Social Support & Academy Goalkeepers

Social Support & Academy Goalkeepers

As part of the final year of his Bachelor of Science in Sports Coaching and Development at Abertay University, BGK’s Calum Brodie conducted a research study which would hopefully help Goalkeepers, Coaches and parents across the world deal with the challenging and often difficult situations that go hand in hand with being a Goalkeeper. Using the power of social media and his network of Goalkeepers and coaches, the study recruited 101 Goalkeepers from 25 different countries to participate in the study. 

The research, titled “Exploring Social Support Networks: A Study on Current & Former Academy Goalkeepers” was recently published in the Autumn edition of the "Football Medicine and Performance" journal which showcases the best research from around the world. Keep on scrolling to find out what the research was about and how it might help you or a Goalkeeper you know.


Football Academies world-wide provide aspiring young athletes with a path to becoming a professional footballer. In the UK alone there are roughly 12,000 people aged 9-21 enrolled within these elite academies at any one time. Determined to achieve their dreams, most of these players will feel under pressure to perform. This pressure can be very intense at times, frequently leading to mental strain and exhaustion. Following on from a government review in 2017 academies gained better awareness of the critical role they play and have since taken steps towards safeguarding the mental health and wellbeing of the athletes under their care. 

Regardless of the sport you play, it is guaranteed that at some stage you have received some form of Social Support. Social Support is made up of four parts: Emotional, Esteem, Informational and Tangible support. These four parts include the care, assistance and understanding from an athlete’s social network which includes parents, friends, coaches and team-mates. The quality of support that athlete's receive from this network has a direct impact on their well-being, development and overall physical and mental health - think about it… if you have absolutely nobody helping, supporting or encouraging you to play a sport at a young age, do you think you would succeed or even want to play it? 

The 4 pillars of social support social support, functional, esteem, informational, social

Now whilst Social Support is important to every footballer, there is no position on the football pitch more mentally demanding than the Goalkeeper. Goalkeepers receive separate training, and see the game differently to their outfield team-mates. While outfielders can make many mistakes in a game without such consequence, a goalkeeper can make the slightest of errors that can often lead to a goal which will impact the outcome of the game: resulting in blame and criticism from teammates, coaches, fans and media. Nobody can help a Goalkeeper more in their time of need than their social network!

The unique challenges of being a Goalkeeper require them to have good communication skills and strong mental resilience. When emotions such as fear of failure, self doubt and frustration are allowed to build and build, this can lead to poor performances as well as reduced focus and self-confidence - things which are critical to being a successful Goalkeeper!

Key Takeaways from the Study

1. Goalkeepers face unique challenges and pressures associated with their position which requires a specialised form of support to ensure their development and psychological wellbeing. 

2. Wellbeing support for Goalkeepers in football academies shows signs of improving. 

3. Academies play an important role creating a supportive environment for Goalkeepers. As academies better understand what Goalkeepers need, support and quality of Goalkeepers will continue to improve. 

*We would like to thank FMPA for allowing us to reproduce some of the article in this post.

Abertay University is one of the UK's leading Universities in sports research and are committed to helping athletes of all ages and backgrounds to feel included, happy and motivated to participate in sports. The University have created a free online resource hub call IntergriTay to help educate and inform, follow this link to find out more -

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Government Duty of Care Review

Football Medicine & Performance Association




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