The 5Cs

Supporting the psychological development of athletes in youth and Para-football

Sports participation can do far more than improve a young person’s health and fitness. It can teach them important life and social skills, alongside the development of their technical and physical skills.

In line with an increasing focus on improving organisational practice around the psychological development and health of young footballers, Professor Harwood developed the 5Cs framework as a user-friendly tool to support coaches in encouraging this important learning process.

The 5Cs are represented by the attributes and skills of commitment, communication, concentration, control and confidence - with the goal of helping organisations create ‘psychologically-informed environments’ that nurture the 5Cs in young athletes.

Through effective coaching and parental support, the aim is to equip young athletes with personal skills that will facilitate their achievements and experiences in sport and beyond.

Our impact

Enhancing FA national programmes

  • In 2014, the FA integrated the 5Cs into its National Player Development Strategy for England teams.
  • In 2015, the FA National Para-football teams implemented the 5Cs.

Transforming player development in English professional youth academies

  • Leicester City FC and Aston Villa FC have recruited sport psychology practitioners to embed the 5Cs framework within their programmes.
  • Both clubs report improved coordination and staff responsibility for psychology alongside enhanced coach development and parent education – and credit the 5Cs for facilitating a support programme that met the criteria for Category 1 status as an academy.

International adoption of 5Cs

  • Since 2018, the 5Cs have influenced the educational policy of a consortium of national Icelandic organisations – the Icelandic Football Association (KSI), the Icelandic National Olympic and Sports Association (NOC), Reykjavik University (RU), the Icelandic National Youth Association (UMFI) and the Icelandic Gymnastics Federation (FSI).
  • The KSI and RU have subsequently invested in research to explore position-specific characteristics to assist player development.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding formalised the ongoing partnership between the University and Icelandic consortium – and, in 2020, European funding was secured to support the collaboration and delivery of a 5Cs educational programme in Icelandic youth sport.

Enabling young sport psychology practitioners

  • The success of the 5Cs framework has encouraged clubs to invest in the provision of sport psychology and subsequently provided more paid employment and training opportunities for young sport psychologists.

The research

Professor Harwood began to explore the importance of young people’s psychosocial development within England’s elite youth football academy system in 2005.

His initial research examined coaches’ roles and responsibilities within a professional football academy. Based on his findings, he developed a 15-week educational programme, coined The 5Cs Framework – because it nurtures player commitment, communication, concentration, control and confidence.

The programme helped coaches to understand, plan and integrate behavioural and session management strategies that focused on sensitising players to important psychosocial skills and behaviours. Meanwhile, Harwood shared the 5Cs in educational activities with players and parents to support the coaching initiative.

The intervention achieved very positive results both in terms coach confidence to successfully implement the 5Cs and players’ demonstration of positive behaviours within their coaching sessions.

Harwood then conducted a second study with another youth academy to strengthen the evidence base for the positive outcomes of 5Cs coaching on young players.

Again, the results revealed enhanced positive psychosocial behaviour among the players including an improved work ethic as well as greater confidence in communication and presentation skills at school.

I want to commend the originators of the 5Cs framework... It has...greatly enhanced our national para-teams culture; qualities that we consistently refer to in our daily work.

David Faulkner Head of Performance for Para-Football - FA

Research funders

  • Erasmus+ European Union Strategic Partnership Funding
  • HEIF

Development partners

  • The Football Association
  • Nottingham Forest Football Club Academy

Meet the experts