Monthly Archive for October, 2022

Tennis requires a strong self-control

Knowing more and more tennis I am convinced this sport is one of the most devastating in terms of mental health. It is not a coincidence that the concept of “Killer Instinct” has been conceived by a tennis coach just to emphasize the need to play with the aim of annihilating the opponent. For these reasons in the staff of the best tennis schools, like that of Nick Bollettieri or Chris Evert,  there are also sport psychologists who deal of mental training of the players. The reasons for this are many and can be summarized as follows:

  1. Tennis is a sport where at the end of each game the we win/lose one point
  2. Be competitive means to be able to continuously support our play regardless of the outcome
  3. Losing a series of points consecutively tests the ability to react to this frustration with renewed conviction towards ourselves
  4. We have to keep our time-playing, without wanting to immediately finish the exchange with a winning-shot
  5. We need to have an effective routine between a game and another that allows us to stay focused on the start of the next one.
  6. We need to be able to have a positive self-talk throughout the game
  7. We need to remember that we have to play at our best of this moment without to overdo
  8. We must continually put into practice the mental skills that we have trained (mental rehearsal, breathing, fighting, tactical thinking)

I am convinced that if  the players will train these needs more and more athletes / and will reach the satisfaction and success to which they aspire.

Self-talk in football

Continuous mistakes in the soccer league, from Bentancur’s against Porto to Sassuolo- Napoli highlight that many players probably do not have a self-talk that gives them instructions on how to play at certain times and that supports their toughenss to continue to strive at the best. These are big mistakes that crack any tactical idea of a team and of whose importance I don’t think teams and coaches are fully aware and acting to change. Here are some scientific facts that demonstrate their importance in soccer.

Self-talk may affect sport performance. There is positive correlation between performance enhancement, positive self-talk (which boosts confidence and belief in one’s ability), and instructional self-talk (which diverts the focus of attention on to certain elements of a movement to increase attentional focus, thereby helping execution).

Daftari, Fauzee, and Akbari (2010) examined the perceived positive and negative effects of self-talk on football performance on Iranian elite-level football players (members of the national team). The participants of this study were 25 Iranian male professional footballers (mean age 27 years). The results demonstrated that the perceived effects of self-talk on professional footballers in real performance contexts can be categorized in two main categories: positive and negative.

Positive effects comprised more than 80% of the perceived effects of self-talk, while negative effects comprised less than 20% of the responses. The three most cited positive effects of self-talk were:

  • “It enhances coordination with teammates (15.6%)”
  • “It enhances focus and attention (12.5%)”
  • “It promotes decision making skills (11.4%)”

The results indicate that the perceived effects of self-talk among these participants were to:

  • Increase players’ coordination through mental rehearsal of critical situations
  • Enhance athletes’ concentration and sharpen the accuracy of their movements
  • Boost their ability to make correct decision with precision in the shortest time
(Source: Farina e Cei, 2019)

Good happiness to everyone

How to increase our scientific and professional knowledge

Suggestions for young psychologists or exercise science graduates, students in these disciplines, and, above all, for thesis students. Of course, it also applies to anyone who wants to deepen their knowledge in these scientific and professional fields.

Look for what you want to know by making use of which allows you to find the main scientific references related to topics of interest to you.

It is clear that you need to know English.

To search, write down the keywords that relate to the topic you are seeking information about.

For example, do you want to know more about performance anxiety in soccer? Type in: anxiety performance football players

You will find this page:

At this point, you have the authors and titles of the articles, of all of them you have the summary but only of some you have the full text, which you can download by clicking on what is written all on the right. For example of the first article you find this link: [HTML] by clicking you will find the article.

If you want to search for similar articles, under the name of the article it says: related articles on just click.

If you want to search for a review of the literature published on this topic, you can add to the keywords: review

In this case, the second article cited is consistent with this query: Determinants of anxiety in elite athletes: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Teaching: Using the resource of time and without any financial outlay, it is possible to acquire the most up-to-date knowledge on a topic of our interest.

You will then have a way to understand whether what you read on the web, in the various blogs you consult, are comments based on scientific evidence or are just opinions of the writer.

The anarchic style of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia

The whole world is talking about Khvicha Kvaratskhelia from the New York Times to his coach Luciano Spalletti to Del Piero and Arrigo Sacchi. He is a young Georgian soccer player who is described in the NY Times article as follows, “His anarchic style has taken Italian soccer by storm, turning Napoli into a title contender. More important, he has made soccer fun again.”

This is something very different from the classic player that is theorized by soccer schools in which other factors prevail and certainly not anarchic style and fun. There are certainly other soccer players who are technically more gifted, but he is better. Thus we return to the accustomed reasoning, you need technique and quickness but it is instinct and unpredictability that make a player great. In this can be summed up the importance of a style defined as anarchic. It does not correspond to doing what is on one’s mind at that moment or acting without thinking as an impulsive soccer player would. Kvaratskhelia, on the contrary, puts his instincts at the service of technique. Basically, he understands before others what needs to be done and does it by making use of his qualities.

Playing with this high level of intensity and mental participation is exciting and rewarding, especially because the results prove him right and thus this increases his personal conviction to continue in this way. In this way he has built a virtuous circle in which speed and technique serve his equally fast decision-making ability, and this allows him “not to worry if something doesn’t work. He doesn’t think about the negative consequences. This is true for many attacking players. They are bold. They are bold. They are a little bit anarchic,” as explained by Andrés Carrasco, Spanish youth development manager at Dinamo Tbilisi, the club that discovered Kvaratskhelia.

Cancelled at Russia another gold of London 2012

Six gold medals won at the London Olympics n2l 2012 cleared in athletics to Russia. It had won 82 medals with 24 golds, while it dropped to 68 today, with 19 golds, 21 silvers and 28 bronzes, according to the IOC website. It was just a few days ago that Nataliya Antyukh, who was also found positive, was excluded from gold, years later thanks to the use of new technologies. Of course, athletes from other nations have also been found out, but lawyer Richard McLaren’s report in 2016 described what happened in Russia as a “sophisticated state-sponsored doping system.”

Unfortunately, the history of sports has constantly been shot through with the problem of doping, often promoted and organized by a state. The earliest known example of this approach was that carried out by East Germany beginning in the 1970s, which I quote taking it from my book devoted to cheating in the financial and sports worlds.

“Further confirmation of the relevance of this sociological level is provided in sports by what has been called “state doping.” What happened in the German Democratic Republic from the 1970s onwards represents a typical form of implementation of a fraud, with social-political significance, decided on from the top of the state and pursued in a rational and mass manner on all high-level sportsmen and young people who showed good ability to succeed. In the following years this choice was rewarded with excellent sports results. In this case, doping substances used by athletes, as well as false accounting, cannot be defined in terms of negative deviance, which involves the rejection of the norms of the sporting and economic worlds. It is a deviance that does not reject but totally and conformistically adheres to the key values of success, victory, gain, social status and popularity. The deception was pursued in a scientific manner, as in East Germany in 1974 politicians were faced with a dilemma that they had to quickly solve: to win, androgenic hormones had to be used, but at the same time, like most other nations, German Democratic Germany also officially denied the use of these practices, claiming instead that it wanted to fight them. Therefore, a general, centrally organized strategy was devised to ensure the efficient development of hormone doping and systems to conceal it. Given its political importance, the decision was made by the Central Committee of the Socialist Party, and the final decision, classified as Top Secret, was approved on October 23, 1974 by the High-Performance Sports Commission (Franke and Berenonk, 1997). This 1974 document argued that the administration to males and females of doping substances, and in particular the administration of androgenic steroids, should be:

  • an integral part of the training process and preparation for major international competitions;
  • centrally organized, including regular evaluations of the results obtained and experiences made by sports physicians;
  • further developed and optimized by the research carried out on doping in high-performance sports, with special emphasis on the development of new substances and the best methods of administration;
  • taught to sports physicians and coaches through special courses and documents;
  • carried out in total secrecy and classified as an official state secret (Franke and Berenonk, 1997).”
Nothing has changed since those years, except that doping-based cheating has become more difficult to detect and as can be seen is only discovered many years later due to the development of new technologies.

Back to shotgun

There are some days that I enjoy, today’s was one of them. I was in Rome at a shooting range to work with a 14-year-old boy together with the coach of the Fiamme Oro, Pierluigi Pescosolido. Few people know that I have been working with shooting since 1995, and since those days with Italian athletes and with many national teams from other countries. The pandemic had stopped my involvement with shooting. It is good to come back to meet colleagues, friends. with whom one has worked, as in the case of the Fiamme Oro coaches, for twenty years. I know every sigh that a shooter makes when he/she is on the platform, and it is certainly the sport in which I have achieved the most recognition and results in my professional career.

The issue is that in Italy there is no room for this mental work in shooting and it is no coincidence that since 2008 I have always worked with foreign national teams and individually with some of the strongest Italian shooters in the world, such as Giovanni Pellielo and Francesco D’Aniello. On the other hand, coaches live the same situation and the best ones work with foreign national teams. There is a lack of sport culture to develop top level athletes, it is an expensive sport totally on the shoulders of families and with few coaches able to propose programs of excellence.

Top-level sport requires investment in professionals and, at least, shooting so far has not taken this path.

Football for children with severe autism

Cei, A., Sepio, D. (2022). A case study of psychological empowerment of three children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) through football coaching. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 53(3), 281-302.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that appears during the first three years of life and is characterized by communication prob- lems, deficits in social interaction, and repetitive and restricted interests and be- haviors. Although sport provides an opportunity to promote the psychosocial and motor development of people with intellectual disabilities, few investigations have been conducted to identify the most suitable training method for children with ASD (Bremer et al., 2016).

The aim of this research was to study the psychologi- cal and motor development of three children with severe ASD. The children were placed in a sports programme called “Football Together”, which lasted 8 months and included two weekly training sessions. The development of the participants’ psychosocial and interpersonal skills was assessed through semi-structured inter- views with the parents before and after the entire period of activity. It was also assessed through systematic observation of the children’s behaviour during train- ing by a sports psychologist throughout the programme. The three children im- proved their motor and interpersonal skills through the training programme.

The training model and evaluation methods revealed the key role played by the sport and football in the motor and psychosocial development of children with ASD.

Do unregulated psychologists pose a problem for English football?

I gladly post this article by John Nassoori on the role of mental coaches in contrast to that of sports psychologists in English soccer and rugby.

What does a ‘mind coach’ do? It’s a question that was raised in June, when Bath Rugby Club announced that Don Macpherson – known as the ‘Monkey Whisperer’, according to Macpherson’s website – had joined their management team.

The appointment sparked something of a social media backlash, with a number of psychologists questioning Bath’s decision to appoint someone who, at the time of writing, is not listed on the UK’s Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) register. You can get a flavour of the response to the club’s announcement from the tweets below:

The posts provide a snapshot of a view long held by accredited psychologists. The British Psychological Society’s Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology has received anecdotal feedback from members who “are very unhappy there is not more regulation.”

According to one psychologist I spoke to – who has worked with footballers that have received unregulated psychological support – the impact of an intervention by an individual not listed on the HCPC register can be profound. Indeed, the practitioner I discussed the matter with said they believed the experience had made players wary of seeking further mental health support.

It’s worth saying at this point that there were some prominent supporters of Macpherson’s appointment (and that the intention of this article is to shed light on an industry issue, rather than focus on a specific appointment). Indeed, current and former England internationals tweeted their appreciation of the news:

So, do unregulated psychologists pose a problem for English football? Well, before answering the question, it’s probably prudent to point out that this debate is only made possible by the paucity of regulation governing psychology provision across the domestic game.

English clubs with Category One Academies are required to employ a full-time psychologist either on the HCPC register or on one of the ‘approved training routes’ (overseen by The British Association of Sports and Exercise Sciences (BASES) and the British Psychological Society) to support young players.

But Wycombe assistant manager Richard Dobson, who, in 2012, established an academy psychology programme described as the ‘biggest in Europe’ by the FA’s former Head of Psychology, believes the rules provide too much leeway for top clubs.

“What I’m seeing now is a lot of people that are recently qualified from university going into jobs at clubs to tick boxes, because the Elite Player Performance Plan says you have to have a psychologist,” he said, speaking to The Football Psychology Show in September 2021.

Dobson also criticised the salaries offered to psychologists employed as a result of EPPP regulations.

“So, they (the clubs) go, ‘Well, we’ve we bought one in – although we are paying them peanuts – but we’ve got one, so we are doing psychology now’, but they’re not. It’s not as simple as that. You have to understand psychology at a far deeper level.”

“Clubs are playing at psychology” Wycombe assistant manager Richard Dobson with some strong words on the ‘box-ticking’ approach he believes some clubs are employing to meet Elite Player Performance Plan requirements

Perhaps of even greater concern is the regulation – or lack thereof – governing psychology provision at first-team level. There is currently no stipulation for Premier League or Football League teams to hire an accredited psychologist when enlisting support for their senior players.

“It’s often less about your qualification and more about who you know,” said Kristin McGinty-Minister, who I spoke to in 2021, after she’d finished a 12-month placement as a trainee psychologist for a Championship club.

“Of course, every industry has a bit of that going on, but it’s important that doesn’t happen in psychology. Everything that we’ve seen over the past year demonstrates that.

“But there are some people making industry-standard (pay), who don’t have the right training. There are a lot of ‘mental coaches’, who go into clubs, receive paycheques and don’t do a great job because they’re not exactly sure what they’re doing. That then makes sports psychologists look like they don’t know what they’re doing because there’s not a lot of education about who does what.”

McGinty-Minister’s concerns were echoed by Bob McCunn, Hearts’ Head of Performance, who also stressed that clubs are sometimes ill-prepared to recruit accredited psychologists.

“There are many people, including those recruiting psychologists, who probably don’t know that ‘sport and exercise psychologist’ is a protected title or that there is an accreditation pathway, which is very frustrating because there are lots of people out there who aren’t qualified, but who will try and work in this space,” said McCunn, speaking in late 2021.

“I think if there is a pathway to becoming chartered and someone just chooses not to do it and tries to get into the industry anyway, it’s not good enough, in my opinion.”

What is the best time for retirement for a champion?

This afternoon on Rai2 Dribbling sports to talk about what is the best time to delay for a champion. Starting with Federer and Nadal, they then talked about the contrary choice of Buffon and the psychological problems of Ronaldo the Brazilian phenomenon and Federica Pellegrini and Cristiano Ronaldo’s difficulties in adapting even to the decisions of the Manchester Utd coach.