Monthly Archive for September, 2022

The Significance of Grit: A Conversation with Angela Lee Duckworth

Resilience, grit and optimism are important psychological dimensions for any athlete who wants to cultivate his or her talents.

The following are the thoughts of Angela Lee Duckworth a leading expert in this area of study.

It’s all about one specific definition of resilience, which is optimism—appraising situations without distorting them, thinking about changes that are possible to make in your life. But I’ve heard other people use resilience to mean bouncing back from adversity, cognitive or otherwise. And some people use resilient specifically to refer to kids who come from at-risk environments who thrive nevertheless.

What all those definitions of resilience have in common is the idea of a positive response to failure or adversity. Grit is related because part of what it means to be gritty is to be resilient in the face of failure or adversity. But that’s not the only trait you need to be gritty.

In the scale that we developed in research studies to measure grit, only half of the questions are about responding resiliently to situations of failure and adversity or being a hard worker. The other half of the questionnaire is about having consistent interests—focused passions—over a long time. That doesn’t have anything to do with failure and adversity. It means that you choose to do a particular thing in life and choose to give up a lot of other things in order to do it. And you stick with those interests and goals over the long term. So grit is not just having resilience in the face of failure, but also having deep commitments that you remain loyal to over many years.

One of the first studies that we did was at West Point Military Academy, which graduates about 25 percent of the officers in the U.S. Army. Admission to West Point depends heavily on the Whole Candidate Score, which includes SAT scores, class rank, demonstrated leadership ability, and physical aptitude. Even with such a rigorous admissions process, about 1 in 20 cadets drops out during the summer of training before their first academic year. We were interested in how well grit would predict who would stay.

So we had cadets take a very short grit questionnaire in the first two or three days of the summer, along with all the other psychological tests that West Point gives them. And then we waited around until the end of the summer. Of all the variables measured, grit was the best predictor of which cadets would stick around through that first difficult summer. In fact, it was a much better predictor than the Whole Candidate Score, which West Point at that time thought was their best predictor of success. The Whole Candidate Score actually had no predictive relationship with whether you would drop out that summer (although it was the best predictor of later grades, military performance, and physical performance).




Sport and physical activity in EU: new data

New Eurobarometer on sport and physical activity 2022

The updated edition of the 2022 Eurobarometer on Sport, the European Commission’s study describing the state of the art of sports practice in the various EU countries, was published on September 19. This is an important edition, the first in the post-restrictions era since Covid-19.

  1. 38 percent of Europeans engage in sports and physical activity at least once a week, compared to 17 percent who do it less than once a week.
  2. 45% of Europeans never engage in a sport and physical activity.
  3. Italy, 3% say they play sports regularly, compared to 6% in the EU. 31% play sports with some regularity and 10% say they rarely practice them. Fifty-six percent of the Italian respondents never engage in a sporting activity, compared with 45% of the EU respondents. On the other hand, 28% say they practice other physical activities with some regularity such as biking, dancing, gardening.
  4. They practice with some regularity those between the ages of 15 and 24, who account for 54 percent.
  5. Motivations in Italy: improving one’s health (48 percent), desire to feel fit (42 percent) and trying new methods of relaxation (31 percent).
  6. Obstacles: lack of time, lack of motivation or interest in sports. This figure affects 40%.
  7. Willingness to do physical activity and sports outdoors, followed by the intention to do it at home (16 percent).
  8. More than four out of ten Europeans spend between 2 hours and 31 minutes and 5 hours and 30 minutes sitting in a normal day. In Italy, sedentariness affects 42% of people surveyed.
  9. Gender: men are found to engage in physical activity more regularly than women (70% vs 62%).
  10. EU: physical inactivity rates remain “alarmingly high.” While the percentage of Europeans who never engage in physical activity or never play a sport decreased slightly between 2017 and 2022, it has increased since 2009, from 39% to 42% in 2013, 46% in 2017, and 45% in 2022.

Motivation of growth oriented young

Growth- and improvement-oriented youth prefer:

  1. To be recognized for their efforts since they are aware that the source of their success is commitment and intentional practice.
  2. Facing challenges as they provide essential feedback on their abilities and opportunity to learn.
  3. Plan, monitor and adjust their thoughts more in relation to different tasks.
  4. Be aware of what is under their direct control.

What do you do as a coach to foster the development of these attitudes and ways of experiencing sports?

Team tennis table world championships

Sorry, this entry is only available in Italiano.

The online brain effects

Firth J, Torous J, Stubbs B, Firth JA, Steiner GZ, Smith L, Alvarez-Jimenez M, Gleeson J, Vancampfort D, Armitage CJ, Sarris J. The “online brain”: how the Internet may be changing our cognition. World Psychiatry. 2019 Jun;18(2):119-129.

The impact of the Internet across multiple aspects of modern society is clear. However, the influence that it may have on our brain structure and functioning remains a central topic of investigation. Here we draw on recent psychological, psychiatric and neuroimaging findings to examine several key hypotheses on how the Internet may be changing our cognition. Specifically, we explore how unique features of the online world may be influencing:

  1. attentional capacities, as the constantly evolving stream of online information encourages our divided attention across multiple media sources, at the expense of sustained concentration;
  2. memory processes, as this vast and ubiquitous source of online information begins to shift the way we retrieve, store, and even value knowledge; and
  3. social cognition, as the ability for online social settings to resemble and evoke real-world social processes creates a new interplay between the Internet and our social lives, including our self-concepts and self-esteem.

Overall, the available evidence indicates that the Internet can produce both acute and sustained alterations in each of these areas of cognition, which may be reflected in changes in the brain. However, an emerging priority for future research is to determine the effects of extensive online media usage on cognitive development in youth, and examine how this may differ from cognitive outcomes and brain impact of uses of Internet in the elderly.

We conclude by proposing how Internet research could be integrated into broader research settings to study how this unprecedented new facet of society can affect our cognition and the brain across the life course.

Eliud Kipchoge: when dreams become records

At 38, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge took nearly a minute off his previous marathon world record with a time of 2h01m09s. He has won 15 of the 17 marathons he has run and two gold medals at the Rio and Tokyo Olympics. Married with children, the same coach all his life, if I had to use a few words to talk about him, I would say he is an athlete who is enough.

Kipchoge is truly one with what he does. He is the one who runs 230km a week, who washes his running uniform by hand in a basin, who lives in a spartan room in a sports center in Kenya, who eats traditional foods from his homeland, who reads Confucius rather than Paul Coelho, who is quiet and runs by following his inner clock that gives him the pace, who writes down in a notebook the sensations of running and how his body and mind work.

He is totally involved in what he does, even though he is a world star. Sponsors and success can easily distract anyone, pulling them away from continuing to do what it takes to achieve their dreams. These habits of his keep him connected to the pleasure of struggling and finding ways to be stronger than the struggle itself. They are the link to the heart of his motivation, which is to take pleasure in what he does and to accept for this end, to live a life in which fatigue is an ongoing and decisive experience.

The one who can make sense of personal growth out of this link between pleasure and fatigue wins.

Young with intellectual disability: the experts’ competences

A new sports season also begins for young people with intellectual disabilities. It is good to remember that too few still have access to sports programs. In relation to having them participate in team games there is still a conception that individual sports are preferable to them.

Personally I am not convinced of this idea. Since for 7 years as the Academy of Integrated Football we have been carrying out a project with AS Roma precisely aimed at teaching soccer and we have documented in several scientific papers the positive effects of this project. It seems to me, however, that a gap present in many sports programs for young people with intellectual disabilities is the reduced specific professional competences of those who work with these young people and that they may lack the skills necessary to plan and implement effective programs. Therefore, I want to report what we at the Academy of Integrated Soccer believe should be the profile of the professional involved in these activities.

  1. Specific scientific and professional skills: degree in exercise science, sports psychology, or speech therapy.
  2. Be convinced that sport is a fundamental activity for improving the psychological and social condition of children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities.
  3. Be predisposed to interaction on the field with young people, building on one’s own sports skills and/or experience gained through a sports career or movement studies.
  4. Accepting the frustrations derived from the slow improvements of these young people, always showing belief in the possibilities that they can still improve while respecting their time and problems.
  5. Being enthusiastic and dynamic are two essential psychological characteristics to be accepted by these young people and to convey the conviction that one can learn despite their limitations.
  6. To love sports since the activity in the field is quite demanding and tiring, so certainly those who play sports have more opportunities to fit in this area where the activity is for everyone organized with specific educational units for the young people to follow.
  7. Be patient and tenacious to have the willingness to repeat and then again repeat the teachings as many times as necessary without interacting in a negative, angry or disappointed way with young people, who are more than others sensitive to the emotional changes of their teachers.


Federer-Nadal last match ends with tears

Roger Federer: "Una volta rifiutai di giocare il doppio con Rafael Nadal"

Italy populations projections: fewer residents, more elderly, smaller families

Latest population projections, updated to 2021, confirm the presence of a potential crisis scenario. A decreasing population: from 59.2 million as of January 1, 2021 to 57.9 million in 2030, to 54.2 million in 2050 and to 47.7 million in 2070.

The ratio between individuals of working age (15-64 years) and not (0-14 and 65 years and over) will go from about 3 to 2 in 2021 to about 1 to 1 in 2050.

The demographic crisis of the territories: a population decline is expected in 4 out of 5 municipalities within 10 years, in 9 out of 10 in rural municipalities.

The number of families is expected to grow but with an ever smaller mean number of members. Fewer couples with children, more couples without: by 2041 only 1 in 4 families made up of a couple with children; more than 1 in 5 will be childless.

By 2050 the over-65s will account for 34.9% of the population.

Young people up to 14 years of age, will account for 11.7% by 2050.

There will be an unbalanced ratio of over65s to teens, to the extent of about three to one.

A partial rebalancing in the population structure may only reveal itself in the long term, as the generations born in the baby boom years tend to die out. Based on the median scenario, the 15-64 year olds could return to 54.3% by 2070 while the over-65s decline back to 34.1%. Stable, however, is the youth population at 11.6/.

Tennis, Badosa: +expectations = -game focus

Everything seemed all set for Paula Badosa‘s ultimate rise in the stardom of women’s tennis, but 2022, which was expected to be the year of consecration, has so far been rather disappointing (the last defeat yesterday in Tokyo against 19-year-old Qinwen Zheng of China). This is a paradox when one considers that Badosa at one point this season, precisely after the Stuttgart tournament, became world number two, a position held, however, for only two weeks. How did it get from world number two to Badosa’s now well-known tweet this morning? “I don’t even win at parchìs.” A strong statement for a tennis player who is currently ranked number eight in the world but is going through a complicated phase emotionally. The reference to parchìs is typically Spanish, a board game with dice in which four players compete to achieve a goal, very famous in Spain and with some similarities to the game of the goose. A metaphor that betrays Badosa’s frustration, who in the tweet afterwards thanked everyone for the support, adding that he will keep fighting.”

This news highlights how difficult it always is to achieve results that match the outcome standards an athlete has set for herself. At first glance these would seem to be situations more typical of a teenage age when one does not yet know one’s qualities well, but instead these are the experiences of absolute world-class athletes. In fact, The Abbess is not the only one to experience these crises just remember Osaka or the difficulties of many other top 10s.

A survey I conducted with Robert Nideffer and Jeff Bond (former director of the Australian Institute of Sport) of absolute world level athletes showed that the difference between Olympic medal winners and those who had won more, so-called, serial winners consisted essentially in the latter’s greater ability to stay focused on the task.

This result would indicate that serial winners do not get distracted by their own expectations and those of their environment, think less about the outcome, are less influenced by the external environment and instead show a total focus on performing at their best. Other investigations conducted mainly in athletics have in turn shown that for these athletes the last two hours leading up to the race are crucial in activating this attentional mode.