and work on your approach that way, this is especially popular with younger players. When supporting team’s and squads, working alongside a coach is also a very helpful way of working. Coaches and sports psychologists each have our own skillsets so we can work in sync to make a big difference with players.
What are common demands that impact a footballers form?
There are a range of factors that can influence a footballer’s performance, such as a player’s playing position or tactical role, the team’s style of play, the coaching team’s communication style, teammates, opponents, the crowd, social media and press coverage, the importance of games, personal circumstances, transfers, energy levels, lifestyle choices, injury issues, environmental factors and a whole lot more.
Many footballers approach us as a last resort after trying all they know to cope and turn things round. I’d encourage you not to be one of those footballers and, instead, to be proactive and seek support before things get tough for you.
I’d hope that by reading the long list of things that can impact on a footballer’s form or performance levels you now understand that it may not be straight forward for you to overcome some barriers that exist. Trying to do it by yourself will make it even harder.
As it can be quite complex, like a difficult jigsaw, I’d encourage you to check out the person who calls themselves a Sports Psychologist beforehand. Check that they have the necessary qualifications and experience to help you. This should be a major factor in who you choose to support you.
What are typical challenges that you help individual footballers overcome?
When working with a footballer the goal of a Sports Psychologist is to help players and teams perform at their best more consistently using mental skills training. This can help players with:
- Confidence issues that result in a poor run of form
- Performance anxiety where players struggle to channel their nerves so underperform, especially under pressure
- Lack of composure brought on by fear – be that in front of goal or when passing or crossing the ball
- Coping with being dropped or frozen out from a team or squad
- Raising their level in training and transferring it to matches
- Conflict management, dealing with relationship issues within the team or club
- Leadership skills, developing more captain-like qualities or simply helping footballers improve their communication skills so that they can take their game to the next level
How can I improve my mental game in football matches?
When working with a Sports Psychologist to improve your performance, we use mental skills training also known as psychological skills training to help you identify barriers that hold you back.
We then put mental game strategies into practice to help you perform at your best and execute vital skills more consistently which include:
- Taking control of your confidence levels
- Managing your expectations
- Focusing on the process
- Changing the stories that you tell yourself about how you should perform
- Allowing you to express yourself and play with freedom
- Preparing your mind for training and matches
- Remaining calm and composed when things don’t go to plan
How can a Sports Psychologist help my football team?
Football teams that perform to the optimum level or very close to it, all possess group cohesion, a dynamic process that means that the group stick together and remain unified no matter what.
Characteristics that Sport Psychologists help to develop with coaching and support staff when fostering a cohesive team include:
- Identification and focus towards “team goals” which can be short and long term
- A common identity where individual players refer to the group as “we”
- A coming together where successful and unsuccessful outcomes are shared across the group with no blame attached
- Highly refined verbal and nonverbal communication and interaction styles
- Well communicated and structured expectations so that values, behaviours, roles and statuses are established and maintained
- A trust and reliance to work together with a “team first” mentality
- Friendship and closeness amongst teammates
Is Mental Health and Performance connected?
We have witnessed on many occasions how injuries, loss of form, being dropped from the team or squad as well as off field challenges such as bereavement, relationship issues, adjusting to become a mum or dad, playing overseas or in a different location, the burden of inflated transfer fees can impact on a footballer or soccer players mental health. This in turn can have a detrimental impact on performance, so without question a players mental health and performance are most definately connected. As a consequence, it is very important for potential clients to understand how we as Sports Psychologists work in this respect, which informs the following questions.
Do you provide therapy for footballers who suffer from Mental Health issues?
The majority of our team have completed counselling training as part of their education, when studying a Masters Degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology. Some team members also have an additional interest in the area due to personal experiences, whereas others have done additional training to increase their understanding of the domain.
Therefore, the Sports Psychologists and Athlete Counsellors amonsgt us would specialise in lower level mental health concerns seeking to help clients flourish by providing emotional support and helping them consider proactive measures to manage their mental health. We also have Clinical Psychologists as part of the team and a referral path should this be required. Mental Health issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders are challenges that they could help you with.
Do you provide therapy to coaches who suffer from Mental Health issues?
Football or soccer coaches have a very difficult job. Nowadays, certainly at an elite level the demands of the job are very challenging. From managing the playing squad, the sport science staff around you, to working with senior executives within the football club, add in performance pressures to achieve results, very quickly. It is far from an easy job. It’s important to recognise coaches or managers are human beings, our Sports Psychologists support them to find ways to switch off from the game, to manage stressors better, to understand what information should be disregarded and to help them negotiate off-field challenges in their personal lives too. This support is very much at a lower level in relation to mental health concerns so that they are able to optimise their own performance and feel in control of their destiny.
How does the role of a Sports Psychologist and Clinical Psychologist differ?
Sports Psychologists are trained in psychological or mental skills training and may or may not have adequate training in counselling and mental health first aid, so that they operate and support athletes and coaches with lower level mental health and well-being concerns.
Clinical Psychologists, as is the case with Counselling Psychologists, training is very different and more robust where they focus their time on different mental health matters such as OCD, eating disorders, anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. Their training and experience levels are very different to the Sport Psychologist.
To confuse matters further, their are Clinical or Counselling Psychologists who have also studied Sport Psychology too and can be regarded as holding both titles like my colleague Alessia Bruno. It is important to be aware of this when seeking support in this area and do your homework on the practitioner.