Investigating an Online Course for Player Psychosocial Development in Elite Sport (Professional Football)
The scope of this study was to examine the perceived effectiveness of an online course based on an applied psychological model (The Four Pillars ©). The course was developed for the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) for young professional players, to assist in the process of transition into the professional game and to promote psychosocial development. We investigated how an online course might assist in the process of professional and psychosocial development by providing contextually relevant and evidence-based sport psychological concepts and principles that are relevant for maintaining a career in elite sport (football) and transitioning into the professional game. A total of n=219 16-18-year-old professional players and n=18 club staff members completed the eight modules of the online course. A post-course online survey was completed by both sets of participants and data was collected online. Both qualitative and quantitative data was collected. Qualitative data was based on thematic analysis of experiences given by the participants while quantitative data explored associations and differences between coaches and players. Findings indicate that both coaches and players found the online course beneficial in raising awareness of the demands that elite professional football can place upon mental health, and providing the potential to develop psychological literacy around relevant psychological coping and performance skills that may promote improved performance and provide a protective mechanism for mental health. Future studies should focus on the real-world efficacy of the online course in the development of psychological skills and the protection of mental health.
Keywords: Psychological literacy, Psycho-social development, Professional football, Elite sport, Academy, Mental health
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