The 2019 Football Psychology seminar took place at the Idrættens Hus in Copenhagen. Comprising of more than 2,500 sq.ms of meeting rooms, conference halls and hotel rooms, all with the focal point of sport- it was an apt setting for such an event. On arrival to the seminar, there was a spirited atmosphere from the 70 odd attendees. From national team coaches and psychologists, to teachers and students alike, there was a real networking vibe and communal dialogue apparent.
For the welcome and introduction to the day- Carsten Hvid Larsen, associate professor and sport psychologist for the Danish youth national teams took to the floor. As head organiser of the event, his extensive knowledge in the area and enthusiasm of the speakers to come was amicable.
Kicking off the speakers of the day was Daniel Ransom. As a sport psychologist for Manchester Utd, this was a real treat for everyone in attendance to gain insight from behind the scenes of England’s most decorated club. What was particularly intriguing about his experience was how he was approached by the club, almost given a blank slate to work with and in his own words had to pave his way through the ranks and paint his own picture of what Psychology means to Manchester Utd and how the discipline can be implemented successfully at such a prestigious and often cut-throat level of competition.
Next up was Daniel Ekvall, Sport Psychologist at the Swedish FA. In a very engaging manner, and with loads of illustrative videos Daniel demonstrated the importance of focusing on the ‘next action’. His oral presentation was an exciting insight to his time overseeing the Swedish national team with emphasis on the experience from the World Championships in Russia 2018. With his team topping their group, beating the giants of Germany to the all valuable knockout stages, the psychological approach to the team and its individuals in turn was pivotal their success and hearing about this first hand was eye-opening.
After a sociable lunch, fittingly overseeing the grand Brøndby Hallen, it was back to business. It was now time to hear from Dr Vana Hutter, Assistant Professor at Vrije University of Amsterdam, lecturer, consultant, and researcher at the Centre for Behavior and movement, faculty of Behavioral and Physical sciences. Her extensive theoretical knowledge and experience was immediately apparent in her presentation focusing on Mental Health and Social-Emotional Development. As well as this valuable academic understanding, we were given an exciting glimpse of what is going on behind the scenes of tackling mental health issues in elite sport, and specifically football. This came in the form of an EU funded project called FLAME – FLourish in and beyond the gAME which is a collaborative project between Denmark, The Netherlands, and the U.K with the aim to further enhance the knowledge, tools, and skills applied in football academies to create an environment in which players can flourish both in and beyond the game.
Combined with Dr Hutter’s presentation was an open forum with fellow FLAME contributor- Mark Nesti. Representing Liverpool John Moore’s University and Everton FC, Mark was introduced by Carsten as the ‘Godfather’ of football psychology, referring to his 20 plus years working with the premier league’s top clubs. During the question and answer session, Mark’s Scottish whit and enthusiasm in which he talked about his thorough experiences with some of the world’s top football teams was not just informative, it was thoroughly entertaining.
The final speaker of the day was Paul van Zwam. Another highly accredited Sport Psychologist representing the academy of NEC Nijmegen. Having worked with the likes of Feyenoord and Reading FC, his outlook is to establish an optimal environment within the youth academies for talent to develop. Getting his perspective and approach to sport psychology as one of the Netherlands’ most prominent football psychologists was intriguing, specifically as he went in to quite some depth on the psychological interventions and exercises he uses in the field. This was to the delight of the listeners which was shown by the many questions that followed, which Paul was happy to answer.
All in all, the day was an informative and riveting experience, getting to share the room with some of the finest minds in Sport Psychology was a genuine pleasure.