The environment surrounding the player must be understood to ensure we help players achieve their potential. PDP Lead Researcher and PhD candidate, James Vaughan discusses the holistic view of player development that the PDP team has been working on as a result of over two years of conversations, interviews, research and experience.

Ruben Jongkind is the former Head of Talent Development at Ajax and now works for Cruyff Football in Barcelona. He and Johan Cruyff worked together to implement ‘Plan Cruyff’ at Ajax between 2011 and 2013. Jongkind has been interviewed previously by Player Development Project and I personally have cited his innovative view of player development. I was struck by his vision in 2016 at the Conference for Applied Psychology in Football in Bilbao, where Ruben was part of a round table discussion on player development. When asked about creating a culture of learning in a football club, he gave three key points in his answer:

  1. The player development environment is much more complex than we recognise.
  2. We need to understand both macro factors and micro factors.
  3. In the future people will pay attention to each other as open systems.

This article introduces a view of player development that not only incorporates the practical wisdom of Jongkind and Cruyff, but is also founded in recent research on player development. It is a view of the environment that accounts for some of its complexity and illuminates both macro and micro factors. It is a view which suggests that the individuals and the sociocultural contexts which make up our environments are best thought of as complex adaptive systems.

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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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