The sports psychologist who is being credited with changing England’s fortunes at the World Cup is an Arsenal fan.
Ahead of England’s World Cup semi-final against Croatia, Dr Pippa Grange, appointed as the Head of People and Team Development at the Football Association in November (according to the Guardian) or January (according to The Times), is being hailed across the industry, media and fanzone.
Although she hails from Yorkshire, the 47-year-old is reportedly an Arsenal fan despite growing up in Harrogate as the daughter of her chef mother and publican father.
Dr Grange holds a doctorate in applied psychology although her main area of expertise lies in building an overall ‘team culture’. Her speciality? Enforcing positive thinking and helping athletes to deal with high-pressure situations.
Speaking back in 2013, Dr Grange addressed the issue of being a woman in a male-dominated environment.
It is, she wrote, “a constant navigation, for everyone.
“I have no interest in being one of the lads and I don’t quite fit in the ‘nurturing mother figure’ category in terms of the leadership work I do. I would be professionally ineffective if I remained in the background, psychologically safe with minimal voice, and I am not here to be the centre of attention as some form of entertainment. I don’t want to be completely separate because that would make me inaccessible and probably be a lonely place to operate from.”
Dr Grange worked for 20 years in Australia where she was credited with overhauling Australian Rules Football and the country’s national swimming team. She also exposed the culture of bullying that was rife in the swimming world and did not hold back when she believed the Australian Football League abandoned a player suffering from drug addiction.
“Pippa believes that the solution lies in getting players to admit to vulnerabilities in team meetings which she believes creates trust both on and off the pitch, which in turn leads to better performances individually and collectively,” writes Women in Football.
England players have been keen to hail her work as well. “A lot of the work that we’ve done with her has been leading up to the tournament, the last six or seven months,” said Eric Dier.
“Once we came into the tournament, a lot of what she could help with had already been done so it’s been really simple. We’ve had consistency.”
Ashley Young added, “She is there for people and is always around for people to talk to. She’s been fantastic throughout her time with the squad. I don’t see any fear from anyone. Every player is excited, confident, with their feet on the ground.
“When you get to a World Cup semi-final you go out into the game full of confidence from the games we played in the past and go there with the same confidence to win the game.
“The fitness coaches have been unbelievable and the psychologists have helped as well.”
Dele Alli also joined in with the praise for Grange. “She’s done a lot of work with us, more so leading into the World Cup before we got out here, she’s an amazing person,” he said.