Applied research in elite youth soccer: Embedding the scientist-practitioner model within a professional soccer academy development program

Chris Harwood, Loughborough University, United Kingdom
Nicola Clarke, Loughborough University, United Kingdom
Richard Hampson, GB Canoeing, United Kingdom

Theme: Youth sport

Program ID: SYM-05

Presentation: October 3, 2013 8:15 am - 9:30 am

Room: Melrose


Following the launch of the English Football Association’s ‘Psychology for Football’ initiative in 2002, there has been a steady growth in the attention given to psychological research and applied services within professional club academies. Such academies exist as an ecological laboratory for studying psychological development and practice across stages of participation (Cote, 1999). Resources for applied research and practice are often directed to the later adolescent stage, with attention to younger age groups remaining limited. The purpose of this symposium, however, is to demonstrate how a scientist-practitioner model has been embedded in one professional youth academy across all stages of development. Specifically, each of the three presenters deliver research-informed practice across all age groups of the professional academy. The first research presentation focuses on early specialization with a view to understanding how the youngest players interpret their experiences and challenges at the academy. This research is central to parent and coach education work and incorporates innovative focus group methods. The second presenter focuses on the later specializing phase, illustrating an extension of Harwood’s (2008) 5C coaching intervention with U-13 players. A multiple-baseline design methodology demonstrates how psychological strategies can be integrated into training sessions, leading to player, coach and parent-reported changes in the psychological responses of the player. The final presentation progresses to the investment stage by reporting a four month action research study conducted by a trainee sport psychologist working with 17 to 19 year old players. This research centres on the use of REBT and the collaborative relationships between researcher and player-clients when levels of unhealthy perfectionism emerged as a prevalent issue within players who are now competing for coveted professional football contracts. The symposium will conclude with key applied research considerations when working within and across the key stages of a professional talent development environment

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