UCFB welcomed former Burnley and QPR footballer Clarke Carlisle to its iconic Wembley Stadium campus during the latest instalment of its Executive Guest Speaker Series.

The ex-pro-turned TV pundit, who during his playing days was known as Britain’s most intelligent footballer, spoke at length with students about the use of psychology in professional sport and his own personal and very public battle with depression.

During the in-depth and at times intense lecture, Clarke, the former Chairman of the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), discussed the stigma that still exists around professional footballers using psychologists, the skills sport psychology graduates from UCFB should take into the industry and the progression of psychology methods in professional sport.

Following his lecture Clarke, a UCFB Tutorial Coordinator, spoke at length with UCFB about the role of a sport psychologist.

Discussing the BSc (Hons) Sports Psychology degree and MSc Football Science programme on offer at the Wembley and Etihad Stadium campuses respectively, Clarke, who captained Burnley to promotion to the Premier League in 2009, said a sport relevant qualification was hugely important for those seeking to go specifically into the professional sport field.

He said: “The relevance of a sport-specific qualification when you want to go in sports psychology is of paramount importance. If you’re going to get into general psychology with the general public the extremes of behaviour and the level of commitment, application, probable compulsion or maybe obsession to the cause and to their daily lives, it will not be at the same level as it would be with a professional athlete.”

He added: “The sense of structure and the definitive belief systems, the extent to which they take their dietary requirements and their physical upkeep – all of these things are on a completely different plane to general society. This means when you get certain issues and certain things that manifest themselves they’re on a very specific plane and you need to understand that plane, you need to understand the specific stresses, triggers, symptoms and how they manifest themselves in an individual working in this environment. And not to add any pressure, but you also need to know how to correct them.”

Clarke went on to say that although there was still a stigma within the game for the use of psychologists, a big stride forward has been made by individuals from other industries coming in and using and utilising transferrable skills.

With a playing career that lasted over 15 years, Clarke has previously admitted that he found it hard to adjust to life when his career finished. But during his career he encountered psychologists whose practices differed widely with varying results, so he’s well placed on what a UCFB graduate should be doing in the job.

He said: “It is essential that any sports psychologist and any graduate leaving UCFB, going to work in any team in any industry, is open minded. There might be a player who has done something in a certain way for 15 years and they believe in it categorically. The negative effect of taking that away from them can often have a greater impact than the positive effect of doing the right thing. Because it is such a firm belief structure and routine that this person has been indoctrinated with, being able to be open minded to take the idiosyncrasies of each individual and being able to work with and around them is of huge importance.”

He added: “This is an ever increasing field, there is so much research happening on a day to day basis, so do not come out with your qualification with your mind-set and belief set in stone because you need to be able to evolve. If there is ever a situation when a player comes to you with a piece of knowledge that you haven’t discovered yourself, that will undermine your authority.”

Read about BSc (Hons) Sports Psychology at UCFB

Read about MSc Football Science at UCFB