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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.

Dig Inclusion makes digital access available for everyone 

For stadiums around the world, infrastructure has been created to cater for people with disabilities, however access to club websites and apps cannot be overlooked. 

In the past, stadiums had been designed so people with disability can still access the venues. As we know with COVID outbreaks, attention has now shifted towards how we get these people into the grounds by using apps and in particular to scan a QR code for contact tracing. 

As we have seen in 2021, the QR system has become a mandatory tool, while at the same time we have seen the need to go with virtual tickets, rather than the printed out copies we had always been accustomed to. 

For clubs and stadiums, they want to ensure that fan experience is at the optimal level, so that means they have to assess the accessibility for disabled people and ways for them to have entry to venues without an enormous amount of hassle. 

This is where Dig Inclusion can help. They are a digital accessibility service who ensures that football club websites and apps are equally available for everyone. 

For clubs, they should be asking themselves whether disabled fans have the same opportunity to buy tickets online as everybody else, while the other consideration should be if news feeds, match statistics, websites and apps are as user friendly as they need to be. 

For digital accessibility, Dig Inclusion takes into account people who are colour blind, dyslexic or have cognitive impairments (including people living with dementia). Through a club’s website or app design process – from the use of font, to language, to colour contrast – are all highly important so nobody feels overwhelmed when accessing a club’s resource. 

For example, if a disabled fan wants to buy some club merchandise, then they will have the same opportunity to browse and make that purchase just like any other person would, with tailored options available to assist anyone who needs it. 

When teams partner with Dig Inclusion, they are there for every step of the way, from accessible testing, research and strategy, to accessible development and content creation, and finally a check on websites, mobile apps, PDF documents and ebooks among some of the benefits. 

All of Dig Inclusion’s services are designed to help clubs keep pace in a rapidly changing digital age: 

Accessible design review: To highlight visual aspects of a design that need to be checked for accessibility, such as colour contrast and positioning. This looks at common accessibility pitfalls and turns this into what would be the ultimate experience for all customers. 

Accessibility help desk: Advice and support from someone who understands the company and what they do, offering fast response times and specialist knowledge for any stucks in the digital accessibility process. 

Mobile accessibility: Helping to get the most out of tablet and smartphone users, with those devices more often used than desktop or laptop. This is very important for disabled or elderly fans who would like to use mobile technology. 

Web accessibility: Advising organisations about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in an easy-to-understand manner, as design agencies and web developers may find it difficult to grasp or keep pace with updates as they become available. 

Disabled user testing: It’s not only digital content meeting accessibility guidelines that is important, but also making sure that the experience of a disabled person using a product is a good one. 

PDF accessibility: Accessibility guidelines are not just designed for webpages, but anything that a customer downloads is also included. Dig Inclusion can produce PDF documents that go alongside WCAG with equal access as a typical website. 

Video accessibility: When businesses make advertising material, they can be supported with transcripts, captions, subtitles, or audio descriptions that they probably would have not used before on their own. 

Ebook accessibility: Tablets have been a valuable way for people to virtually read books and other publications. An accessible ebook gives all readers instant access to fit their needs, regardless of print disability. 

Dig Inclusion provides ways for clubs to navigate the challenges associated with building an app or website for equal opportunities. To learn more on Dig Inclusion, you can find it here. 

Swan Retail: Promoting clubs through powerful app 

Swan Retail’s software development has seen the creation of FUSE – an app that has all the best fan engagement features in the one place. 

It’s been a mixed bag for Australian audiences wanting to go to live sporting events, as lockdowns and restrictions have not always gone in our favour. 

For sport clubs, they have become more reliant on finding ways to engage with their fan bases via digital, as the typical match day inclusions do not always go to plan, with unpredictable Covid-19 changes. However, what is for certain is that clubs cannot be stopped in exploring ways to promote their team in a variety of ways. 

Swan Retail has identified the demand for digital and online resources, where they have taken their expertise into the sports & stadium area. 25 years’ worth of experience has lended itself towards furniture & homeware, fashion and specialty retail to name a few. 

Swan Retails app, FUSE, encapsulates that a club is searching for when it comes to fan engagement. It is completely branded to suit a club’s identity and includes an immerse news feed to create engaging content that you would see on a social media platform. The only difference here is that the app takes everything from a club and showcases that directly to a fan, rather than trapping it in amongst other competitors.

When a fan uses FUSE, their sole focus is on the team they support. FUSE is the application that integrates quality engagement, offering clubs the chance to interact with their fans, build their brand, reward loyalty and drive sales. 

Available on the App Store and Google Play, FUSE has a host of features to maximise marketing potential: 

  • Build and theme a business app. 
  • Clubs can customise their branding. 
  • Scale up only when clubs need to. 
  • Deploy to iOS & Android. 
  • Potential to be live within four weeks. 
  • Deliver engaging content through the app feed. 
  • Segment, target and deliver content based on purchase data. 
  • Display real-time loyalty points and loyalty account balances. 
  • Wrap and enhance a mobile website. 
  • Harness the power of push notifications. 
  • Drive footfall, sales, traffic and conversion. 

FUSE can bring fan engagement benefits that are developed around loyalty. To build and sustain a fan base, Swan Retail helps to bring promotions to life. The app provides the go-to resource for planning and delivering promotional campaigns, leading to an increased rate of revenue. 

Clubs can bring across their creativity and connect with fans in a more personalised manner, whether it be game day or to provide greater access off the pitch. Swan Retail have partnered with Warrington Wolves Rugby Club, Ipswich Town Football Club and Stoke City Football Club who have already seen the following benefits: 

  • News, events, polls and promotions form the pivotal part of FUSE, making content the app’s bread and butter. This can be implemented further by integrating an online shop, which can be a post of a goal celebration during the match with a promotion applied to the player’s kit. 
  • Push notifications as a regularity can consistently bring fans to the app once they have been informed of new content, rewards and timely promotions that all contribute to driving sales. 
  • Loyalty points can be accrued to make fans feel part of something special and to be rewarded for their support. 
  • A website within the app to collaborate a fans’ online experience by seamlessly allowing them to browse and buy from a store without leaving the app. 
  • Calls-to-action as a way of offering new products such as kit releases and the ability to use redeem promotions and use rewards points. 
  • Custom forms can be created as a crowdsourcing tool to get feedback and insights from the people that make the club tick and learn more about how to maximise profits. 

To learn more about Swan Retail, and to have a read of their case studies, you can find it here. 

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