Should more teams follow Brendan Rodgers’ lead?

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers

It was revealed last week that Brendan Rodgers has brought in a sports psychiatrist who helped Great Britain’s heroic cycling team.

Dr Steve Peters has been credited for hugely influencing Victoria Pendleton and Sir Chris Hoy, and also helped Craig Bellamy to deal with Gary Speed’s death, as well as helping snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan before his World Snooker Championship victory earlier this year.

Dr Peters has been included to work with Liverpool one day each week, to bring what Rodgers describes as “mental tuning” , which he feels they require.

While many football teams already employ people in this capacity, should more managers employ Brendan Rodgers’ tactics and bring in more experts to help players and staff with their mental strength?

Sports scientists have been taking a huge role in modern football. Clubs now have more than coaches; they now have staff including experts in sports psychology, neurology and nutrition. Much of sports science has been called a fad, but it seems to have a big influence at many teams nowadays. Numerous teams employ sport scientists, with Manchester United, Manchester City, Everton, Aston Villa, Bolton and Middlesbrough being examples of teams that place an importance on sports psychology.

Brendan Rodgers insists that Dr Peters’ services are being used for a neurological purpose; he believes that the sports psychiatrist can help with performance, including helping him in his management. He said: “I see it as a part of the development of the player. The modern game is very much about the psychological aspect of it. I do lots of technical, tactical and physical training and sometimes what gets bypassed is the mental tuning for players, especially in the modern game at the top level. I have always used neurologists but I took my time when I arrived here to make sure we could get someone who could really help performance. This guy is of that level. I would stress it is not a psychologist. It is neurology.”

It seems that many teams feel that sports scientists bring useful benefits. Numerous clubs use their data and statistics, including, for example, if a footballer should be picked to play in a match and nutritional information.

It was even reported earlier this month in the Daily Mail that Roy Hodgson is considering bringing an expert in sports psychology to the England team to help them have more confidence taking penalties.

However, it could be argued that a team could rely too much on sports science techniques. David James claimed in a blog last year that it caused an increase in tensions that happened between coaches and the backroom staff. If a group of people are telling the person who is supposed to be in charge what decisions to make and that the data they come up with should not be questioned, it can be said that tensions could arise. David James even accused Arsenal of relying too much on sports science.

It could also be asked, can whether a player should be picked really be completely decided by data and statistics, can this really actually be predicted? It could also be asked, for example, is Manchester City’s information on nutrition really working if Kolo Touré ended up taking diet pills to lose weight?

However, it seems that sports science has brought success. For example, West Ham ace Carlton Cole apparently gives much credit to sports psychology expert Dan Abrahams for the turnaround in his football career. Back in August 2007, though he had impressed when playing for Chelsea, Cole played with the reserves at West Ham and was a fourth choice as striker. However, eighteen months from then, he had scored six times in seven matches for West Ham and had won his first cap for England. It seems that Abrahams’ help had an effect on Carlton Cole’s football, with the player regularly starting for the first team two months after becoming a client and starting to use Abrahams’ techniques. Abrahams’ website states the two of them ‘remain firm friends.’

Mail Online also revealed earlier this month that sports scientists have an influence on Steve Clarke, and leans a lot on feedback from data. Since Steve Clarke became the manager at West Brom, the Baggies have managed to get to their current position of third in the Premier League table, and have impressed with their form this season.

Additionally, with reports of footballers having problems with depression, could bringing in sports psychology experts help players cope?

So, though it could be said relying too much on the techniques of sports science could pose problems, some cases could give evidence that these methods can be useful.
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