Monthly Archive for May, 2022

Coach slaps female player

Getting angry with a female player is certainly legitimate for a coach, just as it is imperative that he exercise self-control over himself before exhibiting any behavior. This is what Luciano Bongiorno, coach of Basket Roma did not do with regard to a player on the team. I join in the condemnation of this violent behavior.

I find it equally serious that to date there has been no comment from the club.

Differenza Donna APS and Assist National Association of Female Athletes are calling for the immediate intervention of the President of the Basketball Federation, Giovanni Petrucci, and CONI President Giovanni Malagò, so that the coach of Basket Roma, Luciano Bongiorno, will be immediately disbarred and barred from practicing as a coach. “For us at Associazione Differenza Donna, it is clear that this gesture does not represent Sport what it means for the growth of everyone and everyone. It is not sport, but it is violence,” says Elisa Ercoli president of Differenza Donna. “This is a very bad page of sport, which can only provide for immediate and exemplary measures. Shameful and unacceptable,” says Luisa Rizzitelli president of Assist.

Brief uncompleted analysis of the Serie A Championship.

One way to interpret the results of the recently concluded Serie A championship but more specifically the performance of teams is to make our own the idea that: “we are what we consistently do.” Following this logic, it is not so important to know what a team can or cannot do but what it did, therefore, how it played each game. It is often said, “we did not deserve to lose, we took so many shots and not a single goal while our opponents scored on the first shot on goal.” However, the issue is a different one and it would be more accurate to recognize that: “we missed many shots, they took only one but it was enough to get past the defense and beat the goalkeeper.”

Stating “we are what we do” is a way of reasoning that dispels all alibis in the evaluation of an action, a game and an entire season.

This approach confirms that those who win, obviously within the rules, showed something more than those who lost. Inter and Napoli showed something less than Milan, as they failed some decisive matches while Milan, now the Italian champions, overcame the same obstacles in a winning way. Personally, I am convinced that the collaboration between Maldini, Pioli and Ibrahimovic has been a determining factor in continuously supporting the team during the championship, while in the other two most direct opponents alongside the coach there have not been such influential figures. Even if one wants to interpret the negative results of Napoli and Inter in the latter stages of the championship in terms of an inability to handle the competitive stresses brought about by fighting for the Scudetto, we must still use the same yardstick of examination. The lack of conviction and anxiety demonstrated on the field are factors on which both teams will have to improve next year. It seems to me, however, that even in comments in the media, more conservative interpretations are preferred, explaining the negative results by the lack of some sold or injured players. In my opinion, these are assessments that do not highlight the value that team cohesion and motivation deserve. Problems are not the responsibility of those absent but should be attributed to those present, who should be fully accountable for “what they need to do” to achieve the goals of each match. In this regard, clubs should provide for the psychological organization of the team and know who the Maldini and Ibrahimovic of their team are, so as not to leave the coach alone to do this work on the team mentality.

Be an inspiration for the others at 80 years old

“I try to be an inspiration,” Walter Lancaster said at New York Times. “A lot of people, you know, get lazy or something. And I say: ‘Look. You got to keep moving.’ That’s the secret. Just keep moving.”

I challenge anyone 30 years ago to say that we would have ever heard a sentence like that from a person over 80. We would have thought something ridiculous, that that is not sport and that these people were poor people who were ridiculing themselves. Today, however, not only is this happening more and more often but they can be an inspiration to anyone, whatever their age. For young people who are increasingly sedentary and for adults who think that not only sports but simply moving is not for them. We live in years when 80% of adults suffer from back pain, which for them becomes the main reason for not moving.

In Italy we have 20 percent and 16 percent of over60 men and women who participate in sports. They should be our source of inspiration. Instead, they never appear in newspapers and on social media. They should be the focus of wellness practitioners, of psychologists who should study their psychology, and of physiologists and biomechanists who should instead thoroughly understand the reactions of their physiques.

It would also need to be understood whether these athletes are the same as those represented in the earlier age categories. For example, within the 30 percent of men and 21 percent of women practitioners in the 35-44 age group how many of them still play sports among the over60s? How many among the over60s have been active as sportsmen for a few years? It is probably due to my ignorance that I do not know these data, but they are certainly not widespread among those who work in sports.

Football as inclusion tool

For a long time, the involvement and full realization of people with disabilities, considered the largest minority in the world, have been an international research and development priority. Thanks in part to specific studies, an awareness has developed that sports and, more generally, motor activity are a decisive tool for promoting their psychosocial and motor development. From this perspective, people with disabilities are no longer considered people to be helped, but citizens to be granted rights and choices. Developing motor and sports activity in children with physical or intellectual disabilities thus makes it possible to reverse their predominantly sedentary condition, achieving great benefits at the physical level, in cognitive processes, in affective life and in their relationships with peers and adults. The little research conducted so far shows that, at the motor level, children with disabilities are much less active than their typically developing peers and that the percentage of sedentary individuals increases as they get older. Despite the evidence and despite the fact that sports turn out to be an effective support to the therapies in which they are involved, the spread of motor activity programs dedicated to them is still marginal.

The “Football Together” project

Soccer is the most loved and practiced sport for girls and boys all over the world, but for young people with intellectual disabilities, opportunities to experience it as a normal educational and playing experience are rare, if not completely absent. This situation results in a glaring gap in access to sports: a vital resource, as established by the Declaration of Human Rights. In light of the fundamental role that sporting activity plays in the physical and behavioral development of young children, especially when practiced in teams, the phenomenon emerges as a critical factor of social exclusion, particularly if we consider the magnitude of this juncture: the practice of sports for young people with intellectual disabilities is still little widespread and studied, not only in Italy but worldwide. Most experiences concern specific motor activities such as running and water activities: on the other hand, there is no similar practice in the area of team games and within soccer clubs. Indeed, there is a widespread belief that young people with intellectual disabilities struggle to relate to others and to be part of a team. For this reason, so far, individual sports have been favored.

With the aim of changing this perspective, in 2015 AS Roma launched, in collaboration with the Integrated Football Academy, the “Calcio Insieme” project, aimed at affirming the right of boys and girls with intellectual disabilities to experience sports as a moment of psychological, social and motor growth, just like their peers. These days we have reached the end of the seventh year of activity.

An activity to be planned and carried out safely and professionally

The success of such a project depends on many factors: the competence of the staff, the specificity of the educational program, the involvement of schools and families, and the proper evaluation of the motor and psychological condition at the beginning and end of each year of training. This methodological approach overcomes the idea that offering them the opportunity to practice a sport is in itself a sufficient measure. Approaches of this kind, combined with the lack of expertise of the practitioners, have prevented the improvement of the sports proposal and the comparison of sports experiences of this kind with each other.

In order to develop a project aware of the risks in terms of safety and health of participants and meet the needs of the children and their families, AS Roma and the Academy of Integrated Football formed a staff composed exclusively of graduates in motor sciences, some already Roma instructors, sports psychologists, a speech therapist, a doctor, a person responsible for relations with families and schools, a scientific director, a technical director of A.S. Roma and a person responsible for the project and institutional relations. All participated in a training course to learn about the profiles of intellectual disability and to define the sports activity program and evaluation criteria. Initially the project involved 30 boys and girls aged 6 to 12, but later the number grew to 80 young people aged 6 to 18, divided into groups according to their functional abilities. Among them, 20 children with problems such as no speech, extreme difficulty interacting with new people and situations, severe motor difficulties and oppositional behavior have a dedicated instructor or psychologist, while for the others, groups have been organized.

The results of a scientific approach

Studies conducted on program outcomes and published in scientific journals show significant improvement in basic motor skills such as walking, running, rolling, jumping up, catching a ball, and balancing. From a psychosocial point of view, at the end of the first year, young people with improved functional conditions demonstrated the ability to play with instructors and peers, to complete activities, and to be substantially active throughout each training session. Children with more severe problems also improved but showed greater difficulty in completing drills. They have learned to kick the ball and recognize the goal, but many of them need to have the technician or psychologist next to them at all times and can sometimes have crises that prevent them from continuing the activity.

The results achieved by the staff are evidenced by the integrated training sessions with the boys and girls of the A.S. Roma soccer school and the five-a-side soccer matches, with each of the two teams consisting of three boys with disabilities and two with typical development. These experiences are a time of great satisfaction not only for the young people involved but also for the staff, parents and the boys of the Soccer School.

Important results in terms of the development of motor and psychological skills have also come from the summer camps and the “Cub Scouts Grow Up” group, which includes boys and girls aged 13-18 with the potential to play five-a-side soccer matches and participate in youth tournaments for young people with intellectual disabilities.

The tennis stresses

Tennis is a particularly challenging and stressful sport, not to say that it is more so than other sports, however it has a long list of events that are rarely manageable by a tennis player unless he or she has developed a system to master them and use them in his or her favor to put his or her opponent on edge.

What are these stress-generating events:

  1. The match does not have a defined duration and over three sets can exceed even three hours if it is very hard-fought.
  2. Most points are played in a short time and, therefore, in a matter of seconds the point is won or lost. This situation is repeated more than 100 times.
  3. Each point is followed by a 25-second pause. 100 points, 100 pauses. It is a useful time to think and reduce stress but if it is mishandled it is enough to screw up mentally.
  4. The purpose of the match is to dominate the opponent and it can happen that the tennis player does not know how to express this mindset.
  5. It is a sport based on quickness in movement and this is done through athletic fitness but also through mental work done on the court to keep active at all times and send this input to the body.
  6. The one who makes the least mistakes wins, especially the one who avoids trivial mistakes, called free errors.
  7. As long as you do not miss the last point, it is possible to reverse the outcome of the match in your favor. Too often the player does not believe in this possibility and consequently does not take advantage of it.
  8. Knowing how to handle one’s mistakes, without getting depressed or becoming impulsive, is crucial. Encouraging yourself continuously during the match is very important.
  9. You need to have a game plan but also know what to do when you are struggling.
  10. Serving is a precision skill so are penalty kicks, free throws or serving in volleyball, you need to have automatized a personal routine allowing you to use this action in the best way.

The mental imagery its for all: Athletes and children

Mental repetition of one’s motor performance promotes motor learning and is the main component of mental preparation for its execution.

Therefore, what should be understood by mental repetition or imagery. As evidence of how this is a well-established theme in the field of sport psychology, a definition is proposed that, although now 40 years old, continues to be effective in its clarity.

In fact, the best description was provided by Richardson in 1969, who identifies imagery in terms of the quasi-sensory and quasi-perceptual experience of which the athlete is aware and which exists in the absence of the stimulus conditions that actually trigger those sensory and perceptual reactions that are specific to that sport action. This definition of imagery allows us to highlight the three aspects that characterize it:

  1. The competence in feeling the sensations and experiencing the perceptions that are typical of the actual motor or sports action but which, in this case, are activated only through a mental process.
  2. The awareness of the individual who is performing this mental activity as well as the results it produces.
  3. The non-need for the antecedents and environmental context that determine sports performance.

Since many years, the mental repetition is a well known mental training technique used by the athletes. As early as 1988, Orlick and Partington report that 99 percent of Canadian athletes who participated in the Olympics make use of it, as well as in 1994 Murphy highlights similar percentages referring to athletes attending the US Olympic Training Centre. Techniques for performing mental imagery exercises are widely described in mental training texts and are based on the concept that repetition should occur as if one were actually performing.

Mental repetition can be extremely useful with children because they are readily available to make use of their imagination. Children continually make use of this cognitive process when engaged in games that require creativity and imagination. In this sense, mental repetition is an integral part of the mental processes that enable learning, memorization, planning and performance in school tests as well as in cognitive-motor tests. Mental repetition should be used by teachers to help young people derive pleasure from activities and to teach how to increase concentration, confidence and effective control while performing their actions.

Imagery can be used in ways:

Direct - It consists of the exact mental repetition of a skill as if one were performing it at that moment. In this way the child repeats a jump, a catch of the ball, a run or a shot a few moments before performing this action as if he were performing it at that exact moment.

Indirect - Consists of mental repetition of images that are related to the actions to be performed. For example, if the goal is “to move as light as a feather,” one might imagine a feather moving through the air. Or one might imagine running like a cheetah if the purpose is to move as quickly as possible.

(Italiano) Lo sport giovanile: regole e limiti

Sorry, this entry is only available in Italiano.

Motivation is the king of team performances

How do we explain psychologically these sudden winning performances of Salernitana rather than Genoa but also the incredible games Real Madrid played against Manchester City, PSG and Chelsea. We know that it is motivation that determines the difference in play between teams but does one have to be on the brink of the abyss to feel motivated to react? Agatha Christie wrote that “A clue is a clue, two clues are a coincidence, but three clues make a proof.” Real Madrid’s 3 matches seem to confirm this approach. In fact, the only game lost at the Bernabeu was the one played with Chelsea having, however, won the away game. The motivation was not so strong to win at home because they were starting from a positive result while the other two were won as Real Madrid had to recover from two defeats suffered at home by their opponents. Of course, when we talk about reduced motivation, we are certainly not referring to that manifested by students when they are uninterested in listening to their prof. in school but to the lack of what Arrigo Sacchi calls the exceptional motivation, which is nurtured through an absolute desire to want to achieve the set result.

As far as Salernitana and Genoa are concerned, the difficulty of these teams and others in similar conditions is that they have not sought during the span of the championship a valid motivation to play matches with continuity, and in particular those against direct opponents fighting for permanence in Serie A. There are many issues that should be analyzed and that concern the role of the management, the coach and individual players in manifesting adequate and effective motivational levels. Staying within the framework of these last positive matches, I would say that the explanation lies in the encounter between the drama of the situation, relegation, and the need to attempt the impossible. Sometimes it works as one suddenly realizes that there will be no more opportunities available if one does not take advantage of the last remaining ones.

The competence motivation

To know what an individual’s conception of error is, we need to understand what is meant by competence motivation. It is an internal desire directed toward acquiring and exercising skills, whereby a child strives to develop basic motor patterns in order to respond adaptively to the demands of the environment. For an athlete, athletic learnings become a conscious way of evaluating oneself and one’s personal growth. Therefore, the concept of Self is shaped by these evaluations and those that relate to the other significant areas of learning in a young person’s life.

Based on these experiences, “motivation to succeed is fueled by assessment related to skill acquisition (learning goals) and skill validation (performance goals)” (Dweck and Molden, 2005, p.122). From an application point of view, it becomes necessary to understand the extent to which people use these two approaches and whether they give more importance to one over the other.

This way of reasoning depends on the conception one develops regarding one’s personal qualities. Does the individual consider them to be fixed or modifiable? For example, is intelligence a fixed trait? (“I either have it or I don’t.”) Or is it instead modifiable through learning? (“No matter the starting level, it can be modified through training.”). If one agrees with the first statement one uses the conception of the fixity of this quality, while if one agrees with the second statement one believes that skills can be improved through personal effort. The effects of this different approach are particularly evident in four areas: goals, commitment beliefs, explanation of difficulty, and effects on strategies (Dweck and Molden, 2005).

Developing athletes and coaches with a growth-oriented mindset

In sports, it is necessary to learn to react immediately to mistakes, building a work culture that views failures as an integral and non-eliminable part of the improvement process. However, it is not easy for athletes and coaches to accept this assumption even though everyone knows that mistakes are a constant in every performance. In fact, there is no such thing as a perfect performance but only the one that is provided at a given time, an expression of personal or team limitations and how the typical as well as unforeseen obstacles present in every competition are dealt with. The relationship between performance, skill and error is investigated, in which the first factor depends on the interaction between the other two factors. To predict what the reaction to error or failure might be, it is important to know what an athlete’s motivation for skill is and what personal beliefs it is set on.

Does the athlete exhibit a growth-oriented approach to competition or has he or she developed a fixed conception of his or her sporting qualities? These two different approaches affect the reaction to an unsatisfactory performance in different ways. Those who exhibit a growth-oriented mindset are more likely to decide to try harder, spending more time and experimenting with new strategies. Athletes with a fixed conception of their mindset, on the other hand, will be more concerned about showing their shortcomings again and will engage less. Practical implications and how to orient athletes toward a growth-oriented mindset are discussed. In many cultures, there are sayings that remind us how important it is to learn how to react to negative situations and mistakes. For example, it is said, “When a door closes, a door opens,” while Americans like to repeat, “It doesn’t matter how many times you fall, but how quickly you get back up,” and the Japanese state, “Fall seven times, get up the eighth.” These statements highlight that in order to succeed, one must develop a full awareness of how frequent it is to make mistakes and how equally relevant it is to react constructively. There are no shortcuts, for mistakes cannot be eliminated; one must necessarily make mistakes, as during an obstacle course in which one is aware at all times that it is possible to make mistakes, to slow down, to make a great effort to overcome an obstacle even if one is well prepared and knows the path. Then if this is the way to go, one must prevent mistakes from becoming alibis used to confirm to oneself the impossibility of overcoming one’s current limitations, with the effect of leading to a reduction in commitment, since “There is nothing to do anyway,” or “Yes, there would be a lot to do, but I am not talented enough or I am unlucky.” It is therefore necessary to build, through daily activity, a work culture that considers error as an integral part of the improvement process.

On the other hand, sport is a context in which the presence of errors is a constant in every performance, very often even in winning ones. In  shooting, the world record, hitting 125 out of 125 has been achieved 13 times in the past 25 years. On every other occasion, shooters have always made mistakes. In the sports of body coordination in space, there are very few times when an athlete, male or female, has achieved the highest score. In basketball, Michael Jordan said, “In my life I have missed more than nine thousand shots, I have lost almost three hundred games, twenty-six times my teammates entrusted me with the decisive shot and I missed it. I failed many times. And that’s why in the end I won everything.”

Also in basketball, in the EuroLeague only 8.5 percent of players make 90 percent of free throws, 35 percent make 80 percent, 32 percent make 70 percent of attempts, and 24 percent make less than 70 percent (Cei, 2018).

In soccer, everyone misses penalties from Roberto Baggio in the ’94 World Cup final to those missed by Messi, Modric, and Ronaldo at the World Cup in Russia. Despite this data, many athletes do not accept the possibility of making mistakes, in fact sometimes they are even amazed by them, “Because everything was going so well” or “Because I felt so good that I thought I could never make a mistake,” while other times the difficulty in accepting them emerges when the athlete is in the opposite situation, whereby he or she thinks, “It couldn’t have gone worse, that mistake caught me suddenly and I didn’t know how to react, I got confused thinking about what to do differently and from there it was a downfall.”

Both of these situations, one positive and the second negative, reported by athletes quite frequently, highlight the difficulty in accepting the mistake and not having planned beforehand a way to deal with what could have negatively affected performance.