Perceptions and experiences of organisational stress within elite football academy environments

Ade, Rachel Deborah (2021) Perceptions and experiences of organisational stress within elite football academy environments. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral Thesis)
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The Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) was implemented within elite English football club academies in 2012 to provide optimum environments to develop better home-grown players. However, there has been conflicting evidence of the EPPP’s success and limited research examining the influence of the EPPP. Sports performers and coaches face a wide range of environmental stressors which have often been overlooked when examining behaviour within elite sporting environments. Further understanding of organisational stress within football academies is required so it can be applied into a football academy setting to help provide optimum environments for well-being, performance, and development. Therefore, the aim of this thesis was to examine organisational stress upon adolescent players and coaches within elite academy football environments.

A mixed methods approach was undertaken in three sequential studies. Study 1 interviewed elite adolescent players (n = 36) and coaches (n = 15) to identify perceptions of organisational stressors encountered within the youth development phase of elite academies. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Players’ stressors were pressures and expectations, development and opportunities, balancing act, interaction and communication with significant academy others, and performing as a football player. Novel lower-order themes were identified as balancing football and friendships/other interests/school and having a familiar home match environment. The findings highlighted the importance of life outside of football. Coaches’ stressors were football clubs’ organisational changes, job role and responsibility changes and the impact of these job changes on coaches’ lives. Novel lower-order themes were identified as EPPP audit demands, working at home, coaching standards, and increased accountability. Category 2 and 3 coaches reported increased working hours and reduced autonomy as additional negative demands.

To identify the experiences of organisational stress within the youth development phase of elite academies, organisational stressors, appraisals, and emotions of adolescent players (n = 30) were studied over three phases of a season in Study 2. Data were collected using a structured diary method that collected both qualitative and quantitative data (adapted from Reeves et al., 2011) and analysed using content analysis, descriptive and inferential statistics. Players’ stressors were school education, academy football, school football, external interests, and daily living. Perceived stressor control was seen as fairly controllable, yet no significant effects of time on stressor control was found (p = 0.10). Players cited players’ actions, other people’s actions, aspects of academy football, aspects of school, doing activities, part of the daily living routine, and external factors as causes of stressors. Players’ prominent emotions were sadness-depression, happiness-joy and anger. Emotions were perceived as a fairly strong intensity and time did have a significant effect on emotion intensity (p = 0.01). A small-scale study of coaches (n = 11) revealed findings to support the importance of job role and responsibilities and life outside of football.

Adolescent players (n = 16) completed standardised psychometric tests (Organisational Stressor Indicator for Sports Performers, Arnold et al., 2013; Sport Emotion Questionnaire, Jones et al., 2005; Rest and Recovery Questionnaire-52, Kellmann & Kallus, 2001) in Study 3 to identify the organisational stressors and their situational properties, emotions, and recovery-stress within the youth development phase of elite academies over a season. Data were analysed using inferential statistics. Findings revealed organisational stressors were rare, hardly intense and occurred for a short time, emotions were felt a little and recovery-stress was low to medium. There was a significant influence of time on some situational properties of organisational stressors (team and culture intensity, p = 0.013 and duration, p = 0.019; selection frequency, p = 0.025), emotions (dejection, p = 0.004; happiness, p = 0.015; excitement, p = 0.007), and recovery-stress aspects (fitness/being in shape, p = 0.012; burnout/personal accomplishment, p = 0.003; sport-specific recovery, p = 0.006; global recovery, p = 0.007). The findings highlighted the importance of time of the season influencing some components of the stress process.

This programme of research provides a greater understanding of organisational stress upon players and coaches within academy football since the introduction of the EPPP and pinpointed areas of theory for future consideration. The findings presented in this thesis can be incorporated in football applied practice to address the prevalence of organisational stressors in football academies guided by the EPPP. It is recommended that appropriate measurement tools are developed purposely for youth elite athletes and coaches in this area.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Elite Player Performance Plan, stressors, academy players, academy coaches, mixed methods
Subjects: C600 Sports Science
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2022 08:24
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2022 08:30

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