Investigating an Online Course for Player Psychosocial Development in Elite Sport (Professional Football)


  • Lee Richardson Liverpool, F.C.
  • Ricardo Lugo Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • Andrea Firth UCFB



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


Author Biographies

Lee Richardson, Liverpool, F.C.

Lee Richardson is a Chartered Sport & Exercise Psychologist who has worked extensively in elite professional sport especially in the English Premier League and in First Class County Cricket. In 2012 He developed the Four Pillars © Psychological model as a framework for understanding psychological concepts and principles prevalent in elite sporting environments, in particular to enable players and coaches gain deeper understanding of psychology and its relevance for such environments

Andrea Firth, UCFB

Andrea Firth is a programme leader and senior lecturer at University Campus Football Business. Andrea's work consists of extensive, empirical research work at the interface between pedagogical psychology and clinical psychology, with further references to sports and biopsychology. The core of the work encompasses improving various types of performance including; educational, academic, athletic, business based or in the performing arts.  As well as having a successful internationally based applied consultancy, she also supervises BPS Stage Two Neophyte practitioners and has an extensive list of applied practice clientele.


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How to Cite

Richardson, L., Lugo, R., & Firth, A. (2022). Investigating an Online Course for Player Psychosocial Development in Elite Sport (Professional Football). Scandinavian Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 4(1), 10–19.



Research section