Archive for the 'Calcio' Category

Event about sport and psychology

In Italy, public occasions to talk about sport psychology are infrequent and this initiative led by Patrizia Steca, Milano-Bicocca University, is one of those events when to talk about experiences of resilience and discovery of new practices. The meeting can be followed in presence but also online, as is now customary. It is, therefore, open to anyone interested in these issues regardless of their geographical location. The experts who will speak are totally involved in sport as professional coaches, psychologists and managers.

The pandemia has changed the work with the athletes

We are approaching the end of the second year since the start of the pandemic. The first lockdown began in March 2020, since that time consulting work has completely changed and to this day this change continues to be stable and has become, at least in my experience, the way we work.

Remote or online work has become, in fact, the dominant model with which to interact with athletes and coaches. Previously this type of experience I had experienced only in relation to the Rio Olympics where I had not gone but had kept in touch with athletes via WhatsApp or Skype.

So currently, 21 months into March 2020, the work I do is 80% online. It works: pretty well. It allows to follow athletes who could not have undertaken a mental coaching program because they reside in other cities.

The main limitation is the lack of in-person reporting, especially during training and competition. We live on the report of what has happened and, furthermore, not participating in the competitions, it is not possible to intervene when it would be necessary.

It seems to me that this is the most serious lack, the impossibility of working on the here-and-now, since one can only work on the before and after.

The Federations save money by reducing the costs of accommodation and travel and compensation of the professional who would be present at the competitions. It’s a somewhat blind way to set up a job but this is what happens.

Much more could be said and in this regard I am at the INSEP in Paris just to share the experiences of these years with a group of psychologists from around the world and to try to understand what to do better in anticipation of the next Olympics in Paris 2024 from which we are separated just over 900 days.

Athletes have continued to perform exceptionally well even though they have trained less and rested more due to the lockdown and lack of sporting events. This should make you think about the relevant role of recovery and the consequent fact that training more is not always productive.

Also, how often does the training duration of a session actually match the actual training time?

Moreover, it is the opinion shared by the European colleagues, here in France, that athletes have acquired in this period a better self-regulation, awareness and autonomy. Having had to manage long periods on their own, in the absence of the usual relationship with the coach and staff. They had more time to develop psychological skills, even different from the more traditional ones such as meditation and sleep management.

Thomas Tuchel’s winning thoughts

“For some days I felt different, I felt pretty good!” Thomas, Tuchel said on Chelsea winning the Champions League back in May.

“In the end, nothing is like winning. You can ask me, I reached the final with my team the season before and had the feeling it is a big achievement but not to do the last step is a huge difference when you realise what it means when you do it. The perception from outside, the joy, the experience, the confidence that your team gets by winning it.

“I experienced this for the first time, maybe in the academy, when we were able to win the German title with Under-19 of Mainz, I was in charge as the head coach. We had the feeling to be qualified for the semi-final and final was already a big achievement but when you win it and do the last step, there is nothing compared to it. It really changes something for everybody.

“The most important thing is not to look back but to keep the feeling and hunger. That feeling feeds and creates hunger for more, it is addictive. This game is about winning, it changes your feeling and the work atmosphere completely. It gives you natural confidence but at the same time it is absolutely necessary to forget it and start from scratch to show this hunger and mentality again. This is what I feel and demand from myself and everyone else around, that we don’t change in terms of hunger.”

“I don’t want to get into the situation where the fear of losing is bigger than the hunger to win, so we look too much at what we have achieved and want to protect what we have.”


Only a miracle can improve the coaching behaviors!

A little-investigated topic concerns the self-improvement process of coaches. While it is quite usual in companies for young talent rather than established managers to follow a program of self-improvement in relation to their leadership skills, this value is not perceived by coaches.

In fact, in companies, this type of work is perceived by the people involved as a benefit that the company provides.

In sports, this is not the case with both young and established coaches. It is a question of mentality and, I believe, of cultural and professional backwardness. The prevailing philosophy is: “I’m fine as I am”. In my opinion, the majority of coaches would not even participate in refresher courses if they were not required by their Federation.

They should be asked, “What do you do to improve yourselves when you are struggling with your team?” Many, in my opinion, believe that the technical competence they have acquired is sufficient to train well, or that problems arise with young people because they are not motivated and attentive to the work that is proposed to them.

I have not seen in recent years an improvement in the mentality of coaches, in fact the massive professionalization of technical skills to which they have been subjected has served to hide this problem, also complicit in the lack of interest of sports clubs and federations towards this issue.

We hope for a miracle.

Thoughts about soccer

Some thoughts on our soccer season.

  • Watching a soccer match, I am amazed at how often players fall after clashes with opponents. A question I cannot answer: how many simulators are there, how many fall because of the hardness of the clash and how many fall because of the inexperience of the opponent who is unable to anticipate (as Paolo Maldini did).
  • Make way for the young, this is not an Italian theme, but it’s a good thing that Mourinho included Felix, who scored two goals right away. Youth is not necessarily synonymous of ability, but it should at least be synonymous with enthusiasm. How many coaches think this is useful, enthusiasm.
  • In this Italian championship, the top 8 have conceded about the same number of goals (15 or 17) with the exception of Lazio (21) and Napoli (7). Increasing differences in the number of goals scored are positively related to the position in the standings. What does it mean in terms of mentality?
  • How are managed the players on the pitch, those on the bench and the others?
  • How do coaches of teams in danger of relegation experience this constant comparison between their work and weekly results? Are they mentally prepared to live in this uncomfortable situation?

“Mancini gives Sinner a jersey”

“Mancini gives Sinner a jersey” was written on the banners in Turin, demonstrating not only the technical recognition of this young tennis player, but also his ability to play matches at an absolute level in an intelligent and combative manner.

Qualities these last two that the Italian national team lacked in its useful two matches. At the moment, the success at the European soccer championship last summer can be interpreted, in my opinion, as the victory of an outsider team that managed to express itself at its highest level, just as happened in the past to teams like Greece and Denmark. Deserved success of course, as well as the skills of the players certainly cannot have melted away in these months.

The question concerns the next path: is it possible to repeat that kind of performance? The answer is not obvious, because we know that maintaining a high standard of continued success over time is not only not obvious but not at all easy.

At the moment, the Italian team has not passed the test, the collective team has been insufficient to the task and the individuals have not been able to represent a decisive added value.

We do not know what the future will be like, but certainly a different and more specific psychological preparation must be carried out, rather than the simple and obvious “we play for fun, we have the skills to move forward” and so on.

From last to winning: the story of a deaf team

What the American football team at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside is demonstrating is the most classic demonstration of how a difficulty can turn into an opportunity for improvement and success, even in a sport where the noises derived from fighting between players are an integral part of the game. For seven seasons the Cubs team had always lost, and often their opponents had humiliated them not only in the game but in the words they used to refer to them.

But this season they are undefeated and are two games away from winning the championship. That would be the first time in 68 years.

They are coached by the school’s physical education teacher, Keith Adams, a deaf, burly, effervescent man whose two deaf sons are also on the team. The Cubs have become a fast, hard-hitting team. Their weapon is a system of coded hand signals between close-knit teammates and coaches that confounds opponents with its speed and effectiveness.

In a part of California that suffered greatly during the pandemic with high unemployment and more than 5,000 deaths, the Cubs’ excellence lifted the school and the surrounding community.

The team’s success broke the die-hard stereotype that deafness is something you can’t overcome in soccer. Adams, applied his philosophy to this group of athletes that what might be thought of as a limitation can be an advantage. Through this approach, rigorous training and a group of talented young men who were already playing together at lower levels, he built a winning team.

Coaches also say deaf players have enhanced their vision by making them more attentive to game movements. As a result, they gain a better sense of their opponents’ positioning.

On Friday night, the Cubs beat the Desert Christian Knights, 84-12.

An explanation of Jorginho penalty mistakes comes form the science

This research provide some useful insights to explain the Jorginho penalty mistakes of some days ago against Swiss team.  Science data help to learn about mental phenomena in these unique situations, such as penalty kicks, and provide guidance to coach players and certainly not to blame.

Geir Jordet (2009) Why do English players fail in soccer penalty shootouts? A study of team status, self-regulation, and choking under pressure, Journal of Sports Sciences, 27:2, 97-106,

“Generally, people react with anger or anxiety to all events that seriously challenge their mental image of themselves … When experiencing these emotions, systems for self-regulation sometimes break down and people search immediate escape from the emotional distress … Although this type of self-regulation may provide a break from unpleasant emotions, it may also harm performance, thus ultimately becoming self-defeating. This exact pattern was documented in two recent studies of choking under pressure in international penalty shootouts.

Jordet and Hartman (2008) found that participants in very high pressure situations (taking shots where a miss instantly would lead to a loss) displayed significantly faster preparation times (thought to reflect a desire to get the shot “over with”), more avoidance looking behaviours and fewer scored shots compared to players faced with lower pressure shots (no direct match- deciding implication or a goal would instantly lead to a win).

In another recent study, the most internationally esteemed players (defined as those who took a shot after they had received one or more prestigious international awards, such as “FIFA player of the year”) performed worse, and engaged more in certain escapist self-regulatory behaviours (lower response time) than players with lower levels of public status.

In both these studies, it was demonstrated that low preparation times were linked to poor performance, suggesting that this type of self-regulation strategy is potentially self- defeating at the penalty mark”.


10 daily habits of the champions