A few real nuggets among less valuable and sometimes questionable contributions

Karl Marius Aksum
Norwegian School of Sport Sciences

Erkut Konter, Jürgen Beckman & Todd M. Loughead (eds.)
Football Psychology: From Theory to Practice
301 pages, paperback.
Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2019
ISBN 978-1-138-28751-8

Many different books have been written on the topic of sport psychology in the last 20 years. Football Psychology: From theory to practice is a novel attempt to write exclusively about different aspects of psychology, exclusively related to football. The book consists of 25 small, to very small chapters with more or less different topics. It is an ambitious attempt to present research from many different areas of psychology and use it to provide practical recommendations for football. After reading this book it is clear that this was clearly overambitious. Too many chapters are based on a very limited research base and some chapters focus neither on sport psychology nor football.

The book has some great chapters that should be read by all practitioners: Chapter 2, 5, 14, and 15. Chapter 2 is a review on the current research on Mental Toughness (MT) in football. A very well written chapter where we are presented with the main characteristics and behaviors on what constitute mental toughness in different age groups and levels. Such as, high self-belief, wanting the ball, communicating motivationally with teammates, and reacting quickly and positively when making a mistake. The chapter also describes different situations in which mental toughness is necessary, and discusses different training methods to enhance MT in players. Chapter 5 is about the practical implementation of a 5C program (control, commitment, confidence, concentration, and communication) for psycho-social development in a Premier League academy. This is a purely practical chapter where the authors explain in great detail how they implemented the program using an interdisciplinary approach, and how they involved players, coaches and parents. Consistency was key. Chapter 14 provides an overview of different psychological skills and strategies in football, including relaxation techniques, mental skills, goal setting, imagery, and self-talk. Some nice examples are added as well. A thorough introduction to this topic. Chapter 15 is about stress management in football. The chapter provides a nice overview of the different stressors that players might experience in football and focuses on an acceptance commitment therapy approach to deal with these stressors. A nice example is provided at the start which is followed up throughout the chapter.

The chapter provides a nice overview of the different stressors that players might experience in football and focuses on an acceptance commitment therapy approach to deal with these stressors.

Unfortunately, these great chapters are overshadoweded by chapters that should never have been accepted by the editors: Chapters 1, 3, 11 and 12. Chapter 1 is about different mood states in adolescent Brazilian players. They found there to be positional differences in mood states between forwards and defenders. The sample sizes they used and the population of these studies are extremely weak and their attempt to generalize results from Brazilian society to European society is speculative. They also use a master’s thesis as one of their main sources, which is not good enough at this level. Chapter 3 is supposed to be about courage in football. All results presented in this chapter is from the author’s own book. The composition of the chapter makes no sense. For instance, the results on courage in football is only presented at the very end. The entire conceptualization of courage should be questioned as courage only occurs if the player experience fear, and there are no ways, to date, to accurately determine whether the players did experience fear in a given 11 v 11 situation.

Chapter 11 is about coach justice. The chapter provides results from different sports and other domains, but provides nothing from football, except some manuscripts that are submitted but not peer reviewed. The concept of coach justice is speculative at best. Additionally, the authors use multiple pages to present practical applications that are completely unfounded based on the empirical evidence in football, which are non-existing. I am perplexed that the editors allowed this chapter to be published. Chapter 12 is about burnout in football. Hence, the editors decided to include a chapter on a research area that has yet to be started properly! There are TWO research articles on burnout of football coaches. They also decided to include something about psychological and physiological stress but none of these concepts can be directly related to burnout.

There are some additional well-written chapters in the book. Chapter 7, dives into athlete leadership and peer mentoring. The chapter provides a nice overview of the current research and emphasizes the importance of both formal and informal athlete leadership in a football team. Some nice practical recommendations are presented. However, little empirical research has been conducted in this field so the results should be interpreted cautiously. Chapter 10 on leadership power is also a nice chapter. It discusses five types of leadership power; (1) reward power; (2) coercive power; (3) legitimate power; (4) expert power; and (5) referent power, and provides results on how different leadership powers in coaches influence athletes psychological well-being. None of these results are related to performance. Some nice implications in football are presented. However, too much of the research is from other domains and the research in football has solely been conducted by the lead author, which is a limitation.

Chapter 16 is about imagery in football. A well-written chapter where the different measurements of imagery ability as well as the different types of imagery training are well accounted for. The authors thoroughly describe what imagery is and how players best can use imagery in an effective way. The big problem with imagery is that it is almost impossible to investigate whether good imagery ability translates to good football performance. This question about the ecological validity of this research is raised in the chapter but not discussed at length. Thus, we know that imagery can be useful in simplified and controllable settings like a penalty or a free kick, but there is no evidence to suggest that it can be used for open play situations.

Overall, this book would have been a much better read if the 25 chapters had been developed into larger chapters that covered fewer topics in greater length. In doing so, the editors would ensure that the quality of the chapters became much higher, by removing the chapters that had topics that are not yet properly researched. If you are going to buy a sport psychology book on football it should not be this one.

Copyright © Karl Marius Aksum 2021

Table of Content

Introduction: football psychology on route to becoming an integral part of football

Part I: Personality, motivation, cognition, and emotion

      1. Mood states as motivational and emotional determinants of football performance
        José Lino O. Bueno, Victor C. Souza
      2. Mental toughness development in football
        Tristan J. Coulter, Richard C. Thelwell
      3. Courage in football
        Erkut Konter, Jürgen Beckmann
      4. The unifying role of player responsibility in football
        George K. Doganis, Marios T. Goudas, Paul M. Wright
      5. The consistent psycho-social development of young footballers: implementing the 5C’s as a vehicle for interdisciplinary cohesion
        Karl Steptoe, Tom King, Chris Harwood
      6. Decision making and non-verbal intelligence in football
        Itay Basevitch, Erkut Kont

Part II: Coaching essentials in football

      1. Athlete leadership in football
        Todd M. Loughead, Ashley M. Duguay, Matt D. Hoffmann
      2. Effective coaching in football
        Christine Nash, Clifford J. Mallett
      3. Collective collapse in football
        Erwin Apitzsch
      4. Leadership power in football
        Erkut Konter, Todd M. Loughead, Kyle F. Paradis
      5. Coach justice and competence in football
        Tomás García-Calvo, Francisco M. Leo, Inmaculada González-Ponce
      6. Burnout in football coaching
        Zoltán Gáspár, Attila Szabó
      7. Recovery in football
        Jahan Heidari, Fabian Loch, Michael Kellmann

Part III: Psychological skills for performance development

      1. Psychological skills for football players
        Erkut Konter, Jürgen Beckmann, Clifford J. Mallett
      2. The use of acceptance and commitment therapy for stress management interventions in football
        Christopher R. D. Wagstaff, Göran Kenttä, Richard C. Thelwell
      3. Imagery in football
        Krista Munroe-Chandler, Michelle Guerrero
      4. Self-confidence and collective efficacy in football
        Edson Filho, Jean Rettig
      5. Concentration and self-talk in football
        Mirko Farina, Alberto Cei
      6. Applied behavioral analysis in top level football: theory and application
        Rasmus Tornberg, Henrik Gustafsson, Daniel Ekvall

Part IV: Developing the young player in football

      1. Parental coaching in football
        Denise Beckmann-Waldenmayer
      2. Talent development in youth football
        Jürgen Beckmann, Denise Beckmann-Waldenmayer
      3. How youth football players learn to succeed
        Laura Jonker, Barbara C. H. Huijgen, Bart Heuvingh, Marije T. Elferink-Gemser, Chris Visscher
      4. Helping players develop life skills in football
        Daniel Gould, Lucas S. Capalbo
      5. The critical transition from junior to elite football: resources and barriers
        José L. Chamorro, David Sánchez-Oliva, Juan J. Pulido
      6. Preventing depression and burnout in youth football
        Insa Nixdorf, Jürgen Beckmann, Raphael Nixdorf
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