Monthly Archive for April, 2022

Killer instinct in tennis

How many times have we seen ditching the match point and then lose the game? Too many!
How many times have we seen players play a set very well and then lose resoundingly the next one maybe to zero? Many!
How many times after some mistakes have we seen one tennis player lose his/her mind, continuing with this negative sequence until the end of the set? Many!
Are all situations in which the tennis player has not used the killer instinct, the result is that one player dominated the other.

What is the killer instinct:

  • Will to do what it’s reasonably necessary to win or achieve the goal.
  • Awareness about when to push to close a game, set or match, and do it.
  • Knowing that when the we lead, it needs to continue to do it.
  • Knowing that when the opponent is down, we must continue to keep him/her down.
  • Will to react successfully from a negative momentum.
How to develop it:
  • Never think that it will be easy to win. No one can guarantee the outcome, not ourselves.
  • Never relax during the game, if the psychological tension go down give ourselves the stimulus to psych up, to keep the concentration high.
  • When we are leading the match we could reduce the competitive tension, it is dangerous. Use mental images that maintain a constant level of activation.
  • The over-confidence can become a trap that surrounds and supports the emergence of distractions. We must act to stay mentally focused point by point.
  • Never think about the end result but as mentioned we need to stay focused on the present, play at the best.
  • Always keep the highest pressure on the opponent is one of the keys to success. The aim is to convey to the opponent the idea that anything he/she can do, he/she will always remain down.
  • Never be in a hurry during the time between the points, we must always have the same timing is that we serve or return.

How to change negativi thoughts in positive

Whenever a negative thought appears in your mind, tell yourself:


and turn it into a positive thought. Practice doing this a lot, even outside of tennis, until little by little you no longer need to say STOP! Because immediately you will have a positive reaction. To do this exercise, always start with a deep breath and imagine a positive thought. Remember that thoughts should: be short, be expressed in the present tense, contain the word I, express what you want to do, convey conviction about what you are going to do.

Below is a table with negative thoughts and their transformation into positive phrases.

Negative thoughts  -  Positive thoughts

  1. I just got an easy answer wrong, how stupid!  -  I move forward, focused on the next exchange!
  2. I got it wrong again.  -  I take a deep breath and look at my opponent.
  3. What will the teacher think of me after this umpteenth mistake.  -  I focus on giving it my best shot.
  4. I’m too uptight, I’ll definitely make a mistake.  -  I breathe and visualize the serve.
  5. I can’t stand his service.  -  I am responsive on my legs.
  6. My heart is in my throat and I don’t know what to do.  -  My heart is full of energy, I feel strength.
  7. This opponent is too strong.  -  I look at the ball, I hit the ball.
  8. I must not lose this set.  -  I imagine myself serving the way I know how.

How does the coach plan a decisive match?

It is not difficult to give an explanation to the defeat suffered by Inter against Bologna. The performance anxiety generated by having to win at all costs has triggered nervousness that has increased with the passing of time, leading to a negative performance and an unexpected result. The same could have happened to Liverpool against Villareal, but the team behaved exactly the opposite of Inter. It constantly kept the Spanish team under pressure, it was not in a hurry to finish actions and in this way two goals arrived and above all it did not suffer any.

It would be interesting to know how these two matches were prepared from the psychological point of view. Beyond the differences between Inter and Liverpool, what did the two coaches, Inzaghi and Klopp, do and say to ensure that their teams would play as they had decided? How did they stimulate the combativeness of their players along with a thought of the game to be led from start to finish? Pugnacity should certainly not be interpreted in terms of acting without thinking, otherwise it turns into an impulsive game devoid of logic.

I don’t know what Inzaghi may have said and done, but in any case it didn’t work.

Instead, we know some of Klopp’s principles and I believe that even with Villareal he was inspired by these three ideas in preparing the match:

Building memorable experiences - “Playing unforgettable games, being curious and impatient to play the next game to see what will happen, and this is what soccer should be. If you make that attitude your own, you will be 100 percent successful.”

Be Disciplined - “Never give up on your goals, always stay focused. Certainly teaching this to young soccer players is difficult. It’s much more than believing in it, because you can believe in something but also easily lose that belief, that’s why it’s more important to feel strong in difficult moments.”

Being passionate - “You have to use the tactics with your heart. The match must be lived intensely, otherwise it’s boring”.

I believe that in order to win these decisive matches, these three ideas are decisive and can be summarized in these words: clear goals, tactics, heart, curiosity.

Change the mindset during the tennis patch

Our daily lives are full of episodes in which our performances are affected by the moods and emotions we feel at those moments. Sometimes we may feel too angry to listen to someone whose ideas might be useful to us, or we may be pessimistic about the possibility of being able to do well, or we may feel that we are not capable, so we tackle a task with little conviction. How often do you think, “If I hadn’t felt that way, I would have definitely done better.” These are common thoughts that highlight the central role of emotions.

The same happens on the court and … rackets slammed on the floor, getting on each other’s nerves, thinking that we will never play a game again, getting angry at the opponent who wastes time or at fate that only makes our responses go out are ways of reacting that we have all stumbled into.

A useful way to improve one’s awareness in relation to the influence of emotions in the game of tennis is to think back:

To the best matches one has played, focusing on the actions taken to make them possible and the emotions felt. In this way you become more aware of the way you think and feel and how this influences the way you play.
at the first few games of the games, identifying what the prevailing moods and thoughts were. Am I happy or do I wish I were different? What are the emotions and thoughts that might improve the effectiveness of my game at the beginning of the game?
Avoid pessimistic explanations that lead you to not change and to accept your game in a fatalistic way, taking for granted a thought like: “I’ve always made these mistakes and I’ve never been able to change” or “I’ve always been a nervous guy, who gets angry easily when he starts to make mistakes and I can’t change now after a lifetime of playing like this.

It may also be true that you have tried to change without having achieved a satisfactory result, consequently convincing yourself that you cannot improve. In almost all cases, however, these tests of change have been done incorrectly, without following a system of improvement. Often people try to change a behavior (for example: getting angry after a mistake) by telling themselves not to do it (“You mustn’t get angry”). Usually the effect of this action is to continue to feel angry. Everyone has heard from the tennis teacher that to calm down and recover you have to take a deep breath; you follow this advice but often it doesn’t work and, therefore, you convince yourself that breathing deeply is useless.

Where did these tennis players, who also tried to react to difficulties, go wrong?

The first case shows that we don’t change by simply telling ourselves “not to do something”, otherwise our changes would be implemented with phrases: you’re angry, just say “don’t be angry”, you’re agitated say you don’t want to be agitated, you’re distracted say you don’t want to be, and so on. Saying phrases to each other is useless if you do not affect your emotions at the same time.

The second case is very typical in sports, because even many athletes do not know how to perform correctly a deep breath, and when they try to do it they inhale little air, maybe they take it in jerks and send it out too fast, in this way their breath looks more like a sigh or a puff. For this reason, it is not effective. On the contrary, everyone can learn to take a deep breath, but first you have to practice doing it correctly, its effectiveness must be tested in training and only then it will be performed in the game; at that point there is no doubt that it will be useful to reduce emotional stress.


(Photo by Simon Berger)

Which is your dominant motivation a migliorare?

Youth development program helps kids get out of poverty in adulthood

A free youth development program serving Black children and teens living in a low-income segregated community demonstrated positive long-term educational and financial outcomes in its alumni, according to a study from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago published in the journal BMC Public Health.

A 33-year follow-up revealed that alumni graduated from college at twice the rate of their peers who did not participate in the youth development program. For each year of program enrollment, alumni were 10 percent more likely to complete college. Alumni also were more likely to save money at the end of the month and to report a better standard of living than their parents.

“Our study shows that a relatively simple intervention can interrupt the cycle of generational poverty, especially when youth spend years in the program,” said lead author Karen Sheehan, MD, MPH, Medical Director of Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities at Lurie Children’s and Professor of Pediatrics, Medical Education, and Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Sheehan also in the former Board President of the Chicago Youth Programs and the Medical Director of the clinic associated with it.

Dr. Sheehan co-founded the Cabrini Green Youth Program with Joseph DiCara, MD, a hospitalist at Lurie Children’s and the senior author on the study, when both were medical students. Since then, what is now called Chicago Youth Programs, has grown into an organization serving youth and families in at least 30 of the city’s 50 wards.

The programs offer recreational activities in a safe, nurturing space, as well as reading, tutoring, college preparation, career counseling and a medical clinic. Participants usually spend 8 to 10 years in the program.

“Forming long-term relationships with caring adults outside of the family creates a strong stabilizing force for the children in our program, and the impact of those social connections is remarkable,” said Dr. Sheehan, who holds the Arnold-Gorter Family Professorship in Healthy Communities. “Our results demonstrate that this approach is effective, even despite all the structural challenges youth face growing up in poverty and plagued by neighborhood violence. We can make a huge difference in children’s lives just by being there for the long haul.”

How do you speak with the athletes?

10 actions not to do and to do for a tennis player

Dear Tennis Player,

  1. Don’t insult yourself when you make mistakes and don’t root against yourself. Always support your efforts in a positive way, even when the ball goes out or you’re down.
  2. Don’t yell at yourself; you’ll play worse. Play joyfully, freely, and make the choices you want to make.
  3. Don’t criticize how others play just to imply that you understand tennis. Support your lesser friends in the Circle, let them feel your support.
  4. Remember that too much tension is harmful, even if you were playing in the Wimbledon final. Have fun, use humor to reduce your fears.
  5. After the match is over, don’t tell yourself that you are deeply disappointed and will stop playing. Accept defeats, even the ones that sting the most.
  6. Don’t always blame the field, the weather, bad luck. Remember that it is your mind that commands technique and tactics and not the other way around.
  7. Do not disrespect your opponents. Show them respect in your every behavior on the field.
  8. It is never others who make you wrong. It’s you who hasn’t been able to respond to a shot or hasn’t adapted to that type of play.
  9. Don’t make the same mistake over and over, don’t insist on a shot that doesn’t fit. When you make a mistake, do something different and change the way you play.
  10. Don’t play to close the point or the game as soon as possible. Take your time to build the point.


Napoli: performance anxiety?

There is talk, in these days, of the performance anxiety that would have hindered Napoli at least in the last two games, important to remain among the favorites for the final title. Attributing the negative results of a team to this psychological dimension has been very successful among the media. It means feeling insecure in the decisive moments of the championship, with the effect of providing unsatisfactory performances. It is a reasoning that labels a team and expresses a collective psychological condition that is invalidating. Were I a coach, I would reject this explanation by asking myself, “How should players interact on the field in order to show unity and confidence in their team skills?” I would also ask myself, “How can I stimulate performance that is superior to what each could provide individually?” Napoleon used to say that he also won his battles with the dreams of his soldiers, this phrase is an effective metaphor for what should be meant by team effectiveness. In this way, we are no longer talking about anxiety but about collective effectiveness and how to train it. The theme consists of understanding what behavioral approach is necessary to achieve victory, providing each player with precise and different tasks, so that when someone makes a mistake the others know what to do. Each player needs to know and be a part of the story that the team is building as the minutes go by, and this task orientation needs to be trained specifically throughout the weeks. However, it is not just a technical/tactical issue, it requires each player to perceive himself as an active part of a program that goes beyond his person and is about the success of the team. By developing this collective mentality, it will be possible to come out effectively from situations of greater competitive pressure, without falling into the victimhood inherent in the explanation that attributes failures to anxiety, a manifestation of a character limit that requires a long time to change, while the league, moving on weekly appointments, requires a great willingness to change. Therefore, the question is not so much whether players are anxious, but how willing they are to quickly change ineffective behavior.