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Psychological Development in Professional Youth Football: An Ethnography of Sports Psychology Practice

Champ, FM (2018) Psychological Development in Professional Youth Football: An Ethnography of Sports Psychology Practice. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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The introduction of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) by the Premier League in 2012, and the subsequent formalization of sports psychology support, has resulted in increased opportunities for sports psychology practitioners to deliver their work within football academies (Nesti, 2012). The recognition of psychological support by the EPPP adds a new importance for us to better understand the impact of the lived experiences of applied practitioners within professional football clubs on their professional development and identity formation (Mitchell et al., 2016). The data on which this thesis is based has been drawn from research collected during a 3-year period from 2014 to 2017, where I (the researcher) occupied a dual role as a practitioner-researcher within the organisation of study. More specifically, I was responsible for the delivery of a psychological development program to academy players, support staff, and parents, and for the collection of data using ethnographic research methods. The first empirical chapter explored the use of practitioner-researcher ethnography as a research approach in sports psychology. Critical reflections highlighted some of the challenges that I faced whilst engaging in this dual role. Findings from this chapter highlighted the value of ethnography in encouraging the development of critical thinking skills, and self-awareness. However, a number of moral and ethical dilemmas arose because of the research demands. Therefore, it is suggested that a variety of support mechanisms (peer support, ethnography club) may help ethnographer’s better deal with challenging research situations that they may face. Following on from this, chapter 3 of the thesis used creative narratives to illuminate the impact of my experiences of delivering psychological support within one professional football club on my professional development, and identity as a sports psychology practitioner. My development journey aligned to the ICM (Côté, 2016), and was not smooth, or without challenge. In contrast, it was a rocky road (Collins & MacNamara, 2012), signified by a number of critical moments (Littlewood & Nesti, 2011). The challenges that I faced within the professional football club occurred as a function of the organisational culture (Roper, 2008), and ran parallel with the experiences of the youth players within this particular social context. The findings from this chapter suggest that identity is not a distinct end-point that sports psychology practitioners reach at the conclusion of their professional training. In contrast, identity is argued to be a fluid concept, continually evolving based upon the experiences that we have. Chapter 4 of the thesis followed the same structure as chapter 3, and presented the lived experiences of academy footballers over a longitudinal time frame. The findings that emerged within the chapter suggest that despite considerable changes in professional football over recent years the traditional masculine culture of this particular social context has remained reluctant to change (Nesti, 2012), and may be detrimental to the healthy psychological development of players who exist within it. Finally, chapter 5 of the thesis used action research principles to document the design, delivery, and evaluation of the psychological development program that was implemented within the professional football club. More specifically, interviews, focus groups, and evaluation sheets were used to attain the perspectives of key stakeholders (players, support staff, parents). The findings from this chapter demonstrated the complexities of psychological development, especially within the professional football culture. A level of confusion was present between stakeholders regarding the efficacy of the program. Although all individuals agreed that the program was beneficial in facilitating communication, and creating a supportive environment, there were discrepancies regarding its impact, and the nature of delivery.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Identity; Psychological Development; Culture; Professional Football
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV561 Sports
Divisions: Sport & Exercise Sciences
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2018 09:59
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2022 14:20
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00008328
Supervisors: Littlewood, M, Nesti, M and Tod, D
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/8328
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