Monthly Archive for October, 2021

Many road to fire people

The subject of sending away a coach usually happens in the least correct ways imaginable and that of Koeman with Barcelona is just the latest in a long series that Furio Zara summarizes with many other examples in his article on

These examples reminded me of all the times I have found myself in this situation. In consultancy work it happens to be sent away or not to see previous confirmation. Rarely has it happened to me that someone explains the reason. Normally it happens that when you call you can no longer find your contact person, they are absent or busy, and then someone will tell you that you no longer work for them. This is the most frequent approach I have experienced with federations. In other situations, new managers asked me to tell them what my job had been during those years. The response was, “Did you really do all these things? We’ll let you know.” Obviously it didn’t happen. Other times the explanation is that coaches refuse to work with a psychologist, or vice versa, coaches propose one but managers deny this collaboration.

Being a counselor also involves this ability to react positively to refusals and to continue to promote one’s work. It takes time to understand that these do not call into question professional skills, but most of the time they are just political responses or defense of spaces that you do not want another professional to occupy.

If for the athlete it is essential to respond constructively to mistakes, for the counselor it is just as crucial to respond to these difficulties and rejections while maintaining his or her ability to be proactive.

An old motto forgetter: First commitment and second the result

We know from Seligman and Dweck’s research that these types of attributions are pervasive and damage a person’s self-confidence in the long run.

I am convinced that the intervention with them, and in any case with young people, is to help them acquire a performance appraisal that has as its goal the development of the person and not the increase of pessimism toward oneself, with all the negative psychological implications that this entails.

This negative mindset has been learned from parents and coaches who are too result-centered and much less performance development-centered.

  • When training is focused on task-focused attention, mistakes are interpreted as learning opportunities.
  • When training is focused predominantly on the outcome, errors are evidence of the young person’s inability and slowness to learn.

Reward effort first and results second. And not vice versa. I’m talking about the ABC’s of teaching, but if today we meet many young athletes who do not think in this way, it means, at least in my opinion, that they have not been trained with this approach.

Intellectual disability and football
















In the digital age we lose the depth of our thoughts

I suggest reading this thought by Italo Calvino expressed in his Lezioni americane more than thirty years ago.

“Sometimes it seems to me that a pestilential epidemic has struck humanity in the faculty that most characterizes it, that is, the use of language that manifests itself as a loss of cognitive force … that tends to level the expression on the most generic formulas, anonymous … to extinguish every spark that sprouts from the clash of words with new circumstances”.

How does the cognitive force of thought manifest itself in our daily lives?

Through words that allow to express our ideas and emotional states. If the words are well organized in a specific language we can be understood by other people. Social networks and the increasing amount of time we dedicate to them, precisely because of the simplicity they require, decrease the expressive capacity of our thoughts, as they are forced to become simplified and superficial in order to be shared and increase our followers. The repetitiveness in time of this way of communicating will determine the reduction of the depth of our thoughts.

Salvation to this mental downsizing of human beings can only be given by studying and reading novels.

Let us reflect.

Valentino Rossi: an exceptional story of our days

In the history of sports, serial winners are not numerous. They are, in fact, those who provide exceptional performances, which are by definition rare events. They in defiance of this rule have performed in this way very often. Valentino Rossi belongs to this small group of athletes. It’s a story to remember and to teach, not to spread an idea of super-man, but to explain how it is possible to go down this road and be victorious. People emerge because of their talents. Aristotle already said when he wrote that “if there is someone who stands out so much for the excellence of his gifts that the gifts of all others are not comparable to his, he can no longer be considered part of the polis: it is in fact evident that he is like a god among men”. Often people talk about these talents, and it is easy to attribute a young man who rides a motorcycle to his lack of fear and his enjoyment of risk. When it turns out that it is not true that those who have no fear win more than others, then it is easy to run out of explanations and take refuge in the more comfortable “that boy has something more”.

What differentiates Valentino Rossi from his other colleagues, all high-level athletes: motivation. Mind you, we are all motivated, as Arrigo Sacchi says, motivation is like strength, everyone manifests it to some extent, so there is sufficient motivation, strong, extraordinary. Only those who manifest this kind of extraordinary motivation will be able through training to continue to improve and achieve excellence. It means, every day, expressing passion and perseverance at the highest levels that a human being can manifest. This is Valentino Rossi, an exception, who has not stopped living his work with this intensity and continuity. This attitude has entailed not only having the pleasure of facing the challenges of the race, but also continuously seeking those stimuli that have helped him in these long years to maintain an intensity of commitment that is almost unique and in any case the heritage of few athletes in the world.

Valentino Rossi is the expression of what we are not but we want him to exist. That’s why we like to consider him a hero, an exceptional person for his performances but also a friend with whom to share moments of life. The enthusiasm that he generates among his fans, present in every part of the world, indicates that he has been able to transmit a message that goes beyond differences and that unites people who are so different under the banner of the passion generated by his feats. We should not be surprised, we have always had the need to identify ourselves with heroes that give us a reason to live those emotions that our everyday life does not allow us, feeling part of a group that shares the same joys.I don’t see any other heroes on the horizon, we will miss him.

MotoGP, Misano: Valentino Rossi sui poster del Gran Premio

Football Together and autism: The new sport season

The activities of our “Calcio Insieme” project began this week. We are now in our seventh year of activity and certainly thinking back to the first training sessions of 2015 brings to mind the fear we had in starting this program.Although we had prepared with a 32-hour training period, we were quite concerned about the responsibility we had taken on with families and these young people with autism. In addition, we had also made it our goal to document not only the activity we had done but also the motor and psychological improvements. The question we asked ourselves most frequently was: will they improve through sporting activity or are two hours a week just a drop of water in the desert represented by their limitations.

The work done in recent years has shown that the planned path was correct and despite the obvious difficulties we have come to work with many children who have become adolescents and continue to play with us. We have documented with several scientific studies the results obtained, from which we can start again to continue to improve our proposal.

This week we met to start the new 2021/22 sports season. The groups are divided by age and according to motor and psychosocial skills. With young people with greater difficulties in these areas, the resumption of activity is more complicated, since it is likely that they have not continued with outdoor activities and structured in a specific way as those of the training we propose. Each session is 50 minutes, it is for them a demanding period of constant attention to the coach or psychologist, in which they must respect the rules to which are added motor and cognitive-affective demands to which they are not accustomed. Let’s also say that it takes a lot of attention and professional passion on the part of the operators who stimulate these youngsters to carry out activities, which the parents who observe them are impressed with in a positive way. Often, they do activities, such as passing the ball, that they only do with great difficulty with their parents and that may have been abandoned because of the frustration they generate in adults.

This type of young people requires and needs an activity 1a1, they could not learn and persevere in the commitment if not in the presence of a figure totally dedicated to them, which respects the moments of pause and fatigue me that at the same time leads them to perform a specific and differentiated motor activity.

We move in this way, because we believe that it is the only possible way if we want to carry out a program that produces new learning, in relation to sports and psychosocial aspects. This is our challenge that is the same every year, we are convinced that we can get significant results, which could be even better if it were possible to increase the number of hours per week devoted to sport. Of course, a large number of professionals is required to carry out this activity. For this reason, the field team is composed only of college graduates.

With boys and girls over the age of 13 we have built groups in which it is possible to play soccer and begin, after this long period of pandemic, tournaments and games. With them the training is very similar to that conducted with typically developing kids and this year we will see how far we can go as an AS Roma soccer team.

The coach role according Guardiola

Pep Guardiola on what the role of the coach is:

“Us as coaches are like the Caddie in golf, we carry the clubs and offer opinions … The player’s play the game, we are just there to guide them.”

Mental coaching: where to start

I am often asked what is the  mental coaching ABC. For me is to know what it does, what it says and feels an athlete after he made ​​a mistake. We all know that it is easy to make mistakes and that the error is always present in every aspect of a competition. There are not athletes who do not make mistakes, and the champions are athletes who make less mistakes. So if you do not have direct experience working with athletes is important to read their stories, in order to understand how they have learned to react to a defeat or a negative period. In this case, before relying on psychological techniques (from the PNL to the many cognitive-behavioral techniques, the gestalt rather than to those of stress management) it should understand the value of the error in sport.

For example, reading the book by Andre Agassi shows  as the way of life the error is closely related to the relationship you have with the sport. The book by Alessandro Del Piero, however, shows the relevance of motivation as a child can lead a young person through the thousands of repetitions that are necessary to learn to kick the ball. The same appears in the story of Johnny Wilkinson (rugby) that to acquire the skills needed to put the oval between the posts for years he has trained to repeat these kicks through the same routine. Or how to interpret the Michael Jordan‘s phrase apparently paradoxical  when he says “In my life I have often failed and continued to fail. For this reason I succeed.”

In other words, the ABC of mental coaching is to enter (even through reading) into the world of athletes and hear them tell their stories, before providing them with a prepackaged solution.

How to improve the skill to compete

A lot of curiosity at the master’s degree in sports psychology that has just begun has been directed on the thoughts and moods of athletes during competitions and how they handle tension. Below is an example of an answer, to begin to understand.

Being tense, sometimes even terrified, before a competition is absolutely normal. It can be helpful to feel the adrenaline rush and to become fully aware that this is a race and not a training session. Emotions are often accompanied by negative thoughts: unfortunately it happens often and it is normal. Of course it is necessary to have trained the mind to overturn these thoughts, in others that enhance the performance.

It is a mental job that the athletes must do without being dominated by the pessimistic idea that nothing can be done.

Athletes are practical people who, through training, learn to solve the problems coming from competition. They are, therefore, task-oriented people, to what they have to do.The goal is to know how to control what depends on them, in this lies their power and putting to one side what is outside their influence.

As consultants we can start with these points to develop a problem-solving mindset in them.

The job of sport psychologist

Speaking to young sport psychologists often I say that beyond the content they want to develop, the objective of the consultant process in sports is that our business must be perceived by coaches and athletes as useful. Years ago Autogenic Training was very popular and was often taught to athletes, who learned to relax but often not perceived usefulness in relation to their performances. Sometimes athletes who met told me: “A colleague learned me to relax, but then I stopped because I did not understand what it needed.”
Athletes are people oriented to practice, evaluating the effectiveness of training depending on the results that can be achieved. The psychologists are too often geared to demonstrate their competences and sometimes they are rigid in the application of the techniques. So, for example,it  is expected to reduce the competitive stress through relaxation  or to improve the concentration only through mental rehearsal.
They should instead develop a program of mental training based on the needs of the athlete and in relation to sport practiced. In addition, the athletes are pragmatic people, who appreciate those who provide them tasks to practice, being able to test their utility during training. Task of the psychologists must be to propose activities that they consider to be perceived as useful, for the reason they are intended to improve at least one aspect of the sport performances. Anything that does not produce this effect will be stored by the athlete as an interesting experience but useless. Then:
  • Listen to the athlete and / or coach
  • Understand their needs
  • Understanding these requirements to which behaviors are
  • Assume in what way and with what techniques these behaviors can be learned / improved
  • Determine which are the parameters for which you can say that this has been achieved
  • Share this journey with the athlete training
  • Put in place and whether and how to correct
  • Evaluate their own work (during and after)