Italy a country of shooters

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SickKids VS. The Greatest Challenges in Child Health

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Goals + commitment

Book review: Soccer science

Soccer Science

Tony Strudwick (Editor)

Human Kinetics, 2016, p. 649

The book is very interesting for the reason that it provides to the reader a global and in the same specific vision of what soccer is today, played by 250 million of persons in more than 200 countries. It’s the world’s most popular sport. Goal of the book is to describe how to use the scientific principles to optimize the players’ performance and the preparation. All the chapters are relevant for soccer  but in my review I selected the chapters and the topics that could be more useful for the sport psychologists. The section 2 concerns the talent selection and the player development. In the Mujika and Castagna’s chapter, titled “Practical aspects of player selection and development”,  emerges very clearly that in soccer the relative effect age continues to be a resource to select the players, influencing the drop-out at the age of 12 years and not giving the consideration needed to the role of maturation in the player development. The authors conclude that the talent identification continues to be a critical point in soccer. The following chapter by Unnithan and Iga, titled “Development of the young soccer player”, treats the development of the young soccer players, it’s an updated presentation about the integration among growth, maturation, demands of match and the physiological components concerning the youth soccer players. From the side of sport psychologist also the contribute by Paul Ford, titled “Skill acquisition and learning through practice and other activities”, provides many useful and updated information. He reviews the perceptual-cognitive skills and the decision making processes involved in what in soccer is called “reading the game” and “affecting the game.” These two processes run in parallel and interact together. The chapter presents also the two categories of activities practiced during the training to improve these skills; the drill-type activities (focused on technique and skills) and the game-based activities (containing match-like situations). The author provides also information about the situation where the players use the fast thinking, so called intuition, compared to slow thinking, called reasoning.

In the world are produced each year 85 million balls and one chapter by Andy Garland and Henry Hanson has been published in this book: “Soccer ball dynamics.” Topics like the history of soccer ball development, material, design and construction, social responsibility, ball performances are presented. Other parts of the book regard the soccer biomechanical and physiological aspects and demands, the conditioning programs, the nutritional needs, the environmental  stressor, (altitude, temperature), soccer boots and playing surfaces.

The first chapter devoted to sport psychology is by Geir Jordet, titled “Psychology and elite soccer performance.” He identified 11 key skills showed by the players. They refer to self-determination, motivation, recovery processes and learning from mistakes. A second level of competences regards the players’ interpersonal skills and the ability to be adapted at the new contexts. A third level is composed by different conditions to cope with (adversity, pressure, success). The last emerging factors are the control game dynamics trough the anticipation processes, about what is going to happen in few seconds and the desire to innovatively provide, following the Anders Ericcson’s words, “a unique innovative contribution”. The second chapter of this part by Matt Pain, titled “Mental interventions”, is about the 5Cs mental of toughness regarding the assessment and the development of the following skills: commitment, communication, concentration, control, confidence. It’s the model used by Football Association in England to develop the youth’s psychological competences. The chapter provides case studies based on one-to-one work with players, coaching interventions and team practices to develop this mental approach. Its interest is in numerous practical situations proposed and developed to cope with these five mental skills. The third and last chapter is by Mark Nesti, titled “Performance mind-set.” The author identified four key topics as important for sport psychologists and coaches, they are: anxiety, identity, critical comments and life beyond the training ground. It must be noted that compared to the two contributes these chapter is more based around the authors’ professional experiences with several teams of the English Premier League. Nesti worked more in one-to-one situation with players and coaches than with team, for the concrete limitation to engaging in group works in professional teams. The author said that this approach was useful to meet better and in deep the needs of the players and the type of challenge they had to face. The last two parts of this book are related to the Tactics and strategies (four chapters) and Match performance and analysis (four chapters). It’s a very informative book useful for all are involved in soccer at different levels.

Tennis: the killer instinct

How many times have we seen ditching the match point and then lose the game? Too many!
How many times have we seen players play a set very well and then lose resoundingly the next one maybe to zero? Many!
How many times after some mistakes have we seen one tennis player lose his/her mind, continuing with this negative sequence until the end of the set? Many!
Are all situations in which the tennis player has not used the killer instinct, the result is that one player dominated the other.
What is the killer instinct:

  • Will to do what it’s reasonably necessary to win or achieve the goal.
  • Awareness about when to push to close a game, set or match, and do it.
  • Knowing that when the we lead, it needs to continue to do it.
  • Knowing that when the opponent is down, we must continue to keep him/her down.
  • Will to react successfully from a negative momentum.
How to develop it:
  • Never think that it will be easy to win. No one can guarantee the outcome, not ourselves.
  • Never relax during the game, if the psychological tension go down give ourselves the stimulus to psych up, to keep the concentration high.
  • When we are leading the match we could reduce the competitive tension, it is dangerous. Use mental images that maintain a constant level of activation.
  • The over-confidence can become a trap that surrounds and supports the emergence of distractions. We must act to stay mentally focused point by point.
  • Never think about the end result but as mentioned we need to stay focused on the present, play at the best.
  • Always keep the highest pressure on the opponent is one of the keys to success. The aim is to convey to the opponent the idea that anything he/she can do, he/she will always remain down.
  • Never be in a hurry during the time between the points, we must always have the same timing is that we serve or return.

Tennis: what to do when you are down

10 rules to manage the competitive pressure

Too often the competitive pressure is the leading cause of poor performances if  compared to the training standards. How could this happen?
It happens because athletes or teams are not able to handle some of the main factors of a race.  They re the following.
  1. Uncertainty - Sport is a typical situation of uncertainty in which only one win, it must know how to accept this condition and live it with determination.
  2. Expectations - The higher the skill level, the higher the expectations, that instead during the competition should be set aside to focus only on the present, forgetting the future represented by the final result.
  3. Time - Every race is marked by time, that must be managed while maintaining the proper timing for each action without fear and without slowing down and speeding to excess of impatience.
  4. Change - The race is a situation in which the changes take place continuously and often without warning,  the competitors have to accept mistakes and be able to adapt flexibly to what is happening.
  5. Visibility - The competition is a public social comparison, each one shows him/herself in the game.
  6. Control - The athletes must know what they can control and what depends to a lesser extent by their behaviors. Certainly can control the effectiveness of their sport performance. They can not however determine the outcome, which depends instead by the interaction with the opponent.
  7. Choices - The race is a continuous situation of choice in relation to the strategy to be used, the shot to perform, the behavioral management. Choose is an ongoing task and the athlete must be trained to do it.
  8. Compete - Sport is not an aesthetic activity, consists of a constant confront with opponents, the start and the end are not decided by the athletes. They must be available to provide the optimal performance by accepting these conditions and rules that are a guarantee of equal opportunities for comparison.
  9. Ourselves - Athlete and team should be the main supporters of themselves, while they are often the cause of their problems. They become impatient, insecure, very little constructive, paralyze by analysis or  overly impulsive.
  10. Motivation - It ‘s the foundation of everything. The situations and the others can provide good reasons to commit at the best, but no one can motivate another person. The motivation stems from the belief that it improves thanks to our commitment.

Mind it’s the driver

Parentes and sports: which role?

Tomorrow in the conference that I will keep in Civitanova Marche (Italy) on the parents role in sports contexts I will talk about these issues.
  • To promote the sport in young people
  • Change the sports culture
  • Sport is a long-term project
  • What it needs young people to develop
  • Teaching task orientation to learn how to win and lose
  • The parents role in these contexts

Mind flexibility in dance

This week will start the camps of the Italian sports dance teams, the guiding theme will be the flexibility in its physiological, bio-mechanical, postural and psychological aspects. My speech will focus on “The flexibility from a psychological point of view: relaxation and specific types of training.” I shall devote through exercises based on different breathing techniques in order to impro

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ve the athletes’ self-control improving their ability to relax, psych-up and stay focused during th