Monthly Archive for April, 2023

Football integrated

Bella mattina di calcio integrato a Roma: 8 club e quasi 100 giovani calciatori e calciatrici. @PMinocchi @FISDIR




What the champions think

In the game, is it better to think? Or does thinking slow down the action? In my experience many athletes do not have definite answers to these questions and do not know what is best to do. I don’t want to go into how they learned as younger ones, whether they essentially followed what was asked of them by the coach or whether they also developed independent thoughts. Although it is obvious that everyone is formed mentally in their early years of playing.

However, I am interested in talking about how a young, now sportingly competent person thinks during a game whether it is of a team sport or involves situational sports such as tennis, table tennis, fencing, and combat sports. Oppositional sports in which the goal is to dominate opponents. To achieve this goal, in competition, do you think?

If I compare the mindset of the world’s top athletes I have worked with (in 7 Olympics I have worked with athletes who have won 12 Olympic medals in shooting, fencing, windsurfing and wrestling and at the Commonwealth Games 2 medals with India) and that of world-class athletes, both men and women, but who are not among the top 10 in the world in their specialty I believe that the main difference is essentially about how they use their minds in competition. Always keep in mind that even top athletes are not always winners, they often lose, however more frequently than others they find themselves fighting for a medal.

Some examples of thoughts from top athletes:

Giovanni Pellielo - “The last of the selection series was the heaviest, I made zero on the penultimate target in the first platform, I finished with twenty-three and it was the series in which I suffered the most because you had to make the result in difficult conditions and with a very high emotional load as I was still the man who had won two medals at the Olympics. Let’s say that on that occasion all the ghosts came to mind: it was difficult to close that result but I closed it. Then I thought about the final referring to the baggage of four years of experience and I relived everything I had done in the last year at the level of preparation especially psychological so as to face the final as I wanted and desired.”

Francesco D’Aniello - “Stress builds up if you think about the result. In the Olympic final I knew everyone was watching me but I was channeling my mind on what it took to break the plates. My concentration was channeled into thinking only about what I needed to do to break the plates. I knew that the Chinese had caught up with me, a zero had not been given to him, and this factor could destroy me. So I said to myself, ‘If I make a zero this will eat me,’ when I realized I could no longer make a zero I focused only on my technical gesture.”

Manavjit Singh Sandhu - “Competing head-to-head with two Olympic champions in one day and getting the better of both was really special. However, I believe that in shooting you simply try to hit your target and the score speaks for itself. Psychologically, it can be intimidating to shoot against legends, but I didn’t let that bother me.”

It clearly emerges, that in moments of competitive pressure, after a mistake, when emotions might result in a mental block, these athletes encourage themselves and focus on what they have to do. If they think about the result, it is only for a few moments, because the mind goes immediately to the performance, to what to do. Like Roberta Vinci when in the match she won against Serena Williams she repeated to herself, “Run and throw it that way.” This is the self-control of champions that we need to train in young athletes.

Sport mental health

The mental health and well-being of athletes and coaches has become a relevant issue in recent years to which many sports organizations around the world are providing meaningful responses. The following text concerns a survey conducted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCCA), which organizes sports played in colleges and universities in Canada, the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

In an NCAA-led survey, more than 80% of head, assistant and associate coaches across all three divisions reported spending more time discussing mental health with student-athletes than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. At high rates, coaches also reported personally facing mental health difficulties.

More than 6,000 coaches across all NCAA-sponsored sports completed the survey, which was conducted by NCAA research to better understand how coaches are supporting student-athletes as well as their own mental health. NCAA research also has conducted three student-athlete mental well-being surveys since the start of the pandemic.

About one-third of coaches reported they “constantly” or “most every day” experienced mental exhaustion, feelings of being overwhelmed by all that they had to do, and sleep difficulties. In their responses, coaches cited pandemic-related factors, roster management challenges that include an evolving transfer landscape and additional eligibility, concerns about their job and athletics department budgets, and dealing with personal situations such as financial stress and child care.

Coaches 40 years old or younger reported higher rates of mental health concerns than their older peers. For example, 46% of coaches considered millennials (born 1981-96) and 44% considered part of Generation Z (born 1997-2012) reported near constant mental exhaustion as compared with 34% of Generation X (born 1965-80) and 19% of baby boomers (born between 1946-64). Additionally, coaches who identified as Black, Indigenous or people of color; female; or members of the LGBTQ+ community reported higher rates of mental health concerns, similar to data found in the student-athlete surveys.

When asked about roster management, nearly one-third of head coaches across all three divisions reported being “very concerned” about the possibility of players transferring. Simultaneously, 25% of coaches in Division I, 18% in Division II and 12% in Division III reported high levels of stress related to the perceived need to recruit four-year transfers into their program. More than 30% of Division I coaches reported high levels of concern about managing rosters due to additional eligibility granted because of COVID-19.

The survey also asked open-ended questions for coaches to provide specific feedback on what type of support they desired in the future. Responses included more staffing, better pay and access to mental health resources.

The NCAA Sport Science Institute provides health and safety resources to college athletes, coaches, athletics administrators and campus partners. The mental health educational resources include a review of best practicesdata and research and summits and task forces. The Mental Health Advisory Group, created to advise the NCAA on emerging developments in mental health science and policy, started meeting in the fall of 2022. It is tasked with reviewing and recommending updates to the NCAA’s Mental Health Best Practices and other relevant mental health materials.

The survey results were presented to governance bodies of all three divisions at the 2023 NCAA Convention in San Antonio. A Division II-specific education session, “Mental Wellness From the Coach’s Perspective,” was held as well. Aggregated sport-specific data will be shared with various coaches associations for potential education and resource development later this month.

How to motivate the athletes is an ever green topic for coaches

All coaches are  aware of the close interaction between motivation and learning. The motivation is, however, a theoretical concept that can not be directly observed and which can only be hypothesized on the basis of their behaviors. In any case, knowledge of the motivational processes is a crucial factor for any coach who wants to teach effectively.

The most important reasons recognized by young athletes are related to:

  • competence (learn and improve their sports skills)
  • fun (excitement, challenge and action)
  • affiliation (being with friends and making new friends)
  • team (being part of a group or team)
  • compete (compete, succeed, win)
  • fitness (feeling fit or feel stronger)

Conversely, the main causes of the decrease in motivation or drop out in sport are lack of fun, lack of success, competition stress, lack of support from parents, misunderstandings with the coach, boredom and injuries.

In summary these are the three main needs that the athlete wants to meet for half of the sport:

  1.  fun, satisfies the need for stimulation and excitement;
  2. demonstrate competence, it satisfies the need to acquire skills and to feel self-determined in the activities
  3. being with others, it satisfies the need for affiliation with others and being in a group.

With reference to the need of stimulation it can be stated that:

  1. The success is built by calibrating the program to be carried out with the skills and the age of the athlete.
  2. The training must be maintained challenging and varied.
  3. Each athlete must be active, do not let the athletes time to get bored.
  4. While exercising, you need to provide athletes with the opportunity to do challenging exercises.
  5. You have to teach athletes to identify realistic goals.
  6. During training is useful to establish times when athletes practice without being evaluated by the coach.

With regard to the need for competence, it is up to the coach to stimulate both the child and the player evolved not only to learn specific sports techniques, but also to develop the desire to progress and curiosity about themselves and the environment in which acting.

In this regard, the coach must remember that:

  1. Specific goals, which are difficult and challenging are more effective than specific targets but easy to reach or defined in terms of do-your-best.
  2. Athletes must have a sufficient number of skills to reach their goals.
  3. The objectives are most effective when they are defined in terms of  specific behavior than when they are defined in a vague way.
  4.  Must defined intermediate goals to interact with the long-term goals.

As for the need of affiliation it is based on the need to belong to a group and to be accepted, thus establishing with other team members in meaningful relationships. Satisfying the need for affiliation and esteem, the athlete experiences increase the confidence in himself and more control in respect of the situations. In fact every athlete and coach knows from experience that when there are communication problems between them is difficult to follow the training program that has been set.

The key points to meet the need for affiliation and esteem of the athletes can be summarized as follows:

  1. Listen to the demands of athletes.
  2. Understanding the needs expressed, directing them in the annual program of training.
  3. Establish the role of each athlete, setting realistic goals for each.
  4. Openly acknowledge the efforts made to collaborate on team goals.
  5. Teach players to be fair.
  6. Provide technical instruction and encourage personal commitment.
  7. Reduce the competitive stress, providing feedback about to to perform at the best of themselves and reducing the emphasis on results.

In other words, the coach must develop in his athletes the sense of belonging to that particular group, and he must appear credible and consistent in his attitudes and behaviors.

To be credible, we must be honest with all the athletes: young and older, experienced and inexperienced. In this respect, the coach must:

  1. Share with athletes the technical program, highlighting their skills and areas for improvement.
  2. Explain the reasons of techniques and strategies: they will be better remembered .
  3. Do not make promises, either personally or indirectly, that he might not be able to keep.
  4. Answer the questions with competence, honesty and sensitivity.
  5. Avoiding pronouncing phrases which might affect the athlete confidence (eg, “You’ll never part of the best group). As a guide he wil ask himself:” If I were an athlete, I would like to be told this by the coach? “

Sifan Hassan won the London marathon

Sifan Hassan, an Olympic champion in Tokyo over the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, won the London Marathon in a sprint in 2h18’33″ on her debut over the distance. The Muslim athlete trained during the period of Ramadan and, therefore, added an additional difficulty to the already strenuous preparation for a marathon in which she came to run 200km weekly.

She made this choice to challenge herself further; one does not undergo this kind of training for money or fame. Her coach would have liked her to make it to the marathon perhaps in two years, but she made this decision despite the fact that until the time of the start she doubted whether she would complete it.

She had stated, “My goal is to meet the marathon and get to know each other better.” Similar situation to that of Mo Farah in 2014 in the same marathon. He had already won three world titles and two Olympic golds when he debuted with an 8th place finish in London, then returned to the track and amassed five more world titles before switching to the marathon full-time in 2018.

His coach, Tim Rowberry, stated. “The most important change in training has been that Sifan has learned to run slowly. She is used to doing everything at a high intensity. When she started training with those guys, Olympians Bashir Abdiand Abdi Nageeye, they were always telling her, ‘Slow down, slow down! You have to do many kilometers, if you do too much you will kill yourself.”

Also in Hassan, as with many other female champions, determination, courage and humility emerge.

The competitive sports is …

With this incipit begins on Netflix the story of Manuel Fangio, considered the primary benchmark by Formula 1 drivers. These few words essentially describe the main purpose of competitive sport: a long journey to spot genius.

Do you know how many people lead cars in the world? Millions.

How many racing driver licenses are there in the world? Thousands.

But there are only a few hundred who race.

And among those two hundred 0 three hundred there are only about a hundred who are particularly good.

And then you get to the Grand Prix. There are only 21 drivers in the Grand Prix.

Of those 21, there are only six who are really good.

And among those six, only three are outstanding.

And, usually, only one genius.

Australia: $4millions to promote women coaches for top sport

The innovative Gen32 Coach Program was launched in July 2022 with 55 male and female coaches taking part in the flagship program with a focus on enhancing the depth and diversity within Australia’s high performance coaching ranks.

Today’s announcement ensures the program is catering for the modern coach with childcare support and flexible working arrangements available for coaches with children on top of their paid coaching apprenticeship.

The extra investment will extend the paid apprenticeship from two years to three for 29 female coaches to ensure the coaches are ready to take the next step in their careers.

Minister for Sport, the Hon Anika Wells, recently met with members of the program and welcomed the ASC’s target of more than doubling the number of coaches by the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“The Australian Government is committed to addressing the underrepresentation of women in sport, especially in high performance coaching roles,” Minister Wells said.

“The simple fact is that there are not enough women coaches in national teams and it must change.

“Women represented just 18 per cent of accredited coaches for the Australian team at the Tokyo Olympic Games and just 23 per cent at the Paralympics.

“That is not good enough.

“The Gen32 Coach Program is a tangible way to improve this ratio ahead of our home Games in Brisbane.

“It is a contemporary program that doesn’t make a woman choose between children and a coaching career and I congratulate the AIS and Australian Sports Commission for their hard work to bring it to life.”

The Gen32 Coach Program is being delivered in collaboration between the AIS, National Sporting Organisations and National Institute Network partners with a total investment of over $11 million. The AIS is investing over $7 million including $3.9 million announced as part of the Women’s Leadership Package in the 2022-23 Federal Budget.

The coaching is a process of continuous improvement

Improvement is an ongoing process that is developed on a daily basis and requires constant commitment on the part of the athlete and those who follow this activity of the athlete. The goal is to increase competitive performance and physical, psychological and technical skills. Achieving and subsequently maintaining competitive effectiveness requires a continuous focus on improvement in all areas involved in determining final performance.

For an athlete, the quality of the sporting environment in which he or she is placed is very important, and the characteristic attitudes of a positive environment are as follows:

  • Prevention and non-reaction – one must act to anticipate potential causes of problems, thinking in terms of: “What if…” for the purpose of formulating responses to the most critical situations that might arise
  • Improvement activity must be relentless and modulated in terms of difficult but achievable goals
  • The athlete and coach must collaborate in choosing the athlete’s own goals for improvement
  • The athlete must establish clear, goal-based relationships with each expert involved in his or her preparation
  • The athlete and the sports organization of which he or she is a part must view mistakes as the most important opportunity for improvement and not as something to be hidden
  • The athlete and his or her sports organization can identify long-term goals that are seemingly even too ambitious, but they must establish goals and short- and medium-term goals that are specific and perceived as attainable
  • Interpersonal communication must be stimulated and fostered
  • Of each cycle of training, the athlete must perceive the theoretical added value (that which determines why it is worthwhile to engage in an activity) and that which is actually provided to the acquisition of skills
  • Use of the approach based not only on the identification of problems but also on the simultaneous identification of solutions. To pose problems and not solutions only serves to sink personal esteem, in any situation one must always focus on ways out
  • Problem solving is a system of methods that when used systematically during the improvement journey, enable one to meet the goals one has set through effective use of the resources one has. Problem solving is structured as follows:
  1. identification of the problem and its causes,
  2. choice of the solution to be implemented,
  3. agreement between the parties regarding the proposed solution,
  4. implementation of the solution,
  5. verification of the results obtained,
  6. inclusion of the solution in the training program


The competitive pressure.

The competitive pressure that every athlete feels, regardless of his or her skill level, is determined by several factors. The following are the main ones:

Uncertainty - In competition, one is never certain of the outcome; one can deliver the best performance but it may not be enough.
High expectations - When one feels prepared and fit, expectations may be high but this is of no use if one is not focused in every moment of the race.
Lack of time - Anxiety often results in a perceived lack of time to change the outcome or increase effort, the greater this state of mind the lower the performance effectiveness.
Constant change - Training and competition are situations in which the only certainty is constant change; one must learn to accept it.
High visibility - Competitions are social situations in which everyone is asked to prove themselves. It is a confrontation that takes place between people who have the same goal and in the presence of an audience.
Lack of self-control - This type of deficiency prevents people from performing at their own level. There are athletes who act impulsively, so they act without thinking while there are others who slow down for fear of making mistakes and go into thought overload.
Tough choices - In every competition there are moments of increased competitive pressure, making the correct choices at these times is crucial to the quality of performance.
Compete - The competitive mindset requires every athlete to express themselves to the best of their ability in competition with like-minded opponents. Competing involves feeling ready to express oneself and challenging others to do the same.
Myself - Every athlete must be the first supporter of himself, regardless of what is happening in the race.
Motivation - A Ferrari without gasoline is defeated by a 500 with a full tank.

Tennis psychology

Yesterday I spoke about this topic has a Course for Psychologists who will work in tennis.