Sports psychologists at Britain’s top football clubs are under pressure to reveal confidential information about players in their academies, new research shows.
“Coaches often have full access to almost every aspect of an athlete’s life. I know,” says Niels Federsen. Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology and Politics at NTNU.
“This environment creates intense pressure for full transparency, including confidential conversations about athletes’ mental health. This is creating new challenges for sports psychologists and athletes,” says Federsen. .
Young football talents can further develop their skills at the club academy. The best players either play for the club or are sold to other clubs. Players are often under a lot of pressure and some need to talk to a sports psychologist. Often they want to keep information between themselves and the psychologist.
Interviews with 16 top club psychologists
Feddersen is leading a research project titled Modernizing Psychological Provisions in English Men’s Football Clubs. The researchers spoke to his 16 sports psychologists from England’s 10 Premier League academies, three Championship academies and three League One academies.
“The research is divided into three parts. We look at behaviors, situations in which different types of undesirable behaviors are normalized, and solutions to problems,” says Feddersen. .
3 ways trust is broken
Researchers have found three typical patterns that can break trust between players, sports psychologists and club administrators.
- The player consents to the sports psychologist sharing confidential information with the coach. But then the coach shares confidential information with more people, who are not subject to the player’s consent.
- Coaches may seek information from psychologists.
- Club managers can demand that sports psychologists share confidentially given information and threaten to fire them if they refuse to share the information.
“Those are three specific issues that sports psychologists have had to deal with,” says Feddersen. Unfortunately, some athletes got burned and stopped trusting sports psychologists.
Mistrust arises both from pressure on the psychologist from other employees and how the psychologist handles secret relationships with spoken players.
“When players start believing that their sports psychologist is sharing all of their secret conversations, their relationships naturally fall apart,” says Feddersen.
A coach under a lot of pressure
Three patterns of undesirable behavior have been normalized in clubs, which perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“Coaches have to remember that they are also under extreme pressure to develop players who can be sold to other clubs or go to the senior first team,” says Federsen. Coaches are very vulnerable due to short term contracts and increased demand. As such, they feel their position is threatened if they do not deliver. ”
Fortunately, sports psychologists rarely receive termination threats, but the study’s findings suggest that it’s perfectly normal for coaches to divulge confidential information and scrounge at clubs. is shown.
Stig Arve Sæther, Associate Professor of Sports Science at NTNU, is participating in this research project. He has been studying his football talent development in Norway for the last ten years. Unfortunately, Sæther points out that coaches in this development environment work under extreme pressure for results.
“But the outcome in this context should be about the number of professional players we develop for the future, but the outcome is often related to the outcome of the game,” says Sæther. “This means that coaches are feeling pressure to get information from every possible source, including sports psychologists, in order to maximize their chances of winning in the short term. ”
But sports psychologists have a way of keeping secret relationships with athletes.
“Sports psychologists can also work with coaches as clients in confidential conversations.This allows coaches to experience the value of confidentiality through a client relationship with a sports psychologist.The same right to confidentiality. .”
Sports psychologists can also use a method called “case formulation”.
Case formation is when a sports psychologist works with other staff members, such as physical therapists, strength trainers, and coaches, to support individual players. A sensitive space is then created using a built-in consent process. Everyone is always aware of what kind of player information is confidential and what can be shared with others.
Case formulations formalize the channel for getting player consent and allowing information to be shared in the right way.
This paper Journal of Applied Sports Psychology.
For more information:
Niels Boysen Federsen et al., Confidentiality and Surveillance Challenges for Psychologists Working at the British Men’s Soccer Academy, Journal of Applied Sports Psychology (2022). DOI: 10.1080/10413200.2022.2134506
Provided by Norwegian University of Science and Technology
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