Archive for the 'Stress' Category

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Covid and mindset: a lost war

Now begins the phase of self-control. There was a case of covid in an international golf tournament, the same happened in Adria in the tournament promoted by Djokovic, where a finalist was positive. In Italy, in football there will be a bland quarantine in case the virus hit a player or other members of the team. Small but negative signals that push us to live in apnea, as if waiting.

Always negative and more relevant signals come from Italy. There are statistics that say that the number of positives is not falling as expected, probably due to inadequate behaviors. And this would increase the probability of a second wave in the autumn. According to research conducted by the Catholic University, 41% of Italians do not seem willing to vaccinate against Covid. At the moment only a few million people have downloaded the Immuni App. It is mainly people between 35 and 59 years (with 48%) to declare that they do not want to be vaccinated, it is also a transversal group in relation to professions that unites workers and entrepreneurs, employees and professionals. They share a psychological profile in which prevails a “fatalist”, “individualist and selfish” and do not perceive the value of social responsibility. The research has shown that compared to March, the self-control of the population to respect the rules has decreased, dysfunctional behaviors have increased and the emotional willingness to continue to respect them has decreased.

Therefore, these people show a difficulty in integrating the return to normality within the framework of rules that are not the usual ones, but which imply awareness of the social role of each person with regard to the management of their own health and responsibility towards their community. These dysfunctional attitudes are the usual ones that people use to justify to themselves behaviors that are clearly negative for their health, just think of the problems related to smoking, nutrition and sedentary lifestyle, just to remember the most common ones in our society. The fatalistic approach (“I will certainly not die of cancer because I smoke” or “You have to die of something anyway”) and the individualistic approach (“They say what they want me to smoke” or “Life is mine and I do what I want”) are enemies of social life and personal self-control. We are faced, therefore, with the reactions that people show to those problems requiring solutions that are developed in the long term and do not end quickly. They are not reactions different from those they have used in the past, but until now they have mainly involved only themselves.

To this approach should be added that crowding into a square to have fun with friends immediately produces positive emotions, while respecting the rules of physical distancing to stay healthy will only produce a positive effect over time. In essence, these behaviours are reinforced by the immediate benefits that they bring and that outweigh the costs and consequences over time.

We need a change of mentality because now it is completely different and the effects of our actions have an effect on the health of others we come into contact with.The difference lies in the pandemic that involves the whole of society, which has hit everyone’s daily life very hard and still continues to change the rules of social coexistence and work. All this requires a collective solution that drastically reduces dysfunctional behaviors and the whole country will have to actively move in this direction.

How should a coach handle the emotions?

A question from a coach. To manage our emotions… What have I to do?
First recognize them, then work on them. Could it be useful to talk with other colleagues who can help me with an external, more objective view of my emotional reactions?

An action plan in 6 points:

  1. Comparison with colleagues on how to handle disappointment rather than enthusiasm is useful.
  2. It is decisive to accept what we feel at that moment, even if we don’t like it.
  3. Only assess our behavior in that situation and never extend it to our person in global terms.
  4. Reflecting on alternative ways of reacting to the event for which we are, for example, angry
  5. Decide how to behave the next time a similar situation arises
  6. The use of abdominal breathing, paying particular attention to lengthen the exhalation phase (counting up to 7), can be useful to regain self-control.

51° anniversary of the International Journal of Sport Psychology

This year is the 51st year since the International Journal of Sport Psychology (IJSP) was founded in 1970. We will publish two special issues, the first has a look back at the history of sport psychology. This orientation has been chosen to keep alive the memory of how we have come to the present development and which were the most prominent players in this path. Today we have more than 10 journals dedicated to this discipline, which are also associated with the many other sports science journals that regularly host contributions of a psychological nature. Throughout the 1970s the only magazine available was IJSP, at least until the publication in 1979 of the Journal of Sport Psychology founded by Rainer Martens. The second issue is dedicated more to the future, identifying not only some trends in development but also how research on some classic themes is reorienting itself according to the changes in our society.

IJSP has celebrated itself once again in all these years. Ferruccio Antonelli made his debut in this regard:

“This special issue celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Journal and the fifteenth anniversary of the Society. It will readers its readers while European Section of ISSP – the FEPSAC – is holding its fifth Congress (September 1979) in Varna, Bulgaria, and celebrating its tenth anniversary” (p.149).

The authors of this special issue have been invited to provide a contribute on one of the seven topics proposed:

  • Psychological management of top-athletes (J. Salmela)
  • Coaches and sport psychology (B.S. Rushall)
  • Female sport today: psychological consideration (D. Harris)
  • Psychology of children in sport (F.L. Smoll and L.M. Levebvre)
  • Critical issues in the application of clinical psychology in the sport setting (B.C. Ogilvie)
  • Sport psychology foe handicapped (H. Rieder)
  • Research in sport psychology (R.N. Singer and J.E. Kane)

The publication of this special issue was a success. It’s well documented by the congratulation letters the authors sen to Ferruccio Antonelli and that I have.

  • “My congratulation to the special issue. It is really very good one” (Miroslav Vanek, ISSP President).“Congratulations on the Tenth Anniversary Special Issue of the International Journal of Sport Psychology. I hope that you have had good reactions and reviews for your efforts” (Dorothy Harris)
  • “Thank you for sending a copy of the anniversary issue of IJSP. You are to be commended for initiating such an ambitious project and congratulated for the quality of the final product” (Frank L. Smoll).
  • “Each issue of the International Journal of Sport Psychology seems to get better and better” (Robert N. Singer).

Certainly also IJSP will have to renew itself as it is happening in the world of research to face the new challenges of the next decade. In any case, we are now proud that an Italian publisher, Luigi Pozzi publisher, has kept its commitment to lead the magazine to the point of being spread in all continents and to have an Editorial Board reflecting this spread in the world.

I would like to thank Sidonio Serpa and Fabio Lucidi for leading with me the production of these special issues, and I hope it will receive the same positive reception that Ferruccio Antonelli had in 1970.

The focus is specific to each sport

I keep hearing say to athletes: “be careful” or “focus.”

I compare these corrections to players’ frustration failures in football. When I don’t know what to do, I use them even if they’re useless.

These are the wrong words, in those moments we are attentive to the wrong things, because the human being is always attentive to something. The question is whether it is paying attention to something that is useful to carry out the task or whether it is hindering its effective execution.

The second reason why it is pointless is that the terms are too global, devoid of specificity. Nobody changes because they are told a global word: careful, calm, decisive, think.

The third reason concerns the specificity of attention. Every sport requires a certain type of attention, which should be trained and of which athletes and coaches should be aware.

To begin to understand something, I report a table with a summary description of the attentional requests in specific sports.


Quando focalizzarsi

Effetto aspettato

Arti marziali


Ogni volta che c’è sufficiente distanza fra i due avversari da permettere un respiro di 2 secondi. Istruzione mentale singola (esempio, spostamento da un punto all’altro).


Immediatamente prima di colpire la palla. Focus viene raggiunto tramite la ripetizione mentale del colpo. Momentaneo adeguamento della respirazione e della tensione muscolare, quindi orientamento dell’attenzione verso la palla che s’intende colpire.


Negli attimi precedenti l’inizio della partita o dopo un’interruzione di gioco o in seguito a una rete. Rapido controllo mentale e adeguamento del livello di tensione. Messa a fuoco su una singola istruzione tecnica o tattica (esempio: “Tieni gli occhi sulla palla,”Stai tra l’attaccante e la rete). Direzionare l’attenzione durante la partita in funzione del gioco.







Immediatamente dopo avere visualizzato mentalmente un tiro, a questo punto eseguirlo. Adeguare la tensione nella parte superiore del corpo, soprattutto nelle spalle. Rilassare la tensione nelle gambe mentre si espira e concentrarsi su un singolo aspetto rilevante per il tiro. Occhio sulla pallina.
Pallavolo Immediatamente prima di battere.



Nelle pause tra i punti.

Regolare la tensione delle spalle e del collo. Istruzione tecnica e dirigere l’attenzione sulla palla.

Focalizzarsi per controllare la tensione, respiro e velocità di recupero. Subito dopo spostare l’attenzione verso l’esterno per controllare la posizione dei giocatori.



Immediatamente prima di salire in pedana.



Durante le pause dell’incontro.

Regolare la tensione muscolare e la respirazione. Darsi una singola istruzione tecnica e tattica.

Concentrazione sull’aspetto del compito più importante. Eseguire un respiro profondo.

Tennis Immediatamente prima di servire. Regolare tensione muscolare spalle e collo. Istruzione tecnica e tattica singola. Occhio sulla pallina.


Too much facebook and doping among runners

I read long excerpts from Carlo Esposito’s book on doping in the amateur running race entitled “Inferno 2019″. It documents what a terrible thing happens, bringing those who practice it closer to the multi-dopaths of top sport.

The author highlights the role of facebook in amplifying this phenomenon. This juxtaposition is not surprising, since it is a container used to cultivate the pathological narcissism of these people. The performance improvements that are achieved with doping and drug abuse become a way to gain status and popularity. Facebook is the space for spreading this self-image.

Doping like financial fraud is based on the concept of deception. I described how it happens in my book “The Lords of Traps”. Here I quote the definition.

For cognitive psychology “a deception is an act or trait of an M organism that has the purpose of not letting an I organism have true knowledge that is relevant to that organism, and that does not reveal that purpose” (Castelfranchi e Poggi, 1998, p.55). In this sense, it is an action that makes sense to perform only if one is inserted within a certain relational and social context, since it is precisely in that context that M and I subjects live, for whom fraud takes on meaning.

The concept of act referred to when talking about fraud essentially concerns conscious processes, carried out intentionally. In fact, the act of doping consists essentially in actions that are characterized in volunteer terms in the search for fraud strategies and ways to implement them. One of the disturbing and sensational aspects of this phenomenon certainly concerns the great social importance of the deception warped against those who, in top-level sport, admire these athletes for their exceptional sporting performance. This highlights another crucial component of the fraud process: the relevance of deception to the deceived. In fact, the lack of knowledge on the part of others, whether they are mere fans or opponents, of the real condition of the athlete, occurs through the theft of essential information, preventing the correct evaluation of the performance of doped athletes. In other words, it is made to believe the false, to the detriment of making the truth known.

Finally, the process of deception includes a further aspect, related to not letting the deceived know that he is being deceived. When you falsify, you do exactly this kind of operation, you give false information, with the declared intention of making people believe it to be true, and you take actions to convince the deceived of the goodness of what is being claimed.

Regardless of the fact that these abuses concern doping carried out to provide excellent performance at the Olympics, rather than that more simply practiced by recreational athletes, all the frauds have three elements in common that when compared with those used by Castelfranchi and Poggi to describe the process of deception are thus associated:

  • they are carried out in a secret way and this dimension can be attributed to the factor called meta-deception.
  • violate the relationship of trust between those who carries it out and the organisation/sporting environment that is a victim of it and, therefore, are based on the non-truth factor
  • are intended to bring economic and/or social benefits to fraudsters and, therefore, are identified in terms of their specific purpose.

Me too back to the court

This weekend first exit post lockdowm in Marina di Massa at Accademia Tennis Apuano. Two intense days but passed quickly with coaches and 8 tennis players. Five hours of training in the court per day and two hours to talk about the work done together in the court and watching videos on the concentration on the court.

They all worked hard and certainly staying with them directly in the court during training allowed the players to integrate the psychological training into what they do every day, making them aware of how this type of preparation is indivisible from the daily practice of tennis.

Track & field and training after coronavirus

The blog “10 goals to train with pleasure and success” continues to be diffuse in Italian sport.

Now it’s on Italian track and field federation web site.

To remember that life is a matter of cm

The team is facing the most difficult and important match of the entire season and its coach (Al Pacino) is in the situation of having to find reasons why his players provide the performance they are capable of. It is obviously a speech that symbolizes those situations in life in which winning or losing depend on a few inches in football and something more that has been done or simply having dedicated more time to an activity. How many times in relation to the feelings that people feel, they regret not having said some extra words, not having dedicated just a little more time to understanding, not having spoken to that person who then made a desperate actions, for having thrown away their time. These are the inches that Al Pacino talk about of that distinguish those who want to win or lose, those who want to be satisfied or those who want to be victim. Let’s not forget it, let’s always remember it!

I don’t know what to say, really. Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives. All comes down to today, and either, we heal as a team, or we’re gonna crumble. Inch by inch, play by play. Until we’re finished. We’re in hell right now, gentlemen. Believe me. And, we can stay here, get the shit kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb outta hell… one inch at a time. Now I can’t do it for ya, I’m too old. I look around, I see these young faces and I think, I mean, I’ve made every wrong choice a middle-aged man can make. I, uh, I’ve pissed away all my money, believe it or not. I chased off anyone who’s ever loved me. And lately, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror. You know, when you get old, in life, things get taken from you. I mean, that’s… that’s… that’s a part of life. But, you only learn that when you start losin’ stuff. You find out life’s this game of inches, so is football. Because in either game – life or football – the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team we fight for that inch. On this team we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. Because we know when add up all those inches, that’s gonna make the fucking difference between winning and losing! Between living and dying! I’ll tell you this, in any fight it’s the guy whose willing to die whose gonna win that inch. And I know, if I’m gonna have any life anymore it’s because I’m still willing to fight and die for that inch, because that’s what living is, the six inches in front of your face. Now I can’t make you do it. You’ve got to look at the guy next to you, look into his eyes. Now I think ya going to see a guy who will go that inch with you. Your gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team, because he knows when it comes down to it your gonna do the same for him. That’s a team, gentlemen, and either, we heal, now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. That’s football guys, that’s all it is. Now, what are you gonna do?”

George Floyd protests

George Floyd: nelle sue ultime parole, il ricordo della madre ...

The break management could determine the result

During this time I work a lot with shooting, tennis and table tennis. You may wonder what they have in common: the breaks between shots and points. These athletes share another characteristic, they often do not train this phase of the performance, and this has negative effects on the next phase. They do not train the break because it is usually considered a non-technical phase; so it is not the task of the instructor when you are a child and then the coach to teach you how to manage it.

The break is a break, so there is nothing to teach, maybe you should check your breathing and think positive about the next action. You say it in words but you don’t practice it. Some athletes understand its importance and also for this reason they become champions. Most of them, live it waiting it finishes, better if in a hurry to return to the race. In fact, this idea “return to the race” is another common thought among athletes. Pauses represent a break in performance and are not part of the performance. With this you can’t go far, rifles can’t be broken but racquets can; they are much cheaper.

Many athletes grow up with this mindset  towards breaks, they consider them an annoying part of the race and, therefore, when they are in agitation or are losing they accelerate this phase to return immediately to the race and try to recover. The effects are usually disastrous and they convince themselves that they are not able to play, while instead they don’t just know how to manage the breaks.