Football develops continuously. In the early years nobody would think about a sports psychologist. Howere nowadays almost every professional footballclub has one in there crew. Afke van de Wouw iis now on her third season in Arnhem.

Thinking of a psychologist, you mostly think about mental problems. An athlete who struggles with depression for example. But sports psychology is so much more. ‘ I am not a clinical psychologist. Players with, as we call it, pathology I pass on. My work is mainly aimed at players to  better there performance. .

Coaches coachen
Recent years Vitesse has invested in there youth training. Trainers now work full time and often have a Vitesse-background. Technical Director Mohammed Allach said earlier that they want to train the trainers from Vitesse with there own philosophy. Afke van de Wouw coaches the trainers in coaching. “I coach in communications” What is the best way to approach your players, what is usefull to do with teambuilding at the beginning of the season, how to coop with different players, what is the best way to prepare your players?  By a qustionnaires about personality and skills of the player yu get valuable information.

Mental training
In addition to attention to the trainers, the sports psychologist is also concerned with improving the methods for the academy. A player can take multiple decisions with each action. Where to look has a lot of influence. ‘Football is to gather information, communicate with your teammates, your opponents, but also with circumstances. With all that information, you take a decision. If a pass does not arrive this could be because the player does not have the good information it has collected. For example, he did not she the guy in the back. But it could also be that he did have the good information, but that he made a wrong decision. He plays it to the left, while there is a player. It may also be that the performance just wasn’t good. He hits to the ball wrong, ” explains Van de Wouw. A good coach makes his players feel confident, so that they are able to make the right choices in the field. “If a trainer exactly says who, where and what they should do then it is just simply a copy of  what the players need to do. During a competition a trainer does not have the resources and time to players tell every player where to stand and what to do.  You can ask during coachingsessions ‘well, what would you do now, why do you make this choice, what else could you do’ then players become more aware of their own choices and decisions and they will often make good choices. A player that often looks to the ground will not get all the information. You can then say to him that he has to look up. But you can also let playersplay during training without high visibility vest. Then you force him to look good. ‘

A part of the work of van der Wouw is observating the trainers during training and in matches. “The matches will be filmed, and formerly they also had microphones on so they are able to listen to there own coaching.During the competition, they are often all the way in, which they do not know exactly what they have said. They analyze themselves, and then I give them useful tools and tips. I see them these tips and use it again later.

Van der Wouw finds it challenging to translate theory, research and techniques to the football field. Before that, she works closely with the movement scientists of Vitesse. ‘For example in the field of communication I work together with Anders Belling. With non-verbally communicate you can act faster than the opponent. At first we want the players to communicate well verbally, then they learn how to communicate non-verbal. That we translate into practice by, for example, they train with earphones so that they do not hear each other. So they are forced to communicate non-verbally. Ultimately, We want to make sure that they are ready for the level of Vitesse 1. There will be pressure. We must ensure that they can deal with the pressure. Viewing habits and deal with setbacks help in doing so. Not only lung capacity, dexterity with the ball and muscle strength are important, but also the mental aspect needs attention. ‘

Written in dutch: Download PDF hier