Within sport we want to teach players transferable skills that they can use in all areas of life. We want to teach players social and psychological skills that can help them to thrive in not only sport but also in different environments. We want to develop players who can cope with adversity, manage stress, become resilient, be leaders and be good team players. However, is this actually happening within elite sport? Are we focusing too much on the athlete and the results which they produce? Are we thinking about developing the person rather than developing the player??
Elite sport has now become a business where athletes are paid and sold for millions of pounds or dollars. Sport has become an industry where TV rights are sold for hundreds of millions of pounds and advertising and sponsorship can fund a players life. What happens to the hundreds of thousands of players who don’t make it in elite sport? What happens to the young players who are released by their sport clubs?
In football out of the 10,000 youth players in academies less than 1% make it to the top level. What happens to the players that don’t make it? Do clubs offer support and services to help athletes to manage this stressful time? Being released from a club is a stressful time for any player. Most players would have developed a strong athletic identity which means they can find it hard to adapt to everyday life. Some players will be lucky enough to find a new club whereas others will struggle and have to deal with the stress and worries of creating a new life outside of sport.
In sport we want our clubs and teams to win medals and trophies. We want to see our favourite club become the best in the country or even world. We want to see results and often when results don’t go our way we see managers being sacked and players being released. When developing players we want results. We want to see players improve technically, tactical and physically. When players don’t achieve the results that are needed this can lead to problems. Surely sport is more than just about producing top quality athletes?
Clubs must start to take responsibility for developing better people as well players. Clubs should start to think about how they can start to develop the psychological skills of players from a young age. By developing psychological and social skills we can help players to manage the stress and worries of not only sport but also life. 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem and there will be athletes within sport who are suffering in silence. Young players are put under huge amounts of pressure and stress to achieve a certain level of results within elite sport. How many clubs support young athletes academically? How many clubs think about the stress of balancing school work and sport? Often we hear stories of of young players who have been built up by the media to be the best in the world and then 2 years later are released by the club and left without any support. How many clubs focus on developing the wellbeing and resilience of players?
Sport is not all about producing results and top quality players. Sport is about develop better people. Coaches must be aware of the different skills that players can learn from taking part in sport. When a player does not achieve a certain level, that does not mean that you should stop helping them to grow and develop into a better person. Not only will this approach help to develop better players but it will also help players within their academic, social, work and family environment.