AS Monaco tap into football’s ‘under-exploited’ psychology – Get French Football News
“Everyone is looking at the sport from the neck down,” AS Monaco performance director James Bunce says Receive French football news Luke Entwistle. But not at AS Monaco. In line with society’s shift towards greater attention to mental health, football is changing. The Principality’s club is at the forefront of change, integrating two psychologists (Emilie Thienot and Sophie Huguet) into the performance department, to help the club master what Bunce describes as “one of football’s least exploited advantages.
There “neck down” The approach to health and fitness is particularly pronounced in football and in Ligue 1. Investment in the psychological element of the game is minimal. Following Paris Saint-Germain’s capitulation to Real Madrid in the Champions League last year, reports that the club were close to hiring a sports psychologist surfaced, but none ever arrived. been formalized.
The Monegasque approach exudes modernity and innovation. The club is constantly trying to innovate and gain competitive advantages. the completion of their avant-garde performance center in La Turbie is just one manifestation of this quest.
Speaking ahead of Monaco‘s 4-1 win over Nantes earlier this month, coach Philippe Clement said he was happy with the recruitment of the two psychologists, who are returning to a role he had held since joining in January. “[The psychologists] are very important. I spoke with Paul (Mitchell) and the president after the season and said that I thought it was important to grow as a club, for the players, for the staff, for everyone [to have them]. For me, it’s very important to have psychological help here, because last year I was the psychologist here, but in the end, it’s also me who decides.
He continued“It’s important, especially with a lot of young players, who were all big stars in their formative years, otherwise they wouldn’t be here, because of that they weren’t really competing, and now they come here and there is a lot of competition. It can have a mental impact and an impact on confidence as well. We have to help the players and give them tools to channel their emotions.
Receive French football news spoke to Bunce about the role of psychology in sport and how Monaco exploit it to gain professional advantage.
The physical aspect of the game seems to be highly favored over the mental aspect. Would you say that’s a fair assessment?
“I wouldn’t say that [physical well-being] is deliberately preferred to [mental well-being]. Everyone focuses on the neck down. Everyone watches the sport from the neck down. We’re super, super good at monitoring neck down, physical outs, training loads, accelerations, sprints and duels won. We’re really good at looking at that. Not deliberately, but I think we often overlook the mental side because it’s really hard to assess. It’s really hard to train and teach, and to have objective moments in that.
“However, even if you look back anecdotally and listen to players and coaches talk after games, many of them will talk about a mental attribute that helped them or caused the problem. turned off, we weren’t there, we didn’t put in the effort, we weren’t motivated” and so it’s a really ironic situation where the thing that we talk about when we struggle when we talk about mentality, but we don’t train it to the same extent as we do other things, which is why psychology is for me one of the least exploited advantages in football and even in the sporting environment at large. I talk a lot about this topic and how we try to do it right.
Monaco are one of the first Ligue 1 clubs to take the mental aspect of the game so seriously. Is it also about gaining a competitive advantage?
“As a club, before I arrived, but also since mine and Paul (Mitchell) arrived, we try to innovate and move forward. We were the first to have a nutritionist in full time so we innovated there one of the first to invest in the performance and medicine department like we do and so psychology for us is about gaining competitive advantage but also trying to develop our players to be the best they can be, which means on and off the pitch. That means trying to develop champions, trying to develop the French national team and international-level players, and we we know the spirit has to be part of it, so a lot of our thinking and the changes we’ve made are about building a structure that gives us the ability to take that to a higher level.
How will the recruitment of psychologists manifest itself in the field?
“Getting a goal marker is really difficult. We talk to players about their mental fatigue and their emotions and things like that, but it’s not like a blood sample, it’s not like a metric that we measure like running speed If we do a fitness program we can say they increased the lifting weight from 100kg to 150kg – that’s a 50% increase they went from that speed at this speed. There is no concrete and objective marker. However, what we hope manifests in the building is that with the playgroup, they begin to be able to develop attributes that they didn’t have, which they could then use, so it’s not about seeing that every moment they use a mental skill, but about giving them a toolbox full of ways to handle different situations .
“If we’re at a point where we’re 1-0 up and it’s the 90th minute and we have to see the results, we have the mental capacity to deal with that adversity, or with the motivation, or with the ability. to manage the game in a better way. What our psychologists are always trying to do is give players the tools to deal with the scenarios, and when they get to those scenarios, they are better equipped than they weren’t before to deal with it. The way we’ve built the psychology department is that it doesn’t just extend to players. Obviously, players are extremely important and we want to develop their psychological characteristics, their abilities and traits, but we also wanted to develop the staff within the building.
“So we have Sophie, who works with the players every day. She’s the one who organizes one-on-one meetings, team meetings, team building, and all those sorts of profiling aspects. Then we have Emilie who oversees the project with more staff, with the technical staff, with the departments, with the leadership to build a culture of psychology and the culture of what a Monegasque player is. What are the attributes of a Monaco player that we want psychologically and how do we transfer and impart that energy and development to the players.
Are there specific psychological requirements for Monegasque players? Of course, the club recruits young profiles, often highly sought after by the biggest clubs. Clément has previously spoken about the impact this has had on Vanderson, a player who has been of interest to big clubs this summer and who is putting a lot of pressure on himself to improve on a daily basis. So will psychologists help in these specific circumstances?
“Vanderson is and will be a top player. It’s about working individually on what they need. So for Vanderson and others like that, you could talk about staying in the moment and working on the basics, not being distracted, and staying focused on what you’re doing. The focus on what any player does here is what makes you coveted by the big teams. If you are good every day, building, building, building, you will naturally be more attracted to other organizations. So again, we’re not just dealing with that specific topic, it’s part of a toolkit of information and support that we provide to the individual, depending on their needs. Vanderson might have one thing he’s working on, Youssouf (Fofana) will have another, and Benedict (Badiashile) will have another. Benoît and Youssouf are good examples of players at the forefront of the France team, and it’s about keeping them in a good state of mind, continuing to work hard, continuing to do what you’re doing.
In the case of Badiashile and Fofana, is it difficult to bring players like that back to Earth, to refocus them on their club football?
“I would say no actually. It gave them the taste. They dreamed about it, it’s probably every kid’s dream to play for their national team, let alone the best team in the world. So it showed them what it takes to be at this level and makes them want to go back. From a psychological point of view, it is a very good reference.
At this level of football, success or failure often hinges on the smallest details, and at AS Monaco, every detail is scrutinized in order to extract every competitive advantage. By tapping into the psychology of football, the Principality club is at the forefront of change. They may be an outlier right now, but they’re unlikely to stay that way for too long.
GFFN | Luke Sprain