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Allardyce: Sports psychology starts at the top

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karlypants

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Sam Allardyce has revealed how a sports psychologist's job does not begin and end with the playing staff – a club's coaches are the first to go under the microscope.

The ex-Wanderers boss was discussing his time at Bolton on Sky Sports' The Debate, and recalled how he was one of the first to bring in experts to give his side an extra edge.

Allardyce engineered Wanderers' most successful periods in recent history and later plied his trade around the top flight before eventually enduring a brief, ill-fated spell as England manager.

And during the discussion on Sky 'Big Sam' harked back to a time when sports psychologists were far from commonplace.

"I'd used quite a few in the early years when I was in the lower divisions on a part-time basis but I manage to in the end persuade Bolton in the end to let me find a full-time guy and he became the form performance director eventually and we brought in another sports psychologist under his guidance," he said.

"And he started with us – not the players, us staff. He's asking 'what do you want to do? How are you going to communicate with the players? How are you going to deliver better? You might have a qualification but what makes you qualified for the job?'

"So we had all these discussions among ourselves as a staff and he'd document what we were doing and he'd give us notes so we could review things later down the line.

"He'd say 'it's very important you can do the job that I do because you have more contact with the players than I do, but I will be there for the players if and when they accept me'.

"He didn't go and say 'right, you've got an appointment at half two, you're at half three, because a lot of the players would just go: 'sports psychologists? They're for weak people.' and it's far from it, actually."

Allardyce was adamant working with the experts allowed him to tailor his approach to individual players, in order to get the best out of them, on and off the field.

Their input prompted him to improve his man-management skills and tailor his own behaviour according to the needs of each of the players in his squad.

"They told you how to handle these players and you would generally find out as you went on if you were a good manager, what that player responds to. So it gave you a first indication of what you had to do to handle each player.

"The old thought that they all need to be treated the same is the biggest load of rubbish I've ever heard, each individual is separate. You look at them and say to yourself 'what am I going to do that will benefit him and that benefits me on the field'?

"That's what psychology is all about. the positive attitudes, to try to stay focused and on the right level, to try not to read or take too much of the noise in from outside influences, which is nearly impossible, unfortunately, because of the popularity of social media so it probably falls on deaf ears now."

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