More holistic approach needed to help female football players get to the top
The study is the first to explore UK female football players’ perceptions of their Talent Development Environments (TDE). A player’s TDE encompasses all elements within the football setting, as well as considering some of the broader elements outside football.
The aim of the study, which was carried out with colleagues from Loughborough University, was to examine female football players’ perceptions with a view to providing an understanding of strengths and areas for improvement within existing female football specific TDEs.
Dr Adam Gledhill from Leeds Beckett’s Carnegie School of Sport, and lead author of the report, said: “A successful TDE is one that continually produces top-level athletes from their junior ranks and provides them with the resources for coping and future transitions.
“Understanding TDEs from a player’s perspective is important. We know that players who perceive their TDE as having a long-term development focus and a strong support network experience higher well-being and that players’ experiences within their TDEs can also contribute to the success of their career transitions (See here). By understanding a player’s perspective, organisations will be able to consider any necessary changes to their TDEs.
“The findings show that the most positive perceptions of TDEs were of long-term development focus and support network, whereas the least positive were around communication and understanding the athlete.
“We suggest that sports psychologists could offer significant support in planning for football-specific development focus and career progression, communication with key stakeholders and holistic player development and well-being.”
Data from the research study indicated that the variety of training methods experienced, being reminded of the importance of commitment in becoming an elite-level player, and receiving a good standard of support when injured are key strengths. Ineffective communication around identifying weaknesses and strengths, and goal setting are contributing factors to players not progressing to a senior level. Over half of the players surveyed felt that female players may be written off, before having the chance to fully develop.
Dr Gledhill added: “Our findings suggest that key people - parents, coaches, teachers and school liaison officers - could benefit from education around goal setting, planning and other information aimed at player development. Some stakeholders may also benefit from education around the dual career demands of a female football player and strategies that can be used to help players manage these demands.”
The full research paper can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10413200.2017.1410254