Monthly Archive for July, 2023

When the brain requires breaks

In an age when one must be “always on,” athletes represent a type of population to which this rule fully applies. The issue is that with this type of life setting it is not at all easy to find a balance between competitive demands and personal well-being.

Therefore, it is important for those pursuing a career in sports to find a way of life in which mental breaks are present in order to be able to continue to improve their ability to do quality work and sustain their well-being.

But the most compelling reason for taking a brain break is that it may improve your ability to do quality work. A 2022 systematic review found that even short breaks lasting 10 minutes or less reduced mental fatigue and increased vigor (meaning the willingness to persist when work became difficult).

These breaks especially improved performance on tasks requiring creativity.
The concept of micro-breaks originates in the ergonomics literature, defined as scheduled rests that individuals take to prevent the onset or progression of physical symptoms, such as musculoskeletal pain or discomfort. In the organizational literature, this concept was introduced as a brief resource-replenishing strategy, taken informally between work tasks.

Micro-breaks can be seen as natural reactions of the cognitive system to a possible cognitive overload that could affect performance.

In terms of specific outcomes, there are two individual-level components of well-being relevant for recovery: vigor (a pleasant activation) and fatigue (unpleasant deactivation). For the athletes, vigor is an intrinsic resource that must be replenished when exhausted. Vigor contributes to the willingness to invest effort into the tasks at hand and persist when difficulties arise.

Performance represents another key outcome on which micro-breaks are considered to have an impact. It is well known that cognitive and motivational factors are the main determinants of human performance. Breaks can improve task performance through beneficial resource-strain, cognitive, affective, and motivational mechanisms. Breaks are essential for performance on tasks requiring continuous attention, suggesting that the vigilance sensitivity decrement is influenced by the frequent use of cognitive resources.

You win or lose by “nothing”: how do you train yourself to compete until the end?

In sports the final score that distinguishes winners from losers is often very small. I’m not just referring to soccer where one team wins by the difference of one goal. It’s no coincidence that Mourinho says he is happier when his team wins 1-0 rather than 5-0, because that victory is synonymous with tenacity and concentration.

Sport teaches everyone a lot, because we lose by a point, by a handful of hundredths of a second, by an inch. In golf, the ball often misses the hole by a few millimeters, and the same is true in shooting, where Campriani explained to us that the difference between an 8 and a 10 is equivalent to three one-cent coins stacked on top of each other. In Al Pacino’s famous speech to the team in the locker room, in the movie Any Given Sunday, the coach states that we win or lose by an inch and that the sum of all the inches won or lost in a game will make the difference between living or dying.

This reasoning should certainly not distress you.

  1. It is the usual condition that all athletes face in competition; the conditions are the same for everyone.
  2. Sport requires extreme attention with the aim of encouraging the flow of one’s technical action and self-control.
  3. For how long? Until the end. Let’s forget that it is easier to maintain concentration if the race lasts a few seconds as in the 100m rather than two hours as in tennis. Tenacity is the necessary ingredient of a winning performance and is the result of the intensity with which you train and when you are oriented to react psychologically after a mistake.

Question: how much are your athletes trained in this and how much are you as coaches aware of the relevance and trainability of these three factors?

Assess how you are tough

Many athletes often explain their limitations in competition in relation to technical/tactical or athletic problems; they also often acknowledge their mental limitations especially those due to competitive anxiety or lack of confidence. Less frequently, however, they attribute their failures to a lack of toughness, which involves continuing to work hard throughout the competition, regardless of the outcome.

Toughness is necessary because in every cometition there are unfavorable moments and mental and physical difficulties to be overcome successfully.

Toughness  indicates how combative and persistent one is in this attitude throughout the race.
At times of increased competitive pressure or after a mistake one must work on oneself to quickly regain the optimal mental condition to overcome this obstacle.

The following are some questions to ask yourself to understand how tenacious you are:

  1. Having an unshakable self-belief in your ability to achieve your competition goals
  2. Bouncing back from performance set-backs as a result of increased determination to succeed.
  3. Having an unshakable self-belief that you possess unique qualities and abilities that make you better than your opponent.
  4. Having an insatiable desire and internalised motives to succeed.
  5. Remainingfully-focusedonthetaskathandinthefaceofcompetition-specificdistractions.
  6. Regaining psychological control following unexpected, uncontrollable events (competition-specific).
  7. Pushing back the boundaries of physical and emotional pain, while still maintaining technique and effort under distress (in training and competition).
  8. Accepting that competition anxiety is inevitable and knowing that you can cope with it.
  9. Thriving on the pressure of competition.
  10. Not being adversely affected by others’ good and bad performances
  11. Remaining fully-focused in the face of personal life distractions.
  12. Switching a sport focus on and off as required.

This concept of tenacity is well summarized and explained by the All Blacks coach:
“The warrior mentality of my players is based on the balance between courage and humility: being able to do extraordinary things but also knowing how to recover quickly from mistakes, being able to bounce back quickly and win.”
This ability distinguishes champions from other good athletes.

Does it exist the professionali future of the Italian young football players?

At this time of the year soccer goes through the phase when players are bought and sold. As has been the case for many years now, clubs are looking for foreign players while there are few references to Italian ones. The result of this kind of policy is there for all to see: for no less than two world championships the Italian national team has not participated in the world’s most important event. But why is it that soccer clubs prefer the purchase of foreign players over the development of young Italians. Here are a number of reasons:

Seeking immediate results: Soccer teams are often under pressure to achieve immediate results and win competitions. Purchases of established foreign players can guarantee high-level performance right away, while young Italian talent may take longer to develop to the highest level.

International market: Football has become a global industry, and the market for players has become internationalized. Italian clubs often try to compete with other teams around the world for the best talent available. This can lead to a preference for foreigners, as some may be considered more promising than the young Italian players available on the market.
Limited scouting and development: Some clubs may not invest enough in scouting and youth facilities to discover and develop local young talent. This may make it easier and more cost-effective for them to target already well-known and well-developed players from other parts of the world.

Profit Outlook: Buying talented foreign footballers can also be seen as a long-term investment. If a foreign footballer achieves success in Italy, he may attract the interest of clubs from other nations, allowing the Italian team to sell him at a higher price in the future.

Inexperience or skepticism toward young talent: Some clubs may have an organizational culture that does not adequately promote the development of young Italian players. They may prefer foreign players because they consider them to be more reliable and mature than young talents, who may be considered inexperienced or too risky.

Prestige and popularity: The arrival of internationally renowned foreign players can lead to increased visibility and popularity for the team. This can translate into increased income from sponsorship, television rights, and merchandising.



School-based physical activity interventions increase the physical fitness and cardiometabolic health in young with disabilitie

Manojlovic M, Roklicer R, Trivic T, Milic R, Maksimović N, Tabakov R, Sekulic D, Bianco A and Drid P (2023) Effects of school-based physical activity interventions on physical fitness and cardiometabolic health in children and adolescents with disabilities: a systematic reviewFront. Physiol. 14:1180639.

Disability is defined as a difficulty in functioning at the physical, mental, or sensory level that impairs participation in various aspects of life, including interactions with the external environment.

World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1,000 million people with disabilities worldwide, which represents approximately 15% of the entire population

In the United Kingdom, about 1 million children live with some disabilities.

WHO strongly recommended engaging in at least 60 min of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day across the week. Regrettably, most children with disabilities do not meet this recommendation.

Regarding body composition, children with disabilities possess higher values of body weight, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference relative to their typically developing (TD) counterparts.

Cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness were below reference values in children with intellectual disabilities (ID). It is also relevant to highlight that adolescents with Down syndrome had substantially lower levels of skills related to the motor fitness test, compared to adolescents without Down syndrome.

Scientific literature suggests an inverse correlation between physical fitness and cardiovascular diseases, mental health issues and adiposity.

School-based physical activity programs, are highly desirable to prevent the consequences elicited by exacerbated physical fitness in children or adolescents with disabilities.

School-based physical activity interventions are very efficient in improving the health and the skills related to the motor fitness in children and adolescents with varied disabilities.

The reading goal

Lo scopo della lettura: la storia più bella che leggerete oggi. “Ho letto moltissimi libri, ma ho dimenticato la maggior parte di essi. Ma allora qual è lo scopo della lettura?” Fu questa la domanda che un allievo una volta fece al suo Maestro. Il Maestro in quel momento non rispose. Dopo qualche giorno, però, mentre lui e il giovane allievo se ne stavano seduti vicino ad un fiume, egli disse di avere sete e chiese al ragazzo di prendergli dell’acqua usando un vecchio setaccio tutto sporco che era lì in terra.

L’allievo trasalì, poiché sapeva che era una richiesta senza alcuna logica. Tuttavia, non poteva contraddire il proprio Maestro e, preso il setaccio, iniziò a compiere questo assurdo compito. Ogni volta che immergeva il setaccio nel fiume per tirarne su dell’acqua da portare al suo Maestro, non riusciva a fare nemmeno un passo verso di lui che già nel setaccio non ne rimaneva neanche una goccia. Provò e riprovò decine di volte ma, per quanto cercasse di correre più veloce dalla riva fino al proprio Maestro, l’acqua continuava a passare in mezzo a tutti i fori del setaccio e si perdeva lungo il tragitto.

Stremato, si sedette accanto al Maestro e disse: “Non riesco a prendere l’acqua con quel setaccio. Perdonatemi Maestro, è impossibile e io ho fallito nel mio compito”

“No – rispose il vecchio sorridendo – tu non hai fallito. Guarda il setaccio, adesso è come nuovo. L’acqua, filtrando dai suoi buchi lo ha ripulito” “Quando leggi dei libri – continuò il vecchio Maestro – tu sei come il setaccio ed essi sono come l’acqua del fiume” “Non importa se non riesci a trattenere nella tua memoria tutta l’acqua che essi fanno scorrere in te, poiché i libri comunque, con le loro idee, le emozioni, i sentimenti, la conoscenza, la verità che vi troverai tra le pagine, puliranno la tua mente e il tuo spirito, e ti renderanno una persona migliore e rinnovata. Questo è lo scopo della lettura”. -

Le storie di Maui. 111 gradini verso la felicità

Grazie per avere pubblicato questa storia @Poesiaitalia

The long-standing establishment of anxiety among young

In recent years since the beginning, one hears and reads that anxiety has particularly increased in young people, and there is a tendency to explain this phenomenon as an effect of isolation due to the pandemic, obsessive use of social media, and the educational inability of schools and families. Research data have highlighted this but I would like to point out that this increase nevertheless belongs to a trend of the increase of psychopathological phenomena in young people that has been growing since much earlier.

In fact, if in the 1970s and 1980s it was widely believed among psychologists to believe, on the basis of the research data of those years, that high-level athletes succeeded because they were psychologically mature, had stable personalities, and their growth had been carefully monitored [Botterill 1980], over time this view has turned out to be too simplistic. The reality turned out to be much more complex, since on the one hand current data would seem to confirm the thoughts made forty years ago that athletes tend to be, more extroverted and conscientious than non-athletes.

At the same time, distress phenomena such as anxiety and depression are psychological states also frequently experienced by athletes of all levels, and the publication of many autobiographies in which sports champions recount their black holes is clear evidence of the desire to want to exorcise through the narrative of their sports lives the fears and psychological distress experienced on their own skin.

On the other hand, analyzing the period 1938-2007 shows that at least in the United States among young people attending high school and college, psychopathological disorders have increased significantly, from six to eight times [Twenge et al. 2009]. Moreover, in a little more than 10 years, depression scores increased 52 percent among adolescents aged 12-17 years, from 8.7 percent to 13.2 percent, and 63 percent among young adults aged 18-25 years, from 8.1 percent to 13.2 percent [Twenge et al. 2019].

Such findings suggest that young people’s mental health has been adversely affected by changes in American culture, which has favored the emergence of extrinsic and egocentric goals such as money and status, while devaluing the development of the idea of community, affiliation and a sense of life. It is certainly likely that other factors are behind the dramatic increases in psychopathologies. However, these findings are consistent with the theorizing of those who argue that materialism, individualism, and impossibly high expectations have fostered the deterioration of mental health in the United States and other Western nations.

Today’s data confirm this deterioration in the mental health of young people by showing how a lack of interpersonal relationships, continued de-empowerment, living to meet immediate needs, and being undirected to pursue challenging goals increase psychological fragility and perceptions of being unable to cope with the tasks at hand.

ISSP 3° Master Class

ISSP is offering the 3rd Master Class in September 26 dedicated to an innovative topic in sport psychology concerning the developing of psychologically informed environments. Chris Wagstaff will map the emergence of these systems, talking about a science-practice approach to highlight social, cultural, and historical influences on people in sport and offering considerations for practitioners.

Chris is a Reader in Applied Psychology at the University of Portsmouth. He divides his time between research, supervision, and practice. He has published over 100 papers, primarily in the area of organisational sport psychology.

Chris’s research has informed policy and practice in elite sport regarding the development of sustainable sport systems that enable people to thrive. Under the banner of organisational sport psychology, Chris leads programmes of research on organisational culture, sensemaking, resilience, and thriving in elite sport, and supports secondary lines of research on systems of care, psychological safety, and voice. This work has been funded by the world class programmes of British Olympic sports, national governing bodies and funding agencies in UK, Canada, USA, and Sweden, and the International Olympic Committee.

Chris is the Editor for the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology and sits on the editorial board of Case Studies in Sport and Exercise Psychology. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Sport and Exercise Psychology Review, and a former Associate Editor for International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Journal of Sport Psychology, and Journal of Applied Case Studies in Sport and Exercise Sciences.

Chris regularly advises UK Sport and the UK Sports Institute. He was Head of Performance Psychology for the UK Sports Institute in the lead up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, managing a team of 33 practitioners.

More information and Register here:


Alcaraz mentally crushes Djokovic

A year ago I wrote that in a tennis world that had long been looking for who will be the replacements for the Fabulous 3 (Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal), Carlos Alcaraz’s victories were there to prove that perhaps he would be the next No. 1 in the world rankings, who about the relevance of the mental component in his game had said:

” my physical form has been important, but definitely the most important part is the mental game. I feel that I have grown a lot in that part. That is why I am number 9 in the world right now and that is why I am playing at a good level. That’s why I’ve been able to win big matches, so I think [my mindset] is the most important thing.”

Yesterday, Alcaraz in the final at Wimbledon against Djokovic definitely demonstrated the level of mental maturity he has reached. His victory is beautiful not only because he defeated the champion who had not lost at Wimbledon in 10 years or because he is the third youngest tennis player to have won this tournament.
He proved that one can go through the hell of a first set, lost 6-1, in which he offered no resistance to Djokovic. It was a situation that could have annihilated him competitively, and he may have been reminded of the stress-induced cramps he experienced in the semifinal at Roland Garros that he lost decisively to the very same opponent (6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1). This time, however, the story was different; Alcazar psychologically recovered and began to play his game. He mentally crushed Djokovic, who became very nervous, argued with the audience and the umpire, and smashed his racket.

In a sport, where the goal is to dominate the opponent Alcaraz succeeded in this feat. The work with psychologaa Isabel Balaguer, intensified during this period along with that with his team, allowed him to get out of that abyss in the first set. That’s what tennis is all about: you can lose and not understand anything but if you are willing to reason and react to these moments, then the work that has been done can come out, and Alcazar showed that mental work pays off when you are not willing to suffer the negative moments and want to pursue your goal at all costs.

Alcazar showed everyone how one can go from being mentally loser  to being a dominant presence in the most important game of his life.

Review: Physical activity and climate changes

Cunningham, G., McCullough, B.P. & Hohensee, S. Physical activity and climate change attitudes. Climatic Change 159, 61–74 (2020). 

Climate scientists have warned about the climate emergency for more than 40 years now. The message is simple: if we fail to quickly limit our ecological footprint (quantified through carbon emissions or other indicators), irreversible changes and disruptions of ecosystems, economies and societies will occur.

In the health domain, there is now a consensus that climate change dramatically affects human health and jeopardises the health of future generations. Climate change is clearly an all-encompassing influence on health, thus justifying the title of this present discussion paper: “Climate change: the next game changer for sport and exercise psychology”.

In our opinion there should be no debate about the major and increasing influence that climate change will have on the field of sport of exercise psychology in the next years, like any other scientific disciplines, or even broader aspects of our lives. How the field will contribute to climate change adaptation (i.e., reactive responses) and mitigation (i.e., proactive responses), however, is subject to discussion. The present paper aims to be one of the starting points for this discussion.

In sport and physical activity (PA) sciences, a recent systematic review has examined the bidirectional associations between PA domains, sport practices and climate change issues. Furthermore, researchers from sport-related disciplines have developed ambitious projects to address climate change: sport management researchers have investigated the climate vulnerability of sport organizations and developed interventions to improve sport events’ sustainability; exercise physiologists have examined the associations between heat stress and exercise  or athletes’ performances; sport medicine doctors have presented the intensification of allergens and air pollutants’ deleterious effects for athletes; sport philosophers have questioned a possible anthropocentric to ecocentric sport model in deep ecology perspective ; and social scientists and anthropologists have analyzed and denounced the greenwashing strategies of the sport industry and added expressions of slow sport (e.g., Nordic walking, long-distance hiking) into the broader concept of the slow movement. It seems that psychology of PA and sport is lagging behind these disciplines.

For instance, in his excellent text, Raab questioned presidents of academic associations related to psychology of sport and exercise about their respective vision of our discipline in 2050. Although their responses were original and well-argued (e.g., integration of sport psychologists in international organizations such as World Health Organization), climate change was not part of their vision. Climate change was only indirectly mentioned in suggesting that the United Nations sustainable development goals should be adopted in the psychology of PA and sport.

This text argues that sport and exercise psychology, as a scientific discipline, needs to address anthropogenic climate change by helping athletes, sport students, psychologists, coaches, physical educators, youth, sport communities and stakeholders, and all populations concerned and impacted by our field, to understand and adopt climate change adaptation and mitigation behaviors to ultimately trigger social changes in their respective communities.