Soccer Mindset Academy: A fix for football’s mental health concerns?

As the world deals with the current COVID-19 crisis, the mental wellbeing of people across the globe continues to emerge as a major concern.

Footballing communities around the world are looking at various initiatives to address mental health issues in a difficult time.

In a recent example, Football Victoria CEO Peter Filopoulos detailed his organisation’s plan to tackle possible mental health degradation during this period, through a targeted online campaign for Victorian football participants.

In football, for a long time, mental health has been under-resourced for the majority of players, especially those at a grassroots level.

CEO of Soccer Mindset Academy Yal Bekar, believes his product is a cost-effective resource that can change that perception.

“I got the idea of creating a product that focussed entirely on mindset when I came to the realisation that it was absolutely key to a player’s performance and resilience. And yet most had never even considered their mental wellbeing, let alone been educated on it. I also saw the inequality in terms of paid resources for players,” Bekar told fcbusiness.

“There was then, and still is, a huge gap in what parents, clubs and coaches offer players in the form of mindset tools. We set about to address that four years ago, and now it feels like our time has truly come to shine a light and offer a really accessible way to make a difference in these young players’ lives.”

The academy has developed their own curriculum and tools in consultation with leading experts in a number of fields.

Dr Matt Pain, a sports psychologist in elite sport for over 15 years, including a stint of 10 years managing the English FA’s psychology research, was involved in the process of content development in the product. As was Andy Barton, a leading performance coach in the UK.

In company with the academy’s focus on implementing positive tools for the mental resilience of players, it is their intent to influence change at a junior grassroots level.

In 2019, the Soccer Mindset Academy became sponsors of the Jason Roberts Foundation, a charity created by a former professional footballer which offered participation and playing opportunities to young people who had little chance of accessing coaching.

They donated a specifically created mindset platform to the foundation, whilst also providing 200 players with access to online mindset training.

That same year, in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of mindset for young female players, the organisation sponsored SheKicks magazine and their coverage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

Yal Bekar thinks a lot more can still be done in regards to showcasing the significance of mental wellbeing in football.

“We are stepping up our efforts to reach players globally by creating a reasonably priced Soccer Mindset Challenge specifically to highlight and educate young players on the importance of mental wellbeing at this challenging time,” he said.

The new Soccer Mindset Challenge is set to launch in May of this year, in the same timeframe as Mental Health Awareness Month.

The aim of the challenge is to increase young players’ awareness of different mindset tools that can be accessed while social distancing during the COVID-19 restrictions.

In a time period where certain players may feel uncomfortable due to the lack of a normal school routine, the company’s app has daily workouts that can be completed at home.

These workouts encourage positive mindset habits and mental wellbeing, whilst also providing structured and educational pieces using different types of football video, audio and practical exercises.

These activities also benefits coaches, clubs and parents at a time when usual activities are unable to occur, improving young players in alternative ways.

How young players respond during this pandemic will have an impact on the way they are in the future.

It is crucial for clubs, parents and relevant stakeholders to provide them with positive tools and techniques to help them out of this period without scheduled competitive football.

While Soccer Mindset Academy may not be the ultimate fix, it provides a template that can be used and adapted for a generation of young players who are trying to deal with the current situation around the world.

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Manchester City teams up with Qualtrics

Manchester City Qualtrics

English Premier League side Manchester City have announced a new partnership with Qualtrics which will see the leader and creator of the Experience Management (XM) category become the Club’s Official Experience Management Software Partner.

Qualtrics empowers organisations to listen to customer and employee feedback, understand and analyse what they hear, then take action to improve experiences and design new ones, all in real time.

Manchester City and Qualtrics’ new partnership aligns with the club’s ongoing commitment to provide the best possible matchday experience for fans and will allow the club to use industry-leading experience management software to listen to fans’ feedback following each fixture.

From overall matchday experience – to catering, facilities, retail and more – Qualtrics can provide valuable insight and real-time data from fans to help the club shape their future strategic planning and decisions.

The new partnership is also expected to include further activations across wider areas of the organisation in coming months, using Qualtrics’ experience management software to listen to fan feedback and enhance the digital experience for Cityzens across the globe.

Senior Vice President of Global Partnerships Sales at City Football Group, Stephan Cieplik:

“As a club, we are continually working to improve our matchday offering for fans both in-stadium and across our digital platforms for those following across the globe,” he said.

“Through this new partnership with Qualtrics, we will be able to use industry-leading software to gather valuable feedback and insight from those at the heart of our club to help shape future decisions around matchdays.”

Qualtrics President of Products and Services, Brad Anderson:

“With Qualtrics, Manchester City can listen to and understand fan feedback in real time and take action to improve matchday experiences,” he said.

“But fan experience isn’t limited to the stadium — the digital and at-home fan experience is just as important, and Qualtrics will help Manchester City to deliver a personalized experience to their fans wherever they are.”

Bundesliga agrees partnership with digital company Sorare

Fan token

Bundesliga International have agreed a partnership in the growing sector of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) with successful digital company Sorare.

In an effort to take the marketing of the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 to new innovative heights, the subsidiary of DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga will partner with the popular fantasy football game effective immediately until at least the 2022/23 season.

Sorare, founded in Paris in 2018, is the market leader for NFTs as part of a fantasy football game. NFTs are digital assets made unique with individual encryption using blockchain technology.

In Sorare’s case, for example, limited-edition NFTs featuring professional football players can be purchased in order to create virtual teams. Sales are set to start in October, with further details to be provided soon.

The official partnership centres on NFTs in the form of digital player items that can be played in the integrated fantasy football game and also collected, exchanged and traded on the Sorare platform. Next year, Sorare will also publish NFT-based videos from the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, known as “Moments”, which can likewise be collected and played in the fantasy football game.

Robert Klein, CEO of DFL subsidiary Bundesliga International:

“We are delighted to be partners with such a dynamic and exciting company. NFTs are a digital technology of the future that should not be underestimated – especially in the sport sector.

“I am therefore convinced that this collaboration will give rise to further impulses. At the same time, Sorare will benefit from the appeal of one of the most popular sport brands.”

CEO and co-founder of Sorare, Nicolas Julia:

“Germany usually attracts the highest average attendance in football stadiums. It is football as it’s meant to be, where fans engage with their favourite players and club each weekend. We’re thrilled to allow Bundesliga fans in Germany and globally to come together online and to feel ownership of the sports they love.

“The Bundesliga is one of the best leagues in the world, home to some of the most exciting clubs and footballers on earth. We are very proud to partner with them to launch our first NFT Moments – we are building the future of fandom together.”

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