Adopting a growth mindset

There are many examples of athletes who have improved and achieved success by adopting a growth mindset.

Carol Dweck reminds us that an athlete can be stifled by the pitfalls of a fixed mindset. The mindset of those who think natural talent shouldn’t need effort. Effort is for others, the less gifted. Natural talent doesn’t ask for help. It is an admission of weakness. In short, natural talent does not analyze its deficiencies and does not train or eliminate them.The very idea of deficiencies is terrifying.

Dweck also refers to the time when Billy Jean King, tennis champion, realized that hard work was necessary to supplement her talent if she wanted to reach the top. Despite playing at a very high level against the formidable Margaret Smith, King lost the match, but the defeat taught her the value of hard work. All of a sudden, she understood what a champion was. Someone who can raise their game when necessary. When the game is on the line, suddenly the champion becomes three times stronger.

Concentration and mental toughness are the two keys to success and not an innate personality trait. When eleven players want to knock you down, when you’re tired or injured, when the referees are against you, you can’t let any of that affect your concentration. How do you do that? You have to learn how to do it with special exercises.

Coaches should embrace this approach that highlights the value of a growth mindset in order to allow them to be open to improvement, work hard and learn from failure.

We often say, “Learn from mistakes.” Making mistakes is an integral part of growth. Placing too much emphasis on the importance of results and winning only increases competitive stress and the likelihood of not accepting one’s mistakes.

How much time do you spend to improve?

Aristotle said that “We are what we constantly do. Excellence therefore is not a single act but a habit.

Excellence is based on the habit of striving to improve with almost total dedication. Those who don’t understand that this is the way to go on a daily basis believe they can make up for it with the knowledge and skills they already possess.

As a professional – coach, doctor, psychologist, physical trainer – how much time do you spend for your continuous improvement?

Why and how the mental coaching is changed in these last 50 years

I would like to talk about how psychological preparation has changed, in my opinion, in this thirty years. Certainly new strategies and technologies have been introduced but this is not what I want to dwell on.

Initially, psychological preparation spread especially among high-level athletes and particularly those who participated in the Olympics and major sporting events. If we think of the psychological programs introduced in the 1970s and spread throughout the world in the 1980s and 1990s, we can see that they tended to develop certain psychological skills essentially linked to the management of competitive stress. From the first programs proposed by Richard Suinn and Lars Eric Unestahl to most of those implemented in those years, these projects were mainly focused on learning relaxation, mental repetition techniques, goal setting and techniques for attention training. My 1987 book “Mental training for athletes” proposes the same strategies within an eight-week program.

In those years working with athletes who were competing for maximum success, the attitude towards training or mindset was not taken into consideration. I remember Ennio Falco, gold medalist in Atlanta 1996 in skeet, a discipline of shooting, that when he made a mistake on a platform, he would take 500 cartridges and train on those two targets until he considered that mistake correct. On the other hand when in 1995 I started to work with the shooting most of them were athletes who had won many international competitions but wanted to learn to be even more concentrated and to better manage stress in some moments of the competition to raise their average by one clay pigeon. Basically for at least 20 years I worked with athletes who wanted to maximize the skills they already had, who trained every day in a motivated way and who wanted to respond immediately to the difficulties they encountered. The same however is true of most psychologists of that period.John Salmela, who constructed a questionnaire for the evaluation of mental abilities, told me that in Canada they considered the abilities sufficient if on a scale of 1 to 5, the athletes showed an average of 4!

It seems to me that today the condition has changed quite a bit, not only because mental preparation has spread to young adolescents and athletes at a lower level than those at the top of the world.

Dealing with this type of athlete, it seems to me that the need to understand and enhance motivation and a growth-oriented mentality has emerged more clearly, allowing them to learn to accept mistakes and to respond to difficulties quickly and effectively. These aspects seem to me to have not been as important among world-class athletes and therefore were not taken into account. The study of psychological dimensions such as optimism, toughness and and resilience seems to me that can also be explained because we have become aware of the lack of these characteristics in many athletes, as you can understand we are dealing with the attitude and the explanation of the results obtained.

Impossible to deepen this theme in the few lines of a blog but I think it should be studied as the psychological preparation has developed from the 70s to today, especially wanting to understand what have been the changes in the mentality of athletes and in the world of sport that could have oriented the choice of new directions of study and application.

IJSP Special Issue: 50° Anniversary



Guest Editors: Sidonio Serpa, Fabio Lucidi, Alberto Cei

The IJSP: from an idea to an established Journal 


The International Journal of Sport Psychology was the very first journal specifically committed to sport psychology, and it was created almost 10 years before the Journal of Sport Psychology that was published for the first time only in 1979, founded by Rainer Martens. Few people know about the many difficulties associated to its founding and development. It was created following a decision of the Managing Council of the recently founded Inter- national Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP), led by Ferruccio Antonelli, to be the Society’s means of communication, as well as to promote this, then, new professional and scientific field, and to enable the diffusion of research all over the World. However, it was hard to found a publisher for this world- wide diffusion scientific journal.

The Cold War, the international sport psychology and the ISSP 


The aim of this article is to document the influence of the Cold War in the development of sport psychology. This period that lasted from 1946 to 1989 deter- mined the international social and political reality following the World War II. Information for the article was gathered from personal oral and written interaction with major protagonists, as well as others that had experienced this period. Letters between the two first ISSP presidents, minutes and documents mainly from ISSP and FEPSAC were consulted. Articles, books and book chapters related to this topic were other sources for the article that discusses the influence of the Cold War in sports, the impact of this period in the development of sport psychology, the role of ISSP, and the situation determined by the end of the Cold War. Especially after the 1956 Olympics, sport victories were used as a propaganda tool, which led to the development of sport sciences, including sport psychology, in both sides of the Iron Curtin that divided the Socialist from the Capitalist parts of the World. The incep- tion of the ISSP in 1965 had an important role in promoting scientific and applied SP and making important bridges between professionals from the two blocs. After what was believed to be the end of the Cold War, a decrease in the development of SP both in the socialist countries and USA was observed, followed by an improve- ment mainly in Europe and Asia. 

 The early years of FEPSAC (1969-1989).

Challenges for sport psychology in a divided continent 


Despite a growing interest in the history of Sport Psychology, little is known about the specific challenges and the working procedures in the first 20 years of FEP- SAC, when the continent of Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain. At the occasion of the 50th anniversary of FEPSAC, and based on document analysis, this article aims at shedding some light on the aims of FEPSAC’s working committees, the difficulties encountered, and the achievements made. More specifically, the Scientific Committee made attempts towards a common terminology and understanding of sport psychology concepts across the different European languages and the standardisation of tests for sport psychology. The Information and Documentation Committee was active in col- lecting and disseminating new publications. Despite considerable efforts and remark- able progresses, the long-term impact of those initiatives remained limited. 

 North American sport psychology pioneers 


The article describes the evolution of Sport Psychology in North America, from the very first pioneers, who planted the seeds but did not have immediate suc- cessors, to the boom of the 1980’s and 90’s. 

The first part of the article is a historical recap, starting in 1895. The fast growth started in the 1980’s follows, emphasizing the impact of the Sport Psychol- ogy associations that emerged then, as well as the growth in publications. 

The section describing the work of the professionals who work as sport psy- chologists, opening fronts in a variety of performance arenas, both in the US and in Canada follows. 

Some of the main issues that impact the way sport psychology has evolved in North America are discussed, including the lack of coordination between the pro- fessional associations, the absence of a clear educational pathway to become a sport psychologist, and the recent changes to certification credentialing. 

 Sport Psychology in selected post-socialist countries 


The article aims to show the development of sport psychology in the selected European socialist countries. The Soviet Union was deliberately omitted, as it is the subject for a separate article. Sport psychology in particular countries has been pre- sented from the perspective of three distinct periods: the time before World War II, during the socialist period, and after the transformation. Main research areas, forms of practical support for athletes, and organizational activities have been depicted. Sport psychologists from post-socialist countries had and still have a significant influence on the shape of contemporary sport psychology. 

 Publishing trends in the International Journal of Sport Psychology during the First 50 years (1970-2019), with a particular focus on Asia and Oceania 


To commemorate the 50th anniversary of its first issue, we explored publication trends in the International Journal of Sport Psychology (IJSP), with a particular focus on research contributions from Asia and Oceania. A descriptive analysis of all articles published in IJSP between 1970 and 2019 (N = 1,175) was conducted to identify trends related to first author gender, country, and continent. Also, an analysis of research topics by decade was conducted using Leximancer. Key findings were: (a) female first authors became more prominent over time but remained in the minority; (b) the percentage of articles from Europe and Asia increased and the percentage of articles from North America declined, although the USA and Canada have been the top contributors over the life of the journal; and (c) the focus on particular topics, espe- cially those pertaining to athletes, performance, motor learning, motivation, and teams was sustained throughout the 50-year period. Within Asia and Oceania, the 10 coun- tries publishing the most articles were, in descending order, Australia, Israel, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, India, Japan, Singapore, and Turkey. 

 Sport & exercise psychology in Africa 


The purpose of this paper is to give an in-depth historical and current state of sport psychology in Africa. The first objective is to provide sport psychology context through a brief discussion of sport and physical activity in Africa. The second objective is to share the current state of sport psychology in each regional block (i.e., north, east, south and west). The third objective is to discuss research and consultancy, and lastly the conclusion. In order to achieve the stated objec- tives, the author reviewed academic literature and also used additional data sources such as university websites.

 History and development of sport psychology in Latin America 


The present study aimed to investigate the historical course of the sport psy- chology (SP) field and its development in Latin America. The keywords “history,” “sport psychology,” and related terms were searched for in Web of Science, Sci- enceDirect, LILACS, and Scielo databases, as well as Google Scholar and other manual searches to find scientific articles, book chapters, dissertations and other documents describing the history of SP in Latin American countries. Information was found for 15 Latin American countries. Drawing from the important data pre- sent in these works, the history of SP in this continent is presented in four periods that encompass its initial period (1930-1960), advancements in the applied and sci- entific field (1960-1980), consolidation of SP (1980-2000), and the recognition of SP (after 2000). The roots of SP in Latin America, its characteristics, factors driving its expansion and the actual state of SP are presented and discussed. 

 Women in sport and exercise psychology: a North American perspective 



Women’s contributions have had little place in the written histories of the field of sport and exercise psychology (Gill, 1995). Much of our written history of the field focuses on founders that were male, Caucasian, from the United States, and had a behavioral or experimental psychology background, with little attention to the role women, people of color, and those outside the United States played in the field’s his- tory and development (Krane & Whaley, 2010). Within this paper, we provide an overview of the literature devoted to North American women’s career experiences in the field of sport and exercise psychology, followed by a discussion of the history of feminist sport psychology and its influence on studying and acknowledging women in the field, as well as women’s experiences in sport and exercise. We then address the relative absence of documentation devoted to women’s contributions to the field out- side of North America. Lastly, we discuss the importance of female role models and mentoring women in sport and exercise psychology. 

50° Anniversary International Journal of Sport Psychology

On the occasion of the

50th anniversary of the International Journal of Sport Psychology – 1970-2020

this first special issue is dedicated to the past development of sport psychology.

Guest Editors: Sidonio Serpa, Fabio Lucidi, Alberto Cei

For the second time in its history, the IJSP decided to mark its anniversary. Two special issues celebrate the 50 years of the journal, this being the first one, in a look at the History of sport psychology, while the second mostly looks into the future, identifying some new trends of research, as well as the reorientation of some classic topics according to the Society changes.

The purpose of the current issue is double. On one hand, to preserve the memory of the path taken by sport psychology so far, as well as paying tribute to those who contributed to its development. On the other hand, by reflecting on the History, to understand better the present situation and, thus, working more efficiently for the future applied and scientific developments.

Who is interested in purchasing can write through the address of this blog.

Relazione among physical activity, gender, ethnicity and income

Adolescent girls and young women are less likely to engage in heart rate-increasing physical activity than their male peers and do so for shorter periods of time.

We know young people should get at least one hour of physical activity per day. 150 minutes a week adults.

A study in the United States found that more than 20% of adolescent girls and 12% of boys do no sports or recreational physical activity at all in a week, with just under 30% of men and nearly 40% of women, ages 18-29.

Writing in the journal Jama Pediatrics, Wong and colleagues describe how they assembled and analyzed data from an annual nationwide health survey in the United States, covering the years 2007 to 2016, focusing on responses from 9,472 individuals ages 12 to 29.

While nearly 88% of 12- to 17-year-olds report exercising during the week, the figure drops to just under 73% for 18- to 24-year-old males, and just under 71% for 25- to 29-year-olds. For females, the percentage drops from just over 78% for teens to just over 61% for both older age groups.

For exercisers, the amount of time spent exercising decreases with age, from just over 71 minutes per day for adolescent boys to just over 50 minutes for those aged 25 to 29. For girls, it drops from 56 minutes to just over 39 minutes per day, respectively.

Black boys aged 18-24 have more physical activity time per day (78 minutes per day).

Once factors including weight, education, and income were taken into account, the team found that ethnicity was related to whether females reported any physical activity: overall, a higher percentage of white females said they exercised than black or Hispanic participants. The trend was less clear for males.

Winning is not everything

Beginning in the 2000s, the purpose of the work of Smith and Smoll, who introduced a system for evaluating coach behavior twenty years earlier, has turned to the study of systems for training youth coaches to be more aware of their own behaviors and to improve them.

Their approach is based on four principles that all coaches should adhere to:

  • Winning is not everything, nor it is the only thing - Young athletes will drop out of the sport if they believe that winning is the only goal to be fulfilled. There are other equally important goals that sports allow them to achieve that must be understood by athletes.
  • Failing is not synonymous with losing - It is important that athletes do not associate that failing and losing mean the same thing.
  • Being successful is not a synonym for winning - Success or failure is not dependent on the outcome of a race. Winning and losing are about the outcome of a competition but do not refer to success and failure.
  • Athletes must learn that success is linked to commitment - They must be taught that they will never be a loser if they try their hardest.

Starting from these principles, they have identified and implemented a training system that has produced extremely effective results.

Coaching Generation Z athletes

Michael Mignano is one of the authors of this article on Generation Z: Gould, D., Nalepa, J., & Mignano, M. (2019). Coaching Generation Z athletes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology.

Based on the data collected, he recently wrote some recommendations for coaching these young people born since 1996.

The uniqueness of Generation Z lies in the rapid onset of these changes, most likely due to technological advancements that have caught teachers, coaches, and support staff off-guard. So, how can adults work most effectively with Generation Z athletes? The following are suggestions based on empirical research of the topic:

  • Explain the ‘Why.’ With technology and information at their fingertips, Generation Z athletes expect adults to have done their homework. Providing a quick rationale for training methods and practice plans can improve motivation and effort of young people. It also reduces the inevitable ‘why’ questions from both athletes and parents.
  • Communicate Effectively. While face-to-face communication is not a strength of Generation Z athletes, coaches and support staff can challenge young athletes by asking open-ended questions, using text messaging only for logistical communication, practicing face-to-face conversations in team meetings or training, and switching up the methods of communication (i.e., videos, articles, and demonstrations) to aid messaging.
  • Be Direct. With shorter attention spans of Generation Z athletes, coaches and support staff can adapt by making their messages more direct at the start and end of training sessions and during pre-game or half-time speeches.
  • Focus on Quality Over Quantity. Today’s young athletes (and their parents) are more in tune with strength and conditioning techniques as well as injury prevention. Coaches and support staff can assist by being aware of overtraining and burnout symptoms and using periodization principles when scheduling training and competitions.
  • Build Independence. Undoubtedly, Generation Z athletes are more dependent on significant adults than any other cohort in history. By giving athletes some autonomy, choice, and responsibility, coaches and support staff can give them more ownership and develop skills related to independence. For example, providing opportunities for decision making, critical thinking, and accountability can help athletes with personal and professional development.
  • Promote Resiliency. While each generation is considered “softer” than the previous one, Generation Z is known to have heightened difficulties dealing with adversity. Coaches and support staff can create opportunities for athletes to cope with adversity and learn perseverance and resilience. Creating pressure and challenging situations in training, along with teaching appropriate coping strategies, may assist Generation Z athletes with how to better handle competitive and personal setbacks.

While more research is needed on generational differences in today’s athletes, early studies have provided insight into some unique characteristics of Generation Z. Coaches and support staff can benefit from this knowledge and adapt their teaching and coaching philosophies to suit today’s young athletes.


Gould, D., Nalepa, J., & Mignano, M. (2019). Coaching Generation Z athletes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology

Resolution of the EU Parliament: Impact of COVID-19 on youth and sports

The impact of COVID-19 on youth and sports. A resolution of the European Parliament (11 February 2021)

The negative estimates of the economic and social impact the pandemic is having on the sports domain, which accounts for 2.12% of European GDP and 2.72% of total EU employment, with about 5,67 million jobs, are devastating.

On February 10, the European Parliament adopted a resolution (with 592 votes in favor, 42 against and 57 abstentions) in which it urges the Commission and Member States to intensify their efforts to prevent the health emergency linked to the COVID-19 pandemic from having lasting negative effects on young people and the sports sector.

Of great concern is the potential for permanent damage to professional and grassroots sports and, consequently, to public health in general.

Grassroots sports, in particular, play a key role in promoting the social inclusion of people with fewer opportunities and disabilities, and MEPs are calling for more support to be provided to low-income families to enable continued participation in sports and recreational activities. Support and recovery measures for the sports sector should be included in national recovery and resilience plans, and targeted actions should also be identified at the European level as part of the EU Work Plan for Sport to prevent long-term consequences and potential irreversible damage.

European certification of specialists in applied sport psychology.

FEPSAC  has established the European certification of specialists in applied sport psychology.


Professional certification is a crucial element to the establishment, legitimization, and reputation of a profession (Portenga, 2014). The FEPSAC Managing Council developed certification guidelines for specialists in applied sport psychology, establishing a certification process to distinguish these professionals from others in the marketplace (e.g., performance enhancement consultant, mental skills trainer, mental coach). The goal of such an initiative is to define the minimum standards that should be met by individuals in order to qualify for independent practice in the field of applied sport psychology.

The certification process focusses on the standards for practitioners in the field of sport psychology who have an initial qualification background in either sport science, psychology, or both. FEPSAC believes that practitioners should meet high standards of training and delivery using and complementing the expertise specific to their initial training.

FEPSAC carefully examined several certification systems across Europe and met and discussed with individuals and international organizations involved in certification, continuous professional development and education and training, and legal aspects of certification in order to guarantee that best practices across Europe were upheld.

Members who are certified may use the acronym SASP-FEPSAC after their name and highest university degree; such an acronym will denote the label “a specialist in applied sport psychology”, also referred in this document as specialist. While SASP-FEPSAC accounts for the minimum standard of education and training in applied sport psychology, it does not designate the individual as a “sport psychologist”; rather, the individual is certified as a specialist in the field of applied sport psychology. Note that requirements for providing psychological services are determined by individual state and territorial licensing boards.

The next submission deadline will be on March 30, 2021.