16 Jun How former footballer turned counsellor helped young AS Roma star overcome off-field issues
A former professional football player for Charlton Athletic FC, who became a clinical consultant after his playing days, has helped a young AS Roma player with his emotional coping strategy.
Kevin George, who trained in Counselling, Psychotherapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming to create Soccology, had 10 weekly one-to-one sessions with Gennaro Nigro – a 20-year-old player originally from America.
“When I first talked to Gennaro and he shared his experiences, I noticed that he didn’t speak about how he felt. He was going through a tough time, but his focus was on football. He believed that when his football situation improves, emotionally everything will be okay.
“This strategy is common in the world of football, knowingly and unknowingly players seek refuge in performing well and minimising risk on the pitch. Playing football takes you away from off-field problems and when you have problems in football, avoiding risk on the pitch is avoiding also avoiding a problem.”
Kevin noted that Gennaro was frustrated and confused and whenever faced with adversity he would suppress emotion and let logic take the lead: “We spoke about the history of the habit, and Gennaro shared how it links to his childhood. We spoke about the possibility of logic suppressing his feelings, the impact on his emotional health and his performances.
“We agreed that the objective for Gennaro would be to build a stronger relationship with his emotions so that he will be more resilient to managing external factors. In addition to upping his personal performance, his professional performances will improve as a by-product of his emotional development.”
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After completing the 10-week programme, Kevin helped Gennaro developed an awareness of how the young Roma star regularly opts for logic in place of emotion. Together, they identified a pattern in his behaviour and traced it back to key moments in his childhood.
“His growth reflected a conversation we had about the emotional state of football players and the state of the football system,” Kevin said, “A challenging environment can lead to you to change from happy to sad. The same environment can have a more resilient version of you, change from happy to stressed, feeling fatigued as a consequence. When our state of mind or emotions “negatively” change, our energy levels change, our health during that time and the quality of our decisions fall.
“In football, players like the rest of society experience this. They also have the burden of managing what I refer to as the alternative world. A world where they have another identity, an additional set of experiences, an additional set of laws and consistently placed on trial. I have seen players over the last two decades self-sabotage their careers due to feeling overwhelmed by their emotions.
Although their sessions are now over, Kevin and Gennaro are still in contact and carry out regular ‘check-in’ sessions.