Monthly Archive for February, 2017

This Girl Can campaign

Sport England release a new ad for the This Girl Can campaign, which encourages women to challenge cultural assumptions about femininity that prevent them engaging in sport and exercise. The ad uses extracts from Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Women poem alongside real women taking part in sport

The UK’s marketing success story of 2015 was Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, which aims to make women of all ages and abilities more active. It won numerous awards at Cannes Lions 2015, including the much-trumpeted inaugural Glass Lion, celebrating advertising that promotes gender equality. The campaign, created with agency FCB Inferno, persuaded 1.6 million women to start exercising, while 2.8 million who are aware of the campaign say they have become more active as a result, according to independent research released by Sport England last week.

Tanya Joseph, Sport England’s director of business partnerships said:

“We are delighted the campaign has had such a great start but recognise that we have a long way to go,” but the gender gap is still very pronounced considering 1.73 million more men participate in sport than women.

Best practice: how to select one sport psychologist for top level

We are at the beginning of a new Olympic period and as sports psychologist I wonder what could be the future of psychological consultancy for Italian athletes aspiring to participate in the Olympic Games of Tokyo 2020. It has long been recognized that competitive stress management for top athletes pass through developing the capacity to remain focused on their own performance at key moments of the races and that one way to develop this skill is to use a personalized psychological preparation program adequate  at the level at this competition level.

“At the Workshops, sports psychologists have worked with one-on-one with athletes and coaches on mental skill development. In particular, the theme for the sports psychology component has been “focus.” When elite athletes enter the competitive arena, they are faced with a number of distractions, ranging from external to internal origins. The ability to tune out the distractions and focus on the task at hand is an instrumental part of performance, and for most athletes this ability to focus is not an inherent trait. It is a learned skill that can be taught and practiced. The Workshop format allows for exactly that.”  (Chapman, R. (2011). Sport Performance Workshops: A New Applied Science Model for USA Track & Field, Olympic Coach, 22, 5-8).

To address this situation the Sailing Federation of United Kingdom launched an open competition to hire part-time senior psychologist for follow the sailing team in the coming years. This is a transparent and professional way to find a qualified professional able to play this role.

This is an example of best practice to be disseminated.

Book review: Soccer Speed

Soccer Speed

Richard Bate and Ian Jeffreys

2015, pp. 216

Champaign, IL, Human Kinetics

Why is Speed so important in today’s soccer?

Definitely during its history, soccer has changed in the rules of the game, in sportswear and footwear, in game organisation. But there are other key factors that differentiate modern soccer:

  • Today’s game is quicker; specifically, both ball speed (as it travels from player to player) and players own movements are much faster than they were even just 10 or 15 years ago.
  • Players now regularly cover distances between 9-14 km per game, because they are running faster and moving more often.
  • The game features of today’s attack are the accuracy and speed to pass the ball.
  • The typical characteristic of a player has also evolved into a quicker, more agile and physically sculpted athlete.

So Speed is a vital commodity for players who want to maximize their performance.

In soccer we’re talking about Game speed, in other words the speed requirements for soccer are different compared the practice by track athletes; indeed, the player during the game moves in an open environment in which distance, direction and starting pattern all vary from moment to moment. In addiction, the athlete’s movements need to be linked with game skill requirements. Maximum speed and Acceleration (two important terms related to running speed) are performed to accomplish a soccer-specific task, such as shooting, tackling, dribbling or passing. Players are also required to change direction more than a 1000 times per game, exactly every 6-7s. Those directional movements are closely linked with the high speed actions. So it’s important the development of Agility too. For modern players Speed and Agility are two key components that contribute to the ultimate quality of performance.

Speed is important for decision making of players. The game rarely presents exactly identical situations, especially in free play, so the abilities to think and decide at speed, to act at speed, and to change decision at speed are crucial to “build” an intelligent player.

Development of Speed and Agility starts with young players coaching, remembering the essential of sensitive phases, in other words the “fertility” moments of development of physical abilities. We can start to stimulate the abilities of reaction and movements frequency (Cyclic speed) at 6 years old, even if the peak is between 9-11 years old. The rapidity of isolated movements (No-Cyclic speed) and Acceleration have their sensitive phase during 11-14 years old. After those years Speed and Agility will tend to stabilise and then decrease. So it’s vital to create right training programs that help players to maintain this capacity to high levels, remembering and following the elements of a Game speed program (technical and physical development) and the right Game speed exercise progression.

(by Michele Rosci)


Magic Jonhson’s talent again at Lakers home

Magic Johnson was hired, by Los Angeles Lakers, as an advisor to the franchise last week and will have a role in ownership, evaluating players and helping the team get back to its past success.

The tale of why he became Magic:

When he played with the Los Angeles Lakers was distinguished not only because he was a champion, but also for his total dedication to teamwork: passed and defended instead of thinking to make points. This attitude in the field grew because when he played in the Youth League, his coach had told him that he was the greatest, the best player on the team that so it would have win every time. Despite these victories the other teammates felt helpless, depressed and nobody thanked or appeared pleased about what he was doing. He decided this situation was unsustainable. From that moment his behaviour changed and he used his skills to the service of the team. The team’s mood changed completely, the temmates were much more motivated, increased their skills and continued winning.

(From A.Cei, 1998)


All that we share: A video against the wall

Sometimes it’s difficult to find the things that we, as human beings, have in common.

We live in times when the “Us vs Them” narrative has become mainstream. We get caught up in minutiae and risk losing sight of what binds us, rather than divides us.

This Danish television station ad, entitled “All that we share,” challenges this narrative with a simple but effective formula.

In the video, groups of Danes get onto a stage, stepping into delineated areas on the floor that define them by opposition — “The high earners” vs. “Those just getting by;” lifelong Danes vs. immigrants; “Those who trust” vs. “Those we try to avoid.”

At some point, something happens that will push these people to step outside their defining boxes. And it’s so heartwarming we want to cry.


Mental disorders and football

We don’t know a lot about common mental disorders of professional footballers, there are few research and scientific information (Gouttebarge and Aoki, 2014).

A recent study published in Journal of Sport Science and Medicine by Gouttebarge, Back, Aoki  and Kerkhoffs (Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 2015, 14, 811-818) investigated symptoms related to distress, anxiety/depression or substance abuse/dependence,  typically referred as symptoms of common mental disorders (CMD).

The aims of this study were “to determine the prevalence of symptoms related to CMD (distress, anxiety/depression, sleeping disturbance, adverse alcohol behaviour, adverse nutrition behaviour) in professional footballers from five European countries and  to explore associations of the outcome measures under study with life events and career dissatisfaction among professional footballers.”

In this study were selected 540 professional footballers from five European countries (Finland, France, Norway, Spain and Sweden) and the method used was an electronic questionnaire.

The symptoms considered by authors were: distress, anxiety/depression, sleeping disturbance, adverse alcohol behavior, adverse nutrition behavior.  Stressors like Life events and Career dissatisfaction were also considerate by authors, The results says that “the highest prevalence rates of symptoms related to CMD were:

  • 18% (Sweden) for distress
  • 43% (Norway) for anxiety/depression
  • 33% (Spain) for sleeping disturbance
  • 17% (Finland) for adverse alcohol behavior
  • 74% (Norway) for adverse nutrition behavior

This study also emphasized that “in Finland, France and Sweden, both life events and career dissatisfaction were associated with distress, anxiety/depression, adverse alcohol behaviour, and adverse nutrition behavior.”

In conclusion, this study is very important and should be supported more with new studies in other countries considering the number of football players in the world involved. Other studies revealed that symptoms related to CMD were as prevalent as in other populations, ranging from 10% for distress to 19% for adverse alcohol use, and 26% for anxiety/depression (Gouttebarge et al., 2015).

(Review by Emiliano Bernardi  from Sports Science and Medicine, 2015, 14, 811-818,

Napoli mental mistakes

Following the analysis of the match Real Madrid-Napoli we can highlight the following mental errors of Napoli. A team is ready to play at a high level if:

Leaders lead the team – Hamsik did it for too little time at high level, as well as other main players.

It’s concentrated in a positive way – Napoli appeared to just concentrate and insecure in follow the instructions of his coach.

Players are determined – Napoli lost too many balls at the beginning of the new actions, too many individual mistakes. These are signs of excess tension.

It manages the high expectations that are created for the decisive matches – Instead players choked with these expectations of glory that have reduced the effectiveness of their game. Real Madrid went down but this team knew how to get out the game. Napoli went ahead but it couldn’t handle this positive momentum.

It’s convinced to be able to win – you can win or lose but it must be cultivate tirelessly the belief that you will win if you follow the game plan. Napoli has probably shown this habit at a medium level but high expectations require high levels of physical, mental readiness, persistent toughness and high intensity match last 15m.

It’s essential to coach the habit to be ready

The athletes often imagine that on race day they will be ready to face it. The results teach that this result occurs infrequently. It happens more often that athletes get scared, they get too worried and provide poor performance.

The athletes have to train themselves to change. The habits become useful only when behaviors that define them were repeated, repeated and repeated again. We must not settle for train-enough-well, because we do not build winning habits. We have to continually improve and consolidate the progress made.

It’s a kind of emotionally compelling work. Each exercise must be first mentally imagined, just as if we were providing that exercise at that time. Only after this mental exercise, the athletes should switch to perform the exercise. The principle is: the performance starts when the mind is ready to begin. Never before.

The justification don’t follow this procedure  it’s to think: “If I’m wrong anyway?” We are too focused on the outcome. We find difficult to accept the mistakes and when we do wrong, too easily we become upset or depressed.

One of the main purposes of the workout is to accept the mistakes, going immediately back at the personal optimal emotional condition.



Epilepsy and sports

Epilepsy and sports is still a relation not well investigated and especially little practiced. This is because many people continue to believe that sports can be a stress that trigger seizures. Research has shown that this probability is smaller in relation to physical activity than it is on normal daily activities. The question is not about whether playing sports, it regards what are the recommended sports and ones to avoid and how to obtain the medical certification at least to practice non-competitive sports. Also, it needs to remember that a forced sedentary lifestyle causes other problems, typical in those who don’t practice sports as cardio-circulatory problems, type-2  diabetes, breast and colon cancer as well as psychopathological disorders (depression and anxiety). The epilepsy day world should be a time of reflection and proposals on these issues, which will be tackled effectively not individually but only with collaborative networks among the families of these patients, the healthcare system, sports clubs and psychologists and medical experts.