Be focused to be tough

... the most important aspect of mental toughness in Tennis !

The focus is on the present. To show a consistent focus during all the points means be tough.

Football is fun

“Football is fun,” said the other day Paolo Casarin, great connoisseur of the human soul and football expert. It may seem a trivial statement but it is not at all. If the players would just play to have fun like they were kids they would have less stress and the games would be much better.

Have fun takes away stress and fatigue to the game. Have fun means recognizing that they play to realize their passion. Having fun is being able to turn the child’s passion in a work. Having fun is to say: “who would have thought that I was coming up to here, it’s fantastic.”

If the players stop having this approach to football, they kill the child within themselves and not having fun anymore. The stress to correspond in every match to the expectations of the club, teammates, fans can become a big problem.

Think, talk and walk

We live between a fall and the following. So it doesn’t matter to spend to much to learn how to do not to fall. It’s more relevant training ourselves to reduce problems caused by impact on the ground and to get back up quickly.

Think, speak and walk can be a good way to respond to the difficulties.

Think, it refers to know what it could happen and the choice of strategies to reduce this chance and still manage it in his favour when it happens.

Talk, it means to share with others, such as our fears and building what to do in those moments and the choice of those who can guide or help us.

Walk, it means keep moving never stopping just to confirm that we can no longer go on. There is always a way to pursue also if many times we must look for it tenaciously.

It’s time to sit less!

Higuain and Dybala: it’s difficult to play always at the best

Higuain and Dybala are the latest example of how two champions should be in crisis for the pressure due to the demand to play at their best, that for a striker means to score goals. This request is the essence of their work but that sometimes collide with the way of thinking and living the emotions. In fact, the need to always match the expectations of the club, fans, media and sponsors stimulates on the one hand, a pleasant feeling to feel important and valued so highly positive but of course it has a cost, consisting in the duty to live up to this request. This creates tensions which result in a negative effect on performance and, therefore, this explains the goals not scored by Higuain and the penalties missed by Dybala. Episodes easy to overcome said Allegri, Juventus coach, focusing on the next matches. Personally, I think these guys  need someone who can listen to their fears, teaches the players to accept these moments as part of what they do and  teaches them to stay focused on their skills when they get the doubts and concerns. Usually this is the work of the psychologist: The family or friend role is relevant. In fact,they have to provide a psychological and physical context in which to be able to be themselves and not the champions, but it will not help to solve these problems.

The use of meditation in sport

The use of mindfulness seems to be one of the new strategies and techniques to train mentally athletes to stay focused on the present and on their performances, rather than be dominated by competitive stress. It want to remember that 40 years ago transcendental meditation and zen were already described as modes suitable to sports. At this regard, I report what had written at that time  two of the sports psychologists who have provided significant contributions in term of innovation and efficiency of their approach.

Robert Nideffer (1976) in the book “The inner athlete”:

“Trascendental meditation (TM) procedures can be helpful in improving an athlete’s general feeling of well-being as well as increasing his energy level and his ability to concentrate … they are very useful to athletes who engage in endurance events which require little in the way of external attention … keeps him from becoming locked into negative, self-defeating thoughts and feelings … most applicable in those competitive situations where an athlete’s responses require non thought, where movements have been learned so well that they have become automatic … complicated gymnastics routines or dives are often practiced to the point where they are almost reflexive” (p.179).

Terry Orlick (1980) in the book “In pursuit of excellence”:

“Thinking is useful in many ways, but there some occasions when thinking interferes with the task and you have to leave it behind …

In such cases, you cease to be your own conscious master but become an instrument in the hands of the unknown. The unknown has no ego-consciousness and consequently no thought of winning the contest … it is for this reason that sword moves where it ought to move and makes the contest end victoriously. This is the practical application of the Lao-tzuan doctrine of doing by not doing” (p.146, corsivo è di Daisetz Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture).

Coach the mindset to have success in sports team

Da tempo le nazionali degli sport di squadra non vincono più e presidenti di federazione e club si accusano vicendevolmente di fare poco per affrontare seriamente questo problema. Al di là di questa lotta sterile che evidenzia paradossalmente la difficoltà a ‘fare squadra’ per un interesse superiore alle singole esigenze, ciò che manca è il sapere come si sviluppa a lungo termine l’atleta. Sappiamo per certo che ci vogliono anni d’investimento, probabilmente almeno 10.000 ore di allenamento dall’inizio della pratica dello sport scelto sino a diventare giocatori esperti e maturi per affrontare eventi di livello internazionale. Abbiamo tanti presunti campioncini che non diventeranno mai giocatori di prima fascia per un eccesso di valutazione positiva quando sono adolescenti mentre i genitori si gratificano pensando di avere scoperto in casa un Totti, solo perché il loro figlio è più bravo dei suoi compagni o nella pallavolo e basket solo perché a 13/14 anni è più alto degli altri e allora ha vita facile a fare i punti. I genitori si entusiasmano, i club li sfruttano e l’anno successivo un altro diventa più bravo di loro e così avanti, il risultato è che si rovina l’autostima dei ragazzi che non sanno a cosa credere: ‘sono bravo oppure no?’.

In Italia la ricerca psicologica in questo ambito non è sviluppata perché difficilmente le squadre mettono a disposizione i loro giocatori per indagare sullo sviluppo psicologico di questi giovani. Non è lo stesso in paesi come il Regno Unito dove molte Football Academy hanno adottato un sistema denominato 5C’s che è un modello per sviluppare le abilità psicologiche (concentrazione, impegno, comunicazione, controllo e fiducia) durante le sessioni di allenamento. Lo stesso vale ad esempio in US per la Little League di Baseball, dove da 40 anno si utilizza sul campo un sistema per monitorare il comportamento dell’allenatore, il Coaching Behavioral Assessment System, che ne permette l’esame e fornisce al tecnico informazioni utili per migliorare professionalmente, tratte direttamente dal suo modo di lavorare con i giovani. Esistono, inoltre, sistemi per il miglioramento della concentrazione nelle abilità di precisione, trasversali a tutti gli sport di squadra come sono i calci di rigore, la battuta nella pallavolo, il tiro libero nel basket e i calci nel rugby, che potrebbero insegnare ai giocatori come affrontare queste situazioni, che dipendono in larga parte solo dalla convinzione che hanno in quel momento di fare nel modo migliore la cosa giusta.  L’utilizzo di questi approcci integrati nell’allenamento determinerebbe un migliore sviluppo dei giovani negli sport, potenziando in loro le competenze psicologiche di base, che saranno certamente utili anche nella vita di tutti i giorni ma che sarebbero di grande sostegno alle loro prestazioni che non sono mai solo tecniche. Rappresentano invece l’espressione massima del giocatore nella sua globalità fisica, tecnico-tattica e psicologica. Senza questo tipo di sviluppo personale e di gruppo sarà sempre difficile, al di là di qualsiasi forma organizzativa venga adottata dagli organismi sportivi, allenare futuri giocatori di successo.

Football Integrated for children with mental disabilities

Roma Cares Foundation and the Integrated Football Academy continue even this year the project “Football Together” directed to children of 6-13 years with intellectual disabilities. The project aims to use football to promote the sports, social and psychological development of young people. The program is meant to be a sport training adapted to the needs of each individual, with specific motor and psychosocial assessments (beginning, during and year-end) permitting anyone to learn if followed by competent professionals (football instructors, sports psychologists, speech therapist and doctors) with training sessions organized into units of 60 minutes twice a week from October to June.

For further information: segreteria@accademiacalciointegrato.org

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The psychological reasons of the negative momentum of the Italian football team

The reasons for the negative performances of the national football team are also psychological and it seems that this kind of explanation has not been taken into consideration by Ventura, national ct, while in this respect most significant players, primarily Buffon, Chiellini and Barzagli have expressed ideas quite clear. It all started from the statements following the defeat with Spain. Ventura said that the players were professionals who would have been able to react positively to 3-0 right away and that this result could not have had any negative impact on the confidence of the team. Opposed were the words of Buffon after the last match with Macedonia:

Then, the national team to get out of this negative phase needs: confidence, awareness of one’s own strength, know getting up after defeats, know help, have fun, be uninhibited and positive. But the team was set to these principles? And what was plan B (what you do in place when things are not going in the right way) before the matches with Spain and with Macedonia? How are players helped during the camps to empower this mindset suggested by Buffon and underlying any winning mentality? Certainly it is true that psychological skills are acquired over time rather than a weekend. Also, some players have no place in their club team and so they have no way to test themselves frequently, in matches that you must absolutely win. Nonetheless I would like to heard, at least once, the coach say that meet some psychological difficulties is part of the game and that just because the players are professionals, the team is  also working on the mental approach to the game and how to play with a winning mentality. Then may the best team win.