Clarke Carlise knows better than most the importance of psychology in the modern age of professional sport, especially football.

The former Burnley captain, who’s also a UCFB Tutorial Coordinator, has had his own personal and very public battle with depression during his career and since it finished in 2013.

UCFB welcomed Clarke, the former Chairman of the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), to its iconic Wembley Stadium campus for one of its Executive Guest Speaker series events.

During the in-depth and at times intense lecture Clarke discussed the stigma that still exists around professional footballers using psychologists and the progression of psychology methods in professional sport.

Following his lecture Clarke spoke with UCFB about the role of a sport psychologist, and how Arsenal’s French manager, Arsene Wenger, helped changed perceptions of the role.

Clarke said: “There has definitely been a shift in the stigma and the way psychologists are viewed within the industry, and that is very simply off the back of the success of clubs like Arsenal and someone like Arsene who brings a new idea and a new way of working into the arena.”

He added: “People are very apprehensive of it and sceptical. As we know, when you’re ignorant of something and when you’re fearful of it, one of the first things you try to do is ridicule and undermine it. That’s the way psychologists were first viewed. But then the veracity of what they were doing was actually validated in the success of Arsenal and the continual performance of the football club, and it was adopted by other clubs up and around there. Everybody wanted to emulate that.

“Psychologists are a permanent fixture in and around the game, and now it’s rare to not see one even amongst the lowest of football league clubs. Even on a shoestring budget they always try to get someone in from time to time to have that kind of input with their team.”

Despite a change in how the role is viewed in the current game, there are still players against the idea of psychological professional influence. For a game where the margins between winning and losing are so small, Clarke has one message.

He concluded: “I have witnessed first-hand players who have been averse to the input of psychologists with players that are very set in their ways and either don’t believe or don’t agree in psychology. My advice to players like that always has been, and always will be, what have you got to lose? You can carry on preparing for games in the way that you have with your routine, but what have you got to lose by adopting a new approach?”

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