This is the second article 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. We’ve already discussed how negative perceptions, lack of knowledge, time and finances are the main barriers to sport psychology in Northern Ireland. Coach education plays a vital role in developing coaches’ knowledge and application so it is important to investigate if the current courses are educating our coaches sufficiently regarding sport psychology, which will in turn impact upon the development of both our coaches and young players.
Seven coaches (n=10) believed that not enough is being done to educate UEFA licenced coaches regarding sport psychology in Nothern Ireland with one coach saying, “I’ve just come through the UEFA A licence course… When you’re timetabled for seven days and psychology is only one morning slot of that whole course says it all.” Previous research has also recognised that not enough time is being dedicated to sport psychology on UEFA courses in comparison to technical, tactical and physical training which indicates it may not be seen as a priority. This may also be a key reason for coaches’ lack of knowledge regarding sport psychology. Two coaches believe only enough is being done on the highest UEFA licences which is captured in the following:
Certainly at level one there’s none. My experience would be as you go through your levels it becomes more and more of a factor, so whether or not the perception is that it’s only important at the higher echelons of football. Perhaps that’s maybe something that needs to be… imbedded right the way through.
Psychology may be more prevalent on the higher level courses due to the increased contact time but it is important throughout. If a lower level coach had even a basic understanding of how to develop a player and person mentally it could have a lasting impact on both their footballing career and their everyday lives.
Six coaches did not believe coach education was presented in a way that allowed them to apply the techniques within their practice with one coach explaining:
The sport psychologist we had was, I think, out of touch with what was going on in the current climate and wasn’t able to pitch to the audience the way I think he maybe should have. I think he was maybe more concerned with theories rather than getting actual practical examples out to coaches.
This is a problem as coaches prefer practical information which they can easily apply within their practice rather than theoretical material that is difficult to transfer. This highlights the importance of hiring the right person to deliver sport psychology content which requires the Football Associations to have an understanding of the accreditation process and have some knowledge to critically appraise the presentation of the information. It was also mentioned that coaches only attend coach education courses to get the certificate and learning occurs in more informal environments which research would also suggest. This highlights how finding new ways to educate coaches regarding sport psychology is vital and will be discussed in an upcoming article.
The aim of coach education is not to produce competent sport psychologists but rather create an understanding of sport psychology to overcome the lack of knowledge and negative perceptions, and to give practical techniques that coaches can use within their practice. The majority of coaches in this study believe not enough is being done to educate coaches regarding sport psychology and the content being delivered is too theoretical which does not transfer easily to the pitch. This needs to change if we are to advance sport psychology in order to help both our coaches and players to fulfil their potential which can be severely hindered if they are lacking the psychological techniques needed to succeed. My final article will provide ideas on how to overcome these issues and give coaches sufficient knowledge and practical techniques to improve both themselves and their player’s performance.
Thanks for reading. If you can relate to any of these problems or can think of any others regarding sport psychology in coach education please let me know.
Originally posted: 30th December 2015.