Archive for the 'Generale' Category

Podcast: football team psychology

Podcast by: Giani Boldeanu, mental performance coach and Dr. Alberto Cei, sport psychologist.

You can have the best players in the world. However, if there is …

Football team psychology by Dr.Alberto Cei, sport psychologist and Giani...  | Football team, Sports psychology, Football

What happens during a tennis match

Tennis players often tell me about the difficulty of maintaining a consistent attitude during matches. In fact, it is not an easy goal for anyone to achieve, not even for professionals. So much so that in this sport there are errors of two categories, the unforced errors and the forced errors. The former are those types of errors for which one wonders, “How could I have been so stupid as to make such a mistake.” Fortunately, it is a sport where the one who makes the least mistakes wins and not the one who doesn’t make mistakes, which is a pretty much impossible option.

So I wanted to prepare a slide that briefly represents: what happens in the negative momentum of the match, what the typical reactions of athletes are, what they lose, and what they should do to get back to playing the way they know how.

What is happiness?

When talking about young people, their problems are often highlighted, problems caused by the pandemic, loneliness, addiction to social media, difficulty living within their community, and so on. All of this is compounded by an external environment in which the issues of environmental destruction, wars, and the pandemic are among the most talked about. Little is said, on the other hand, about happiness, which seems to detect a way of living one’s daily life in a superficial way, too individualistic and outside the difficulties in which many feel immersed without knowing or having the strength to find solutions. It is equally true that at school, in the world of work and often even in families, there is no talk about woundedness and what practical experiences they could put in place to begin to feel happy.

Adults often have no idea what it means to be happy either, so how can they teach young people to be happy. It is easier to think that nothing can be done about it or that one can be happy only if … (and here everyone can complete the sentence as they see fit).

In psychology, on the other hand, there are experts who have studied about happiness, explaining its meaning and how it can be achieved. In this regard I report what has been expressed by those who have studied in their professional lives what happiness is. Understanding it and identifying what promotes it can be a stimulus for those who would like to set out on the road to being happy, notwithstanding the obvious trials that life presents.

Martin E. P. Seligman, Randal M. Ernst, Jane Gillham, Karen Reivich & Mark Linkins (2009) Positive education: positive psychology and classroom interventions, Oxford Review of Education, 35:3, 293-311.

‘Happiness’ is too worn and too weary a term to be of much scientific use, and the discipline of Positive Psychology divides it into three very different realms, each of which is measurable and, most importantly, each of which is skill-based and can be taught (Seligman, 2002).

The first is hedonic: positive emotion (joy, love, contentment, pleasure etc.). A life led around having as much of this good stuff as possible, is the ‘Pleasant Life’.

The second, much closer to what Thomas Jefferson and Aristotle sought, is the state of flow, and a life led around it is the ‘Engaged Life’. Flow, a major part of the Engaged Life, consists in a loss of self-consciousness, time stopping for you, being ‘one with the music’ (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). Importantly engagement seems to be the opposite of positive emotion: when one is totally absorbed, no thoughts or feelings are present—even though one says afterwards ‘that was fun’ (Delle Fave & Massimini, 2005). And while there are shortcuts to positive emotion—you can take drugs, masturbate, watch television, or go shopping—there are no shortcuts to flow. Flow only occurs when you deploy your highest strengths and talents to meet the challenges that come your way, and it is clear that flow facilitates learning.

The third realm in the framework of Positive Psychology is the one with the best intellectual provenance, the Meaningful Life. Flow and positive emotion can be found in solipsistic pursuits, but not meaning or purpose. Meaning is increased through our connections to others, future generations, or causes that transcend the self (Durkheim, 1951/1897; Erikson, 1963). From a Positive Psychology perspective, meaning consists in knowing what your highest strengths are, and then using them to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self (Seligman, 2002).

The framework of Positive Psychology, we want to emphasise, is an empirical research endeavour and not mere grandmotherly common sense. Among its more surprising recent findings:

  • Optimistic people are much less likely to die of heart attacks than pessimists, controlling for all known physical risk factors (Giltay et al., 2004).
  • Women who display genuine (Duchenne) smiles to the photographer at age eighteen go on to have fewer divorces and more marital satisfaction than those who display fake smiles (Keltner et al., 1999).
  • Positive emotion reduces at least some racial biases. For example, although people generally are better at recognising faces of their own race than faces of other races, putting people in a joyful mood reduces this discrepancy by improving memory for faces of people from other races (Johnson & Fredrickson, 2005).
  • Externalities (e.g., weather, money, health, marriage, religion) added together account for no more than 15% of the variance in life satisfaction (Diener et al., 1999).
  • The pursuit of meaning and engagement are much more predictive of life satisfac- tion than the pursuit of pleasure (Peterson et al., 2005).
  • Economically flourishing corporate teams have a ratio of at least 2.9:1 of positive statements to negative statements in business meetings, whereas stagnating teams have a much lower ratio; flourishing marriages, however, require a ratio of at least 5:1 (Gottman & Levenson, 1999; Fredrickson & Losada, 2005).
  • Self-discipline is twice as good a predictor of high school grades as IQ (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005).
  • Happy teenagers go on to earn very substantially more income 15 years later than less happy teenagers, equating for income, grades and other obvious factors (Diener et al., 2002).
  • How people celebrate good events that happen to their spouse is a better predictor of future love and commitment than how they respond to bad events (Gable et al., 2004).
So there is a growing scientific basis for understanding positive emotion, engagement and meaning. These states are valuable in their own right, they fight depression (Seligman et al., 2005), they engender more life satisfaction (Peterson, Park, & Seligman, 2005; Seligman et al., 2005), and they promote learning, particularly creative learning (Fredrickson, 1998).

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.