There is an increasing awareness of the importance of the environment in academy players’ development, yet limited research has investigated players’ perceptions of their talent development environments (TDEs). This study focused on academy soccer players’ perceptions of their TDE and compared perceptions across the English soccer academy categorization (CAT) system. A total of 136 U.K.-based male soccer players (M age = 17.7, SD = 1.03 years) representing all four categories (1 = highest to 4 = lowest) of soccer academies aligned to professional soccer clubs completed the TDE Questionnaire-5 (TDEQ-5). The players within the CAT1 academies had significantly more positive perceptions of their support network (p = .01) and holistic quality preparation (p = .03) than their CAT3 counterparts. Across CAT2–CAT3, holistic quality preparation was the least positively perceived subscale within the TDEQ-5, suggesting the need for additional coach education in this area. Soccer academies should consider how they ensure that all areas of their service are associated with optimal TDEs by offering a well-communicated and holistic development experience for their players to enhance effective personal and player development. The findings may have implications for player experience and associated progression rates of lower categorized soccer academies.
Tom O. Mitchell, Adam Gledhill, Ross Shand, Martin A. Littlewood, Lewis Charnock, and Kevin Till
Niels B. Feddersen, Robert Morris, Louise K. Storm, Martin A. Littlewood, and David J. Richardson
The purpose was to examine the power relations during a change of culture in an Olympic sports organization in the United Kingdom. The authors conducted a 16-month longitudinal study combining action research and grounded theory. The data collection included ethnography and a focus group discussion (n = 10) with athletes, coaches, parents, and the national governing body. The authors supplemented these with 26 interviews with stakeholders, and we analyzed the data using grounded theory. The core concept found was that power relations were further divided into systemic power and informational power. Systemic power (e.g., formal authority to reward or punish) denotes how the national governing bodies sought to implement change from the top-down and impose new strategies on the organization. The informational power (e.g., tacit feeling of oneness and belonging) represented how individuals and subunits mobilized coalitions to support or obstruct the sports organization’s agenda. Olympic sports organizations should consider the influence of power when undertaking a change of culture.
Darren J. Devaney, Mark Stephen Nesti, Noora J. Ronkainen, Martin A. Littlewood, and David Richardson
This study aims to highlight how an existential-humanistic perspective can inform athlete support and in doing so, emphasize the importance of explicating the philosophical underpinnings of athlete lifestyle support. Drawing on applied experience with elite youth cricketers over a 12-month period, ethnographic data were collected through the observation, maintenance of case notes, and a practitioner reflective diary. Based on thematic analysis, we created three nonfictional vignettes that we use to illustrate how existential-humanistic theorizing can inform lifestyle support. We discuss the implications of this professional philosophy in terms of considerations for performance and talent development programs, and how holistic support for athletes is positioned. We also discuss implications for athlete lifestyle and performance psychology practitioners, with regard to training, underpinning theoretical grounding of support and the strategic positioning of their practitioner roles.
Tom O. Mitchell, Ian H.J. Cowburn, David Piggott, Martin A. Littlewood, Tony Cook, and Kevin Till
The possession of certain psychosocial characteristics can offer performance advantages in a range of domains. However, integrating a program to support the development of psychosocial characteristics is a lengthy process and involves context-specific knowledge and effective working relationships with stakeholders. The aim of this article is to present a real-life example of the design, delivery, and implementation of a theoretically informed psychosocial development program for players within an academy soccer setting to include player workshops, coach delivery, and ways to influence the environment. This multifaceted approach included formal and informal meetings, observations, coach education, and social media groups. Initial reflections suggested workshops are an effective method to “teach” some of the aspects within the program. Integrating coaches throughout design and implementation is recommended. Key stakeholders should consider investing time in education for coaches to develop strategies to foster psychosocial development in their players. Limitations and future recommendations are discussed.