Managing Leisure 11, 22 – 38 (January 2006)
Facilitating change in the educational experiences of professional footballers: The case of Scottish football David McGillivray Cultural Business Group, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow G4 OBA, UK This paper evaluates the delivery of learning opportunities for footballers within the Scottish professional football industry. Theoretically, the paper draws on Prochaska and DiClemente’s ‘stages of change’ model and Miller and Rollnick’s ‘motivational’ and ‘brief intervention’ techniques to scrutinize Scottish professional football’s engagement with lifelong learning cultures within its labour force. Empirically, a two-level research strategy was employed. First, elite interviews were undertaken with strategic stakeholders drawn from the professional game in Scotland. Second, a single case study of a Scottish League Division One club was undertaken, including short interviews with a range of players and club officials. The study found that by introducing carefully designed interventions aimed at particular stages of change, professional footballers can be encouraged to participate in meaningful learning activities for the duration of their football careers. Success is dependent upon motivational techniques being introduced at the most apposite time and with appropriate resources.
INTRODUCTION For some time the UK professional football industry (and its inhabitants) has been considered resistant to change both in terms of its engagement with formal educational discourses and (lack of) investment in postfootball career development (see Coakley, 1998; Drawer and Fuller, 2002; Dunning, 1999; Gearing, 1999; Jones and Armour, 2000; McGillivray et al., 2005; Monk, 2000; Parker, 2000; Stewart and Sutherland, 1996; Weiss, 2001). Various explanations are proffered for this resistance ranging from those stressing the occupational inevitability of professional football status (Parker, 2000) to those bemoaning the absence of educational cultural capital (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977) in young footballers traditionally emerging from urban, working class environments.
None the less, a raft of recent initiatives has brought the issue of players’ educational attainment to the attention of those who govern the professional game across the UK. These initiatives have at their heart a concern with lifelong learning and continuing professional development. For example, in England and Wales an extensive academy structure has been developed within which aspiring young footballers balance their football education with an ongoing programme of academic studies (see Richardson et al., 2003). The Scottish professional game has been much slower to introduce provision for the ongoing educational needs of its labour force. A number of explanations have been offered for this apparent tardiness. First, most Scottish clubs are classified as small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and
Managing Leisure ISSN 1360-6719 print/ISSN 1466-450X online # 2006 Taylor & Francis http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals DOI: 10.1080/13606710500445668
Educational experiences of professional footballers are unable (or unwilling) to invest in their human resources. As a result, they afford little value to learning and training outside of their core business. Second, although career development advice (and financial support) has been available for some time via an educational trust operated by the players’ trade union (the Scottish Professional Footballers Association), this support has until recently been fragmented, inconsistent and inevitably short-term in its focus. The absence of a comprehensive strategy for either lifelong learning or continual professional development has meant that insufficient effort has been expended in developing adequate career transition policies to cater for those exiting the professional game devoid of easily transferable skills and qualifications (see McGillivray et al., 2005). Despite its inglorious past history the Scottish professional game has been forced to reconsider its wider responsibility towards its employees’ educational needs by the ongoing rationalization of labour affecting the industry. More than 300 players have been made redundant from the Scottish game each year since 1999. Until recently the task of raising awareness about the precariousness of the contemporary footballers’ career has fallen to the Scottish Professional Footballers Association (SPFA). However, in light of the unstable economic climate facing the game (Deloitte & Touche, 2004) and the contemporaneous Scottish Executive concern with lifelong learning, other agencies of governance (including the Scottish Executive, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Football Association and Learn Direct Scotland) have been persuaded to shoulder some responsibility for the career transition difficulties encountered by professional footballers. These agencies have recently collaborated in the development of a Strategy for Lifelong Learning (hereafter SLL) designed to provide adequate financial resources and career advice to address
footballers’ lack of transferable skills on departing the game. Yet, whilst it appears that the argument for action has been won, contestation remains over the most appropriate means of delivering those educational and continuing development opportunities within the existing structures (or strictures) of the Scottish professional game. This paper takes as its focus an evaluation of the delivery of learning opportunities for footballers within the Scottish professional football industry. The empirical component focuses on the plethora of initiatives recently introduced within the Scottish game now delivered under the banner of the SLL. Theoretically, the paper draws on Prochaska and DiClemente’s (1983) ‘stages of change’ model and Miller and Rollnick’s (1991) ‘motivational’ and ‘brief intervention’ techniques to scrutinize the range of learning initiatives which have recently been introduced across the Scottish professional game designed to foster in its members a culture of lifelong learning.
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: THE STAGES OF CHANGE MODEL Working principally in the area of clinical psychology, Prochaska and DiClemente (1983) have argued that individuals progress through five key stages once they consciously decide to make changes to the fabric of their lives. Although most often associated with research into smoking cessation and addiction recovery (Prochaska and DiClemente, 1984, 1992; Prochaska et al., 1992), the transferability of their work has become evident in recent years. It has now been employed in sporting environments, child welfare (Littell and Girvin, 2004) and the authors themselves specify its application to business, educational (Wallace, 2004) and management contexts (Prochaska et al., 2001). The five stages of change are depicted graphically in Figure 1.
Fig. 1. Stages of change. Source: Adapted from Prochaska and Diclemente (1983)
Prochaska and DiClemente propose that, at each stage, individuals exhibit a different mindset about their behaviour, as well as varying degrees of motivation and demonstrable commitment to change. They argue that, at key stages, carefully designed interventions can assist individuals to move through the change process towards the ultimate goal of maintaining a desired lifestyle in the long term. Although intended to be read in a clockwise fashion, commencing at precontemplation, to contemplation, action, maintenance and relapse, Prochaska and DiClemente argue that at any point, individuals can return to either the previous stage,
or even to the beginning. Another key feature (and advantage) of this model is that, ‘by discriminating different stages of readiness for change’, those delivering interventions are made aware that, ‘different skills are needed’ (Miller and Rollnick, 1991, p. 15) at each stage of change. In the following discussion, the appropriateness of the stages of change model for the Scottish professional football labour market is considered in more detail. At the pre-contemplation stage, Prochaska and DiClemente identify individuals who are either unwilling or unable to contemplate changing their current (normally
Educational experiences of professional footballers deleterious) lifestyle habits. Taken in the professional football context, these individuals are likely to have afforded little thought to their level of educational attainment and assigned little value to accessing opportunities for educational development offered by either their football clubs or playersâ€™ trade union (SPFA). Despite others expressing concern about their lack of engagement with educational discourses and alternative career possibilities (e.g. their union representative), the individual concerned is unlikely to share this viewpoint. Instead, they are likely to be dismissive of the need to invest in an alternative future. At this stage, change is not yet an issue deemed worthy of serious consideration. In contrast, at the contemplation, or ambivalence stage (Miller and Rollnick, 1991) individuals are beginning to experience conflict about the appropriateness of their existing behaviour. Again, in the professional football context, they might have been made aware of the potentially negative outcomes resulting from their lack of engagement with educational discourses but remain unsure as to whether they really want to or can change their habits. They remain unconvinced of the merits of change and are yet to ascribe the appropriate value to educational discourses in order to bring about lifestyle change. This stage is sometimes referred to as the comfort zone, where the scales are evenly balanced between passive inaction and active change. So, whilst change is considered, there are no guarantees that action will follow. Nevertheless, if the individual has been made aware that he is in danger of being left high and dry, bereft of the necessary skills and attributes for alternative employment, then he might be ready to enter the contemplation stage. However, should there be no acknowledgement of the value of change, he is unlikely to be influenced by the type of interventions being offered by
governing agencies. In short, at this stage, it is necessary to win hearts and minds (Peters and Waterman, 1982) before worthwhile contemplation is likely. Prochaska and DiClemente (1983) define the action stage as the point at which individuals are ready and willing to change their behaviour. Actions speak louder than words as participation in an educational or continuing professional development initiative tests the commitment of the individual to change. However, on a cautionary note, it is here that negative cultural baggage (Charlesworth, 2000) might be laid bare, as individuals enter potentially alien environments that they might have left some years earlier with largely negative associations (e.g. school). As a result, the potential for resistance is high and the likelihood of failure heightened. For this reason, Prochaska and DiClemente suggest that providing supportive, communitarian environments is the most effective means of reinforcing action. Yet, there are also hazards associated with reinforcing the cotton-wool culture or total institution (Goffman, 1961) of the football club. It is worth remembering that, in the action stage, the new learner is likely to be experiencing high levels of anxiety, especially if he has been taken out of the closed shop of the football club into the â€˜realâ€™ world. For Prochaska and DiClemente, the maintenance or consolidation stage requires consistent and ongoing effort on behalf of both the producers and consumers of interventions. For recent returnees to education, sustainable change is only likely after the individual has been able to maintain their new identity as a learner and react differently to old situations which might, in the past, have caused them to abandon their studies. Across the entire stages of change model there is a risk that negative moods (e.g. anxiety, depression, boredom) will detract from positive learning behaviour and tempt the individual to return to old habits. The
26 maintenance stage is concerned with ensuring that the necessary support networks are in place so that new patterns of behaviour are allowed to emerge. As part of the process of developing a new identity, it is more than likely that the individual will experience feelings of discomfort and inadequacy as they distance themselves from their past experiences and acquaintances. Those delivering interventions in the professional football industry need to be cautious not to reinforce feelings of isolation as individuals move into previously unexplored environments. Other research investigations have already shown that the masculinized dressing room culture can act to isolate those players interested in breaking the mould and engaging with discourses of education (see Gearing, 1999). In some respects, the need for support at the maintenance stage is greater than ever, especially as relationships with family and friends can also become strained by the additional commitments (financial and emotional) required when lapsed learners re-engage with educational discourses. To alleviate these worries, positive reinforcement is vital, as is the presence of other learners who have returned to education in a similar manner. Drawing positive feelings of self-worth and achievement from educational engagement will allow the individual to identify with others as well as maintain his motivation to progress. Although in their five stage model, Prochaska and DiClemente include a relapse stage, it is not included in this particular evaluation of the Scottish professional football industry. As the Scottish professional game’s engagement with LL and continuing professional development is relatively recent, it is not possible to effectively evaluate evidence of this final stage in the change process. Instead, the final component of the theoretical framework is concerned with a discussion of those techniques developed to facilitate
McGillivray progression through the four key stages of change described above. Miller and Rollnick’s (1991) work on motivation and brief interventions are pertinent here. They assert that, although the ‘stages of change’ model is undoubtedly valuable, it must be considered alongside a range of motivational techniques if change processes are to be truly effective. It is worth briefly identifying some of the motivational strategies they propose and their appropriateness for this particular research investigation. Miller and Rollnick’s motivational techniques act as the engine of change designed to increase the likelihood that an individual will follow a recommended action. They propose seven motivational techniques. First, they argue that the giving of clear advice helps individuals to make the decision about change. Second, the removal of attitudinal and practical barriers is deemed vital in motivating individuals to progress through the different stages of change, especially important in the formative period (i.e. from pre-contemplation through contemplation to action). Third, providing choice is also important, as long as individuals are not coerced to take a particular course of action. As Miller and Rollnick (1991, p. 23) argue, ‘offering clients a choice among alternative approaches may decrease resistance and dropout, and may improve both compliance and outcome’. Fourth, decreasing desirability, particularly important at the contemplation stage, refers to approaches which seek to promote the benefits of change whilst stressing the costs of the status quo. The role of peer groups (e.g. other football players) and family networks in increasing the desirability of educational discourses will be central to the effectiveness of this motivational technique. Fifth, practising empathy is concerned with developing a reflective listening approach, whereby the individual is made to feel that they are understood. In a similar vein, Miller and Rollnick also
Educational experiences of professional footballers suggest that providing positive feedback on progress represents an extremely useful motivational technique which, alongside the regular clarification of goals, can help the individual to self-evaluate and, ultimately, self-regulate. Finally, the principle of active helping is intended to affirm an interest in the individual’s change process. This might involve the individual in regular contact with a learner representative or someone from their football club who acts as an interested party, encouraging participation and giving approval for positive outcomes. Alongside these motivational techniques, Miller and Rollnick (1991, p. 35) also promote the positive role played by ‘interpersonal interaction’, brief interventions, in maintaining motivation for change. Brief interventions are, as the label suggests, normally relatively fleeting or momentary interactions held with individuals. They can be undertaken by non-specialists, eliminating some of barriers associated with formal treatment or counselling interventions. In the football context it is likely that employees of the football club, union officials, other players, friends and/or family members would undertake brief interventions. Although some of these groups may receive formal training, they are normally lay people with regular access to the players, whether due to formal or informal ties. As a result, ‘they are able to bypass the problem of stigmatization that so often prevents people from using specialist services’ (Miller and Rollnick, 1991, p. 203). Having reviewed the conceptual appropriateness of the stages of change model, related motivational techniques and brief interventions (Miller and Rollnick, 1991), it is now necessary to employ these theoretical tools to evaluate the effectiveness of the SLL for the Scottish professional football industry.
METHODOLOGY The chosen research strategy facilitated an evaluation of the Scottish professional football industry’s provision of educational opportunities for its labour force. A twolevel strategy was employed. First, the opinions of strategic stakeholders within the professional game in Scotland were sought, utilising the elite interview method (Saunders et al., 2003). Specifically, those actors with a stake in promoting or financing further educational opportunities for footballers were the target of investigations. Interviews ‘provide data on understandings, opinions, what people think’ and they concentrate on ‘the distinctive features of situations and events’ (Arksey and Knight, 1999, pp. 2 –3). Given that these interviews were conducted with those in strategic positions within the Scottish professional football industry, care was taken to negotiate meaningful access and source background knowledge of the interviewee (Arksey and Knight, 1999). In total, five elite interviews were carried out with representatives from those agencies responsible for governing the Scottish professional football industry (see Table 1). The second substantive fieldwork phase was an in-depth, single case study (Donmoyer, 2000) exploration of a Scottish League Division One club. This club is at the forefront of attempts to facilitate a lifelong learning culture throughout its labour force. Gomm et al. (2000) assert that case study enquiries serve various purposes. First, although often criticized for their lack of generalizability (see Donmoyer, 2000) and unscientific status (Gomm et al., 2000), they are useful in explaining the uniqueness of a particular situation (i.e. the club’s approach towards lifelong learning). Moreover, they also facilitate the investigation of an issue, event or, in this case, an institution, in considerable depth. In some instances, they can also be used to illustrate a theoretical
McGillivray Table 1 Governance agencies’ sample Name Warren Hawke Tom Docherty David Thomson Iain Blair Tony Coultas
Position Scottish Professional Footballers Association Educational Co-ordinator Scottish Football Association Educational Officer Scottish Football League Scottish Premier League Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, Scottish Executive
point (e.g. stages of change) through an indepth exploration of a specific unit (in this case a football club). As Yin (1991, p. 14) suggests, the case study approach allows access to, ‘real-life events, such as individual life cycles, organizational and managerial processes’. So, case studies are a useful mechanism for accruing large amounts of information about institutions ‘across a wide range of dimensions’ (Gomm et al., 2000, p. 2). The single case study technique is well used in the study of organizations (Alvesson and Deetz, 2000), due to the depth of information and ability to investigate a specific group in fine detail, providing the platform to produce ‘a coherent and illuminating description of and perspective on a situation’ (Schofield, 2000). For Alvesson and Deetz (2000, p. 192), the case study approach relies ‘mainly on interviews and observation of real settings for getting empirical material . . . in addition, archival material and secondary sources . . . may be useful’. The case study method can, then, incorporate a range of methods for investigating and, being reflexive towards, the empirical material gathered in the field. Following two visits to the case study club, Falkirk FC, to observe the facilities available for educational engagement and the supplementary documentation produced to support the educational programme; ten short individual interviews were conducted with professional players at different stages in their careers (i.e. young apprentices, established professionals and senior professionals). Interviews were conducted at
the players’ training complex and restricted to 15 minutes so as not to interfere with their club commitments. Falkirk FC, plying its trade in the Scottish League Division One, was chosen as the subject of investigation for a number of reasons. First, this club was one of the first to sign up to the new version of the SPFA’s Modern Apprenticeship scheme, an indication of its commitment to the educational needs of its employees. Moreover, this was the first club into which the SPFA appointed two learning representatives, another demonstrable commitment to the construction of a lifelong learning culture within the club. This club also has a clearly defined educational framework through which its players progress as they move from youth player, to established professional and finally to senior professional status. Finally, the club has been lauded as a success story with 27 out of its 38 players engaged in some form of education course in 2004. LEARNING LESSONS: THE CHANGING FACE OF SCOTTISH FOOTBALL The research study findings point to potentially significant changes taking place within the Scottish professional football industry in relation to its commitment to the labour force (there are approximately 1000 professionals plying their trade in the Scottish professional leagues). Formerly, individual clubs provided some career development support to individual players on a largely ad hoc and reactive basis, often in response
Educational experiences of professional footballers
to career threatening injury. On the whole the industry suffered from the absence of a comprehensive strategy on lifelong learning supported by the game’s strategic stakeholders (i.e. Scottish Football Association, Scottish Premier League, Scottish Football League, Scottish Professional Footballers Association and the clubs). However, this has now been addressed with the production of the collaborative SLL led by the SPFA in partnership with other key agencies drawn from the football, education and employment fields. The game’s governing body, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) has been actively involved in the production of this strategy:
The strategy is funded to the tune of £100,000 through the Scottish Union Learning Fund (SULF) under the management of the SPFA. The principal objectives of this strategy are laid out in Table 2. Fundamentally, it is designed to hasten culture change within the professional game across Scotland. It is, in this respect, an openly normative project which seeks to embed a learning culture within the professional game at every level. Two of the strategy’s champions articulate its vision, arguing:
We operate it from here with the assistance of the Scottish Executive and Learn Direct for Scotland, the Career Service is in there and also the players unions themselves. Very much a heavy involvement and it is a
We are probably in a 10–15 year cycle to change the culture within football but come 10 years time we are going to be most of the way there. I think for a football club to see these players getting churned out the game on a regular basis, I think a lot of
partnership which has gone forward. (SFA Educational Officer)
Table 2 Objectives of Scottish Union Learning Fund Round 3 bid, ‘scoring career goals for football employees in scotland’ To appoint a SPFA SULF Co-ordinator to establish a learning representative network to support lifelong learning in the industry To pilot a programme of learning representative training and development with SFL/SPL clubs To establish collaborative relationships with Careers Scotland; the enterprise networks, SUfI, and other key stakeholders such as the emerging Sector Skills Councils/NTOs and Sport Scotland To secure the co-operation of and joint working with SFA, SPL and SFL on career transition planning and lifelong learning for all employees in the industry To investigate with Careers Scotland and the University of Paisley the feasibility of providing a web-enabled information, advice and guidance service for members and other employees To establish in the longer term working relations with the emerging Football Academies and where possible seek to extend their role to encompass provision of lifelong learning services to older footballers and other football employees To research the learning needs of players and other employees including literacy, numeracy, core skills and information technology and identify means of meeting these needs perhaps through on line learning and shared learning facilities for clubs To develop and deliver, in collaboration with the STUC’s recently appointed Adult Literacy/Numeracy Coordinator, programmes consistent with the objectives and goals set out in the Scottish Executive Strategy Report ‘Adult Literacy and Numeracy in Scotland’ To disseminate information about the project and raise awareness so that more clubs and individual employees take up guidance and learning opportunities To work with relevant FE/HE providers and training organizations in Scotland to remove barriers to learning and enhance the potential for growing the learning market within the football sector
their consciousnesses will be woken up . . . I want the lifelong learning not to be from 16 to whenever, I want it to be from 13 –14, I want them to know the importance of their education when they are joining the club. (SPFA Educational Co-ordinator) What I do know is that the entire culture and the responsive attitude of the players is changing. (SFA Educational Officer)
Whereas these objectives are no doubt laudable and beyond reproach, it remains questionable whether they are realistic, achievable and will lead to worthwhile change in the Scottish professional game. Until now, their outcomes remain unclear and largely unsubstantiated. In evaluating its early performance, it is worth subjecting the SLL to the ‘test’ of Prochaska and DiClemente’s (1983) stages of change model and associated motivational and brief intervention techniques. The early signs are promising, given that within the strategy proposal itself the SPFA identifies itself as a ‘change agent and influencer, promoting learning partnerships with clubs and other strategic allies as well as encouraging innovation in guidance and learning delivery’ (SPFA, 2003). The rhetoric suggests that those agencies governing Scottish football are at least convinced of the need for change. However, it is now necessary to consider in more detail how this strategy will facilitate change processes from pre-contemplation, through action to maintenance. Only then is it possible to effectively evaluate whether the changes afoot are merely superficial or more meaningful and sustainable.
RAISING AWARENESS: THE PRE-CONTEMPLATION STAGE At the pre-contemplation stage of change, Prochaska and DiClemente (1983) assert that individuals are either unwilling or unable to contemplate changing their
lifestyles, largely because they assign low value to the behaviour change expected of them. For this research investigation, the relative value attached to educational discourses is of particular interest. Despite irrevocable evidence of a contracting Scottish football labour market (Fisher, 2002), the research to date indicates that a significant proportion of players have yet to think about the implications of their relative dearth of educational qualifications and lack of employability competencies (see McGillivray et al., 2005). This research indicated that players accord little value to education, instead continuing to concentrate fully on their apparently inevitable football careers. Although urged to face up to the looming threat of unemployment by organizations like the SPFA, players remain largely dismissive of the need to invest in an alternative future. The problems encountered in persuading players of the merits of education are neither recent nor restricted to this sport. However, a significant literature exists on the barriers to educational performance in the world of football. Some authors blame immersion in a masculinized game (Gearing, 1999) where intellectual curiosity is accorded effeminate status (Dunning, 1999) for the difficulties experienced, whilst others lay the blame with a lack of support and encouragement from the clubs themselves (Kremer et al., 1997; Coakley, 1998; Whannel, 2002). Our research findings indicate that both perspectives have some merit. The SPFA’s Educational Co-ordinator encounters some real difficulties in penetrating the football industry: The main problem you have got in football is anti-educational culture and . . . if you’ve got a negative education opinion-former, wow, it’s infectious and you’ve got a problem there . . . football is all about living in a bubble. You eat together, you play together, you train together, you socialize together
Educational experiences of professional footballers and getting outside of this bubble is half the battle
For negative opinion-formers this antiintellectualism (Williams, 1995) is both normal and acceptable. In fact, within the professional football industry possession of educational cultural capital (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977) is often deemed unwelcome and threatening. One footballer recounts the story of being freed from his first club 3 weeks after he told them he was unwilling to sign a full-time contract with them, ‘it was basically sign or you are released’ (established professional). In attempting to reach those in the pre-contemplation stage, this tale is illustrative, alluding to an institutionalized disregard for the longer term. This concurs with Wacquant’s (1995, p. 73) view that, in the sporting world, ‘practical labour’ (e.g. footballing ability and physique) is valued more highly than the cultural capital conferred in the formal educational field. Even when Scottish football’s governing body tries to spread the word about the educational opportunities and support services available, there are those who are more than willing to discredit it, ‘a comment I heard not any more than a week ago, from somebody who was introducing me. By the way this is Tommy, he trains footballers not to be footballers’ (SFA Educational Officer). The difficulties experienced in encouraging engagement are exacerbated at certain age groups. For example, whereas all 16 – 18year-old youth players are now required to undertake some form of education with their clubs as a condition of their apprentice contract, the prescriptive element of this disappears once a full-time professional contract is secured. Once players reach this milestone neither the clubs nor the learning agencies can prescribe participation. Reaching these pre-contemplators is the—often thankless—task of the SPFA’s Educational co-ordinator, ‘between 19 and 23 this is just the “bury your head in the sand” time,
everything will be fine . . . there is a huge gulf in the middle between 19 – 23 which is my banging the head off the wall stage’. Notwithstanding these dilemmas, the introduction of the SLL has addressed some of the obstacles to educational engagement encountered at the pre-contemplation stage. The use of motivational techniques has been integral to this change. The SPFA, in collaboration with Careers Scotland, has secured funding to place a host of learner representatives in every professional club in Scotland to encourage players to progress from the pre-contemplation to contemplation stage. These representatives are responsible for providing frontline information and learning advice to players so as to encourage greater take-up of learning opportunities. Allied to the SPFA’s improved marketing communications, the hope is that players will become better informed, not only of the threats posed by changes in the labour market, but also of the emerging opportunities to register on educational programmes at little or no cost to the individual. The SPFA now produces and distributes a quarterly newsletter, Extra Time, to every Scottish professional player and club employee. This newsletter contains information about the why, what, where and when of learning opportunities. At this stage, the interventions are for the most part laissez-faire, concerned with raising awareness and sowing the seeds of doubt within the minds of the pre-contemplators. CONTEMPLATING CHANGE: ‘WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?’ In the earlier discussion of Prochaska and DiClemente’s (1983) contemplation stage, it was suggested that this is an extremely sensitive, transitional stage, where the risk of failure competes with the allure of success. For professional footballers, it is a stage represented by conflict about the future direction of their lives. The research study
32 findings indicate that awareness of the finance predicament facing the Scottish game is slowly seeping through to players. This is illustrated in the comments of the following players: Yeah, the boys now are becoming aware of the fact that the most you’re getting is a year contract. So players now realize that they’ve got to be going and getting other qualifications. They would be mad not to. (Established professional) I mean look at the state of football. Three or 4 years ago you could get freed from a club and you would get another club no problem, but at the end of the season there are now maybe 200 or 300 guys out of work . . . it is important that you do get some sort of qualifications. (Established professional) I’ve noticed it’s changed here a lot . . . probably next week there will be about 300 boys getting freed from clubs with nothing. (Learner representative, senior professional)
Somewhat paradoxically, the heightened sense of awareness amongst players benefits those trying to embed a lifelong learning culture within the Scottish professional football industry. They are now in a better position to exert an influence than they were when players felt their professional footballer status was inevitable (Gearing, 1999). The SPFA’s Educational Co-ordinator reinforces this point, arguing that: I probably wouldn’t have had the success that I’ve had if it hadn’t been for the current football industry climate. It’s a good springboard and players are all scared, and when players are all scared they are looking for the next contract and they might have had a wee scare this summer.
Yet, whereas Prochaska and DiClemente (1983) insist that contemplation is a pre-requisite for active change they also assert that, at this stage, individuals are likely to remain uncertain or unconvinced of the merits of changing their behaviour and, perhaps, unsure of their ability
McGillivray to do so. For this reason, at the contemplation stage, the careful design of interventions is imperative. The appointment of the SPFA’s Educational Co-ordinator in 2003 and the subsequent recruitment of a series of learner representatives from within the clubs themselves each represent important developments. Learner representatives are particularly influential as they actively preach the message within the clubs, breaking down the age-old problems associated with impenetrable dressing room cultures (Williams, 1995). These representatives act as are friendly faces who participate in brief interventions (Miller and Rollnick, 1991), communicating with players and promoting the beneficial outcomes they themselves have enjoyed from an engagement with educational discourses. They have the added advantage of being respected by their peers, overcoming obstacles associated with other professional experts (Miller and Rollnick, 1991). Benefits accrue on at least two-levels. First, for those trying to penetrate the shield around the collective (team) identity often found within clubs: The fact is that there is a contact, a contact that I can turn round and speak to now as opposed to lifting a phone and speaking to a stranger. (SFA, Educational Officer) We did very well with Falkirk . . . two respected guys in the dressing room. (SPFA Educational Co-ordinator) The other significant factor was Warren’s appointment of the learner reps because that gave me a receptive face in the dressing room as opposed to, ‘we’re not interested’. (Falkirk FC Director)
Second, motivationally, the learner representative role has been invaluable in relaying advice to those contemplating change, removing barriers (e.g. by providing a welcoming environment), raising awareness of choice and practicing empathy:
Educational experiences of professional footballers Warren [SPFA Educational Officer] was saying it’s just like an in-between guy for him . . . you’ve got the young boys here and it’s just maybe to keep track on them. Watch out how they’re getting on. (Learner representative, senior professional) Well it was Craig [the learner representative] that started it. I’d never heard anything about any of this until Craig came and said this is an option some of you can do if you want. (Established professional) Well Craig (the learner representative) gives a lot; he always asks how we’re getting on. (Young apprentice)
Each of these qualities fits with Miller and Rollnick’s (1991) advice on appropriate motivational techniques for facilitating change. One of the key motivational themes they identify is providing credible choice to ensure that individuals can construct their own future educational or career paths. Engendering choice is also an essential feature of the SLL promoted by the SPFA and its fellow agents of change. Players are now permitted to choose the most appropriate route back into, or continuation of, education, avoiding prescription in the course of studies selected. To this end, the SPFA has used SULF funding to roll out a newly designed Modern Apprenticeship scheme which enables 16 – 18-year-olds to follow an individualized programme of studies which best suits their position on the stages of change model. Previously, all young recruits signed up to a Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) in Sport and Recreation. As a result, they were treated a homogenous group with identical learning needs. The more flexible programme of studies now enables the SPFA to: Get our players on whatever is flexible for them . . . the sport and recreation courses that have been on offer to apprentices previous to now and the courses that one qualification fits all, I think was the biggest waste of money ever. I think it had probably been
relevant to 10% of the players. (SPFA Educational Co-ordinator)
Certainly the available evidence relating to forced participation in learning suggests that it is given little value by players and is, more often than not, simply used as a vehicle for clowning around (Monk, 2000). Miller and Rollnick also caution against coercion as a strategy for change. They reject standardization, instead arguing that, ‘offering clients a choice among alternative approaches may decrease resistance and dropout, and may improve both compliance and outcome’ (1991, pp. 22 – 23). Once you have a captive audience, aware of the value of the stakes in the game, then persuasion becomes much more effective. However, turning contemplation into action remains a daunting challenge for the governing agencies. It is at this phase that the specific, contextualized design of learning opportunities is of paramount concern.
SECURING ACTIVE CHANGE: ‘THIS IS FUN’ As the preceding discussion demonstrates, providing a choice of alternatives is paramount if players are to convert their ambivalent contemplation into sustainable action (i.e. participation in a learning experience). Prochaska and DiClemente (1983) insist that, whilst individuals at this stage often present as ready and willing to contemplate change, the real test of an individual’s commitment is sustained participation in a programme of studies. The SLL makes provision so that providers can eliminate the most common barriers standing in the way of active participation (Miller and Rollnick, 1991). These might include cost, lack of choice and learning anxiety. To this end, the careful design and delivery of programmes is vital. The research study findings indicate that, by opening up avenues of choice, players
34 are more able to make the transition from contemplation to action. The following comments support this perspective: I think a while ago at clubs they used to give boys courses and you had to do it regardless but I think now that there’s the choice you can do something you’re interested in then obviously you are going to stick at it. (Learner representative, senior professional) I did the Scotvec modules and it was basically just going to class and there’s your module. It was a waste of time basically, the teacher was basically telling you what to write on your sheets. I think at least some of them now are at least getting a choice. (Established professional) So we’ve all got different things to do, like, we’ve all got a choice anyway so it’s our choice so it’s not as if we are forced to do something, so it’s all sort of enjoyable. (Young professional)
Players used to be forced to undertake standardized courses because youth football funding was tied to the acquisition of a particular qualification (the SVQ Sport and Recreation). In other words, if clubs wished to provide alternative opportunities for their players, they had to incur a financial penalty for this decision. It is, however, all well and good providing players with a wide range of choice in courses, but there are other barriers to educational engagement which must also be overcome for action to be meaningful. One of these is cost, not only the direct financial outlay, but also the opportunity costs associated with participation. The SPFA and its partners have sought to remove the former in the way in which it subsidizes players’ attendance on courses: The European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), ended up costing the boys a little amount but . . . if they had done it themselves in a college it would have cost them a couple
McGillivray of hundred pounds. (Learner representative, senior professional) The course is meant to be £99. The SPFA contributed two-thirds of that £66 and the club on completion will give you the other £33 so it’s not going to cost the players anything. (Established professional)
Another opportunity cost of participation in an educational programme is the loss of freetime. Moreover, the desirability of changing behaviour can also be reduced by the fear of embarrassment and anxiety caused by returning to, what for most, will be an alien environment. In dealing with the latter, Falkirk FC have retained a collective sense of identity by organizing courses attended by a group of players. This approach proved advantageous in securing participation from potential laggards: You’ll maybe be willing to say I’ll go and do a college course next year but it ends up in good intentions and you don’t go and do it. But once there are a few of you involved it makes it easier for you to go as well (Senior professional) Because it’s a group . . . if I was going to college myself and I was turning up and I knew I was going to be myself, some days I’m like that, I can’t be bothered. See maybe if there are three or four of you travelling together and a couple of them want to go that day it makes it harder for you not to go. (Established professional)
This desire for group learning modes can, however, be problematic for the longerterm sustainability of programmes. As Coakley (2001) elsewhere has argued, many elite sports performers have never lived outside the culture of elite sport. Team sports in particular require a ‘disciplined and collective’ (Gearing, 1999, p. 47) approach facilitated through a series of formal (rules and codes of behaviour) and informal (eating and socializing together) procedures implemented on behalf of the club. However, these restrictions on
Educational experiences of professional footballers autonomy and individuality in favour of a collective approach have implications for the possibility of sustainable change in an educational sense. The lack of individualism can be a barrier to creativity and the generation of selfresponsibility, both of which are recognized as being crucial in the maintenance of change (Miller and Rollnick, 1991). Yet, conversely, another way of encouraging returnees to learning is to ensure that they are not immediately de-motivated, or put into situations where their levels of anxiety about learning are heightened: I see the European Computer Driving Licence as a wee ice breaker because what you’ve got there is seven modules and each test is something like 15 minutes, you’ve got 35 minutes to do it but 15 minutes and most guys pass so if you’ve had bad experience at school at you hated exams and hated tests then I just think it’s that wee ice breaker. (SPFA Educational Co-ordinator)
Miller and Rollnick (1991) rate anxiety as one of the most common reasons for individuals failing to maintain their new lifestyles. They recommend the provision of supportive environments as a pre-requisite for reinforcing the value of action. It is now worth completing the evaluation of the SLL by briefly discussing the maintenance of new identities in learners.
MAINTAINING NEW IDENTITIES Although the maintenance stage of change is a key element of Prochaska and DiClemente’s model, for this particular research investigation, it is difficult to evaluate the effects of the SLL because of its relatively recent introduction to the Scottish professional football industry. Nevertheless, it is possible to make interim comments about the extent to which action is consolidated through the strategy. Miller and Rollnick (1991) argue that providing positive feedback on progress
is a crucial motivational tool in maintaining new behaviours. Maintenance interventions include the presence of support mechanisms, incentive schemes, rewards, ongoing financial support, work experience opportunities and the development of career pathways. The SLL makes provision for a number of these mechanisms, many of which have been discussed already (e.g. subsidized courses, learner representative training, distribution of newsletter and extended choice of courses). However, there remain innumerable obstacles to overcome if a lifelong learning culture is to be truly embedded within the Scottish game, evidenced by the following comment from the SFA’s Educational Officer: I’ve had reluctance from the educational profession in the wider sense . . . I’ve had reluctance from players, I’ve had reluctance from clubs. . .I’ve had reluctance from the SPL the SFL, I’ve had reluctance from referees . . . yes there are 101 flaws, I know fine well some of the players don’t turn up at college I know that, I know that they don’t partake in some of the classes that they are attending
Nevertheless, despite this reluctance, the research study findings from Falkirk FC illustrate that securing the support of the club hierarchy is imperative. Senior personnel within this club (i.e. Directors and management staff) are now more aware of the advantages for their players and the club itself in supporting educational opportunities. In fact, the development of a comprehensive learning strategy has a market value to Falkirk FC. It uses its educational programme to sell itself to prospective new recruits: I want the best players possible to sign for Falkirk, what I don’t want to go into a house and for them simply to pick the team that their dad supports or the team that’s highest up the league. Forget where we are in the league; who’s going to look after your
son better than anyone else—us—send them to us. (Falkirk FC Director)
There are also signs of progress in quantitative terms. 25 Scottish professional clubs now have formal Apprenticeship schemes, and 16 of these are signed up to the new flexible programme being supported and funded by the SPFA and its partners. Anecdotal evidence also supports the ongoing impact of the reforms, especially their organic and incremental nature. In order to maintain a new learning culture in the Scottish professional game, the support of the clubs, the governing agencies and the media are essential. The SFA’s Educational Officer believes this support is growing: Strangers are coming in, people who are very influential in the game are seeing what is going on. They are recognizing that there is change, they maybe don’t know who is behind it and maybe don’t fully understand it but they like what they are seeing and they like the impact that it’s having.
Although it will be some time before the maintenance stage can be accurately evaluated, the new SLL does emphasize the importance of continuous monitoring and evaluation of the delivery of learning opportunities. This provides an opportunity for longitudinal research into whether the culture changes predicted by the SPFA’s Educational Coordinator are a realistic outcome. CONCLUDING COMMENTS This paper set out to evaluate the delivery of learning opportunities for footballers within the confines of the Scottish professional football industry. It utilized Prochaska and DiClemente’s (1983) ‘stages of change’ model and Miller and Rollnick’s (1991) ‘motivational’ and ‘brief intervention’ techniques to consider the extent to which the Scottish professional game has successfully embedded a lifelong learning culture within its labour force.
Whilst any attempt to initiate cultural change is, by definition, a slow process, the research findings indicate that, by introducing carefully designed interventions aimed at particular stages of change, professional footballers can be encouraged to participate in meaningful learning activities for the duration of their football careers. That Scottish football’s key governing agencies have collaborated in the production of a Strategy for Lifelong Learning is itself illustrative, demonstrating a seeping realization within the game of a wider responsibility for preparing players for alternative futures. The strategy is consistent with Prochaska and DiClemente’s stages of change model and contains a number of Miller and Rollnick’s motivational techniques. Crucially, the strategy proposes distinctive interventions designed to meet the needs of players with diverse experiences of formal education. The case study findings demonstrate that players are more likely to progress through the stages of educational change when motivational techniques are introduced at the most apposite time and with the appropriate level of financial and pastoral support. Although the appropriateness of the stages of change model for the delivery of educational opportunities in the football industry must be corroborated by further longitudinal research, the early signs indicate that the Scottish football authorities should persevere with the current strategy. The advantages of this model are threefold. First, it helps the football authorities to develop a much more systematic and structured approach to addressing the significant lifelong learning needs of young footballers. Second, the model appreciates the range of attitudes, skills and competencies that each individual possesses. Until recently the Scottish football authorities had adopted a broad-brush approach to education which failed to take cognisance of players’ differential motivations to change and the
Educational experiences of professional footballers availability of appropriate support networks. Taken alongside Miller and Rollnick’s range of brief intervention and motivational techniques this model provides guidelines on the design of appropriate learning interventions for a diverse audience. Finally, Prochaska and DiClemente’s model is more appropriate than alternative approaches because it is concerned with incremental progress towards sustainable behaviour change. In emphasizing the importance of transitional stages rather than fixed outcomes the additional flexibility provides those delivering educational opportunities with the space to produce appropriate, individually tailored, learning strategies. This, it is proposed, will lead to meaningful progress in engaging young footballers with the benefits of lifelong learning.
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