Monthly Archive for April, 2024

The numbers of youth distress are dramatic

The numbers of youth distress published by are dramatic. They reveal that 2 million young people between the ages of 10 and 20 suffer from mental disorders. They experience school poorly and feel inadequate. It’s the failure of the school system that doesn’t prepare them for life, providing teachings to improve competence, autonomy, and relational skills. It’s also the failure of parents who haven’t been able to educate their children to become aware adults of their own abilities and responsibilities. It’s the failure of the state that doesn’t provide an educational system centered on personal development.

The hope is that networks of teachers and parents will be formed to promote ways to address this situation, involving psychologists but also implementing initiatives that can teach adolescents their value as individuals regardless of any other assessment.

There isn’t much time to help these young people because if we wait for them to leave school, this work will be much more difficult due to the difficulty of bringing them together, but above all because they will have spent crucial years despairing.


Interpersonal relationship, well-being and performance

Slemp, G. R., Field, J. G., Ryan, R. M., Forner, V. W., Van den Broeck, A., & Lewis, K. J. (2024). Interpersonal supports for basic psychological needs and their relations with motivation, well-being, and performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

People’s motivational processes, well-being, and performance are likely to be facilitated through the support of others.

Self-determination theory argues that interpersonal supports for autonomy, competence, and relatedness are crucial to achieve these outcomes. In the present study, we provide a comprehensive examination of this formulation based on a meta-analytic database consisting of 4,561 effect sizes from 881 independent samples (N = 443,556). Our results indicate that supports for autonomy, competence, and relatedness were strongly positively related with the satisfaction of these basic needs and strongly negatively related to their frustration.

Interpersonal supports for basic needs were strongly positively related with subjective well-being and exhibited small to moderate positive associations with performance. Moderation analyses showed general stability of effects across cultures, although correlations of autonomy support to autonomous motivation weakened as a function of individualism. The opposite pattern was observed for the correlation between relatedness support and intrinsic motivation. Some effects also declined as a function of sample age and lag in measurements.

We also find that competence- and relatedness-supportive behaviors explained incremental variance in basic need satisfaction even after controlling for the more established effects of autonomy support. In addition, lateral need supports explained incremental variance in basic need satisfaction after controlling for vertical sources of support. In sum, our results are consistent with the premise that to support optimal motivation, well-being, and performance, a broad set of behaviors that nurture all three basic needs, together with different sources of interpersonal support, should be considered to yield the most benefit.

Practical implications

For instance, in the workplace, Jungert et al. (2018) empirically examined an intervention specifically aimed to engender need-supportive interpersonal behaviors within work teams through implementing peer-to-peer exercises that aimed to develop perspective-taking, effective communication, and collaboration. Results showed the intervention exerted benefits on need satisfaction and autonomous motivation. Our meta-analysis offers additional empirical support for such efforts. Indeed, as we have noted, in some instances our findings showed that lateral supports for basic needs exerted even more dramatic effects than vertical sources, suggesting peers represent a potential underutilized source of nourishment that could be more involved in intervention design, delivery, and maintenance.

Does the coaches teach to youth to be focused?

The coaching profession has become increasingly challenging for many social and psychological reasons. From a social standpoint, today, for a young person of any age, it’s not possible to practice a sport without joining a sports club and attending training sessions. Therefore, anyone who wants to play sports must do so within an organization and at specific times.

Those who once went to the park or gardens near their home simply to play soccer with friends, to spend time moving around, now must enroll in a soccer school, just like those who have a true passion for the sport and play with the idea of pursuing it even as a teenager and perhaps becoming a professional player.

Within these sports contexts, I observe coaches struggling to teach anything beyond strictly technical aspects. Concentration is a problem for today’s youth (and not only for them); for example, you see youngsters preparing with incorrect posture to perform exercises, and teachers correcting the execution without addressing the original posture. The result is that the technique cannot be properly learned, but what’s even more concerning is that the youngsters don’t associate posture with technical action. Consequently, their focus is on the execution rather than what precedes it. This is confirmed by the instructor’s correction, which also focuses on the technique.

In this way, young people learn that they only need to pay attention to technique, that what precedes the shot is insignificant, and they ignore that the posture preceding the shot is essential for executing it correctly. Thus, at best, they learn to concentrate only on one part of the movement, without recognizing that sports action consists of a sequence of movements closely connected to each other.

From this mental framework arise typical phrases such as: “Today, I couldn’t feel the shots,” “every time I tried, I missed,” “today I just can’t perform that movement. It’s pointless for me to keep trying,” “I was always late on the action,” “I couldn’t hit because I was stiff.”

Place and date of birth still remain related to football selection

Morganti, G.; Brustio, P.R.; Ruscello, B.; Apollaro, G.; Padua, E.; Kelly, A.L. Birth Advantages in Male Italian Soccer: How They Influence Players Youth Career and Their Future Career Status. Sports 2024, 12, 103.

Soccer organizations generally adopt deterministic models within their talent pathways. In this framework, early ability and results are emphasized, leading to selection biases, such as birth advantages (i.e., relative age effects and birthplace effects), which research has shown affect both early developmental experiences and continued sporting involvement.

Accordingly, this study aimed to (a) provide further test of birth advantages in Italian youth soccer by exploring the birth quarter (BQ) and birthplace (BP) distribution of 1050 male Italian players born between 1999 and 2001 who competed in the national U17 championship throughout the 2015–16 season and (b) investigate how birth advantages influenced selected players’ future career status.

Chi-square goodness-of-fit tests revealed early born players, and players born in North Italy were overrepresented at the youth level (p-values < 0.0001). Successive prospective analysis revealed only 18% of players developed into professional-level soccer players. Chi-square tests of independence indicated that players’ BP was associated with their future career status (p < 0.0001), whereas their BQ was not (p = 0.459). Odds ratios showed players born in North Italy were five times more likely to complete the youth-to-senior transition than those born in South Italy.

These findings highlighted environmental factors influence Italian players’ early developmental experiences and their future career status.

Accept your fear and move forward

Many young people struggle with not tolerating experiencing negative emotions that could seemingly hinder their performance. Their aim is to always remain calm and focused, interpreting any deviation from this as a lack of self-confidence. One athlete told me, “Before that phase of the competition, I felt terrified.” When I asked what the problem was, the response was that they should have felt that way if they were truly confident in themselves.

No one explains to these young people that feeling anxious is a rather normal condition before a test, and that this state of mind is not a manifestation of insecurity but could be many other things. But who should educate them about emotions? Should it be the teachers at school or the parents, who themselves hold the same beliefs as the kids?

What to do? Perhaps hope that these young people are smarter than their fears and discover that they can perform well even if they felt terrified before. This might happen because they’ve realized that everyone feels anxious before doing something important, so it’s not a malfunction but a condition shared by all.

Once they reach this awareness, they might think, “If this state of mind doesn’t differentiate people, then I should focus on what I need to do well and commit myself to staying focused on the task at hand.” Not everyone will easily achieve this, and it requires total dedication, but everyone can at least recognize that it’s not fears that distinguish people but how they react to these states of mind.

Mental health of high-performance coaches

Göran Kenttä, Kristen Dieffenbach, Marte Bentzen,  Melissa Thompson, Jean Côté, Cliff Mallett, and Peter Olusoga (2024) Position Paper: Rationale for a Focused Attention on Mental Health of High-Performance Sports Coaches. International Sport Coaching Journal.


The coach’s role, particularly in HP sport, can be extremely demanding, challenging, and stressful. Research has consistently highlighted the multiple, varied, overlapping demands placed on coaches in HP sport, emanating from both the highly charged nature of the performance environment itself and from the culture of HP sport that emphasizes emotional control and resilience at the expense of vulnerability and help-seeking. Research has also clearly highlighted the deleterious impacts of these demands on coach well-being and mental health outcomes, and on the sustainability of coaching as a career.

Coach-level interventions alone can no longer be thought of as a sufficient fix for tackling the complex issue of coach well-being and ill-being. Not only do such interventions, usually aimed at improving stress management, teaching mindfulness, or developing specific psychological “skills,” fail to address the systemic, organizational-level factors that underpin poor mental health and ill-being in coaching, we contend that they can exacerbate the problem, by inadvertently blaming the coach for their own lack of self-care ability.

While coach self-care is still an important part of the well-being picture, the responsibility for coach well-being should be shared. Thus, we argue for more systemic, organizational-level approaches to enhancing and maintaining coach mental health and well-being. We emphasize the need for organizational-level interventions to reduce the stigma associated with poor mental health, for coach education to acknowledge the demands of job insecurity, career transitions, and minority stress, and for tangible mental health support in the form of screening and access to appropriate support. Moreover, while we highlight coach education in these areas as crucial, we also emphasize the education of coach educators, coach developers, and other key stakeholders so that they might be better placed to support the coaches for whom they have a duty of care.

We suggest that research is also needed to explore and evaluate organizational-level interventions aimed at improving coach well-being and that funding should be directed toward such research. Studies exploring specific populations such as coaches from minoritized groups or more cross-cultural research might also tease out the nuances of different performance environments and their impacts on coaches mental health and well-being, ultimately leading to a broader understanding and the provision of more bespoke intervention strategies.

This paper serves as a concise summary, not only of the intense nature of HP sport but also of the resultant mental health implications for sport coaches. However, it is imperative to venture beyond individual/coach-level mental health and well-being provision, and the comprehensive set of evidence-based recommendations for systems/organizational-level change provided here is intended to enhance the sustainability of coaching as a profession.

Role of the exercise in management of mental health

Smith PJ, Merwin RM. The Role of Exercise in Management of Mental Health Disorders: An Integrative Review. Annu Rev Med. 2021 Jan 27;72:45-62.

Numerous epidemiological studies have demonstrated that lower amounts of physical activity (PA) or greater amounts of time spent in sedentary behaviors are associated with greater risk of poor mental health. In a recent study of 1.2 million US adults, in which participants were matched across numerous background and demographic factors, individuals who exercised reported better mental health functioning compared to non-exercisers.

Prospective studies focusing on specific mental health conditions have reported similar findings, suggesting that greater habitual PA may protect against the development of various mental health conditions. For example, a recent meta-analysis of 49 prospective studies across nearly 267,000 individuals demonstrated that higher levels of PA associated with reduced odds of developing depression across age groups.

PA also prospectively associated with lower odds of developing elevated anxiety symptoms and anxiety disorders in a recent meta-analysis of more than 80,000 individuals.

Examination of the literature linking exercise to mental health suggests that exercise training is beneficial for a broad array of mental health outcomes, although the strength of treatment benefit appears to vary across populations and training modalities. The present literature base could be characterized as having three overarching mechanistic hypotheses, which are useful in framing hypotheses regarding treatment improvements:

  • mental health is improved in association with physical/hedonic effects of exercise,
  • exercise improves mental health via neurobiological mechanisms,
  •  exercise is a vehicle for cultivating behavioral mechanisms of change (e.g., self-regulatory skills and self-efficacy).

We contend that exercise training likely improves mental health through synergistic influences of both neurobiological and behavioral learning mechanisms. Within this framework, training improves neurobiological systems critical for adaptive learning, as well as affective and cognitive control processes, resulting in synergistic improvements in the regulation of both cognitive and affective responses through a “virtuous circle” of reinforcement.

IJSP Master class on extreme experiences

ISSP Master Class Series – Lecture #7

Extreme Experiences in Sports and Experiences in Extreme Sports


Date: Tuesday, May 16th, 2024
Speakers: Prof. Dr. Dieter Hackfort
Length of Session: 90 minutes (60-minute lecture, 30-minute Q&A)
Language: English (Live multilingual captioning available)
Time: 12:00 UTC (New York 8:00, Belo Horizonte, 9:00, Beijing 20:00, Seoul 21:00, Sydney 22:00)
Where: Zoom (Link sent upon registration)
Recordings: Available for 60 days after the lecture

Program Overview

During this lecture, Prof. Hackfort will examine distinctions and various conceptual approaches in order to explain behavior in adventurous, risky, and extreme sports activities. In applying an action-theory perspective, Prof. Hackfort will outline a prolific framework for a differentiated analysis and the development of a sophisticated understanding considering socio-cultural circumstances and individual motivations associated with participation in such activities. The purposes of this presentation are to (1) differentiate and describe adventurous sport activities, risk sports, and extreme sports, (2) analyze and elucidate explanations for them, and (3) clarify some misunderstandings in public perceptions related to these activities. Prof. Hackfort will question the usage of labels such as ‘danger-freaks,’ ‘stress-junkies,’ or ‘sensation-seekers’ and unravel misleading attributions. With reference to concepts like stress and coping, risk and security, or arousal and relaxation, he will illustrate the necessity of a dual perspective and the meaning of considering functional interrelations. Only thus, it is possible to move beyond simple mono-causal and uni-directional approaches for an appropriate conceptualization of the organization and regulation of human actions, not only in adventurous sport activities or elite sports but also in non-sporting action fields or domains. However, based on his experiences in applied sport psychology, Prof. Hackfort will also address opportunities to learn about risk behavior and design strategies for risk education to enhance risk-consciousness and competencies in calculated risk-taking.

About the Speakers
Prof. Dieter Hackfort is a retired Professor of Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology. Since 1985, Prof. Hackfort has held professorships in universities on three continents: Europe (Heidelberg and Munich in Germany), Asia (Doha, Qatar and Wuhan, China), and North America (Tampa, Florida, USA). From 1989 to 1993, Prof. Hackfort was the president of the German Association for Sport Psychology (ASP), and from 2005 to 2009, he was the President of the International Society of Sport Psychology ISSP). Prof. Hackfort continues to be heavily involved in applied practice. His applied work extends from working as a consultant for world champions in professional sports (e.g., F1) and Olympic gold medalists (e.g., skiing) as well as performing artists, elite sports organizations, and businesses around the globe. The main research interests of Prof. Hackfort are in (1) high-performance management, including the organizational set-up for high performance, (2) lifestyle and career management of elite athletes, (3) mental fitness and robustness, (4) stress and emotions concerning its functional meaning for action regulation, (5) the development of diagnostic tools, assessment strategies and measurements for a computer-assisted mental test and training system (MTTS). His work on these various issues is connected with the conceptual and methodological advancement of an action-theory perspective in the social/human sciences. Prof. Hackfort is a widely published scholar with over 250 publications, including 35 books and edited volumes. Prof. Hackfort received numerous awards in recognition of his outstanding academic and applied research and leadership in national and international organizations. Among others, he received the ISSP International Sport Psychologist Award in 2017 and was bestowed the status of ISSP Fellow in 2018. Finally, in 2023, Prof. Hackfort was selected for the inaugural generation of the ISSP Hall of Fame to be one of the top ten living sport psychologists.

Program Format
Attendees can participate in an ISSP Master Class session right from their office or home. Upon registration, registrants will be provided the Zoom link to access the presentation on the web in real-time. If you are unable to watch the session live, a recording will be provided afterward to all registrants.

Ready for the XXXIII° Olympic Games

It was lit in Greece, at the temple of Hera dating back to 2,600 years ago, near the stadium where the Olympics were born in 776 BC. There are just over 100 days left until July 26, when the XXXIII° Olympic Games will be inaugurated in Paris.

Currently, there are 193 qualified Italian athletes across 23 disciplines. The Olympics represent the dream of every athlete and the pinnacle of their sporting career. Winning an Olympic medal is like climbing Everest without oxygen. Among the world’s elite athletes, in Italy around 300 men and women, only about 10% will likely step onto the podium. Winning a medal is a truly rare event and corresponds to a lifetime of dedication.

Pechino 2022: accesa la fiamma olimpica | Euronews

As we know, personal talent alone is not enough; motivation and dedication are required, along with quality training, years of effort, many hours per week, excellent coaches and staff, injury prevention, recovery abilities, an appropriate lifestyle, and a positive non-sporting environment.

All of this doesn’t inoculate against fear and anxiety but puts us in a position to successfully face them. With just over three months until the start of the competitions, training and competitions continue, many still need to qualify, team sports are in the midst of league and international cup competitions, and in individual sports, athletes are competing to secure their spot for Paris. It’s an intense period, and in these days, the inner pilot guiding us in our daily work becomes increasingly important. The task is to effectively alternate between moments of expending energy, training and competitions, with those of recovering the energy spent (nutrition, sleep, relaxation, social life). These two phases alternate every day and are both important to be ready for the end goal.

It’s necessary to enter these two environments with ease and seek help from those around us to maintain this alternation. We give everything knowing we have time to recover, and we recover to be able to give everything.

The commitment

Commitment: Individual willingness to make sacrifices in other areas of one’s life in order to succeed in sports.

  • Assess your level of involvement in achieving your sports goals.
  • Think about what you have done in the past year to improve in sports and how committed you have been to achieving these goals. The changes to consider may involve technical, physical, and psychological aspects. Make a ranking from the most significant to the least significant, identifying the results achieved for each.
  • If you feel little/moderately involved in what you do, ask yourself why you are in this situation: identify what you have done yourself to put yourself in this situation and what you want to do differently to increase your motivation.
  • Think about how you reacted to criticism from your coach or to a mistake. Has your commitment remained constant or even greater, or have you become depressed or more aggressive?
  • Think about the moments when you faced difficulties, what did you tell yourself and what did you do to keep your motivation high? Remember these attitudes because they are extremely important assets for you to use in difficult situations to sustain your commitment and desire for success.