Sports psychology at the Smart Football Academy
Every year, around 50 young adolescents attend the Smartfootball Academy to professionalize their football skills. It is ok to work on the technique and the physical condition. But, are they the only factors that have an impact on one’s performance? Clearly not. Hence more and more frequently one hears about sports psychology and methods like coaching.
What is a sports psychologist?
The sports psychologist job is to help athletes to optimize their performance. To achieve it, they should learn how to manage those emotions that push or block an excellent performance.
Nowadays, the sports psychologist figure is well integrated into elite teams. However, it is still difficult to find them in lower competition levels. Maybe their task is less known, although that doesn’t mean that it is less important. That is why, the Smartfootball Academy includes Sports Psychology in its pedagogical program.
Vicenç Raluy, sports psychologists at the Academia, indicates: “There are different variables that we must take into consideration when talking about sports performance: concentration, meaning the capacity to stay focused during the time the sports performance requires; confidence; motivation; stress and team cohesion. At the Academia, we work the first 4 variables mainly in a sports context. Whereas cohesion is worked thanks to them living together at Cambrils Park Sport Village, as each one of the students plays in a different local team”
Psychology and sports at the Academia Internacional
At the Academia Internacional Tecnifutbol, Vicenç Raluy, uses different techniques to work on the variables that have an impact on the young football players’ performance. To start, sessions in groups and individually take place to set the goals that players want to achieve. Secondly, the steps and techniques needed to achieve those goals are given. In the third place the levels of activation are worked.
Activation levels? What are they?
“Players don’t start a game at their 100% potential. As they get into the game, they experience moments full of tension combined with more relaxed moments, etc. The player must be able to balance his minimum and his maximum potential. To increase the energy when needed and to relax when a situation overwhelms him during a game. This is worked on different techniques such as virtual reality or breathing strategies.”
Emotions beyond football
They are teenagers that come from different countries, frequently from different cultures and, suddenly, they have to adapt to another reality far from their families. In addition to this, we must add the fact that they are going through adolescence and that they are undergoing a process where they are building their own identity. Quite a challenge!
“It isn’t easy. Throughout their stay they tend to go through a homesickness period or emotional crisis that we try to soften as much as possible. Some students go through it as they arrive and others after a couple of months. It is normal, and it is part of the learning process. My work and the tutor’s, who are daily with the students, is to guide and guess when a student needs additional support.”
It draws attention to us the cultural factor. Vicenç Raluy detects it and immediately adds: “Not all students express themselves the same way or have the same facility to open up. For example, students from countries with a Latin culture tend to somatise their emotions in the form of digestive disorders, while Indian or Arabic students somatise in the form of headaches. That exists and is known as intercultural health”.
As in every academic institution, success is measured by its results. We wonder whether the psychological work provides visible results on players and at what level.
According to Raluy, “Results are apparent, mainly on all the students that, upon arrival had difficulties with self- control and at managing frustration which shown with a harder playing style. When they leave, you can clearly see that they have learned to play a cleaner and more professional way. We should keep in mind that our students train twice a day, which is even more than some professional teams.”
We are happy to know that the Smartfootball Academy has a holistic approach that covers the emotional side of young football players. And, that students enjoy at Complex Esportiu Futbol Salou’s camps with professionalism which, with no doubt, will have an impact on other areas of their lives.