Meeting the psychological needs of the players

Top professional footballers have beyond doubt been given a staggering natural talent – a talent that can bring them in an income that is beyond the wildest dreams of most “mere mortals”.  But, of course, they have to work hard on the training ground to keep up the level of fitness and talent that allows them to do what the vast majority of us could never achieve.

And yet they are self-evidently young men, with all that this implies.  They need their release from the rigours of training, the endless exposure in the media, the adulation and negativity of the crowds they play in front of, the demands of their manager, and even the promises and requirements of their agent.  It might look wonderfully glamourous, and often it is, but like the rest of us each player has his own basic psychological needs.

There was a story published recently that tells of how in the early days of the 20th century, players from clubs in the Midlands and North liked to come to play the London teams so that after the game they could spend an evening sampling London’s night life via agencies such as London Escorts.

And indeed this revelation highlights the fact that the personality of each player in a team needs to be nurtured and maintained as much as the player’s physical fitness.

Some players can live a very austere life in which nothing is done that does not nurture the mental and physical well being of the player.

Other players, with a different personality and perhaps a different upbringing, do not have the single-minded focus that allows them to consider nothing other than their playing career, and thus need diversions from the endless round of training and playing.  Too much focus on football can, for them, be as harmful to their playing ability as too many diversions can be for other players.  Everything comes down to personality.

This is of course where the really good agent and manager can earn their money.  If the agent and manager can understand the personality of the top player and the needs that this personality brings and then work with the player in a positive way to meet those needs while maintaining the training regime then the player really will benefit.

If the player’s personal agent can then manage the situation so that tales about the player do not circulate in the tittle-tattle end of the newspaper market, there can be a real benefit all round.  The player gets his relaxation and escape from the game while being able to maintain his performance on the pitch.

It is to help this process that the number of psychologists employed by top clubs has increased exponentially in recent years.   This of course is not an issue that clubs in England want to talk about, because unlike in most of Western Europe, the notion of a player having regular sessions with a psychologist is something that the media still don’t understand.

But just as the trainers and coaches work on the physical fitness of the player so the psychologist will understand the mental well being of the player and thus endevour to maximise his potential.

The point is that whatever the psychological and physical needs of the player are, the training staff at the club have the job to see that these are met in such a way as to allow the player to perform consistently at his highest level.  For some players, this will mean an austere regime within the player’s personal life.  For others, it means regularly being able to let one’s hair down.

No two personalities are the same, and for most people, the personality they have is the personality they were born with.  What the contemporary coaching team is doing is managing that personality so that the player can generate his maximum potential.


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