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The football leadership style

Transformational leadership is the new leadership model that, starting in the managerial world, has been extended in recent years to the world of sports. Here are the 4 main characteristics and examples of soccer coaches who use it

  1. Idealized influence - Conveys pride to the players, sets a good example to follow, and allows the leader to earn the respect of them in a way that increases the relevance of values. Ferguson: “I always have a lot of pride in seeing younger players develop.” In this way, the job of a coach is like to that of a teacher. Technical skills are formed, a winning mentality and better people are built. This leads to loyalty in young people to the club, as they are aware of the opportunity they have received.
  2. Inspirational Motivation - Conveys a vision of where the team is going motivates the players while inspiring them to take on challenging tasks. Communicates optimism and enthusiasm and stimulates self-efficacy. Guardiola: “I don’t want everyone trying to dribble like Leo Messi, you have to pass the ball, pass it and pass it again… Pass, move well, pass again, pass, and pass… I want every move to be smart, every pass accurate, that’s how we make the difference from the rest of the teams, that’s all I want to see.”
  3. Intellectual Stimulation - Encourages problem solving through new and creative strategies. Klopp: “”Playing unforgettable games, being curious and looking forward to the next game to see what will happen, and that’s what soccer should be about. If you make that attitude your own, you will be 100 percent successful.”
  4. Individualized Consideration - Recognizes the commitment and needs of everyone within the group through empathy, listening, compassion and the coaching process. Mourinho: “There are many ways to become a great manager … but above all I think the most difficult thing is to lead men with different cultures, brains and qualities.” At Inter he granted a vacation to Wesley Sneijder who was exhausted. “All the other coaches only talked about training,” Sneijder said. “He sent me to the beach. So I went to Ibiza for three days. When I came back, I was willing to kill and die for him.”

 

Doping, more tolerance is fair?

Since January 1st of this year, an athlete caught using drugs (cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, cannabis) after a control risks a disqualification of only three months, which can be reduced to 30 days if he/she shows regret and participates in a rehabilitation program. For WADA it is important that the drug has not altered the result of the performance.

But shouldn’t sport have an educational role? Wasn’t it supposed to keep young people away from drugs? Wasn’t it supposed to be an example of healthy living and wellness? Wasn’t it supposed to teach how to live frustrations and difficulties in a constructive way? Wasn’t it supposed to teach responsibility and work ethic? Okay, it failed!!!

Psychology dominates in soccer, but not psychologists

There is a lot of talk about psychology in soccer and yesterday we heard Antonio Conte’s phrases on the anxiety of his players, Fonseca’s phrases on his team’s 20 minute blackout and Andrea Pirlo’s phrases on the winning mentality that Juventus must have. Some time ago Alessandro Costacurta had spoken about the emotional intelligence that should guide the players.

These phrases show how high is the sensitivity of this sport world on psychology, but the question is that they are less than the fingers of one hand those who work in a soccer club. Who deals with it in the team?The coach is the psychologist of the team, on the one hand it is a function that is quite usual for those who play a leadership role in any group, on the other hand it represents an additional degree of responsibility that he does not share with anyone because within the staff there is no sports psychologist.

This absence, obviously, is not of today but it is a constant with some exceptions. Currently, to my knowledge, only Juventus and Verona have one working with players.
It doesn’t get any better in the youth sport and in soccer schools where they are quite common but often with marginal roles.

We are very far from the role that the psychologist plays in the US club. Robert Nideffer and Kenneth Ravizza have worked for years with many American football and baseball teams. The coach behavior evaluation system in youth baseball was introduced over 40 years ago now. In soccer in the UK, Chris Harwood proposed a soccer academy coach development program based on psychological characteristics, which is now used by soccer clubs and is widespread in the English-speaking world.

In our country we are stuck with the experiences of individual professionals, few in number, and in any case the interest of clubs is scarce.

Athletes needs expert coaches

Sometimes in high level sport there is the idea that the strong athletes when they go to the competition and in the days before the competition now no longer need the coach because they are ready and it is the athlete at that point that must demonstrate his/her value. It is thought that the psychological aspect of the approach to the race and the management of the same is a private matter, in fact it is time to demonstrate.

My professional experience is absolutely the opposite: precisely because they can provide exceptional performance these athletes need qualified people at their side who know how to direct them to live this experience in an effective and positive way.

I have in mind athletes asking you what they need to do or more simply wanting to talk to someone who knows them and is willing to listen. Without this last phase, which can be carried out by the coach or the psychologist, it is possible to throw away months or years of preparation for not having appreciated its importance.

I have in front of me athletes who before the Olympic final say that they are nauseous and do not want to go on the field or that three hours before they tell you that they do not remember what to do, or coaches who are surprised by unsatisfactory performance without having done anything to prevent it.

Today, when everyone feels like a motivator or mental coach, this lack is even more paradoxical, highlighting the fact that it takes specific professional skills to be the right person and that it is not enough just to stick this label on yourself, without understanding that training and competition are fundamentals in the consolidation of knowledge between coach, psychologist and athlete.

Be focused on the performance and not the outcome

I often wonder if it isn’t repetitive to keep talking about thinking about the performance rather than thinking about the result.

Nevertheless, I still find myself talking about this topic with the young people I work with, for the reason that they bring it up. Some says: “I always think about the result of the match, since the day before so I get tense and nervous and this doesn’t help me” or even “I think about the most important match even if it is in a month and not about the ones that come before”. A tennis player: “Before I was always thinking about the point, now I think more about pushing”.

Let’s just say that most athletes are not trained to think about performance, which concerns the behaviors to put in place to achieve the result goals (win, do your personal best, get into the final) but they think more easily of the result of their actions, I won/lost.

Many young people still think that the result should be their main thought.

Athletes must be aware that the mistake is always technical, if a shot in soccer goes out instead of into the goal it means that the ball has been hit badly, but this is only the effect, the question that the athlete and the coach must answer is:

  • the mistake is technical because the young has tried a shot that he/she does not yet fully possess due to some technical limitation.
  • the mistake is mental because he/she had to pass the ball, since from that position he/she would never have hit the goal.

The same mistake can be caused by different factors, if the coach continually puts the emphasis only on technique or tactics, the athlete will develop a mentality in which every mistake is always technical and therefore he/she never think to train the mindset.

The relationship between goals and failures

“As much as you set your goals too high and are unable to achieve them [skills], your enthusiasm turns to bitterness [motivation]. Seek a more reasonable goal and then gradually surpass it [experience]. That is the only way to get to the top.” (Emil Zatopek).

What happens in the world reveals that often people are not able to accept their limits and negative results, therefore, some give up, some lose confidence in themselves, someone else looks for shortcuts or turns to gurus who should make them change. Still others unknowingly follow Zatopek’s advice and thus continue their journey with renewed enthusiasm.

This sentence should be present in every school classroom, in every locker room or workplace because it explains what attitude to have when faced with mistakes and difficulties. It makes it clear that there are no shortcuts but only commitment and dedication (the sweat Hemingway talked about). Obviously not even the coach or the psychologist can replace this attitude, they can certainly explain that this is the best way to react, but the real work to achieve this thought is the one done by the person who is in difficulty to overcome it, no one can replace him/her.

The decline of sports for all goes on

Italy: 10 years ago I wrote this blog and I would say that the negative predictions I was making have come true.

This is not a topical issue because it is a constant fact of our daily lives. It is about sport for all. What has been called: sport for everyone. The 80′s and 90′s were those of the increase of active sportsmen and women and the great sports associations reached millions of adherents. It was an incredible success and a great social experience and search for well-being by Italians who had always been a population of sedentary people. Today, however, this drive has been lost, the maximum number of practitioners is in middle school and then decreases steadily: at 20 years old, 40% of girls and 60% of boys do sports, even irregularly; at 30 years old, 30% of women and 50% of men, which at 50 years old are reduced to 20% and 30%.

So what to do?

It is obviously not enough to organize thousands of running races in our cities every Sunday, because this does not increase physical activity. If we don’t want to find ourselves in a few years with a percentage of obese people and growing health problems, it is necessary that those who deal with sports for all get out of the traditional approaches that were so effective more than twenty years ago. We need new ideas, new kinds of collaboration among sports organizations to avoid ending up leading a life divided between home, transportation, school or work, transportation and home. We need to move out of the denunciation phase and into the choice phase.

Why do you practice sports?

I often wonder if talking about sports is not a way to escape the most serious problems of the society in which we live. Then I am convinced that sports for all and sports of excellence are significant manifestations of people’s lives.

So much so that even in ancient Greece wars were suspended during the Olympics. Not only that … sport in all its forms and at any level and age is a human expression that allows us to affirm ourselves for the pleasure of doing it (a nice run in a meadow) or because it allows us to self-actualize.

In this way there is room for all desires, for those who want to walk and live their environment in the most natural way they are allowed and for those who want to excel.

Mountaineers are often asked “Why do you want to climb Everest knowing that it is a dangerous undertaking”. The answer is always the same “Because it’s there”. That’s how sport is, an endeavor that everyone can choose how to tackle.