Exploring sport coaching and psychology
Exploring sport coaching and psychology

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Exploring sport coaching and psychology

4 Maintaining enthusiasm in a professional sport

Think of young people training towards some professional team sports, especially football, tennis and golf. Organisations and clubs often attempt to identify promising young players before puberty: an almost impossible task to get right (Bailey, 2015). This can result in children sometimes undertaking formal coaching starting at 8–12 years old. In football, this happens across all English Premier League (EPL) clubs, as there is often a perceived parental prestige from a child being recruited to an EPL academy. Notice how adult ego might interrupt childhood enthusiasm.

Activity 4 Football academies main focus

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Listen to this clip from a telephone interview with Ged Roddy (Director of Youth, EPL). What are his two main points about maintaining youthful enthusiasm in the training of children in football?

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Ged Roddy
When the boys come in they come in bright eyed and when they are eight, nine years of age we've got an unbelievable opportunity to shape the way they think about their futures and about the potential of their professional careers. But you know one of the key things for us to do right at the outset is just to make sure the kids are having fun. We talk a lot about systems and the science behind all of these things but actually the more you systemise the academy environment the more you are in danger of losing the joy of the game and we mustn’t lose sight of that for those players that are starting out.
So I think for me two things when they are absolutely at the start of their academy careers - is there joy? Have they got smiles on their faces? Are they acclimatising themselves in the environment? If so, that’s a great thing. Now add to that a learning environment where we develop the skills of just the sheer ability to learn to be coached and to understand that failing is part of the process of succeeding. And if we develop those early skills we give ourselves a half-decent chance. Now we need parents that understand this. We need coaches that buy into it as well and if we can build that type of environment we give ourselves a fighting chance because down the road what we know is approaching those players that stay in the system are all of those distractions that are going to come when the money comes along, when the agents come along and the sponsors and the like. So we need to build a resilience and a grit and a focus to these young men so that when those distractions do arrive they're in a balanced place and they can deal with them.
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Kick off: science of high performance special
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One clear message Roddy describes is maintaining a passion for their sport, but he does not specifically describe how this is done. Alongside this, he identifies creating a thirst for learning as being important throughout a successful professional career. This links to a ‘growth mindset’ (Dweck, 2012), which you will explore further in Session 5.

You probably know intuitively that enjoyment of sport and training is key to motivation but, apart from the inspiring tennis coach you read about earlier, you have yet to clearly see how fun and enjoyment is created in children’s sport.


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