Author: Alun Charles Jones

In a recent article (in defense: a footballer’s tale) I explored the psychological idea of scapegoating as applied to a young footballer and his team mates. Scapegoating To recap, scapegoating is a situation where a number of people project negative feelings onto others who are then blamed for problems and – subsequently scorned or remove themselves in order to be safe. Typically there are features of those scapegoated which set themselves apart from groups. Obvious examples include looks, attitudes, race, and ethnicity along with feelings of being in some way special. Scapegoating is dysfunctional – yet can serve a useful…

Read More

A belief held by many, is that all professionals have their lives sorted. Of course this isn’t the case at all. We are all of us governed by the same or similar life events and psychological influences – no one escapes the challenges of growing up, growing old or even daily living. Our upbringing influences adult life and all relationships. We all protect ourselves from harm and our psychology has an important role in doing so. Psychological defenses help us cope and are ideas, dating back to Sigmund Freud. Instinctively stirred to reduce anxiety, they are common to all. Defenses…

Read More

Looking out for ourselves isn’t necessarily a bad thing and in many circumstances can protect us from emotional ill-health. For example, stigma and shame can have powerful negative impacts on groups of people including families, friends and colleagues. A better understanding of ways the ideas are related and impact on athletes and sporting cultures could contribute to improving well-being and improve performance. Examples of ways that stigma and shame impact negatively on performance cultures and the health of athletes are documented internationally. Athletes accessing health care Shame is considered a major contributor to athletes failing to report difficulties or access health services…

Read More

`When I think about Paul Gascoigne I think about his sheer resilience. His determination to provide for those he loved something that has eluded him his entire life, stability, security, safety. ` (Carrie Armstrong, Huff Post, 2014) Although it is a term in everyday use, I am uneasy when people use the word `p***head. ` It is a popular label in the UK, describing a person that misuses alcohol, usually, as a means of self-medicating. For many, alcohol misuse is a means of dulling troubling thoughts and emotions but of course, it brings its own difficulties. When internalized, negative terms…

Read More

Football, along with other elite sports’ governing bodies are currently embracing the fallout of elite athletes reporting mental ill-health – along with implementing the UK government’s proposals for a mental health strategy, set to be in place by 2020. The Professional Footballers Association (PFA), for example, have established dedicated websites, which allow athletes and their families to access important information regarding mental health and well-being issues but also a 24-hour phone line, providing guidance and expert listening. According to website information: The PFA has taken on a vital role in increasing support available to players with mental health problems. The…

Read More

`He has the features of Marlon Brando, the body of a light-heavyweight boxer, the breathing of a tiger and the bite of a snake.` (La Gazzetta dello Sport) Introduction Recent news of Christiano Ronaldo leaving Real Madrid for Juventus at the age of thirty-three brings to mind another player who graced the Juventus Stadium many years ago and at a time when football was an entirely different game – Welshman, John Charles. John Charles Over the years, and up until his death in 2004, there has surprisingly, been little written about John Charles – who’s career in the 1950s challenges…

Read More

`The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice.` (RD Laing) Introduction As a young man working in psychiatric settings, I would encourage patients to play football. The results were nothing short of amazing. The identity imposed by mental illness was immediately cast aside. We became a sophisticated work group. Those earlier isolated in the ward environment became connected. Patients previously without a voice began to organise the team calling out to others to move strategically into space. Situational leadership replaced institutional and social passivity – the individual team members became a collective…

Read More

In my hometown of Wrexham, north Wales UK, the term `little Gunner` was traditionally reserved for a favourite footballing son, Arfon Griffiths. Griffiths was an elegant midfielder for Wrexham FC and he excelled for Wales under 23s international team during the early 1960s. It was perhaps inevitable that bigger clubs would want to sign him and although courted by Liverpool, Griffiths choose to sign for Arsenal for a fee of £15000 – considerable for its day. It would be a long time until a player gained the mantle of `the little Gunner` and he would not be from the UK.…

Read More

`Narcissistic personality disorder is named after Narcissus, from Greek mythology, who fell in love with his own reflection. [Sigmund] Freud used the term to describe persons who were self-absorbed, and psychoanalysts have focused on the narcissist’s need to bolster his or her self-esteem through grandiose fantasy, exaggerated behaviour, exhibitionism, and feelings of entitlement.` Donald W. Black While much has been documented recently about elite sports and athletes` mental health, relatively little discussion has been given over to a detailed understanding of the personalities and personal traits of those that excel in their chosen profession – along with those who find…

Read More

Football is growing exponentially as a global entertainment and as a participant/spectator sport, arguably reflects life and its vagaries. However, football can be used in other ways, which offer reason and insight to aspects of living and are potentially therapeutic. To illustrate, I recall sometime back working with a young man I will call David. The story is true: only David’s name and some circumstances have been changed with his consent. David’s story David was 22 years old and suffered severe social phobia and anxiety disorder. Growing up as an only child and in a single-parent family, David had learned…

Read More