Latest Research

Stay up-to-date with key player development research. Our resident Professor, William A. Harper, breaks down research papers into simple, easy-to-read articles with takeaways for coaches.

This paper outlines the connections between three problems which are deeply interlinked, growing in influence, and shaping many aspects of social and cultural life, including football: The overly-competitive and anxiety evoking cultures of modern work & educational settings – shaping football club structures and traditional coaching practice Social and environmental challenges – from structural racism to climate change football is part of these challenges and may offer solutions Deteriorating mental health is on the rise among football players and in wider society – something that…

This Masterclass Webinar replay is a fantastic opportunity for you to explore the research behind scanning and awareness in football with Dave Eldridge, UEFA A licensed coach & lecturer at Chichester University in England. “I spend the entire 90 minutes looking for space on the pitch. I’m always between the opposition’s two holding midfielders and thinking, ‘The defence is here, so I get the ball and I go there to where the space is.” – Xavi The best players seem to always have time on the…

Is psychology being embraced in coaching environments? Many modern coaching courses and clubs have improved their advocacy of sports psychology, but is there still a stigma or reluctance to hone in on the psychological component of coaching? New PDP contributor, Blaine McKenna shares his research after a survey of coaches in Northern Ireland working in the game as to how they engage with psychology in their coaching environment. This is the first in a series of blogs relating to the findings from my MSc research which…

Barbara L. Fredrickson The Big Idea Until approximately the beginning of the 21st Century, the field of psychology gave little attention to theories, hypotheses, or building models of the form and function of positive emotions (such as joy, interest, contentment, and love). Instead, most all the previous emotion studies have focused on negative emotions (such as fear, anger, or disgust). The big idea of this paper is that there are inherent differences between negative and positive emotions. Because of these differences, there is little sense in…

PDP Lead Researcher James Vaughan poses the question to coaches: are we competing or are we collaborating? In this article, James discusses the concept of ‘water’ and its implications on an individual’s approach to coaching.   One of the most important questions you can ask as a coach is: Are we competing or are we collaborating? In fact, it’s one of the most important questions you can ask any group of people intending, attempting or pretending to work together. I’ll admit this is a strange statement…

Manual Santos and Kevin Morgan The Big Idea In 1974 Studs Terkel, the American broadcaster, actor, and oral historian, published the best-selling non-fiction book, Working. In it he interviewed a cross-section of Americans about their working lives, “about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread.”  In one interview, Terkel interviewed jazz tenor saxophonist Bud Freeman.  Freeman got to talking about how hard the work of improvisation is, the working out of all the possibilities of a theme, and the on-going promise of…

In this article, PDP Lead Researcher, James Vaughan reflects on how a history of linear, data-driven approaches are limiting player development. James emphasises the importance of understanding the complexity that comes with human development. Last month I finally published a scientific paper, Developing Creativity to Enhance Human Potential in Sport: A Wicked Transdisciplinary Challenge. After rejections and reviews, the paper was finally out there. Cue scientific revolution and practical evolution – next step Nobel prize ceremony in December. Not quite. Even so, I was excited…

Matthias Kempe & Daniel Memmert The Big Idea How about we introduce the big idea of this research study with a non-linear and entirely random historical observation?  How about we throw in an outrageous claim that the idea of this paper was in the winds long, long ago back in ancient Rome; back to the Emperor of Rome from 121 to 180; back to Marcus Aurelius; back to his Meditations; back to Book 12; back to the opening paragraph; and finally, back to this quote:…

Context Matters: Revisiting the First Step of the “Sequence of Prevention” of Sports Injuries Caroline Bolling, Willem van Michelen, H. Roeline Pasman, Evert Verhagen The Big Idea This research literature review paper was published in the journal Sports Medicine in 2018.  The problem these researchers are concerned with is sports injury prevention.  A little more than 25 years ago a seminal paper was published proposing a sequential, stepped approach to injury prevention.  Over the years this linear approach has been used, abused, tinkered with, and…

Natalia Balague, Rafel Pol, Carlota Torrents, Angel Ric, and Robert Hristovski The Big Idea This is an opinion paper.  The opinions herein revolve around how the components of complex systems self-organize.  In particular, the authors propose a more streamlined approach to what is called the constraints-led approach to understanding restrictions to the degrees of freedom in complex systems.  The uptick in the popularity of the study of constraints as a unifying framework is proving to be useful in understanding the learning/training process in the complex…

Jack Martin and David Cox The Big Idea It is rare in conventional social psychological research on sport to consider public testimony as a source of truths.  And yet, this is exactly what this study does.  These authors pursue what they call a “portrait of possibility.”  The subject—the only subject—is the early life of one heck of a basketball player: the Canadian Steve Nash (b. 1974) who played 18 years in the NBA (National Basketball Association), nearly half of those years an NBA All-Star and…

Moran, R. Blagrove, B. Drury, J. Fernandes, K Paxton, H. Chaabene, R. Ramirez-Campillo The Big Idea Every day the lonely man reads the matrimonial advertising pages, hoping to meet the girl of his dreams.  Not much luck until one day this ad appeared: “If you dream of the girl for you/Then call us and get two for the price of one/We’re the answer if you feel blue/So call us and get two for the price of one.”  The reader might recall these partial lyrics from…

P. Potrac, R.L. Jones, D Gilbourne and L. Nelson. The Big Idea Let’s approach this research paper indirectly. For it concerns a hard truth in the profession of football coaching, the culture of it. Let’s introduce the problem by way of fiction first – even though there is nothing fictive in the comparison. Louise Penny is an award-winning Canadian writer. Her novels feature Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete de Quebec. Early on in one of Penny’s books, Inspector Isabelle Lacoste reflected on how…

Sara Santos, Sergio Jiménez, Jaime Sampaio, Nuno Leite The Big Idea When you sit a spell and think over the major point of session planning in sports, you can’t avoid the big idea of transformation. Hence, such training programs are inherently designed around re-creation and hope. Faith in unknown possibilities is something like the observation of the American inventor, philosopher, and architect Buckminster Fuller (1895-1993) that, “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” If players and coaches…

Ase Strandbu, Kari Stefansen, Ingrid Smette, and Morten Rensio Sandvik The Big Idea “Involved parenthood” in organized youth sports is what these Norwegian researchers are attempting to better understand.  Child-centered parenting they note—using the United States as an example—is still evolving since its early cultural development in the 1960s.  Organized youth sport in those days was in its infancy, preceding the appearance of involved parents.  On a personal note, this reviewer—who is from the U.S.—recalls his early childhood sporting days in the 1960s, and happily…

 J. Bartholomew, N. Ntoumanis, and C. Ntoumanis The Big Idea Let’s begin this research review with an illustration.  In sports, there is a difference between players who are merely involved and players who are fully committed.  (You will have to play along here.)  There is an old American illustration pointing out this difference, the difference between being involved and being committed.  Think of a ham and eggs breakfast.  You will notice a real difference between the contributions of the two barn animals.  The chicken is…

Frenkie De Jong is one of Dutch Football’s brightest stars. PDP Lead Researcher James Vaughan examines a recent interview with De Jong and shares some brilliant research around knowledge and learning, helping coaches understand how to create a learning environment and difference between telling and doing. In a recent interview, one of the most exciting prospects to emerge in European football talks about the secret of becoming a good football player. Ajax’s Dutch international Frenkie de Jong explains: “Good players play on intuition. When I…

Balague, C. Torrents, R. Hristovski, K. Davids, and D. Araujo The Big Idea Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) was a legendary Canadian poet, singer-songwriter, and novelist.  The following lyrics are from his 1992 album The Future and the song “Anthem”: Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack, a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in. Let’s assume there is a crack in our conventional understanding of practicing, training for, and playing competitive sports.  Not a break.  Just…

Popular searches: defending, finishing, 1v1, playing out from the back, working with parents