Monthly Archive for January, 2023

Serie A: what is happening

At the moment in the Serie A championship there is no opponent capable of creating problems for Napoli. Beyond the merits of this team, the other main pretenders to the Scudetto have sunk on their own for many reasons although at least one seems to me to unite them. It is the attitude with which they take the field and the conviction they show in their qualities. Milan, Inter and Juventus, to name the most important ones, have not shown this kind of psychological maturity on the field. Add to that Paolo Maldini’s statement when he said that these players still need to be trained and I think it does not only apply to the team. That said, I would not put the responsibility for this mentality only on the players but I would share it with the coaches and the other main figures in the teams. Because values based on work culture should be widely present and distributed in the club. I believe that the near absence of this approach in the teams shows what importance these clubs attach in daily practice to the mental component of performance, in words a lot but in practice almost zero. Otherwise there would be no explanation for performances that in terms of motivation will not even be acceptable from 14-year-olds. To this can be added the specifics of each (injuries, post-World Cup fatigue and psychological problems) or club problems (see Juventus or financial problems). Is it possible that, to name just a few, Juve’s Paredes, Milan’s Leao, and Inter Milan’s Lukaku are so psychologically upset that they cannot do their jobs effectively? We always talk about forms and never about people; someone asked them, “What do you lack?” What do coaches lack to succeed in this endeavor?

Below I describe some dimensions that relate to absolute level performance maybe someone will read it and start thinking about it.

Peak performance is an episode of superior functioning resulting in optimal performance outcomes that exceeded prior standards of performance.
Description of the Peak Performance Experience - being confident, focused, and in control; maintaining present moment thinking; and having a clear mind were identified as elements of the peak performance experience.
Factors That Contribute to Achieving Peak Performance - preparation training, experience psychological skills, resilience, competition planning, coach and athlete relationship
Psychological Strategies Used to Achieve Peak Performance - competition routine, Focus on task thought, control anxiety management, maximize preparation stress management, focus on self Competition plan,  Take control communication

Maybe Esther: a family story of 20th-century Europe

Cherr Offizehr, cominciò babuska con la sua inconfondibile pronuncia aspirata e in una lingua ibrida, ma convinta di parlare tedesco, signor ufficiale, sia così gentile, mi dica che cosa devo fare? Ho visto gli avvisi con le instruktzies per gli ebrei , ma fatico a camminare, non riesco a camminare così svelta. Le risposero con una rivoltellata: la noncuranza d’un atto di routine – senza interrompere la conversazione, senza voltarsi del tutto, così incidentalmente. Oppure non, no. Magari lei aveva chiesto: Sia gentile, Cherr Offizehr, potrebbe dirmi per cortesia come si arriva a Babij Jar? Una richiesta davvero seccante. Chi mai ha voglia di rispondere a domande così stupide?”.

(Source: MaybeEsther, by Katia Petrowskaja)

(I did not translate the text do not ruin it with my words)

Maybe Esther: A Family Story: Petrowskaja, Katja, Frisch, Shelley:  9780062337542: Books

The day of the memory

A book for the day of the memory: La piuma del Ghetto by Antonello Capurso

The story of Leone Èfrati, Jew, boxing champion and partisan.


Paolo Maldini: we have to create the players

I have always admired Paolo Maldini not only because he was a champion in soccer but also for his way of expressing his ideas clearly, directly, and in a calm manner. His leadership is competent and unquestioned. He seems to be able to make you feel wrong even with just a smile. Even now when talking about Milan’s crisis, he has wanted to recall the goals that Milan achieved last year, goals that it has not achieved since several years. It is not a way to hide the present but to keep alive the memory of the past of a few months ago, declaring it to a sports and media world that has exasperated if it is still possible the value of the present that crushes all other evaluations.

Maldini ended his assessment of Milan with a sentence that should give pause for thought: “we can no longer take already formed champions, but we have to create them.” If this concept were to be put into practice, soccer would change. It means that the much-vaunted Leao, De Keteleare, and the many who are in every team are probably not even very good footballers but must be trained. So the clubs pay million-euros salaries for young people to be trained. Hence the question: are you sure there is not a better way to invest the limited economic resources? Have you studied alternative plans to buying young people who require expensive investments but are still immature to play at a high level?

And then who should train these youngsters-costly, only the first team manager or should they have assistants who arrange hours, beyond practice with the team, to reduce their limits including mental limits. To my knowledge there is no such approach, their development is left in the hands of the manager who is coaching talented players who have little ability to think on the pitch, have little developed sense of team, and are aware that even if they fail on that team they will find another one to play on and continue to make a lot of money. With this approach, thinking, making sacrifices, and striving to improve become tasks that are meaningless because they will always have a place on some team.

Inter: its leadership problems

Inter’s march in this sports season has characteristics that deserve psychological evaluation. It has won 12 matches but lost 6 and drawn only 1. These data seem to highlight an unbalanced team mentality between winning or losing. An aspect that was not present last year, in contrast, in which the draws were as numerous as those of the other top six teams. Another aspect highlighted after the resumption of the championship is that after important winning performances against Napoli and the final against Milan two defeats against lower level teams occurred. Finally, the Skriniar issue. How was it possible for the team captain to be sent off for two serious fouls? Not to mention the difficulties Lukaku continues to show on the pitch.

It seems to me that these data highlight the lack of continuity in the quality of effort, which in my opinion for any team should constitute the true 12th player on the pitch and which many summarize with the words “collective strength.” The sources of this trait lie in the role played by the coach, who must be adept in his daily work at leading interpersonal relationships among the players and getting them to recognize how mutual support is critical to success.

However, the strength of the collective also lies in having player-leaders. Joachim Low who led Germany for many years winning the World Cup in 2014 was talking about this when he said: “Leading athletes have always been necessary. Without leading athletes you cannot be successful.” This is the kind of leadership that needs to be shared among some players in the team. These are players who through their role as captain or for other reasons influence the players as a whole to strive their best to achieve the common goal.

This leadership style currently seems to be lacking at Inter motivated to play their best only with great teams and not with others. Against these, however, the weaknesses of an uncohesive collective to pursue the long-term goal represented by fighting to win the championship emerge.

The Mobility Pyramid

The #Mobility Pyramid, we cannot share it often enough.  Let’s spread the Mobility Pyramid.

We do walk, bike and stroll with friends.

As is instead the reality.




Understanding today’s leaders and their ethical deficiency to understand Umberto Agnelli’s role

To try to understand the goals and conducted actions of a global leader such as Umberto Agnelli, president of Juventus and a member of a family that has made the history of Italy, it seems important to me to understand what the characteristics of the global leader are today.

The role of the global manager that has emerged in recent years identifies an individual who has trained and worked in different countries, expresses himself in multiple languages, has a sense of urgency responsibility, transparency in relationships, and is open-minded. He or she is independent but must also listen and know how to collaborate.

Note how none of the descriptions given hint at the ethical issue at all, and one should not be misled by the term responsibility; by this term we refer exclusively to that which is owed in regard to the interests of the company. Now if young potential leaders have these characteristics, how are established leaders describable?

One of the most suggestive interpretations has been formulated by Michael Maccoby, according to whom there is something new and reckless about the entrepreneurs and top managers who lead major multinational corporations today. They possess competency profiles of absolute value derived from the greater significance that the world of work plays in every individual’s daily life and the changes taking place in business, which require individuals who can provide strategic visions and can convey charismatic leadership. These leaders exhibit different characteristics from those of the managers of the previous generation.

Maccoby believes that leaders today exhibit psychological characteristics attributable to narcissistic personalities. Productive narcissistic leaders are independent individuals who are not easily influenced, innovators, have a strong vision of the future, effective strategists, succeed in business to gain power and glory. They are centralizers and want to learn everything that can influence the development of the company and its products/services. They want to be admired but not loved. They are able to pursue their goals aggressively. At the moment of success they run the risk of losing touch with the environment. Their competitiveness and desire for success continually push them toward new goals, in identifying enemies to defeat, in extreme cases and under stress they may exhibit paranoid behavior.

They need to have confident, conscientious people next to them who are oriented toward practicality and operational management. Another essential component of productive narcissists is their ability to attract people; through their language they convince others that they will succeed in achieving those goals that now seem only sketchy. Many believe them to be charismatic individuals, skilled orators who can convey enthusiasm and strong emotions to those who listen to them; in short, they know how to get people to participate in their dream and know how to make it seem achievable only if there is everyone’s commitment. This is because, despite their independence, they still need to feel the closeness of others.

In this regard, John F. Kennedy’s words during his inaugural address when he told Americans are now part of 20th century history: “Now the call resounds again: it calls us not to arms, however necessary arms may be, not to battle, however much we are already fighting, but to bear the burden of a long and dark struggle that may last for years [...] a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, misery, disease and war itself [...]. Therefore, citizens, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

He represented a significant brick in the creation of the Kennedy myth, as he succeeded in conveying a solid message of hope and commitment, after the inaugural address nearly three-quarters of Americans approved of their young president. This type of personality also naturally has limitations that if they became dominant would block its positivity. The main critical points stem precisely from having developed in a very pronounced way those psychological and leadership characteristics that are fundamental to their self-actualization.

It is true, in fact, that alongside the benefits they derive from being individuals with a very specific vision of the future, with the ability to analyze a lot of information effectively, with high self-esteem and with pronounced decision-making abilities, there are costs that arise precisely from possessing these kinds of characteristics and that arise in high-stress situations. The first critical point concerns the reduced ability to listen to others when they feel attacked. Many often argue the need for this attitude, since if they were to listen they would never make any decisions and the company would fail. A second, related point concerns their low tolerance for criticism; they do not like their decisions to be questioned. Narcissistic leaders often seek that total and uncritical cooperation provided to yes-men.

The meaning of winning and losing

“We should make it clear to most people that success is the exception, that human beings only sometimes triumph. Success is deforming: it relaxes, it deceives, it makes us worse, it helps us fall too much in love with ourselves. In contrast, failure is formative: it makes us stable, brings us closer to our beliefs, makes us return to consistency. Let’s be clear that we compete to win, and I do this work because I want to win when I compete. But if I did not distinguish what is really formative from what is secondary, I would be making a huge mistake.”

(Marcelo Bielsa)

These concepts are useful for each of us to acquire. It is necessary to have the awareness that we struggle to win, knowing that we may lose. This idea should never prevent us from trying our best and that we only learn from our mistakes.

How often do we think this way?

Women and football fandom

Football has been largely the domain of men throughout much of its history. Stacey Pope University of Durham, has conducted a research on sexism and misogyny in men’s football, with the aim to grow the game, significantly increasing attendances and interest. It is the right action to take, both in terms of equality, diversity and inclusion, and financially.

From the report

The ‘feminization’ or ‘opening up’ of more opportunities for women to become fans over the past three decades has not automatically led to greater gender equality. Recent research led by Durham University has shown that misogyny among men football fans remains very common (Pope et al. 2022). The findings were based on a survey of 1,950 men fans on UK football fan message boards. The results show that those expressing hostile, sexist or misogynistic attitudes were by far the most dominant group. This suggests a backlash against advances in gender equality. The study identified three different types of men fans.

Men with openly misogynistic attitudes made up 68% of respondents. Men in this group saw women’s sport as inferior to men’s sport, particularly in relation to football. Some suggested that women should not participate in sport at all – or if they did, it should be ‘feminine’ sports such as athletics, rather than football.

Men with covertly misogynistic attitudes made up 8% of fans. This group would express progressive attitudes in public, but in more private moments revealed misogynistic views. Men in this group would adapt what they said, depending on the social situation or who they were with.

Men with progressive attitudes accounted for 24% of respondents. They expressed more gender- equal attitudes. They showed strong support for equality in media coverage of women’s sport. Many said that the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup marked a positive turning point in terms of the representation of women’s sport. The media was seen as having a responsibility to more fully promote women’s sport.

In order to create an environment that is safe, welcoming and inclusive for women, this researchbriefing paper has identified the following recommendations:

  1. Introduce a mechanism to identify, report, respond to and remedy sexism and misogyny in football.
  2. Redesign stadia to create women friendly environments.
  3. Undertake further research to monitor the effectiveness of recommendations 1 and 2 and identify the best future mechanisms to drive forward change, in consultation with women fans.

A forgotten rule: put people first

Often young explain away defeats in terms of lack of ability, declaring that the opponent was stronger. In my experience with them I frequently encounter such assessments, especially from those who invest heavily in sports between the ages of 14-18.

We know from Seligman and Dweck’s 30 years of research that these attributions are pervasive and damage the person’s self-confidence in the long run. These kinds of explanations are based on the belief that if the other is stronger, it means I am not good enough to deal with him or her. Other times the explanations for defeat lie in thinking that the other person was lucky.

I am convinced that the work with them, and in any case with young, is to help them acquire a performance appraisal that has as its goal the development of the person and not the increase of pessimism toward oneself, with all the negative psychological implications that this entails.

This negative mindset has been learned from parents, teachers or coaches who are too result-centered and much less performance development-centered.

  • When training is focused on task-focused, mistakes are interpreted as learning opportunities.
  • When training is focused predominantly on the outcome, errors show the inability and slowness to learn.

One must, first, evaluate the effort and then the result. And not vice versa. I am talking about the ABC’s of teaching, but if we meet many young athletes who do not think in this way, it means, at least in my opinion, that they have not been coached with this approach.