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.