Cardiff Metropolitan University
JASP Submission_Club_to_International_Transitions Study_Revised_CLEAN Manuscript.pdf (306.33 kB)

Psychosocial demands and situational properties of the club-to-international transition in male youth football

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-10-21, 14:24 authored by Alan McKay, Brendan Cropley, Richard MullenRichard Mullen, David Shearer, Sheldon Hanton
Athletes experience a number of within-career transitions that expose them to a multitude of demands. The club-to-international transition (CIT) is one transition that has received minimal attention. Through cognitive-motivational-relational-theory (CMRT), we sought to address this gap by exploring the psychosocial demands, and their situational properties, football (soccer) players experience during the CIT. Fourteen age-group international players, and 10 coaches (four club; six international) were interviewed. Using thematic analysis, a range of performance (e.g., competition intensity), organizational (e.g., new organizational culture), and personal demands (e.g., evolving identity), and situational properties (e.g., novelty, ambiguity) were identified. Further, the CIT was perceived as a unique adversity, due to its fluctuating and ambiguous nature. For example, international selection is never guaranteed and is predicated on current performance at club and international level. To positively negotiate this transition, we suggest players need to develop key psychological resources (e.g., mental toughness, resilience) and rely on organizational relationships (e.g., clear feedback processes), which assist them in taking ownership over their development. Our research has worldwide reach through offering international level organizations novel insights to help support players making the CIT and facilitate bespoke interventions that will positively impact both individual player development and long-term performance success.

Lay summary: We explored the psychosocial demands experienced by international youth footballers’ during the club-to-international transition. This transition was defined as an ongoing journey, with many ups and downs and no guaranteed outcome. A range of personal, organizational, and performance demands associated with ‘being an international footballer’ were also identified.

Implications for Practice
Relevant stakeholders need to be educated about the demands associated with the CIT and its effective management in order to facilitate a more positive and successful CIT experience.

Applied sport psychologists and coaches should convey strategies for the development of personal characteristics in players (e.g., mental toughness, resilience) that facilitate positive adaptations to CIT demands and thus support youth development.

National Governing Bodies (NGBs) in international football should develop a structured feedback process, involving clear communication channels between the player, international coach, and club coach regarding players’ needs during the CIT.


Published in

Journal of Applied Sport Psychology


Taylor & Francis


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)


McKay, A., Cropley, B., Mullen, R., Shearer, D. and Hanton, S. (2021) 'Psychosocial demands and situational properties of the club-to-international transition in male youth football', Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, pp.1-23.

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Cardiff Met Affiliation

  • Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences

Cardiff Met Authors

Sheldon Hanton

Cardiff Met Research Centre/Group

  • Mental Health and Wellbeing in Demanding Environments

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  • © The Publisher


  • en

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