Coaching strategies to develop desired psychological attributes within academy soccer players

Wixey, D.; Kingston, K.; Shearer, D. and Cropley, B. (2024). Coaching strategies to develop desired psychological attributes within academy soccer players. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology (Early access).



The mentality of youth soccer players is one of the most important contributors toward their success within the game. However, there is a lack of consensus regarding the attributes that might be most important in this context, and limited knowledge to support coaches in developing the desired psychological attributes in players. To address this, we conducted a two-phased study. First, we explored coaches’ perceptions of the psychological attributes that give players the best opportunity to progress through academies and into professional soccer (phase one). Reflexive thematic analysis (RTA) of semi-structured interviews with nine senior academy coaches led to the development of eight psychological attributes: commitment to develop; coping with demands; self-awareness and reflection; emotional control; confidence; drive to achieve goals; work ethic; and resilience. Second, we aimed to identify coaching strategies that support the development of these eight psychological attributes (phase two). Semi-structured interviews with 12 academy soccer coaches, followed by RTA, led to the construction of 55 coaching strategies alongside adaptive player behaviors that indicate the successful development of each attribute. Our findings advance current understanding of the psychological attributes that can support youth athletes’ progression into professional soccer. Moreover, we provide support for the coach-practitioner by offering conceptual and practical insights into the coaching strategies and behavioral indicators that can facilitate coaches’ endeavors to develop the psychological performance of players. In doing so, our findings may act as a framework to remove previously reported barriers to coaches addressing the psychological development of athletes through their coaching practice.

Plain Language Summary

We explored the psychological attributes that facilitate youth soccer players’ performance and progression through academies and into the professional game, and the coaching strategies that support the development of each attribute. Professional youth soccer coaches identified eight attributes, 55 developmental coaching strategies, and the behavioral indicators associated with each attribute.

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