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.

FIFA and EA Sports end 30-year deal

As reported by the New York Times on Wednesday, gaming giant EA Sports and world football governing body FIFA have parted ways.

The partnership dated back to 1993, when FIFA International Soccer was launched for the SEGA Genesis.

Their current partnership was set to expire at the conclusion of the Qatar World Cup, with a new deal aiming to branch out into new areas – including NFTs.

It was reported that EA made a ‘significant offer’ for an eight-year exclusivity deal with FIFA for all of its Esports and gaming rights. However, the deal was knocked back, according to Reuters, as FIFA did not want the rights all with one company.

FIFA 23 will be the last game made in collaboration between the two organisations, set to release in late September this year, worldwide.

The FIFA series was estimated at the start of 2021 to have sold over 325 million units, according to ForbesFIFA 18 is the equal 40th highest selling video game of all time, estimated at 24 million units across all platforms.

FIFA confirmed it would still produce video games with third party developers, while EA will rebrand the FIFA series under the title EA Sports FC. The new series would include licensees such as the Premier League and LaLiga, which at this stage has authentic coverage, as all players are face scanned and the full broadcast packages akin to real life are featured in the game.

SocaLoca: Revolutionising talent identification and tournament organising

SocaLoca co-founders Lionel Foy and Sayf Ismail are providing more opportunity for footballers across the world with their innovative platform.

The concept was born in 2016 when the two first met, and now the SocaLoca app is used by national federations in Belize and Cameroon for tournament organising.

There are two main goals of the platform. Equalising talent identification and becoming a hotspot for football tournaments and data.

Foy and Ismail recognised that the pathways for footballers in some countries weren’t as equal as others. Smaller or less resourced countries and continents simply don’t have the infrastructure that the big footballing powers do globally.

The app operates in a similar way to statistics platforms like FotMob or Transfermarkt, where player profiles and stats are collated for fans and other interested parties to view. However, there is also a self-management aspect to it.

Footballers can download the platform and build their own profile, showcasing their achievements, statistics, results and more for anyone to see. This goes from juniors all the way up to seniors.

This gives those players from lesser resourced regions the opportunity to be seen and scouted like any other player, from when they’re first starting out to battling their way up through the footballing pyramid.

Co-founder Arif Sayuti.

While there are concerns around the data-sharing implicit to the platform, measures have been put in place. Players aged between 7 and 12 must be registered by their guardians and have a limit on what information can be displayed on their public profiles.

The global interconnectedness that an app like SocaLoca offers is unlike anything seen in world football to date.

The other side of the platform is its use in tournament organisation. This links in with the player profiles, where players are registered within tournaments and competitions and have their results and statistics linked to their profiles.

SocaLoca’s Competition Management Module has already seen successful use in Uganda, Belize and Cameroon, and can be used by anyone on the platform.

Football Federation Belize is now using the SocaLoca app to organise and run all regional competitions, while Cameroon’s national football academy is now a partner of SocaLoca.

Results and statistics in countries all over the world are now available to recruiters and talent identifiers, making it easier for those who would be otherwise overlooked to get their chance.

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