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IJSP 2° Special Issue: 50° Anniversary

We are going to publish the second special issue of the International Journal of Sport Psychology to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of this journal – 1970-2020. It is dedicated to the future of sport psychology.

Here’s the proof of the cover.

For those in a hurry to win

“I trained 4 years to run 9 seconds. It’s funny how people who don’t see results in 2 months give up and leave. Sometimes failure is sought by oneself.” (Usain Bolt)

La foto ironica di Usain Bolt sull'importanza del distanziamento sociale  per il Covid-19


Psychopandemic: which are the solutions

Beyond the widespread evidence, there are now numerous surveys that show us the data of the so-called psychopandemic, with a generalized increase of mental problems in the population of all ages. Here are the main points of the issue taken from David Lazzari, President of the Italian Register of Psychologists.

  • WHO already before the pandemic had highlighted that 17 million Italians suffered from psychological disorders, more than one in four Italians and in half of the cases these problems arise around the age of 14 years (Kastel 2019).
  • The highest incidence is in at-risk groups such as people returning from intensive care, those affected by Covid, the physically ill who could not be treated for fear of contagion or limitations in access, people who have lost a relative in special situations, “caregivers” who assist patents or people with diseases or disabilities, people with greater or previous psychological fragility, health workers in burnout.
  • Independent surveys carried out in various countries have converged in saying that one person in three today would need psychological listening and support, also to avoid the development of more serious and costly disorders.
  • In a recent survey conducted by the Study Center of the Italian Register of Psychologists, 47% of parents with children 3-14 years old report emotional problems, and 62% of children report negative psychological states.
  • Among adolescents, 6 out of 10 say they feel stressed and one out of three would like psychological support (Unicef 20.11.20).
  • 7 out of 10 people in these cases prefer psychological help to medication (McHugh 2013). There is evidence of greater and longer effectiveness of psychotherapy for most of these situations (Huhn et al. 2014, Cuijpers et al. 2014, Lazzari 2020).
  • Psychological interventions have a restructuring action because they promote people’s resources and prevent from relapse. We are talking about important differences that are appreciated especially in the medium and long term (Harryotaki et al. 2014, Zhang et al. 2018).
  • A fact confirmed by economic cost-benefit analyses, which tell us that 5 years after treatment, psychotherapy saves 1481 euros per person in health and 2058 euros to society compared to drugs, proving to be economically more advantageous in 75% of cases (Rossi et al. 2019).
  • All this without counting the possible side effects of widespread drug abuse.
  • Unfortunately, the problem is structural: it is the system that feeds this situation, because while drugs are reimbursed by the SSN or free (some categories) and easily available, psychological treatments are not only not reimbursable but are rare commodities in the public. With a psychologist and psychotherapist for every 12,000 inhabitants in the Italian NHS, access to these therapies in the public is for very few and in the private sector there are now fewer who can afford treatment.
  • Psychology and psychotherapy are still designed for those who can pay for them.

The relevance of self-talk in football

Continuous mistakes in the soccer league, from Bentancur’s against Porto to Sassuolo- Napoli highlight that many players probably do not have a self-talk that gives them instructions on how to play at certain times and that supports their toughenss to continue to strive at the best. These are big mistakes that crack any tactical idea of a team and of whose importance I don’t think teams and coaches are fully aware and acting to change. Here are some scientific facts that demonstrate their importance in soccer.

Self-talk may affect sport performance. There is positive correlation between performance enhancement, positive self-talk (which boosts confidence and belief in one’s ability), and instructional self-talk (which diverts the focus of attention on to certain elements of a movement to increase attentional focus, thereby helping execution).

Daftari, Fauzee, and Akbari (2010) examined the perceived positive and negative effects of self-talk on football performance on Iranian elite-level football players (members of the national team). The participants of this study were 25 Iranian male professional footballers (mean age 27 years). The results demonstrated that the perceived effects of self-talk on professional footballers in real performance contexts can be categorized in two main categories: positive and negative.

Positive effects comprised more than 80% of the perceived effects of self-talk, while negative effects comprised less than 20% of the responses. The three most cited positive effects of self-talk were:

  • “It enhances coordination with teammates (15.6%)”
  • “It enhances focus and attention (12.5%)”
  • “It promotes decision making skills (11.4%)”

The results indicate that the perceived effects of self-talk among these participants were to:

  • Increase players’ coordination through mental rehearsal of critical situations
  • Enhance athletes’ concentration and sharpen the accuracy of their movements
  • Boost their ability to make correct decision with precision in the shortest time
(Source: Farina e Cei, 2019)

Adopting a growth mindset

There are many examples of athletes who have improved and achieved success by adopting a growth mindset.

Carol Dweck reminds us that an athlete can be stifled by the pitfalls of a fixed mindset. The mindset of those who think natural talent shouldn’t need effort. Effort is for others, the less gifted. Natural talent doesn’t ask for help. It is an admission of weakness. In short, natural talent does not analyze its deficiencies and does not train or eliminate them.The very idea of deficiencies is terrifying.

Dweck also refers to the time when Billy Jean King, tennis champion, realized that hard work was necessary to supplement her talent if she wanted to reach the top. Despite playing at a very high level against the formidable Margaret Smith, King lost the match, but the defeat taught her the value of hard work. All of a sudden, she understood what a champion was. Someone who can raise their game when necessary. When the game is on the line, suddenly the champion becomes three times stronger.

Concentration and mental toughness are the two keys to success and not an innate personality trait. When eleven players want to knock you down, when you’re tired or injured, when the referees are against you, you can’t let any of that affect your concentration. How do you do that? You have to learn how to do it with special exercises.

Coaches should embrace this approach that highlights the value of a growth mindset in order to allow them to be open to improvement, work hard and learn from failure.

We often say, “Learn from mistakes.” Making mistakes is an integral part of growth. Placing too much emphasis on the importance of results and winning only increases competitive stress and the likelihood of not accepting one’s mistakes.

How much time do you spend to improve?

Aristotle said that “We are what we constantly do. Excellence therefore is not a single act but a habit.

Excellence is based on the habit of striving to improve with almost total dedication. Those who don’t understand that this is the way to go on a daily basis believe they can make up for it with the knowledge and skills they already possess.

As a professional – coach, doctor, psychologist, physical trainer – how much time do you spend for your continuous improvement?

Why and how the mental coaching is changed in these last 50 years

I would like to talk about how psychological preparation has changed, in my opinion, in this thirty years. Certainly new strategies and technologies have been introduced but this is not what I want to dwell on.

Initially, psychological preparation spread especially among high-level athletes and particularly those who participated in the Olympics and major sporting events. If we think of the psychological programs introduced in the 1970s and spread throughout the world in the 1980s and 1990s, we can see that they tended to develop certain psychological skills essentially linked to the management of competitive stress. From the first programs proposed by Richard Suinn and Lars Eric Unestahl to most of those implemented in those years, these projects were mainly focused on learning relaxation, mental repetition techniques, goal setting and techniques for attention training. My 1987 book “Mental training for athletes” proposes the same strategies within an eight-week program.

In those years working with athletes who were competing for maximum success, the attitude towards training or mindset was not taken into consideration. I remember Ennio Falco, gold medalist in Atlanta 1996 in skeet, a discipline of shooting, that when he made a mistake on a platform, he would take 500 cartridges and train on those two targets until he considered that mistake correct. On the other hand when in 1995 I started to work with the shooting most of them were athletes who had won many international competitions but wanted to learn to be even more concentrated and to better manage stress in some moments of the competition to raise their average by one clay pigeon. Basically for at least 20 years I worked with athletes who wanted to maximize the skills they already had, who trained every day in a motivated way and who wanted to respond immediately to the difficulties they encountered. The same however is true of most psychologists of that period.John Salmela, who constructed a questionnaire for the evaluation of mental abilities, told me that in Canada they considered the abilities sufficient if on a scale of 1 to 5, the athletes showed an average of 4!

It seems to me that today the condition has changed quite a bit, not only because mental preparation has spread to young adolescents and athletes at a lower level than those at the top of the world.

Dealing with this type of athlete, it seems to me that the need to understand and enhance motivation and a growth-oriented mentality has emerged more clearly, allowing them to learn to accept mistakes and to respond to difficulties quickly and effectively. These aspects seem to me to have not been as important among world-class athletes and therefore were not taken into account. The study of psychological dimensions such as optimism, toughness and and resilience seems to me that can also be explained because we have become aware of the lack of these characteristics in many athletes, as you can understand we are dealing with the attitude and the explanation of the results obtained.

Impossible to deepen this theme in the few lines of a blog but I think it should be studied as the psychological preparation has developed from the 70s to today, especially wanting to understand what have been the changes in the mentality of athletes and in the world of sport that could have oriented the choice of new directions of study and application.

IJSP Special Issue: 50° Anniversary



Guest Editors: Sidonio Serpa, Fabio Lucidi, Alberto Cei

The IJSP: from an idea to an established Journal 


The International Journal of Sport Psychology was the very first journal specifically committed to sport psychology, and it was created almost 10 years before the Journal of Sport Psychology that was published for the first time only in 1979, founded by Rainer Martens. Few people know about the many difficulties associated to its founding and development. It was created following a decision of the Managing Council of the recently founded Inter- national Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP), led by Ferruccio Antonelli, to be the Society’s means of communication, as well as to promote this, then, new professional and scientific field, and to enable the diffusion of research all over the World. However, it was hard to found a publisher for this world- wide diffusion scientific journal.

The Cold War, the international sport psychology and the ISSP 


The aim of this article is to document the influence of the Cold War in the development of sport psychology. This period that lasted from 1946 to 1989 deter- mined the international social and political reality following the World War II. Information for the article was gathered from personal oral and written interaction with major protagonists, as well as others that had experienced this period. Letters between the two first ISSP presidents, minutes and documents mainly from ISSP and FEPSAC were consulted. Articles, books and book chapters related to this topic were other sources for the article that discusses the influence of the Cold War in sports, the impact of this period in the development of sport psychology, the role of ISSP, and the situation determined by the end of the Cold War. Especially after the 1956 Olympics, sport victories were used as a propaganda tool, which led to the development of sport sciences, including sport psychology, in both sides of the Iron Curtin that divided the Socialist from the Capitalist parts of the World. The incep- tion of the ISSP in 1965 had an important role in promoting scientific and applied SP and making important bridges between professionals from the two blocs. After what was believed to be the end of the Cold War, a decrease in the development of SP both in the socialist countries and USA was observed, followed by an improve- ment mainly in Europe and Asia. 

 The early years of FEPSAC (1969-1989).

Challenges for sport psychology in a divided continent 


Despite a growing interest in the history of Sport Psychology, little is known about the specific challenges and the working procedures in the first 20 years of FEP- SAC, when the continent of Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain. At the occasion of the 50th anniversary of FEPSAC, and based on document analysis, this article aims at shedding some light on the aims of FEPSAC’s working committees, the difficulties encountered, and the achievements made. More specifically, the Scientific Committee made attempts towards a common terminology and understanding of sport psychology concepts across the different European languages and the standardisation of tests for sport psychology. The Information and Documentation Committee was active in col- lecting and disseminating new publications. Despite considerable efforts and remark- able progresses, the long-term impact of those initiatives remained limited. 

 North American sport psychology pioneers 


The article describes the evolution of Sport Psychology in North America, from the very first pioneers, who planted the seeds but did not have immediate suc- cessors, to the boom of the 1980’s and 90’s. 

The first part of the article is a historical recap, starting in 1895. The fast growth started in the 1980’s follows, emphasizing the impact of the Sport Psychol- ogy associations that emerged then, as well as the growth in publications. 

The section describing the work of the professionals who work as sport psy- chologists, opening fronts in a variety of performance arenas, both in the US and in Canada follows. 

Some of the main issues that impact the way sport psychology has evolved in North America are discussed, including the lack of coordination between the pro- fessional associations, the absence of a clear educational pathway to become a sport psychologist, and the recent changes to certification credentialing. 

 Sport Psychology in selected post-socialist countries 


The article aims to show the development of sport psychology in the selected European socialist countries. The Soviet Union was deliberately omitted, as it is the subject for a separate article. Sport psychology in particular countries has been pre- sented from the perspective of three distinct periods: the time before World War II, during the socialist period, and after the transformation. Main research areas, forms of practical support for athletes, and organizational activities have been depicted. Sport psychologists from post-socialist countries had and still have a significant influence on the shape of contemporary sport psychology. 

 Publishing trends in the International Journal of Sport Psychology during the First 50 years (1970-2019), with a particular focus on Asia and Oceania 


To commemorate the 50th anniversary of its first issue, we explored publication trends in the International Journal of Sport Psychology (IJSP), with a particular focus on research contributions from Asia and Oceania. A descriptive analysis of all articles published in IJSP between 1970 and 2019 (N = 1,175) was conducted to identify trends related to first author gender, country, and continent. Also, an analysis of research topics by decade was conducted using Leximancer. Key findings were: (a) female first authors became more prominent over time but remained in the minority; (b) the percentage of articles from Europe and Asia increased and the percentage of articles from North America declined, although the USA and Canada have been the top contributors over the life of the journal; and (c) the focus on particular topics, espe- cially those pertaining to athletes, performance, motor learning, motivation, and teams was sustained throughout the 50-year period. Within Asia and Oceania, the 10 coun- tries publishing the most articles were, in descending order, Australia, Israel, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, India, Japan, Singapore, and Turkey. 

 Sport & exercise psychology in Africa 


The purpose of this paper is to give an in-depth historical and current state of sport psychology in Africa. The first objective is to provide sport psychology context through a brief discussion of sport and physical activity in Africa. The second objective is to share the current state of sport psychology in each regional block (i.e., north, east, south and west). The third objective is to discuss research and consultancy, and lastly the conclusion. In order to achieve the stated objec- tives, the author reviewed academic literature and also used additional data sources such as university websites.

 History and development of sport psychology in Latin America 


The present study aimed to investigate the historical course of the sport psy- chology (SP) field and its development in Latin America. The keywords “history,” “sport psychology,” and related terms were searched for in Web of Science, Sci- enceDirect, LILACS, and Scielo databases, as well as Google Scholar and other manual searches to find scientific articles, book chapters, dissertations and other documents describing the history of SP in Latin American countries. Information was found for 15 Latin American countries. Drawing from the important data pre- sent in these works, the history of SP in this continent is presented in four periods that encompass its initial period (1930-1960), advancements in the applied and sci- entific field (1960-1980), consolidation of SP (1980-2000), and the recognition of SP (after 2000). The roots of SP in Latin America, its characteristics, factors driving its expansion and the actual state of SP are presented and discussed. 

 Women in sport and exercise psychology: a North American perspective 



Women’s contributions have had little place in the written histories of the field of sport and exercise psychology (Gill, 1995). Much of our written history of the field focuses on founders that were male, Caucasian, from the United States, and had a behavioral or experimental psychology background, with little attention to the role women, people of color, and those outside the United States played in the field’s his- tory and development (Krane & Whaley, 2010). Within this paper, we provide an overview of the literature devoted to North American women’s career experiences in the field of sport and exercise psychology, followed by a discussion of the history of feminist sport psychology and its influence on studying and acknowledging women in the field, as well as women’s experiences in sport and exercise. We then address the relative absence of documentation devoted to women’s contributions to the field out- side of North America. Lastly, we discuss the importance of female role models and mentoring women in sport and exercise psychology. 

50° Anniversary International Journal of Sport Psychology

On the occasion of the

50th anniversary of the International Journal of Sport Psychology – 1970-2020

this first special issue is dedicated to the past development of sport psychology.

Guest Editors: Sidonio Serpa, Fabio Lucidi, Alberto Cei

For the second time in its history, the IJSP decided to mark its anniversary. Two special issues celebrate the 50 years of the journal, this being the first one, in a look at the History of sport psychology, while the second mostly looks into the future, identifying some new trends of research, as well as the reorientation of some classic topics according to the Society changes.

The purpose of the current issue is double. On one hand, to preserve the memory of the path taken by sport psychology so far, as well as paying tribute to those who contributed to its development. On the other hand, by reflecting on the History, to understand better the present situation and, thus, working more efficiently for the future applied and scientific developments.

Who is interested in purchasing can write through the address of this blog.

Relazione among physical activity, gender, ethnicity and income

Adolescent girls and young women are less likely to engage in heart rate-increasing physical activity than their male peers and do so for shorter periods of time.

We know young people should get at least one hour of physical activity per day. 150 minutes a week adults.

A study in the United States found that more than 20% of adolescent girls and 12% of boys do no sports or recreational physical activity at all in a week, with just under 30% of men and nearly 40% of women, ages 18-29.

Writing in the journal Jama Pediatrics, Wong and colleagues describe how they assembled and analyzed data from an annual nationwide health survey in the United States, covering the years 2007 to 2016, focusing on responses from 9,472 individuals ages 12 to 29.

While nearly 88% of 12- to 17-year-olds report exercising during the week, the figure drops to just under 73% for 18- to 24-year-old males, and just under 71% for 25- to 29-year-olds. For females, the percentage drops from just over 78% for teens to just over 61% for both older age groups.

For exercisers, the amount of time spent exercising decreases with age, from just over 71 minutes per day for adolescent boys to just over 50 minutes for those aged 25 to 29. For girls, it drops from 56 minutes to just over 39 minutes per day, respectively.

Black boys aged 18-24 have more physical activity time per day (78 minutes per day).

Once factors including weight, education, and income were taken into account, the team found that ethnicity was related to whether females reported any physical activity: overall, a higher percentage of white females said they exercised than black or Hispanic participants. The trend was less clear for males.