Liverpool FC Women rise to the top with an assist from LJMU
They clinched the title of the FA Women's Championship and promotion earlier this month, thanks in part to the help of backroom sport science experts from LJMU
The side lost just once this season and after gaining an unassailable lead at the top of the Championship standings, lifted the trophy at the weekend. They now look ahead to returning to the Women’s Super League (WSL) this September, after a two-year hiatus.
In that time, the club has invested in its supporting staff including sports science and medical experts at first team and academy level. They include Dr Francesca Champ, LJMU lecturer in the psychology of football, who joined the club as its first performance psychologist in December 2020.
“Since I joined the club, the journey that players and staff have been on is remarkable and there is no denying that as a group we’ve had some really tough times on and off the pitch,” Fran said. Reflecting further on the squad’s success she added: “I couldn’t be prouder of the way that everyone has come together and unified during those times of adversity, our focus and determination never wavered and that has been rewarded by the impressive way in which the players have won the league this year.”
Fran is a triple-graduate of LJMU’s world-class School of Sport and Exercise Sciences and currently leads the Football Exchange Women’s Network. Over the past 15 months of working with the team she’s provided significant psychological support to the elite players, working closely with manager Matt Beard to create a high-performance culture and develop the psychological qualities of the players as a collective.
“We have placed a real focus on concepts such as togetherness, identity, adaptability and resilience and my role in that has been to put the foundations in place for staff and players to build on through their experiences in the classroom, on the training pitch and around the training ground.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working with Matt, the broader staffing team and all of the players this season. It sounds cliché, but every single day the players and staff come in with a smile on their face and it has been wonderful to be a part of, it makes my job so much easier when working with a group of individuals who want to learn and who strive to be the best version of themselves.”
LFC Women’s Managing Director, Russ Fraser, said: “The work Fran has done with us over the last couple of seasons has been invaluable. Fran has worked closely with the staff and players to create a strong winning mentality within the group, evidenced by many outstanding results and performances across the course of the season.”
Alongside Fran there are more LJMU connections to the LFC Women’s teams at academy level. The U21s are currently supported by professional doctorate student Freddie Turner who works as their performance psychologist and LJMU football physiology and coaching lecturer, as well as PhD researcher, Stephen McQuilliam works as their sports scientist.
Stephen supported the first team during the pre-season with their strength and conditioning and stressed the importance of the discipline in improving elite players endurance. He said: “Strength and conditioning will have played an important role in helping the squad maintain peak physical performance week in, week out. Helping to keep players ready to perform to the best of their ability and playing a key part in the success the first team has had this year.”
LJMU also has a long-standing relationship with the club through student placements at first team and academy level in disciplines including psychology, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Through the partnership the students have gained invaluable real-world industry insight and further inspiration to pursue their own careers in professional sport.
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