Monthly Archive for July, 2022

The sport psychologist of the England women football team

Quando si leggerà sul sito della Federcalcio qualcosa di simile a questo testo, relativo alla nomina di una psicologa dello sport come consulente della nazionale inglese femminile di calcio? Data l’arretratezza culturale dei nostri dirigenti e allenatori probabilmente mai!


Dr Kate Hays has been appointed England Football’s head of women’s performance psychology.
Hays joins after more than seven years in a similar role with the English Institute of Sport [EIS]. Vastly experienced in performance psychology and being part of multidisciplinary teams, she has worked across a range of different sports and supported athletes in major global events including world championships, Olympics and Paralympics – most recently at the Tokyo Games.
Her remit within the technical directorate at St. George’s Park will include working closely with elite England players in an on-camp role as a key part of head coach Sarina Wiegman’s support team.
Day to day, she will also ensure a consistent approach is introduced across all development sides within the wider commitment to strengthening the women’s player pathway.
Dr Hays said: “I’m really looking forward to joining a world class team at such an exciting time for women’s football. After speaking to Kay and Sarina at length I know that we share the same vision and values and I can’t wait to meet the players and wider staff group.”
Kay Cossington, head of women’s technical, added: “I’m delighted to welcome Kate. She is vastly experienced and will help our efforts to move to the next level of high performance. Another important aspect of her role will be developing performance psychology strategy for all of our national teams across the age groups. Kate is very passionate about making a difference and her experience will be invaluable for us.”
Sue Campbell, director of women’s football, said: “I’m pleased we have been able to bring someone of this calibre into Sarina’s team. Kate has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in this area and shares Sarina’s drive and values.
“We’re at a very exciting moment with the home EURO next summer and the start of World Cup qualifying this month. We want to strengthen across all of our teams and Kate will be invaluable in preparing our players for success.”

The patient

Cristiano Ronaldo and the rule of 30 years

To understand Cristiano Ronaldo’s choice of probably going to play for Sporting Lisbon, thus not a top team, before talking as most articles did about the player’s narcissism and his outsized ego one should have explained what the rule is that most prestigious clubs respond to. This allows one to understand how it is possible that he found himself in this situation at the age of 37.

Instead, an article in the New York Times explains this concept well, which refers to when a footballer is considered old and considers the age of 30 as a watershed between two distinct career phases.

The age of 30 has always been considered a milestone. Alex Ferguson you have soccer players over30 provided an extra day of rest. Arsène Wenger, Arsenal’s coach, once midfielders and strikers reached 32, was only willing to offer them one-year contract extensions.

In short, after the age of 30 one is officially considered old.

Of course there are exceptions, Tottenham bought 33-year-old Croatian midfielder Ivan Perisic and it was the first time since 2017 that the club took a player of this age. Liverpool has not done so since 2016. Manchester City has not paid a signing for an outside player over the age of 30 in nearly a decade. Goalkeepers, who many believe boast greater longevity, are the only players who have been granted an exception. This is because the game has become much more intense and fast-paced, and younger players are considered better equipped to handle this load than older ones.

Into this big picture comes Cristiano Ronaldo, who is 37 years old, and however much he is coached, he no longer has the characteristics that made him unique. Added to this is his lack of interest in changing roles and responsibilities within the team. As a result, the 30-year rule and his mental rigidity have prevented him from having a role in a top team among those fighting to win the Champions League. Returning to Sporting Lisbon will not be easy, however, as the team cannot be centered on Ronaldo’s play while it would be more convenient for him to mentor the players and play a role similar to Ibrahimovic’s role in AC Milan. It is a difficult operation because it would mean for him to think and act in a different way from his usual one but it is not certain, also, that it corresponds to the interests of the club and the coach. We shall see.

Pep Guardiola and team responsibility

Pep Guardiola tells his team, “You have permission to make a mistake. You have permission to lose…when you have permission, you accept. “I want the ball!”

He expresses a simple concept – you have permission to make a mistake – and when you have that permission, you have to be in the game -I want the ball – .

Wanting the ball, means “I’m here pass it to me, I’ll take responsibility for continuing the action.” Not accepting it has the opposite meaning and that is denial of the responsibility to be part of the game.

Not accepting the ball is the most serious mistake a soccer player can make. Anxiety, laziness, individualism, poor team spirit, a complaining attitude, lack of concentration or perceived excessive fatigue are at the root of this difficulty. Data tell us that most of the decisive goals are scored in the final part of games that are lost or won by the spread of one goal. This awareness on the part of the team should have as a consequence that every minute or single pass can become decisive for or against. Accepting the ball and wanting to offer it effectively to another teammate thus represents a move, which, as in a game of chess, can elicit significant positive outcomes.

This approach to the game applies to everyone, from the stars of the team to those who play less often. In the team concept everyone is important if they consistently display this behavior on the court, otherwise they are not only useless to the game but also harmful, since not accepting the ball means representing the weak side of the team on which the opposing team will insist.

Question to coaches: how do you coach this behavior?

Same concept has been expressed by Sarina Wiegman, coach of the English football team: “As I grew in my personality, I really wanted to be relaxed more. Why do players start playing football when they’re seven years old? It’s because they love the game. Yes, it’s all about winning, but you perform better when you can be yourself and when you’re in an environment – and it sounds like school – an environment where you’re safe, where you will not be judged. Because when you’re on the pitch you’re being judged all the time and that’s uncomfortable and unsafe.”

When stress is too much

The pandemic negative effects on physical activity on youth

Global Changes in Child and Adolescent Physical Activity During the COVID-19 Pandemic. A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Ross D. Neville, Kimberley D. Lakes,Will G. Hopkins, Giampiero Tarantino, Catherine E. Draper, Rosemary Beck, Sheri Madigan.
JAMA Pediatr. Published online July 11, 2022.

This meta-analysis provides timely estimates of changes in child and adolescent physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. By pooling estimates across 22 studies from a range of global settings that included 14 216 participants, we demonstrated that the duration of engagement in total daily physical activity decreased by 20%, irrespective of prepandemic baseline levels. Through moderation analysis, we showed that this reduction was larger for physical activity at higher intensities. Specifically, the average reduction in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day during COVID-19 (17 minutes) represents a reduction of almost one-third of the daily dose of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity recommended for young children (~3-5 years) and school-going children and adolescents (~5-18 years) to promote good physical health and psychosocial functioning.

We found that longer durations between pre- and post-assessment were associated with larger reductions in physical activity. It is possible that the cumulative toll of the pandemic has compounded over time to negatively affect children and adolescents,63 including their levels of physical activity. This aligns with a recent meta-analysis on youth mental health,18 which found that the prevalence of depressive and anxiety symptoms increased across time during the pandemic. The temporal aspect of our findings is also broadly in line with research on the psychology of habit,64,65 which suggests that habits are contingent on the types of stability cues that have been significantly disrupted during the pandemic. Most of the known multicomponent, family, social, and community support mechanisms of child and adolescent physical activity66 were unavailable during COVID-19. This undoubtedly created a “perfect storm” for habit discontinuity65 in the context of child and adolescent physical activity.67 Research has also shown that young children with consistent access and permission to use outdoor spaces during COVID-19 had better physical activity outcomes.50 These children exhibited smaller reductions in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and were approximately 2 times more likely to meet physical activity guidelines during COVID-19. Taken together, changes in restrictions and the unpredictability of access to typical physical activity outlets for children and adolescents have likely contributed to changes in their physical activity levels and to greater engagement in displacement activities (eg, screen time12) that risk promoting an increasingly sedentary “new normal.”68

We found that reductions in physical activity during the pandemic were larger for samples at higher latitudes, corresponding to regions of the globe where restrictions coincided with a seasonal transition into the summer months. This finding is consistent with prepandemic data showing that unstructured summer days during school holidays can have negative associations with both academic and physical health behaviors,69-71 often referred to as the “summer slide.”72 A recent estimate of such a summertime reduction of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity of 11.4 minutes69 is substantially lower (~ 50%) than the pooled estimate from our meta-analysis, however. This suggests a substantial intensification during the pandemic of the usual summer slide into physical inactivity,70 which warrants particular attention from policy makers seeking to help children “sit less and play more,”73 as targeted initiatives will be needed as children emerge into the summer months.

There is an urgent need for public health initiatives to revive young people’s interest in, and support their demand for, physical activity during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of practice implications, research on physical activity promotion and maintenance during childhood consistently shows that multicomponent, multimodal, and multioutcome interventions work best.7,66 Therefore, public health campaigns can have greater effect if they are child-centered, target a variety of physical activity modalities, and incorporate the family unit and wider community as co-constructors of lasting physical activity behavior change.

What do you want to do to win?

In tennis you start losing when the other guy gets in your head.

How do you train yourself to avoid that?

How do you train yourself to get into the other person’s head?

Write to me I can help you!

Book review: Calcio magico

Francesco Fasiolo

Calcio magico. Oracoli, rituali e scaramanzie: il paradosso dell’irrazionale nel pallone

Ultra Sport, 2022



Il tema, assolutamente inedito nel panorama editoriale sportivo/calcistico, era troppo accattivante per non parlarne. “Calcio magico” infatti parte da una considerazione tanto vera quanto illogica: in un calcio fatto, oggi come oggi, da regole di finanza, economia, tecnologia e chi più ne ha più ne metta, la scaramanzia, la superstizione, i riti propiziatori di ancestrale memoria restano comunque protagonisti alla pari di tutti gli altri fattori. Il lavoro di Fasiolo, giornalista di Repubblica, si alterna tra Europa e Sudamerica tra aneddoti gustosi e oracoli bizzarri alla ricerca del perché nel calcio ci si appelli anche, se non soprattutto, a bizzarrie simili sulla falsariga dell’italico “non è vero ma ci credo” .

Cosa c’entrano con questo mondo i maghi, gli animali indovini, gli atti di fede, i numeri sfortunati, i rimedi anti-iella, le maledizioni e i vestiti portafortuna? C’entrano eccome, perché l’irrazionale spunta da ogni angolo di questo articolato meccanismo. Ce lo ricordano il rituale degli Azzurri campioni di Europa nel 2021 (Vialli “dimenticato” sul pullman prima di ogni match) e quello della Francia campione del mondo nel ’98 (il bacio propiziatorio sulla testa di Barthez), le previsioni pubbliche del polpo Paul, infallibile oracolo degli Europei del 2008 e dei Mondiali del 2010, gli incredibili riti prepartita di campioni internazionali e le avversioni di tanti presidenti per i numeri 13 e 17. “Calcio magico” si occupa delle superstizioni “interne al sistema”, quelle dei protagonisti dello show: calciatori, allenatori e club. Una casistica variegata e curiosa, che spinge a interrogarsi sul fenomeno con un approccio antropologico: questo abbandonarsi all’illogico è una sorta di resistenza alle ragioni della modernità?

Examples of transformational leadership

In this summer period, football coaches work with a new group and act to unite them, to give each a specific role and convey the common goal to be achieved, which is something bigger than the individual dream.

There is no one way to build and lead a team. Each coach manifests a personal way of team leadership style; let’s look at some examples of absolute star coaches.

Conveying pride to players, he allows them to earn their respect in a way that increases the relevance of values. Alex Ferguson, former Manchester United coach for 27 years: “I always take a lot of pride in seeing younger players develop.”

Conveying the vision of where the group is going motivates the players and encourages them to accept challenges and is a way to foster optimism and enthusiasm. Pep Guardiola, coach of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City: “I don’t want everyone trying to dribble like Leo Messi, you have to pass the ball, pass it and pass it again … Pass, move well, pass again, pass, pass, and pass … I want every move to be smart, every pass precise, that’s how we make the difference from the rest of the teams, that’s all I want to see.”

Encourage problem solving through new and creative strategies. Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool coach: “Playing unforgettable games, being curious and looking forward to the next game to see what will happen, and that’s what soccer should be about. If you make this attitude your own, you will be 100 percent successful.”

Recognize everyone’s commitment and needs within the group through empathy, listening, compassion and the coaching process. José Mourinho, coach Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Roma: “There are many ways to become a great manager … but above all I think the most difficult thing is to lead men with different cultures, brains and qualities.” At Inter he granted a vacation to Wesley Sneijder, who was exhausted. “All the other coaches only talked about training,” Sneijder said. “He sent me to the beach. So I went to Ibiza for three days. When I came back, I was willing to kill and die for him.”

Change your thoughts and you will change your world

Norman Vincent Peale once wrote, “Change your thoughts and you will change your world.” As human beings, and in our case as athletes and coaches, we all have something in common: we are constantly making small decisions about how to respond to what happens in training and competition.

However, we have to get used to the fact that we cannot control everything and that it is not enough to decide to compete at our best, because there are also opponents who have the same goal and challenge us. So the external environment whether it is an opponent, the fans or the weather conditions are constantly testing us.

Of course we also make bad choices but we forget about it too often and like to remember only the correct choices

It is hard to admit that we are actually only as good as our last worst performance. As Djokovic often acknowledges so his goal is to minimize the difference between his best and worst performance. If the difference son in a handful of points one must understand that sports performance is but an endless series of small decisions, details, actions and thoughts. However, the consequences are far-reaching.”

With this kind of awareness, we must take responsibility for our choices and assume accountability.

In daily practice, it then becomes necessary to become aware of the decisions we make in competition, and to train ourselves to recognize the positive and negative ones in order to improve in the following competitions.