Player Development Project Lead Researcher, James Vaughan recently attended the third annual International Congress for Psychology Applied to Football. He shares his notes from this prestigious event where some of the best thinkers in player development shared their ideas on the state of the game.

An Introduction

The AIPAF is partnership between academics and professionals who are dedicated to improving player development. By combining the stories and experiences of forward thinking compassionate coaches, clubs and psychologists, AIPAF aims to forge a new path for player development by critically reflecting on current practice and club structure.

The III International Congress held in Bilbao last month aimed to address the gap between what people now believe, or what is wanted for players, and what is actually done in football academies. The conference abstract explained it this way:

“Many leaders of football academies, in their projects, speak about the need for long-term vision, speak about a personal and professional development of players, everybody speaks about creative players or “thinking players”. But neither the structures nor the contexts change to facilitate that process. Having consensus on these values, what is it happening in practice?” (AIPAF, abstract, English version)

By sharing personal experiences, beliefs, prejudices, theories and values this conference set the foundation for innovative club leaders and practitioners to contrast and question their worldviews and others in a search for the way forward.

This created an extremely open, challenging and uncomfortable development environment. Throughout the weekend the humility of the speakers was pretty amazing.

The humility of the speakers reminded me of another blog – ‘Key Characteristics of the Worlds Best Coaches 2.0‘, which explores the idea that the most innovative minds have one very important thing in common: they understand that they don’t know every thing (and that’s ok). Some examples:

“To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.” – Isaac Newton

“I was born not knowing and have had only a little time to change that here and there.” – Richard Feynman

“Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation, but as a question.” – Niels Bohr

Elon Musk has his own version: “You should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong.”

To me the speakers at the AIPAF conference embodied this kind of humility.

The Academy: Creating a Learning Culture in a Football Club

This article is based on notes translated from Spanish and transcribed from a live discussion at the AIPAF III International congress of Applied Psychology in Football in Bilbao in May, 2016. My aim is to stay true to the discussion, so I have attempted to keep the language used in the live event and limit my interpretations to a minimum (my thoughts are in italics).

This section of the conference looked to address the following questions.

Where is professional football training going? How has that influenced clubs and especially how has it influenced the academy?

Guest Speakers:
Joan Vilá (FC Barcelona – Head of Methodology),
Jose Manual Sevillano (Athletic Club de of Bilbao – Academy Director),
Ruben Jongkind (Implemented ‘Plan Cruyff’ at Ajax with Johan Cruyff and former Head of Talent Development at Ajax Amsterdam)
Sergio Navarro (Villarreal FC – Head of Methodology)

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James Vaughan
James Vaughan
James Vaughan is a Co-founder of Player Development Project and currently based in Barcelona where he is working towards his PhD in Creativity & Motivation in Football.
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