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Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Confidence = Success?

Confidence (or self-efficacy as it is sometimes termed) has been suggested as having a linear positive relationship with performance. The more confident you are the better you'll do, right? Well, maybe not.

Recent research has found that a little self-doubt can be a positive thing. Performance was benefited by a little self-doubt and effort stayed about the same.

How this happens is unclear, one suggestion is related to complacency but further work is needed in the area to examine how and when this is beneficial. It would be interesting to investigate this effect in top level athletes, particularly those who are experiencing lots of pressure and expected to win.

Fear of failure may also interact and it would be interesting to see, when self-doubt can result in fear of failure. What about individuals who may suffer fear of failure AND self-doubt?

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Psychologists in football

It's rare for top level professional footballers to admit that they work with a psychologist, with David James among the few to advocate the use of psychology, working with Keith Power, who has elsewhere been described as a "motivational expert" when working with Rio Ferdinand. The ambiguity on the correct term (other variations include mental coach or mind coaches) requires knowledge of who is a qualified sport psychologist, which I talked about here.

Which Clubs do employ football psychologists?

Fabio Capello is a fan of psychology and during England's World cup campaign Christian Lattanzio worked with the team.
Chelsea also employ a sport psychologist, Bruno Demichelis.
Sam Allardyce used a strong sport science team to good effect when at Bolton including Mike Forde and now at Blackburn, Jamil Qureshi, small article on both here

An excellent study looked at the application of sport psychology in English football and some of the perceptions and barriers.

Some of the individual players to openly use psychology include:
Matthew Upson working with a sport psychologist, Mike Griffiths. Other examples include InnerDrive who freely admit working with professional footballers: Carlton Cole, Junior Stanislas and Anthony Stokes.

What's holding footballers back?

It may be that they don't want to be viewed as weak and that there's something wrong with them. David James discussed this in a piece for the Guardian

"I have used a qualified sports psychologist for some years now. It's been of immeasurable help and my only regret is that I didn't start it sooner. In 1996 I tried to introduce the idea of using a sports psychologist to one of the backroom staff at Liverpool, but the conversation was loudly interrupted by one of the coaches shouting, 'Jamo! What you moaning for?' Later, the backroom staff member told me that he'd been banging on at the club for years to get a psychologist, but their view was if you can't sort yourself out you're not good enough to play."

This comes from a misunderstanding of the role of a sport psychologist, if you have a clinical disorder then you go need a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. A sport psychologist will focus more on your preparation, your lifestyle and self-improvement both on and off the pitch. The role of sport psychologists is likely to grow and with greater control of the profession now being established, as well as clearer career routes, hopefully more people will recognise their role and utility. As can be seen from some of the examples clubs are being more open about their use and recognising that any small edge can be beneficial.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Short Sport Psychology Survey

I've created a short survey here to let me know what you think about sport psychology, it shouldn't take longer than 2 minutes. It's aimed at athletes, coaches or parents and their knowledge of sport psychology. All responses remain confidential and anonymous and it's only for my own benefit, some answers may be used anonymously as part of my blog.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Why did England fail in the World Cup?

So England went out of the World Cup, many reasons were given. Injuries to central defenders, not enough players used to the continental game (do alright in the Champions League), not enough English players in the Premier League but what about psychological factors.

An interesting blog from Mind Hacks reflects on the issue using Neurophilosophy references, because street soccer (more common in countries like Brazil) typically uses smaller goals and this affects our perceptions of goal size. The FA have been trying to use smaller pitches, get younger players and more touches whilst allowing children to learn themselves rather than told what to do. They have also been pushing the development of Futsal which is a variation of five-a-side football with much more focus on skill and creativity. Many top Brazilians have grown up playing Futsal and it involves the use of smaller goals but it will take a few years to see what impact it has on the development in England.

What other factors do you feel were most important in your development? If you don't play much sport why not or what factors stopped you? I'm interested in youth football and currently working on a project in this area so may have more answers in the future.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

How do you become a sport psychologist?

Even those interested in sport to a very high level might not know what training you go through to be able to call yourself a sport psychologist and advertise yourself as such, it's still something I'm working on and as I'm UK based will focus on that route.

The law in the UK recently changed so that the Health Professions Council now regulate psychologists, and any role ending in psychologist (e.g. Neuropsychologist, sport psychologist etc) hold protected status. There are specific routes, some divisions more established than others, that allow you to gain chartership and the British Psychological society (or BPS) has developed the routes.

The first part now requires an undergraduate degree that allows Graduate basis for chartered membership or GBC (previously Graduate basis for registration or GBR). A list of the wide range of degree courses that are accredited can be found here. I completed my BSc in Sport Psychology at University of Central Lancashire. If you gain a degree that does not have GBC accreditation (e.g. Sport Science) and want to become a Sport Psychologist there are one year conversion courses that you can apply for, a list can be found here .

In the past many Sport Psychologists were aligned to the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (or BASES) and did not have this GBC. Stage one of gaining chartership in Sport Psychology involves either completing one of BPS accredited one year full-time Master's courses, or completing the BPS qualification in Sport and Exercise psychology . I chose to complete my Master's in the Psychology of Sport and Exercise at Loughborough University.

Last year a special route closed for those Sport Psychologists who had been practicing in the field and had gained the experience but did not have this qualification. Since this route has closed the role of BASES has decreased in regulating Sport Psychologists but there are people who have been left caught out by this change and lack of GBC.

The last stage of being able to call yourself a sport psychologist is to work supervised in the field by a Chartered Sport Psychologist, (see pdf document for supervisors) for a period of at least two years full-time and this is the stage that I will be looking to begin soon. This stage is less established and has only been running for a few years and is therefore still in it's infancy in offering clear routes. Once this has been completed then you can start advertising yourself as a sport psychologist and this signifies the high level of training needed. Up until this stage you can only call yourself unprotected terms such as sport psychology consultant, mental coach etc. Individuals using this terms may not have as much training but they may have gone down a more practical route and have great experience to offer or coming from a more sport science background or BASES route.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010


I've started this blog to try and improve my thinking on topics in sport psychology and to try and stimulate debate by others about how it can be effective. I'm coming to the end of Stage 1 of BPS accreditation as a Chartered Sport Psychology by doing my Masters in Loughborough after studying the same topic at undergraduate level at UCLAN. I love thinking of practical, applied use of sport psychology and will try and cover some contemporary topics particularly in football.