Academy to 1st Team Transition:
Sport Psychology & Long-Term Athletic Development

ISSPF Article

Thousands of players & even coaches who excel within the youth age groups but for some reason when exposed to the higher pressured environments, and make the transitional step up into professional ranks, they never quite seem to be able to make the step up or adapt.

As a result performances fail them, and then they fall out of love and out of the club! Irrespective of the physical step up in intensity, demand, technical & tactical requirements of the next step, the psychological processes involved are regularly underreported leaving people underprepared to excel.

Romelu Lukaku is an example of a player who never quite settled in his initial period with Chelsea FC after a move from Anderlecht as a young 18 year old boy. However, having moved on loan to various clubs, then transferred through a number of elite level clubs highlighting his immense quality, most recently with Italian giants Inter Milan scoring 47 goals in 72 games to win the Serie A title.

Soccer player diet

Romelu Lukaku has not only excelled through domestic & European level, but is currently the Belgium national team’s greatest goal scorer of all time, and subsequently on the verge of being the most expensive player ever sold by an Italian ‘Serie A’ club…..not bad for a player who was deemed surplus to requirements from Chelsea FC as a younger player!

WHY DO TALENTED ACADEMY ATHLETES OFTEN FAIL TO SUCCESSFULLY MAKE THE TRANSITION INTO FIRST TEAMS?

Prior to the transitional change between squads career progression, research has reported that players report high motivation to be successful & succeed, but have also reported anxiousness about the transition to the senior professional ranks.

During the post-transitional phase for these younger players, it was highlighted through research that they felt more confident about their ability to succeed with their more senior peers. Furthermore, during this period, it was however noted that family, friends, coaches, & teammates provided emotional & tangible support throughout the transition, but were also seen as sources of stress for players/ or athletes at this stage of the transition.

Reportedly, numerous nations have recently focussed more on the transformation of young talented athletes into world-class performers across sports such as soccer, rugby union & league, cricket, athletics & American football. Each specific organisation has taken both verbal & visible steps in order to increase the number of home-grown academy players transitioning into, & competing in their first team squads especially within the soccer world (i.e. CF Barcelona, SL Benfica, Manchester United FC, Celtic FC, BVB Dortmund, AS Monaco).

nutrition for footballers
nutrition for footballers

It has been indicated that a sporting-career transitional phase such as the one we are discussing can be described as… .the occurrence of one or more specific events which bring about a change in both the individual’s assumptions about themselves & their social environment.

What makes the academy – 1st team transition so problematic & daunting, is that young football players or soccer athletes have to handle transitions across more than one key area of their developing life. Wylleman & Lavallee’s perspective on these sporting, progressive career transitions suggest that players’ or athletes may experience up to four transitions simultaneously:

  1. Athletic transition incurring the training load, competition demands
  2. Individual (psychological) factors affecting the change
  3. Psychosocial elements
  4. Academic or vocational changes as now it becomes more serious & in most cases primary work related

Developing and progression from adolescence into young adulthood in an elite sporting environment generally impacts upon the development of each individual’s psychological identity which then causes a variety of psychosocial concerns that may arise from developing new social relationships in the first-team environment.

This is quite a shift for the young athlete as losing the psychological support provided by pre-existing social relationships is normal with the step up than follows. From an academic or vocational perspective, demands are elevated as a result of moving from youth into becoming an elite athlete or soccer player. 

With a growing focus on the successful transition of elite English team-sport athletes into first-team regulars, the lack of empirical research into the difficulties experienced, & the coping strategies utilized by these specific athletes is concerning.

Analysis of current trends has shown us the importance of psychological strength as a key quality in a soccer player. The difference between great players & average players can often be seen in their mastery of the mental aspect & dealing with adversity.

nutrition for footballers

Working on this aspect has therefore become one of the key pillars for development within the game alongside the technical, tactical and physical pillar in the long-term athletic development training sequence. The development of individual’s psychological strength, especially across youth players should be looked at similarly to that of systematic & logical training program & must be integrated into the planning & organisation of their LTAD plan.

The objective of psychological development is to achieve the ideal performance state or develop an “individual energetic mental state”

Within the ISSPF Certificate in Youth Soccer Athletic Development (LTAD) these concerns and issues are not only highlighted, but actually addressed through the fantastic work of Dr. Tanja Ecken who brings to the course not only excellent academic insights but really applied actions and experience from working across elite youth & senior German soccer players within the elite level Bundesliga competition.

Sharing her knowledge of developing players and enhancing psychological tools to maximise this area is a fantastic concept and must have for all coaches, performance practitioners & individuals involved within the development of players or athletes.

This content is further exposed within the ISSPF Certificate in Soccer Psychology & Mental Skills Training courses which ranges across Foundation, Intermediate & Advanced levels.

The bespoke courses developed by ISSPF specialists are a way of further exposing youth team coaches, sport science students, individuals working within the game & other football science or soccer coaching enthusiasts with a thirst to develop further in specialised soccer science & performance areas.

The link below will take you to the hugely popular & expertly designed ISSPF University endorsed & accredited Youth Soccer Athletic Development (LTAD) online sport science & coaching course, where you will be exposed to football science research, practical examples and developmental principles which will help you in developing youth soccer players, whilst further providing an understanding of how these enhancements can benefit you and your role within your own unique sporting environment. 

Why is this course important?

      • Provides latest research findings, & contemporary training methods & detailed insights into youth soccer athletic development
      • Gain a better understanding how to maximise development & the long-term athletic stages across player’s pathway
      • Learn how to balance key training elements from a technical, tactical & physical preparation in order to attain a long-term progressive strategy
      • Help maximise your decision making when working with pre-pubescent & adolescent age groups

Who is this course for?

      • Individuals tasked with the responsibility for the training, preparation, development & coaching aspects of both individual athletes or team sport players across the youth development phases
      • Individuals with an interest in developing their knowledge in the preparation, training & development of youth age group individual athletes or team sport players.

Youth Soccer Athletic Development (LTAD) Course outline & content

Module 1: Youth testing in soccer
Lecturer: Prof. Darren Paul (England) Aspetar, Qatar

Module 2: Morphological & Physiological Soccer Profiles: Talent ID & LTAD
Lecturer: Prof. Hassane Zouhal (France) FC Rennes Academy, University of Rennes

Module 3: Strength Development in Soccer: Protection for Performance LTAD
Lecturer: Hamish Munro (England) Bristol City FC

Module 4: Long – Term Athlete Development in Youth Soccer part 1
Lecturer: Tsikakis Antonios (Greece) FC Olympiakos

Module 5: Nutritional Support for the Youth Soccer Player: Maturation Status & LTAD
Lecturer: Jack Christopher (England) Chelsea FC

Module 6: Building up a model for a Soccer Academy (LTAD)
Lecturer: Alex Segovia Vilchez (Spain) Trabzonspor

Module 7: Long – Term Athlete Development in Youth Soccer part 2
Lecturer: Tsikakis Antonios (Greece) FC Olympiakos

Module 8: Training Design & Application in Youth Development (LTAD)
Lecturer: Alex Segovia Vilchez (Spain) Trabzonspor

Module 9: Velocity Based Training in an Elite Academy Soccer
Lecturer: Jack Christopher (England) Chelsea FC

Module 10: Integrating Physical & Tactical Periodisation in Soccer: Senior & Youth levels
Lecturer: Hamish Munro (England) Bristol City FC

Module 11: Youth Physical Development: A Training Proposal for Pre-Pubescent Soccer Players
Lecturer: Dr. Alejandro Romero-Caballero (Spain) La Liga

Module 12: Youth to 1st Team Link: Overcoming the Bridge
Lecturer: Dr. Tanja Ecken (Germany) Bundasliga

 

FAQs:

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