Sport Psychology Consultations for Professional Soccer Players –
Working with Diverse Teams
The Zinman College of Physical Education and Sport Sciences
and Faculty of Education
University of Haifa, Israel
Ribstein Center for Sport Medicine Sciences and Research
Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sport
Since the 1950s soccer has established itself as one of the most popular team sports in Israel (Ben-Porat, 1998, 2001). Professional and amateur soccer is played around the country, in both large and small cities. Although soccer is played by females as well, the sport has been exclusively dominated by males. There is only one amateur league for adult females (composed of 8 teams). However, there are two professional and three semi-professional divisions for male players, and there are many amateur leagues for male players comprising teams from all over the country. All the games played in the two male professional divisions are regularly televised, while games played in the female league can seldom be seen on television.
This article focuses on the provision of sport psychology consultations to three professional soccer clubs by one sport psychology consultant (SPC). Over the past 10 years, the SPC worked with three different professional soccer clubs in Israel, each during a separate season. This article presents the experiences of the SPC based on his work with these three clubs. Typically, the team of experts that works for a professional soccer club in Israel is composed of a head coach, assistant coach/s (one or two), a strength and conditioning coach, an athletic trainer, a physiotherapist, and a physician specializing in sports medicine. Few clubs hire a SPC in order to regularly provide their players and coaches with the required psychological preparation for practices and games. The reason for this is that most of the owners of the clubs believe that soccer is a physical game and not a mental game. They insist that a good coach should, with the help of his or her regular assistants, be able to prepare the players to overcome any psychological barriers they may face during the season. Furthermore, they believe that if a coach demands to work with a SPC on a regular basis, he or she may lack strong leadership, and in turn, this may have a negative influence on the relationships with his or her players. This belief is not a cultural perspective but rather a sport-specific perspective, since in other ball games such as basketball, team-handball, and volleyball, club owners are more open to hiring SPCs to help the coaches better deal with the psychological preparation of their players.
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