Monthly Archive for November, 2022

10 rules to lead the competitive pressure

Too often the competitive pressure is the leading cause of poor performances if  compared to the training standards. How could this happen?
It happens because athletes or teams are not able to handle some of the main factors of a race.  They re the following.
  1. Uncertainty - Sport is a typical situation of uncertainty in which only one win, it must know how to accept this condition and live it with determination.
  2. Expectations - The higher the skill level, the higher the expectations, that instead during the competition should be set aside to focus only on the present, forgetting the future represented by the final result.
  3. Time - Every race is marked by time, that must be managed while maintaining the proper timing for each action without fear and without slowing down and speeding to excess of impatience.
  4. Change - The race is a situation in which the changes take place continuously and often without warning,  the competitors have to accept mistakes and be able to adapt flexibly to what is happening.
  5. Visibility - The competition is a public social comparison, each one shows him/herself in the game.
  6. Control - The athletes must know what they can control and what depends to a lesser extent by their behaviors. Certainly can control the effectiveness of their sport performance. They can not however determine the outcome, which depends instead by the interaction with the opponent.
  7. Choices - The race is a continuous situation of choice in relation to the strategy to be used, the shot to perform, the behavioral management. Choose is an ongoing task and the athlete must be trained to do it.
  8. Compete - Sport is not an aesthetic activity, consists of a constant confront with opponents, the start and the end are not decided by the athletes. They must be available to provide the optimal performance by accepting these conditions and rules that are a guarantee of equal opportunities for comparison.
  9. Ourselves - Athlete and team should be the main supporters of themselves, while they are often the cause of their problems. They become impatient, insecure, very little constructive, paralyze by analysis or  overly impulsive.
  10. Motivation - It ‘s the foundation of everything. The situations and the others can provide good reasons to commit at the best, but no one can motivate another person. The motivation stems from the belief that it improves thanks to our commitment.

Soccer: sport of champions or team sport

So many people write about soccer in these days of the World Cup in Qatar looking for outstanding actions. It seems to me that we often talk more about individuals, even if they are champions, rather than teams. One reads that Ronaldo is old but luckily there are others scoring instead of him, of Mbappé has already won everything at his age, one wonders if Messi will take Argentina on his shoulders.

Few words have been spent about teams, what makes them strong and what makes them weak. It is often said that 11 champions do not make a team but then in the comments the opposite is shown and it is claimed that without champions you cannot win. Boniperti, former Juventus president, was certainly right in saying that the only thing that matters is winning. However, if you live the match with this mentality you care too much about the final result and you risk losing the path it takes to achieve that result. I would like to read comments on the matches at this World Cup talking about the road a team took in the match to win and not just about the beautiful play and player’s amazing shot. About how teams show unity on the field.

Above all, of how teams fight and show that they never give up not only to the opponents but also to the negative momentum that there are in every game, how they go from negative momentum to positive ones, from phases when they suffer to phases when they are proactive.

Otherwise it is just reporting.

Referees: 140 decisioni every match

When we talk about referees we usually do not think about the many decisions they have to make during a game, there are about 140 that out of 95 minutes of play correspond to more than one decision per minute.

In this regard the referee experiences the same condition as the footballer, who equally has to make many decisions, with the difference the effort is decided by the coach and the team implements it with appropriate variations due to what happens on the field. The referee performs the same performance, making decisions according to what happens, but he does not train during the week to live these moments.

We have only physical part about the training session because we only have a physical training session. We have schedules for that. But for mental preparation we have…alone preparation…private preparation because every referee decides with himself (sic) if (they) do this type of mental preparation or not. For example, I work with many, many hours with this in the past because I think it is very important. When you prepare very well it is very important.”

Despite officials recognising psychological training as a valuable and ‘key aspect’ of their performance, it was apparent that it receives less attention than other aspects of performance. While the range of psychological skills training is broad, psychological training in referees should extend beyond the traditional ‘canon’ of psychological skills training in sport, identified as relaxation, self-talk, imagery, goal setting and concentration (Anderson, 2009). For instance, concepts couched within social psychology such as group process have been identified as beneficial to sports officials (Hancock et al., 2018). Specifically, when asked if psychological training should be mandatory for officials, Frank replied: “It should be…I hope in the future they introduce this type of person [psychologists] because I think it’s one of the secrets of a referee to have a freedom of worry.”

Naturalmente, in Italia siamo lontani anche dalla classica preparazione psicologica degli arbitri che è lasciata completamente sulle loro spalle.

A chi vuole approfondire suggerisco di leggere il seguente articolo dove sono discussi questi aspetti:

Carrington, S.C., North, J.S., Brady, A. (2022). Utilising experiential knowledge of elite match officials: Recommendations to improve practice design for football referees. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 53(3), 242-266.

Omar Di Felice ultracycling man

Omar Di Felice, having already achieved some extreme adventures in the Arctic environment (Canada and North Cape in 2018, Alaska and Iceland in 2019, Gobi Desert in 2020 and Everest in 2021), now faces an exceptional feat: He will travel, riding his bicycle, over 4,000 kilometers, in temperatures below -30 degrees, starting from Kamchatka, passing through the Lapland region (Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Norway), Svalbard Islands, and Iceland, and finally landing in Greenland, Canada, and Alaska, pushing all the way across the demarcation line of the Arctic Circle, amid spectacular scenery and polar bears. This is not only a sporting and human adventure of great complexity: this journey, which is part of the Bike to 1.5°C project, launched on the occasion of COP26, the famous climate conference being held in Glasgow, aims to make the Arctic closer, more accessible, so that its fragilities can be probed and everyone can be made aware of the environmental crisis. Now is the time to find the strength to take that damn first step.

On November 23, he wrote this on instagram, to describe the positive value of fear.

It’s time to find the strength to take that damned first step.

Fear, with doubts, words, eyes that fall on every detail that you think and believe you haven’t taken care enough, the words of those here at the base camp who tell you “be careful” and of those who tell you that particular you could have been treated better.

The stress of a year spent working without ever stopping: no space for enthusiasm now but only an inner brake that tells me “you’re not ready”.
Admitting your fears is not a sign of weakness. It can’t be. It never was and it helped me get out of every negative situation.

I’m trying to understand how physiological is, considering the size of what I’m trying to do or at the opposite, the clear sign that it’s not yet time to take that damned first step.

Follow me on @endu_sport  Map >

Referees’ skills and mistakes

The not said rules of the referee job

Referee work is subject to rules that have been changed during this World Cup, I am referring to the length of recovery issues but there are other unwritten ones from the world of soccer that tend to keep the perception that fans and the wider public manifest towards this activity at an alert level at all times: These rules can be defined as follows:

  • Since the dawn of sports, it has been a social phenomenon in which there has always been a symbiosis between athletic performance and spectators, and it should be remembered that the earliest known events date back to 5,220 BC. It means that spectators have always sided with the athletes competing by dividing into factions.
  • Soccer is a ritualized version of hunting, where the players are the hunters, the weapon is the ball, the prey is the goal, and the referee is the tribal judge over whom no one can interfere when making a decision.
  • A referee’s decision in favor of one team is against the interests of the other. Every time the referee communicates a decision, half the players, the coach and the spectators feel some form of disappointment. This is at every level the nature of competitive soccer.
  • Players’ reactions to the award of a decision that is bad for them are significantly influenced by the communication style that the referee displays in that situation
  • The public’s and soccer players’ perception of the fairness of the referee’s actions is extremely important, however, in soccer this type of perception is just as strongly influenced by expectations of the referee, e.g., knowing that he is a referee who never gives a penalty against the home team in the last five minutes of the game.
  • The perceived fairness of the referee depends on how soccer players evaluate his level of competence, independence of judgment, and respect toward teams.

Qatar 2022: the big extra times don’t help the players

The big extra times being given by referees at the World Cup in Qatar are not good for the players. National team champions should have been trained for this, instead the new method was improvised. Corriere della Sera writes this in a piece by Paolo Casarin, who interviews Alberto Cei, professor of psychology at the University of Tor Vergata and S. Raffaele in Rome. Cei explains it very clearly: players are used to playing within a certain time frame. The uncertainty about recovery, the lengthening of playing time, puts a strain on their physical and mental resilience. It’s like a runner training to run 5,000 meters and then finding out that he has to cover twice as much. Footballers, in short, should have been prepared for the novelty with specific training.

“The main players in games are the footballers, and in them the certainty of the start and end of the game determines, over the years, the construction of a mentality that enables them to be ready for the referee’s whistle. The mental schemes of the footballers include not only “what to do” but also “when to do” within a defined time period of 90 minutes to which are added, for many years, about 5 minutes of recovery time. Everything in the lives of soccer players is organized to enable them to express themselves at their best during this time period, which is experienced with great mental stress in important matches such as those of a World Cup. The abnormal lengthening of the recovery time that has never been experienced in the leagues puts a strain on the physical and mental resilience of teams. It is as if a runner trained to run the 5,000 discovers at the World Cup that the distance has been lengthened by 1,000 meters. Whatever the reason for introducing it, it had to be agreed upon with those who produce the performance, the soccer players, who should have had time to train to play with this new procedure.”

Concentration and self-talk in football

We will talk about two main skills the players need to show during Qatar 2022.

Concentration is one of the key factors underlying elite performance. Vernacchia (2003) defined concentration as ‘the ability to perform with a clear and present focus’ (p. 144). Concentration therefore entails the capacity to focus attention on the task at hand. This means that to be successful in competitive situations athletes must be able to learn how to focus attention and control thoughts.

As former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar noted on the importance of concentration in football:

“Concentration is big part of being a footballer,”  “Everything you do during the day is centered around being able to focus for those 90 minutes during a game. But the moment you are tired, your concentration levels start to slip.”

According to Van der Sar then elite performance requires that athletes do not react to potential distractions. These distractions can be external or internal. External distractions can be visual or auditory, and may include other competitors, spectators, and media. Internal distractions may include negative self-talk, fatigue, and emotional arousal.

Elite performance therefore can only meaningfully occur when athletes (at minimum) voluntarily concentrate on the cues in their environment to pursue an action that is within their ability and are at the same time able to avoid potential distractions (Smith, 2003).

However, concentration (and the capacity to voluntarily avoid potential distractions) are not the only crucial factors affecting elite performance. Self-talk is another crucial factor. Hardy, Hall, and Hardy (2005) defined self-talk as a “multidimensional phenomenon concerned with athletes’ verbalizations that are addressed to themselves” (p. 905)’ and subsequently (Hardy, 2006) as ‘verbalizations or statements addressed to the self…serving at least two functions; instructional and motivational’ (p. 82).

More recently, Van Raalte, Vincent, and Brewer (2016) provided a definition that emphasizes the linguistic features of self-talk. According to them, self-talk is ‘the syntactically recognizable articulation of an internal position that can be expressed internally or out loud, where the sender of the message is also the intended receiver’ (p. 141). The addition of the term ‘syntactically recognizable’ is of particular importance since it distinguishes self-talk from other verbalizations (such as shouts of frustration like aaahhhh!), self-statements made through gestures, and self-statements made outside of the context of formal language. Defining self-talk as an ‘articulation of an internal position’ also contributes to anchor its meaning within the individual and places the origin of self-talk in consciousness and information processing.

The fundamental psychological skills

Identifying basic psychological skills is a daunting task that only a few researchers have approached. Research results on this topic are scarce, and there is not complete agreement on what basic psychological skills are.

Based on this analysis, I decided to establish an a priori criterion that would allow their identification. The criterion adopted is that the basic skills to be developed are those that have the widest scope of application during sporting activity regardless of the sport practiced and the level of mastery of the athlete, and that can be learned and improved during that stage of development called “training to train.” There are four psychological skills chosen and they concern: self-control, mental imagination, talking to oneself and learning from experience. They can be considered fundamental skills since they enable the young person to experience training in a conscious and positive way.


Abilità psicologiche di base

Vealey (1988) Volontà, consapevolezza di sé, autostima e fiducia
Hardy, Graham e Gould (1996) Goal setting, rilassamento, immaginazione mentale e dialogo con se stessi
Durand-Bush, Salmela e Green-Deemers (2001) Goal setting, impegno e fiducia
Ricvald, e Peterson (2003) Impegno e dedizione
Weinberg e Gould (2007) Regolazione dell’attivazione, immaginazione mentale, goal setting e concentrazione.


The acquisition of these skills is analogous, for example, to knowledge of a foreign language, which can also be prefigured as a basic skill that expands opportunities for communication and understanding of the world regardless of the domain in which the individual will apply it. The choice to identify these four psychological skills as basic factors is largely coincident with what has been proposed by Hardy, Graham and Gould (1996) from which it differs in that it does not consider goal setting but rather the ability to learn from experience as a priority competence. The choice to introduce another competency is due to the reason that the skills proposed here are to be acquired in an age range corresponding to late childhood and early adolescence, years in which understanding the value of experience is basic to being aware of the quality of one’s engagement and how one learns. Further supporting this are the numerous data showing that underlying the belief that one knows how to cope with sporting situations is the evaluation of one’s past experiences in relation to that task.