A couple hundred emails, 10’s of phone calls, a few meetings later, I finally came across the club that would give me my first real, sport psychologist practice. I wasn’t really getting anywhere with male football teams, even academy or development teams. I thought about women’s football and was surprised at myself for not trying that before. I took the same approach and e-mailed women’s teams in the west midlands area.
Birmingham City Women’s football club showed immediate interest as they had no sport psychology or mental performance training at their club. A meeting was set to come and meet the general manager of operations, S & C coach, physiotherapist and head coach. The professionalism at this club was something I hadn’t yet encountered. It felt real at this point as in this is what it would be like. I loved it.
The meeting was great, they asked questions regarding how I plan to educate the players on sport psychology, asked how I planned to work with injured players, how I intend to build team cohesion etc. They also gave me a play by play about certain personalities on the team and reactions I would receive from certain players who would not be interested in this side of the game. This sounded like it would be challenging to facilitate cooperation, but I was up for it.
I spent the first month purely observing training sessions, matches and was exposed to everything behind the scenes. Understanding how the club functions, their practices, how analysis is conducted, how they engage the team, how pre game tactics are delivered and discussed are all integral aspects of performance. Further, they are all features that can be optimised to produce better performances. Something I would not have learnt this early had I not taken this opportunity.
I made notes on absolutely everything whenever I could. For example I would note the more dominant personalities, the quieter ones, changing room conversations and different cliques, perceptions of different players e.g. lack of confidence, how the coach addresses mistakes made and communicates with the team, things I think could be improved in analysis, ideas I may have, players I think could benefit from sport psych, the list is endless.
I did this for two reasons: 1) because I can’t possibly remember all of my thoughts and observations on all of the different topics and 2) as I said, every little thing can be improved which, will influence performance. From the way the coach communicates with a player, to different discussion methods in analysis. By making notes on everything, I am better equipped to look back, research and advise.
After a month of observations I felt ready to begin conducting 1:1 sessions. I was given a lot of freedom. A lot. I had access to all of the players, didn’t really have to ‘report’ to anyone, which I felt was unconventional and don’t anticipate that to be the case all of the time. However, I think that emphasised part of the problem…sport psychology is considered to be distinct from other facets of performance. Strength and conditioning, technical and tactical training etc. were all discussed together and integrated. Sport psych lacks integration into the main development system of players across the league and across the industry.
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