Archive for the 'Stress' Category

Federer: to win he said “don’t mess it up”

I often talk with young tennis players of the importance to lead themselves during the matches. Most of them uses too often complicated thoughts and want to show brilliant shots. In my opinion, this thoughts prevents being concrete and do simple things, waiting for the right moment to close the point.

Everyone talk about Federer exceptional tennis but rarely pointed out that the mental approach to the game comes before very other thing.

In this interview, instead, the same Federer remind us about the importance of the mental attitude. These sentences clearly highlight this approach, when he says that in the fourth set his mind was wandering too much and then he tells himself: “Don’t mess it up.”

So first of all, we need to support ourselves and then let’s focus on every point.

“The problem in the fourth set was that my mind was all over the place,” Federer told Australia’s Seven Network. “I was so close and I was telling myself, ‘Don’t mess it up,’ and then that’s exactly what I did. I got a bit lucky at the beginning of the fifth set. I personally don’t think I would have come back if he’d broken me first.”

Tennis: the mental approach to the match

One of the main reasons because so many young people who want to pursue a tennis career instead undergo continuous failures lies, in my opinion, in their excessive expectations and the desire to show off a brilliant style of play that they are not able to support. Federica Brignone, bronze medal  in the giant at these Winter Olympics, said that it’s needed “work and mental strength.” Unlike, be prisoners of the expectations and focused on brilliant play are exactly the opposite, because they distract the players from what has to be performed during each point.

Expectations - They are destructive. On one side is too trivial to remember that you want to win the match, because we assume that no one starts a match with the goal of losing it. This idea should remain in the background of one’s mind, if not out, since it does not help the young to be focused only on the next point. For the young tennis players, the first thing to learn is that there is just the next point to play and they must be prepared to play it according to the match momentum. Think beyond that point means to remove concentration and determination in the present and put it in the foreseeable future that cannot be controlled, because at the moment it does not exist.

The play - Many young people are focused on the play and when you ask them how many times they have achieved this strategy, they respond that only rarely they were able to follow it, even just for the duration of one set. In my opinion, they fail because they start from a wrong assumption. To show a play style is a point of arrival and not of departure, it will be achieved through a mental journey which they are not yet able to support. Furthermore, to think about the match is an abstract concept, they need to be focused on the specific actions that, instead, should make in trouble their opponents. So, really, the players think too much and in a global way and they are not oriented to how to perform the next step.

Roberta Vinci in the match won against Serena Williams, said her thinking about the game was: “Run and throw it in there.” What do these words mean?

Run - Put in evidence you need to be fast and this physical readiness starts from the mental readiness, which triggers the reaction. This behavior happens in receiving when you are on the front of your feet ready to shoot forward and in the continuous “hopping” showed by the  champions also during the warmup. Tennis requires to be fast and, typically, this is lost when we are losing, the speed slows down we get depressed and the mistakes grow up.

Throw it over there – It means to play a deep ball without running excessive risks, waiting for the opponent mistake or the right moment to close the point. This approach to the match highlights the personal toughness in pursuing the own goals, maintaining the control of the game. Otherwise the tennis players may tend to slow down too much the play rhythm or to speed up the game, looking for brilliant shots to quickly close the point.

Then the match is a continuous succession among these moments:

  1. be fast
  2. to hit the ball that
  3. must be deep and
  4. play with the opponent at least 4/5  shots to make the point, and
  5. use the breaks to relax and
  6. refocus on next point
  7. to be fast again …

 

The tactics in sports

The tactic is a key factor of success in many sports, not just team sports. In summary, it’s to do the right thing at the right time and therefore requires timing, precision, awareness and quickness. They are skills that athletes must develop, otherwise they will probably perform doing the right thing at the wrong time or even they choked because dominated by performance anxiety.

The tactic consists of a set of factors that lead to sports action:

  • Have specific and achievable performance goals, adapted to the situational demands of the competition.
  • Know your skills and expertise, knowing the odds of success and risk.
  • Develop the situational awareness, perceive and analyze situations, choose between alternatives and use the personal insights.
  • Quickly change the action plan, if it does not produced the effects expected.
  • Act supported by thoughts and emotions.

Movimento special issue: basket (English abstract)

 

 

 

The culture of mental toughness

The development of mental toughness has often been regarded as a strictly individual factor and we have few information to understand how the sport organizations show and build their culture of toughness and how this promotes the athletes’ toughness .

The article by Eubanks, Nesti e Littlewood (2017), A culturally informed approach to mental toughness development in high performance sport, IJSP, 48, 206-222, revived some new insights about this topic.

The purpose is to explore the importance of culture in the development of Mental Toughness (MT). This is done by means of a critical review of the current literature that exists in relation to the conceptualisation, definition and development of the concept. We argue that despite recent advances in our understanding, most research into MT has focused on the characteristics of mentally tough individuals. Although important and useful, the role of the environment, culture and context, and how these impact MT and its development has been given somewhat less attention and is perhaps not well integrated into practice.

The notion of Mental Toughness (MT) being broadly represented by “the ability to achieve personal goals in the face of pressure from a wide range of different stressors” (Hardy et al., 2014).

One of the criticisms frequently levelled at psychology as an academic discipline is that it often focuses on the individual, and forgets, or ignores the environment within which the individual exists.

Culture may be best seen as the hidden yet influential force, involving core values, beliefs, and traditions that operates as a type of soft power, which shape the working practices, ideas, strategies and philosophies of groups and individuals.

Weinberg et al. (2011) focused on the views of ten National Collegiate Athletic Association head coaches, who reported that a tough physical practice environment, a positive men-tal environment and an environment that provided mental toughness awareness and learning opportunities were fundamental to MT development.

The authors said that is clear that the optimum environments to build MT are those that are imbued with a challenging and stimulating culture, where personal responsibility is emphasised in all things.

 

The experiences of ultramarathon runners

Review

“It’s Not about Taking the Easy Road”: The Experiences of Ultramarathon Runners

Duncan Simpson,  Phillip G. Post,  Greg Young,  Peter R. Jensen 

The Sport Psychologist, 2014, 28, 176-185

Ultramarathon (UM) running consists of competitive footraces over any distance longer than a marathon, which is 26.2 miles  The distances of UM races vary from 31 to over 100 miles and are often distinct due to the challenging environments in which they take place (e.g., forests, mountains, jungle, and desert).

Research that has been conducted has primarily examined the sport motivations, changes in mood states, and sport-specific cognitions of UM runners. Research on UM participant motivations suggest that these athletes compete to experience feelings of personal achievement, to overcome challenges, socialize with other runners, and to be in nature.

Evaluations of UM runners’ cognitive orientations, race thoughts and mental strategies indicate that these runners are more confident, committed to running, have higher goal-orientations compared with other athletes, use dissociative thoughts (e.g., thinking of friends, music) and use several mental skills (i.e., imagery, goal setting, self-talk).

Results

The present study explored UM runners’ experiences of training and competition using the method of existential phenomenological interviewing: 26 participants ranging in age from 32 to 67 years.

UM Community was the most prominent theme that emerged from the interviews. Specifically, these participants perceived the UM community helped them to effectively prepare for events (e.g., obtain information on how to train), manage in race demands (e.g., support from crew members), discover new environments (e.g., running new races) and enhanced their sense of personal achievement (e.g., the exclusivity of the small number of individuals participating in UM).

UM Preparation/strategy highlights the amount of time, dedication, and personal sacrifice needed to be a successful UM runner. While prior research indicates that training hours are key predictors of success, it does not adequately describe the dedication and sacrifice made by these runners. UM runners train for long periods of time without large incentives (e.g., monetary rewards, sponsorships) or established training protocols (e.g., coach, training guidelines). To train effectively these UM runners often sacrificed social relationships, family, and work needs. Therefore, the incentive to train and decisions about nutritional/training needs largely rested with each individual.

UM Management is consistent with prior UM research examining cognitive strategies and goal orientations. With regard to goal orientations, prior research suggests that UM runners focus on task goals (i.e., process) more than outcome goals (i.e., winning the race). This was supported in the current study, with the majority of participants indicating that they were primarily focused on simply doing their best. This included running specific time goals or simply finishing the event within the allotted time. In terms of cognitive strategies, participants described using goal setting, self-talk, attentional focus strategies, cognitive restructuring and imagery to assist with managing the physical and mental demands of the race.

UM major factor in dealing with pain was being able to accept the pain. Specifically, before the race participants acknowledged that the run was going to hurt, and as long as the pain did not exceed a certain threshold, it was viewed as a normal aspect of the race. Several runners also described using associative strategies to manage pain.

UM Discovery and personal achievement suggest that UM are motivated to participate in these races to experience personal achievement, to push themselves beyond their perceived capabilities, and to experience nature. Discovery was also about exploring the unknown, overcoming fear, and unveiling new personal insights (e.g., that they were capable of running a much farther distance than they thought possible).

 

New proposals to diffuse sport among young

Aspen Institute launched a model of sport development for children and adolescents based on the most recent research in this area with the aim to increase their involvement in sport. The goal is to change the sport culture centered on the early start to a single sport, suggesting the validity of a multi-sports even for future elite athletes. This initiative also aims to increase the number of young physically active that in recent years is narrowing significantly. The project, developed together with the most important sports organizations and worldwide company has been called Project Play – Reimagining Youth Sport in America.

Fig. 6 Physical activity has long lasting benefits that affect all aspects of a child’s life and last into adulthood. (Courtesy of Aspen Institute Project Play) [Citation]  

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I wishes Happy 2018, hoping the daily work of sports science community contributes to diffuse @GlobalGoalsUN program to take action for a better world

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