The new scouting tool football clubs are using to assess players’ mental fitness

In Depth

Football clubs have become increasingly aware of the importance of their players’ mental fitness – and several are now using a grassroots scouting platform with psychometric testing at its core.

Though plenty of archaic viewpoints still remain, football has well and truly embraced sports science. Everyone is looking for ways in which to maximise performance.

There has been a much slower acceptance of sports psychology, but more and more clubs and players are now viewing mental fitness as a potential area for improvement.

Many clubs now employ in-house sports psychologists, while the England DNA document lists both psychological and social skills alongside technical, tactical and physical as attributes it wants to develop in future players for the national team.

It seems only natural, then, that football clubs would want just as much information about mental fitness as they would their physical attributes when assessing potential recruits.

Enter stage left, Dr Jag Basra.

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READ: Why is it taking football so long to embrace sports psychology?

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Dr Basra works with the Northern Ireland FA on their UEFA Pro and UEFA A badges. She has also worked with a number of top coaches and managers on mental resilience, including Gaizka Mendieta. Harry Kewell, Benni McCarthy and Francis Jeffers.

She is the main founder of Profile90, a smart talent identification tech platform for players between 13-19 that integrates scientific insights alongside the usual ways by which to judge a potential recruit.

Profile90 provides a 360 degree view of a player covering tactical, technical, psychological and social attributes in the most objective way possible.

Already being used by 10 clubs from the Premier League, Football League, MLS and the world of eSports, the platform offers psychometric testing and social testing to provide a baseline assessment on a player’s mental fitness, identifying key areas for the player to work on.

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READ: The techniques a sports psychologist uses to help a footballers’ confidence

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“Scouts are the most key people in a club and many times undervalued,” Dr Basra says. “To know a player is the most important thing for a club before signing. You want to know as much as you can before signing them to your club.

“Scouts are instinctive people, but even they need the right tools. Right now current systems of talent ID really just look at an individual’s tactical, technical and physical attributes, and almost as an afterthought, an opinion on their psychological condition is given from visual observation from the sideline, and of course hearsay.”

Studies in various sports have shown that the mindset is the most important determinant of athletic success. Dr Basra’s workshops focus on the importance of maintaining their own mental health and how much one’s mindset can influence the game – and footballers have embraced her ideas.

“The new-age footballers are different,” she says. “They know football is a results-driven world and are always looking to gain extra skills to give them that edge. If that means going out of their comfort zone, they do.”

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READ: The story of the blogger who met Pep and got to work with Bielsa & Sampaoli

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Dr Basra has found coaches to be just the same as players.

“They want to be the best coach or manager possible and are willing to go to great lengths to do it,” she says

“These guys love the game, and just as they did as players, they are always looking for ways to improve themselves and push themselves to become better coaches or managers.

“It’s fascinating to see as they come up with some pretty challenging questions sometimes and even I get stumped!”

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READ: How a Football Manager regen is helping raise mental health awareness

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While the world of banking and technology have embraced psychometric testing, football and sport has yet to widely adopt it, but with attitudes changing and clubs now using Profile 90, that looks set to change.

“Basically psychometric testing is another tool to give you extra insight into the mind of an individual,” Dr Basra says. “It goes back to knowing as much as you can before signing them to your club.

“Talent identification is key to bringing clubs value. It helps bring more fans in, ticket sales, and advertising revenue. The players identified are the heart of the club.

“So why do we not put more value in our recruitment teams and make it more scientific driven with business intelligence?”

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READ: A Salford taxi driver could be about to revolutionise youth scouting

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Finally, Dr Basra says she would urge any player struggling with their mental health to speak to their GP.

“You won’t regret it,” she says. “A chat with your GP is confidential, and ultimately you make a choice of what happens to you. It’s always good to get all the information and be armed with it.

“Anyone I have come across on the Pro Licence and A Badge courses who were struggling, who I have guided and supported to go their GP hasn’t regretted it.

“I most often hear ‘I wish I did it long before because I suffered pointlessly’. I’ve never had one person say they regretted doing so.

“Mental health impacts one in four people, and many people struggle with some difficulty or another at some point in their life. We need to try reduce the stigma surrounding it, particularly in sport as it can lead to suicide.

“We have lost a lot of professional athletes in sport and its important organisations work collectively to help reduce stigma and make access to services to help easier.”

To learn more about Profile 90 and the work of Dr Jag Basra, visit www.profile90.com

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