Monthly Archive for April, 2020

Mental coaching must follow the coaching rules

The psychological training of athletes should develop according to the basic concepts of training, which are basically about passing:

  • from simple to complex
  • from exercises of a general nature to those specific to the discipline practised
  • from a reduced to a longer time duration
  • to be driven in relative comfort to more stressful and challenging conditions

The proposal formulated in the previous blog responds to these needs.

  • The first exercise is simple and basic (do a deep abdominal breathing)
  • The second exercise is of a general nature and applies to any sport.
  • The third exercise is specific (in this case for tennis)
  • Finally, the third exercise can be done in your comfort zone, but afterwards you can add environmental or personal stress conditions

Here is a simple and practical explanation of what has been said above and that brings the psychological preparation closer to the rules and methods of physical and technical-tactical training that are well understood by every athlete. In this way it promotes a better and more effective understanding by athletes and coaches of the purposes and effects of mental training.

Mental coaching practiced at home

In these days of lockdown, many athletes have contacted me to find out how it is possible to practice the mental training in the absence of real training.
It’s difficult to explain it in two words but I want to give a practical example of training that can be done for athletes of different sports disciplines. The example I propose concerns tennis but with the appropriate adaptations it can be done by any athlete.

It requires the competence to perform correct abdominal breathing and to know what it means to visualize a sport action.
This type of training lasts about 25 minutes and should be repeated daily. Remember that it’s one example and that over the course of the weeks it should be implemented with other exercises.

Good memories from the past working for the 50th IJSP anniversary

Yesterday I wrote to Glyn Roberts in relation to the special issue of the International Journal of Psychology that we will publish this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this journal, born in 1970. These various events brought back memories to me when I first met Glyn and the other members of the International Society of Sport’s managing council. It was in Varna, Bulgaria, in 1987, I was 32 years old and at that time it was quite incredible for me to attend a meeting of the managing council, in place of Ferruccio Antonelli, who had not wanted to attend, to talk about the future of the Journal and above all to get some of them, Robert Singer, John Salmela, Lars Unestahl, Miroslav Vanek or Glyn Roberts to take over the its scientific responsibility. They were very friendly with me, as North Americans usually are, perhaps also for the reason they expected an old and formal person, a bit in Antonelli’s style. And so they were surprised when they met me. There was a lot of free time, spent playing tennis, running and walking. I had read the book by John Silva III and Robert Weinberg entitled “Psychological Foundations of Sport” and, therefore, I knew the chapters by John Salmela and Glyn Roberts to whom I never stopped asking questions about motivation rather than the origins of sports psychology and its role in North America.

Certainly very kind but nobody wanted to take responsibility for the Journal. They knew Antonelli and that it would be difficult to collaborate with him, given his history in the ISSP and also because it was his habit to publish all the articles that were sent to the Journal, without applying any form of review. I said that I was aware of this way of managing the journal but that alone I could never change this kind of approach and that, moreover, I did not have the competence to manage a scientific journal.

At the end of the discussion, John Salmela raised his hand, basically saying: “Okay, I’m willing to help the Journal, because in any case it represents the International Society of Sport Psychology”. His terms were that he and I would be the new co-editors, that Antonelli would withdraw and on this basis we would build the system to improve the scientific quality of the Journal. Things didn’t exactly go exactly that way, because Antonelli remained for some time in the role of editor-in-chief, he didn’t play any function but wanted to maintain the leadership in the eyes of the world. However, the system we put together worked and, in those years, the Journal grew in scientific quality. We worked a lot with John, spending a lot of time together in Canada, first in Montreal and then in Ottawa and in Italy, in Rome. We became friends and we saw each other every year for more than twenty years. Another meeting with the managing council was in Ottawa in 1992 (as in the picture below).

From left Pierre Trudel, Alberto Cei, Jurgen Nitsch, Gerd Konzag,  John Salmela, Robert Singer, Denis Glencross, Gershon Tenenbaum, Marit Sorensen, Glyn Roberts, Atsushi Fujita, Semen Slobunov, Sidonio Serpa, Richard Magill, Carlos Moraes and Terry Orlick.

Anniversary foundation of International Society of Sport Psychology

Good memories help! Thanks @NoceFranco. Watch the video.



Coco Gauff and her depression

Coco Gauff, 16 years old young new international tennis star. wrote on the website Behind The Raquet to have been depressed for a year, although getting good sports results has never been a problem and lives in a family where she is well and that accepts her. Nevertheless, something in this life with early successes has been a stimulus to develop depression from which she claims to have recently emerged.

“Sometimes I felt too busy compared to others. Most of my friends go to normal high school. I felt like they were always so happy to be ‘normal’. For a while I thought I wanted to be, but then I realized that, just like social media, not everyone is as happy as what you see in their posts. It took me about a year to get over this idea”.

In this blog, we have often talked about how sport can be a highly stressful situation for young people who dedicate a large part of their lives to succeed in tennis as well as in any other sport discipline. The high level of success achieved in adolescence, the total investment in a single sporting activity and the obvious reduction in social life to which the athlete is subjected, as well as the increasing pressures brought about by ever higher sporting expectations and the external environment can lead to psychological problems. These often appear with the spread of a feeling of estrangement from the present and depression as a lack of the idealized normal life that peers seem to lead.

If then the sport successes are experienced as an end on which to play the self-confidence and not as a means to realize oneself certainly as an athlete but above all as a person, the psychopathological disorders can find a fertile ground on which to develop.If you discover that you only play to win games, to become rich, to have the privileges that top athletes have, sport life becomes an endless chase to always have something more to be happy.

You can play tennis also for these reasons, absolutely legitimate, but if you don’t put yourself at the center of your sports project with the awareness of your skills and deficiencies, the risk of not holding up to the pressures inherent in sports-agonistic activity will be very high.

Here are the statements by Coco Gauff.

“I’ve always wondered how better or worse my life would be without tennis. With what this sport has given me I cannot imagine my life would be better without. At times I found myself too busy comparing myself to others. Most of my friends go to normal high school. I felt like they always seemed so happy being ‘normal’. For a while I thought I wanted that but then I realized that just like social media everyone isn’t as happy as what you see in their posts. It took me about a year to get over that idea. Again, my results were still okay, so this didn’t have much to do with tennis. I just wasn’t happy playing anyway. My parents did a great job of trying to make sure I did ‘normal’ childhood things. I was able to go to homecoming this past year and was planning on going to prom until the coronavirus. I do try to see friends as much as I can. My parents both work so I do spend a lot of time at home alone. It is challenging to do school alone while you can’t socialize with other students. Even though I may miss some things, I think this lifestyle I live is perfect for me, and it’s not for everyone. Traveling is never easy. I have two younger brothers and we are all really close. Every time I leave them it hurts a bit. I miss one of my brothers’ birthday every year because it falls right in the middle of the French Open. Through this all I am so lucky to have them because they aren’t the ones to be jealous. They don’t mind me getting more attention, they understand and are always supportive of what I do.

Throughout my life, I was always the youngest to do things, which added hype that I didn’t want. It added this pressure that I needed to do well fast. Once I let that all go, that when I started to have the results I wanted. Right before Wimbledon, going back to around 2017/18, I was struggling to figure out if this was really what I wanted. I always had the results so that wasn’t the issue, I just found myself not enjoying what I loved. I realized I needed to start playing for myself and not other people. For about a year I was really depressed. That was the toughest year for me so far. Even though I had, it felt like there

Failure is the best teacher?

Research published in the Harvard Business Review shows that it may not be true what we all think, that we learn from failure. In fact, this study showed that between two groups of individuals after performing a task those who had received positive feedback highlighting the correct answers to a test rather than a second group who had received negative feedback on the wrong answers to the same test, the first group performed better in the following task.

Often people after a failure look the other way to protect their self-confidence and so they do not learn unless they are very motivated.

How can you not learn?

  • Mindset - People’s mental patterns are a significant aspect. If they feel that making a mistake is a demonstration of their lack of ability, the next test will certainly not be improved, as their performance can only change positively over time and through a learning process.
  • Subjective relevance of the performance - If people feel that the mistakes made are not relevant, the performance provided will be assessed as unimportant because, for example, it focuses on the detection of knowledge that is secondary to the person doing the test.
  • Motivation - People may not be very improvement oriented as they should, in their opinion, invest too many resources to achieve success in a specific task and are therefore not motivated to go down this path.
  • Skills - People may not know exactly what skills they should improve and therefore tend to repeat the same mistakes without having developed an improvement program.
  • Performance anxiety - People who suffer from this difficulty tend to perform below their skill level. They can only improve in the following performance levels if they change this way of reacting to the test situations.


How Autism families are coping with coronavirus

In a new national survey, families of children with autism say that services have been severely disrupted because of coronavirus, but they are adapting and even finding some silver linings.

With schools and other providers shuttered, more than 75 percent of families reported moderate to severe interruptions to their children’s services and therapies, with speech therapy the most impacted. The disruptions were more pronounced for kids under age 5.

The findings come from a survey of over 8,000 families with children on the spectrum about life during the COVID-19 pandemic. The online questionnaire was sent to families that have participated in SPARK, a broad effort to collect and study genetic data from people with autism and their families that’s funded by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.

At the time of the survey — which was conducted between March 20 and 30 — about a third of families said they were receiving remote services or therapies. And, nearly half said they were seeing benefits.

More than 62 percent reported that their child with autism was feeling good overall and about half of parents said the same of themselves. At the same time, however, nearly everyone who responded said the disruptions caused by coronavirus had negatively impacted the behavior of their child with autism and 82 percent said it had affected their child’s mental and emotional health. Parents also cited concerns about losing hard-won skills.

Still, some parents reported seeing positives amid the challenges. One parent indicated that her child struggled at school socially and with communication, but seemed happier and calmer at home. Others said that online classes allowed their kids to move at a slower pace.

Hundreds of parents said that breathing exercises, yoga, prayer, meditation and other mindfulness exercises have been helpful in dealing with the situation. Maintaining a daily schedule was also crucial to preventing behavior issues, the survey found.”

Pressure is a privilege

Billie Jean King, tennis champion and much more, talks about the keys to success: Plan B is needed, having pressure is a privilege and the champion must be able adaptable.

Billie Jean King Quote About Success

An exceptional collaboration: Johnny Pellielo

Some collaborations continue for all the sport career, like this  with Giovanni Pellielo started 25 years ago, in 1995 one, year before Atlanta Olympic Games.

Motivation and training during coronavirus pandemic

Today online seminar at the University on current topics on the psychological aspects of training in the corona virus period.