England U21s appoint psychologist for Euros
Written by Simon Austin — June 10, 2017
ENGLAND UNDER-21s have appointed a sports psychologist for the Euros in Poland after identifying the absence of one as a key reason for failure in 2015.
A team including Harry Kane crashed out of the group stages in the 2015 tournament after freezing in the final game against Italy.
After discussions with senior manager Gareth Southgate, who was in charge of the Under-21s in that tournament, current boss Aidy Boothroyd decided to bring in Rebecca Symes, who runs the Sporting Success company.
She will be on hand to work with players and staff during the tournament in Poland, which begins on Friday.
“Speaking to Gareth, we didn’t think we had that support last time so we will be taking a sports psychologist with us,” Boothroyd explained.
“Her role is really to prepare the players to talk about what goes on inside their heads when we get to flight and fight and freeze. The psychology of it all is the key. You can be the most gifted player in the world and understand tactically what you’re supposed to do, but if you haven’t got that little bit of confidence that makes the difference then you’re not going to get that medal.
“It’s just a group session talking about training, about why some players might lose their head a bit or go into that zone that might get them into trouble about a bad refereeing decision or a bad call. Even a coach making a mistake - that’s bound to happen. There’s nothing sinister in it. I’d imagine most of the best teams would have some support."
Last weekend Southgate took his senior squad on a training camp with the Marines, to learn about teamwork and leadership - and these themes are clearly a focus for the Under-21s as well.
“It comes down to that psychology," Boothroyd said. "You talk about the Marines - if they don’t get it right, they die. We don’t. We get another chance at it. The players are open to it.
“Gareth knows them. There’s never a better time to be an England player. We have some terrific talent in this country at senior and at junior level. The problem we have at junior level is getting them into that platform where they are playing at that very best level in the Premier League.
“The senior players are looking below and if a team is doing well and winning then players tend to pop up through that and into the senior team."
Boothroyd said the representative teams had never had better support, following huge recent investment in sports science by the Football Association.
“For the first time in 150 years we’ve got a talent ID department, unbelievably, so we are looking to improve," he said. "They’re the best supported they’ve ever been with what they can get nutritionally, with doctors and sports science.
“The fact the Under-17s have done as well as they have, the Under-18s and now the Under-19s going away to a tournament and now the under-20s doing well in a World Cup, it is an exciting time to be here. St George’s is such a good base it certainly does help."
Symes has worked with clients including Archery GB, the ECB and Surrey Cricket. She worked in the corporate sector before setting up Sporting Success.