7 Elite Academy players have been told about the importance of mental health and labelling emotions in the latest Online Masterclass with Head of Sport Psychology and Personal Development at Nottingham Forest, Jennifer Lace.
This week’s masterclass is the latest in a series of sessions with leading figures from within professional football, including Stephen Warnock, Wil Trapp, Martin Ho and Neil Bailey.
7 Elite Academy has led a major initiative with youth players during Covid-19 restrictions, including masterclass videos, team meetings via Zoom, remote one-to-one sessions and Player of the Week awards.
Jennifer Lace works with players of all ages at Championship outfit Forest, having previously worked as a Sport Psychology Practitioner & Lecturer at Burnley and UCFB.
And during the masterclass she was keen to stress how vital mental heath is to the future of young players: “It starts by having discussions, especially about mental health and not sports specific. It’s just talking with athletes.
“When they come to sessions, it’s using that as a space to ask how their day has been and letting them say it’s rubbish, or they’re sad about something, something they’re excited about, or something they love.
“The one thing we know is that children struggle to label their emotions and boys in particular, so in a male academy you’ve got that double challenge.
“It takes no resources and a little bit of common knowledge to think if they struggle to recognise their emotions, how can they tell us how they are feeling? So it’s trying to make that pathway easier.
“An activity I love is getting players to label emotions. We write down a load of emotions, or cut them out, so as players are arriving we get them to match the descriptions with emotions, and get them labelled.”
Jennifer often works with players who are returning from injury, helping them to recognise how they can recover from the psychological after-effects of a lengthy lay-off.
She added: “I worked with a young player a few years ago, who had been injured in a game and was airlifted to hospital. It was a really traumatic experience for him.
“So in some of his rehab we re-watched the contact and I could see him swearing a little bit, so I stopped and asked how that made him feel. He said he felt excited.
“He’s got a lovely family who are very articulate and really supportive. They are great people who you would want to work with as a young athlete.
“I said excited? He said yes, when I watch it I feel excited, like my tummy feels all bubbly and I feel really tense, but I don’t want to watch it again.
“When we unraveled it, he didn’t feel excited, but he felt anxious. As a typical young male, he couldn’t label his emotions correctly and when you think about that, why would they be able to if they never get taught it?”
The 7 Elite Academy masterclass sessions have been seen by over 16,000 people across the world and are set to continue over coming months as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
7 Elite Academy Global Technical Director, Anthony Godfrey, said: “I have known Jennifer for over ten years and it has been amazing to see her progress from graduation to her current role at Nottingham Forest.
“She has worked with some great youth players, so her vast knowledge about mental health is especially important for all young people here at 7 Elite Academy.
“As we move out of lockdown at our academies in the United States, United Kingdom and Africa, we know that caring for players at all levels will remain incredibly vital. It is a priority for us all.”