This is another insert relating to the findings from my MSc research titled Soccer Coaches Engagement with Sport Psychology in Northern Ireland. Interviews were conducted with six UEFA Pro licence coaches, two UEFA A licence and two UEFA B licence who were all involved in full time sport related jobs. The aim of the project was to investigate knowledge and perceptions of sport psychology, barriers to sport psychology, personal use of psychological techniques, and ideas to improve the current knowledge and use of sport psychology. We are all now beginning to realise the importance of sport psychology and how much needs to be done to improve the current state of sport psychology in soccer. Having discussions with coaches and educators to find the best and most feasible ways to do this are vital to improve sport psychology and provision for all of those involved in the game.

Education

Education was mentioned by nine coaches as a way to overcome the barriers which was illustrated in the following quote, “Working with coaches and making them see it is not this witch craft as such and that it’s a really good tool to have in your locker.” Coaches’ current knowledge of sport psychology comes from various sources including reading books, their playing careers, coach education, university studies, coaching or following other sports, workshops, hearing about it through the media, and through working with a sport psychologist. Six coaches had worked with a sport psychologist in their team with all reporting it as a positive experience although three said it was an isolated experience. Other ideas to advance sport psychology included bringing in a sport psychologist, hosting workshops, networking, mentoring, online forums and discussions with other coaches, anecdotal reports of a team exceeding expectations by using sport psychology, easily applied information, football league putting psychological criteria in place, funding, progressing to full time football, and the new generation of young forward thinking coaches coming through. The online forums could be led by an experienced sport psychologist and would form a community of practice which has been shown to be of benefit in educating coaches.

All of the coaches felt competent using psychological techniques with players although a coach admitted they would welcome support:

I would probably think there are more experts out there that would be better positioned than me to deliver it… I would feel if an expert was in the field… someone who I could bounce ideas off and then to deliver it myself that would be grand.

All of the coaches would like to improve their knowledge of psychological techniques. This is positive and shows how any potential programmes created to educate coaches regarding sport psychology could work.

Educational Platforms

Nine of the coaches believe this could be achieved by using the internet to educate coaches on sport psychology with one coach explaining why, “I think online platforms… It’s very difficult to get it out to all clubs in different areas of the community and getting everyone together at once.” Coaches’ lead busy lives and online platforms can be attended at their own convenience, which other coaches have found useful.  Four of the coaches believed using videos showing it in action and highlighting its importance would be another good way to educate coaches. Other ideas mentioned to improve coaches’ knowledge included conferences, webinars, seminars, having a database of coaches and someone with a proven track record sending out information and a coaching digest, observing someone in action, blogs, and CPD psychology courses to revalidate UEFA licences.

Recommendations

Coach education programmes need to designate more time to sport psychology during courses, and ensure the sport psychologist delivering it is qualified and presents it in a practically applied manner. Components of sport psychology should be included throughout all levels of courses and more sport psychology CPD courses should be made available for coaches to learn something new while revalidating their licences. Additional informal learning environments need to be created to educate coaches which would improve knowledge, perceptions and use of sport psychology. A sport psychologist with a proven track record needs to create an online platform which delivers videos highlighting the importance of sport psychology and showing it in practice, alongside delivering practical resources that coaches can use both personally and with their players. The platform should also allow coaches to interact with one another and other sport psychologists’ working in the field to discuss ideas and experiences.

Sport psychology provision for players also needs to be addressed as coaches don’t have time for classroom sessions which means it needs to be included in their coaching on the pitch, and the coaches themselves need to be educated to deliver it as clubs don’t have the finances to bring in a sport psychologist. It has been shown that coaches don’t have the knowledge or efficacy to do this which highlights the need to improve their knowledge and availability of practical resources which will increase their efficacy to deliver it.

Conclusion

The findings from the study show much still needs to be done to improve the current knowledge, perceptions and provision of sport psychology in Northern Ireland. Educating coaches was believed to be the best way to overcome the barriers and improve the current provision of sport psychology. The coaches have provided a number of excellent ways to do this including online platforms, videos, and creating online communities led by a sport psychology specialist to stimulate discussion in the area. I’d like to hear your thoughts on whether you believe these ideas are feasible or if you have any further solutions that we may have missed? If we don’t discuss these issues or provide solutions to move forward nothing will ever change. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

 

Originally posted: 2nd January 2016.