Southgate: Football should embrace sport specific psychology
England manager Gareth Southgate has called on football to embrace the use of psychologists in the same way as other major sports.
In an exclusive interview with UCFB, Southgate said individual sports especially had defined the role of psychology in their game in a way that football still hasn’t, and that having the right mentality at the highest level makes the ultimate difference to performance.
The Three Lions boss said: “I’ve used and worked with sport psychologists as a player and as a coach, so I recognise the value of it. Within football the role hasn’t necessarily been really defined, whereas in other sports it’s a lot clearer. The likes of tennis and golf have been far more open to the use of psychologists.”
He added: “If you ask any sports person or any coach what’s the difference at the highest level it’s the mental side of the game, so why wouldn’t we try and train that, and why wouldn’t we try and work to improve that?”
Southgate was at UCFB Wembley to talk to students as part of the unique Executive Guest Speaker Series. During a captivating talk to nearly 500 students, Southgate, who was appointed full time England manager in November 2016, gave great insight into his playing and coaching career, which included memorable stints at Aston Villa and Middlesbrough.
The last two decades has seen dedicated sport psychologists become more common in football, when once it was perhaps a taboo subject for players to use such practices to improve their performance. Arsenal appointing Arsene Wenger as manager in 1996 is largely seen as the breakthrough moment.
Though admitting he doesn’t have all the answers for how the game should embrace psychology further, Southgate is determined to see it utilised more effectively.
He said: “I don’t have an ideal model of what it should look like, but there is real value in having an understanding of how people think, how you think as an athlete and why you do the things you do. It’s important to understand yourself better first and foremost, and understand why you might react or how you might react in certain situations and then how you might affect that to improve your performance.
“I think these are really key if you want to be a top player.”