Euro 2016 provided a fascinating insight into the relationship between football, player development and culture. PDP Lead Researcher, James Vaughan looks at the importance of culture and how its influences can be traced in different development environments across the world.
The way we play football is a reflection of culture. Playing styles (team and individual) mirror the social values and cultural practises within socio-cultural contexts. Contexts like the schools, clubs, or groups we’ve belonged to. Growing up in England I tackled hard, avoided making mistakes and played it safe, especially under pressure. Had I grown up elsewhere in the world, within contexts shaped by a different culture, my playing style would have been different.

While many purists (myself included) would love to keep football separate from business, media, education, economics and politics, we can’t. When we recognise that culture and socio-cultural contexts are dynamic and changeable, influencing each other and people’s mindsets, we have to recognise that all aspects of culture can shape our development environments and our coaching.

Your football reflects your culture and your culture shapes your football

“Cultural psychologists view culture and psychological processes as mutually constituted and stress the importance of language, communication, relational perspectives, cultural practises and the meanings, beliefs, and values in human development, learning, and behavior.” (Stambulova & Ryba 2014 p. 2)

Culture may be the most important factor shaping environments and influencing player development. Our challenge is to understand it.

Cultures shape the contexts that determine the development environments surrounding football players. These development environments ‘afford’ some actions and limit others. It is this interrelated mash-up of culture and context that we coaches need to be aware of.

To help us understand this nested relationship (imagine Russian dolls), check out this model by Kristoffer Henriksen from the University of Southern Denmark.


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