Monthly Archive for March, 2022

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Barcelona: postion, intensity and speed

Xavi returned to Barcelona with several technical and tactical obsessions, two of them above all: finding the free man and minimizing lost balls. Recovering the positional play and the level of intensity needed to get the ball back in the shortest possible time, Xavi crushed Carlo Ancelotti’s Real who, if it hadn’t been for Thibaut Courtois’ saves, would have gone to sleep with an even heavier result on their conscience: “Why did I ask the boys to run even when we were four goals up? Because if it’s true that we were winning 4-0 today, it’s also true that when we’re up by just one goal, in order not to lose, we’ll have to keep running and pressing, helping the full-backs… Losing a ball must make us furious, it bothers me a lot when it happens. And if we are not demanding the results will not come.”

As I was explaining to the psychologists of the Master of Sport Psychology, a match is played on some technical-tactical factors but at the same time they have a strong psychological meaning: position, intensity and speed.

This is what Xavi coached and asked Barcelona to do. How many Italian teams play with this kind of will?

Are teenagers a new problem that has emerged in recent years?

Are teenagers a problem that has been surfacing in recent years? No, it is a typical saying of every adult generation.

Here is an example from a seminar held in 1965, 56 years ago, during the 1st World Congress of Sport Psychology.

Sport and psycho-social integration
in Proceedings, Roma, 1965

Topic: Progressive maladaptation of young at the development of our society. In a period typically social, the anti-social character of young is growing up.

Main themes: Adolescents are under pressure by the tension between speed of knowledge, pleasure to consume and fast exploitation of the things and the delay to have a stable professional and economical position in the society

Sport roles

  • Break the psycho-social boarders
  • Allow the personal realization
  • Permit to play a relevant social function
  • Determine the dialogue with the other generations
  • Allow a collective affirmation at regards of the authoritarian society, as positive actors of the society

10 rules of growth mindset

Sport psychology: know the past, to build the future

The Master of Sport Psychology in Rome is going to start. The first topic that will be addressed is the development of sport psychology since the foundation of the International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP) in 1965. It is the story of the so-called founders of this discipline in the contemporary world. We will therefore talk about Ferruccio Antonelli but also about many other scholars of those early years. It is an important aspect that concerns the knowledge of the origins of the profession in which one works and that is ignored by most professionals and researchers.

But we will look not only at the past but also at the present and the future. A very topical issue that ISSP and Fepsac, the European association, are pursuing concerns the continuing education of psychologists. They are defining what are the paths not only educational but also of continuing education in sport psychology that are recognized internationally. Participation in this worldwide movement of professionals will become increasingly important and will allow easier accreditation of professionals who have done different training courses in different countries but the same in terms of hours of training, supervision and maintenance of the required update over time.



Juventus: a match of adrenaline and ambition

Massimiliano Allegri says Juventus need adrenaline, fun and ambition to win tonight against Villareal.

Said in other words, he affirms the need for motivation, pleasure of the challenge and emotional intensity and play.

In fact, the control and quality of actions on the pitch is based on this emotional mix driven by reason.

Playing a game with this mental approach is not easy and requires that the ambition (motivation) continues to be high regardless of the result. The team must be able to give itself instructions if, finding itself in advantage, will tend to reduce the adrenaline, to defend the result, thus playing not to lose and not to win. The adrenaline and therefore the emotions must be managed to avoid that it leads to play without thinking. A problem the latter that Juventus has shown less while more frequently fell into the former. The one in which slowing down the game passes from an attitude oriented to win to one centered on the defense of the positive result.

We will see what will happen.

Tom Brady’s reason to play

Reading about Tom Brady’s return to the football arena, one wonders how it is possible that a Champion of over forty years really thinks he can continue to maintain this high standard. The majority has already stopped for many years but he wants to continue. We have to accept this life choice, existential, without putting labels on him like highlander, narcissist and so on. Everyone is much more than what he appears in public and probably Tom Brady satisfies his deep needs that are not easy for us to understand but that exist for him.

The concept to be developed is that there is not the one dimensional person, in this the Champion but the person with the characteristics of the champion or who competes as a champion. This idea is analogous to the concept of disability, we do not say “he is a disabled person” but “a person with a disability, a child with Down syndrome”.

Amartya Sen repeats the same when he explains that there have never been men and women who could be traced back to a single cultural, political or religious affiliation, “the same person can be, without the slightest contradiction, of American citizenship, of Caribbean origin, with African ancestry, Christian, progressive, woman, vegetarian, marathon runner, historian, teacher, novelist, feminist, heterosexual, supporter of gay and lesbian rights, lover of theater, militant environmentalist, tennis enthusiast”.

The existential concept is that everyone is worth more than the activity with which they are habitually identified, and that recognition of this status should provide a complex and articulate view of the athlete himself in relation to it.

Emotional coaching for young

Simeone, the coach of Atletico Madrid, after the Champions League final lost stated that “you can win by losing if you give it your all”. It’s a key concept for the development of an athlete and should be taught from the first day a boy or girl enters a playing field. On the contrary, we see young people who, as soon as they make a mistake, become angry with themselves or depressed. We know that this happens for a variety of reasons:

  • parents often don’t recognize the value of commitment and think that only winning matters, so they get angry with their children for their mistakes and would like to take the place of the coach to give him technical directions,
  • coaches are more focused on teaching technique and do not train athletes emotionally,
  • young people themselves are not able to express their emotions in a constructive way and lack self-control.

Therefore, we see young tennis players who slam the racket to the ground after a mistake alternating moods of anger and depression against themselves or in other sports, once a mistake is made, others follow almost quickly, because the athletes are dominated by frustration due to the first mistake. To change this way of living defeats and mistakes we need parents and coaches who are more aware that their role includes teaching self-control, working with their children and athletes to change these destructive behaviors. We certainly don’t need to impose our adult solutions to their problems.

We need to listen empathetically and not to judge, so that young people feel supported and respected in their states of mind. Only after this stage should we begin to talk about what could be done differently, giving the young people time to express their ideas and us time to stimulate their awareness of their way of acting and identify possible solutions. Acting in this way takes time and it is often for this reason that adults do not follow this path. However, we must be aware that if we often fail to intervene, young people will begin to think that their reactions do not interest their parents and coaches and, worse still, they will continue to behave negatively towards themselves. If we want our kids to develop the ability to effectively and satisfactorily manage their daily stresses, we need to spend time teaching them how to behave, feel and think in those moments.

Master in Sport Psychology: 40 years later

This week starts the new Master in Sport Psychology organized by Psicosport in Rome.

I am happy because this new Master starts exactly 40 years after I obtained the specialization in sport psychology with a training course held in 1982 at the School of Sport in Rome under the direction of Ferruccio Antonelli.


The wrong mindset to the game in soccer

In our soccer league, it is clear that a problem that affects the game of the teams and, therefore, the result is the inability to maintain a standard of continuity of play. Even this week, we heard Inzaghi, Inter’s coach, say that the team had entered the field to play the match against Torino with the wrong mentality. It means starting a match with superficiality in the hope that sooner or later a goal would have decided the game in their favor.

Wrong mentality means conducting a warm-up just to avoid getting hurt, having the mind occupied by other thoughts that do not concern the game or absenting themselves from what happens on the field.

When this lazy approach affects a team it is very difficult to change it during the course of the game: at the beginning it dominates the presumption that the result will change in their favor, as if it were obvious, while at the end a state of apathy can take over with a game almost stopped or paroxysmal agonism, dominated by a sterile agonism.
This is a problem that Juventus had in the first few games of the season, in a more evident way, and that was so serious as to compromise the entire championship. The other teams pretending to the title have manifested it more in this second phase of the season with a series of useless draws with lower level teams.

It is these lost points that will decide the championship, without prejudice to the possibility of collapses or resounding comebacks and that will always give us a demonstration of the team mentality.