Glyndwr lecturer shares elite level sports psychology knowledge

Tom King holding his Sports Psychology book

A Sport and Performance Psychologist at Wrexham Glyndŵr University who has helped budding Premier League footballers reach peak performance levels is sharing his knowledge in a new book.

Lecturer Tom King previously worked with youngsters at Leicester City FC and has co-written a chapter for the newly-published book, Football Psychology – From Theory to Practice.

Tom, from St Martins near Oswestry, drew on his work with youngsters from the under 9’s though to the under 23 squad for his chapter on psychosocial behaviours in academy players, which tells how the performance psychology team restructured the psychology system at the club.

“The problem in professional football with sports psychology is a lot of people don’t understand what it is, everybody gets a little confused and there’s kind of a mixed message in terms of what we try to do as psychologists,” he said.

“What we aimed to do is create a cohesive programme that everybody can understand and get on board with so we can improve the psychological development of our players.”

Tom spent around three years full-time with the former English Premier League champions and also worked with coaching staff and young players’ parents.

He would deliver everything from one-to-one support for the players, workshops for the players and parents and also observing players, coaches and parents.

The latter stages of his time at the club involved working with the under 23 side, with two of the players who are regulars in the first team set-up.

“As you can imagine the work changed from workshops to much more one-to-one, hands on support, travelling with the players and coaches and assisting the coaches in psychological development,” he said.

The programme - headed by Dr Karl Steptoe, who is also the chapter’s lead author - has been adopted in various sports around the Leicester and Loughborough areas.

Tom has been at Glyndŵr for a year and is relishing the opportunity to lend his applied knowledge to academic programmes.

He added: “I suppose the biggest thing that I’ve learnt in the last year is that students really benefit from knowledge in the applied environment – it contextualises it for them, and instead of standing in front of students and talking just about the theories behind Sport and Performance Psychology, I can contextualise those theories into applied practice and discuss how we delivered it at Leicester City or a different sport I might have worked in.

"I feel like the students really benefit from it because in an interview setting, employers will be looking for them to talk about how it might be applied into practice rather than talking solely about the theory, because in the modern world everybody has a degree, and I think it’s really important for students to have something that separates them from everybody else.

“The lecturers at the department here at Glyndŵr have a significant amount of experience, which I think is really valuable for students.”

The book, published by Routledge, analyses key topics in football psychology such as personality, motivation, cognition, and emotion; coaching and team essentials; psychological skills for performance enhancement; and developing players in youth football.

Each chapter provides a review of the relevant literature, key theories, real-world examples, and reflections on how knowledge can be applied in practice.

“I think the advantage of this book is that there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of football psychology books out there that talk about the underlying theory, and how it then relates to applied practice,” Tom added.