Increasing use of Psychology in Football – Euro 2012

Over 10 years ago, I ran a psychology workshop for the Manchester United Academy Coaches under the direction of Assistant Academy Director Tony Whelan.

All those years ago, there was a growing acceptance that Psychology could offer something to the Academy’s. Not only in player development and helping coaches but also with assisting parents to understand the nature and difficulties of elite sport for their children.

Today there are more opportunities to work with players, managers, support staff and chairmen across all the leagues. On one hand, I may help a striker who’s short on goals generate a new way of thinking in order to improve his tally; whilst on the other hand I’m helping a Manager/Chairman cope with the pressure of a results driven business.

The culture of ‘win at all costs’ makes it really difficult in helping a manager to take the necessary leadership approach which will enable his team to play with absolute freedom. My method is to increase the individual expertise of a player and a manager, in conjunction with understanding the dynamic needed to create ‘collective excellence’.

In summary it’s fantastic that there are signs of a culture change in football. The suspicious attitude to ‘men in white coats’ perception is beginning to fade. The idea from management that Psychology is only for the weak player is reducing. The fear of bringing an outsider in and breaking new ground on the way things are done in the club is now starting to go.

It’s pleasing when I can triangulate my work when a player, manager and coach are all sharing the same information in the right way that enhances the team and club’s performance.

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