From Mongolia to Old Trafford to fulfil a dream

Cultivating your passions is one of the most beautiful ways to live life. Doing something just for the pleasure it brings, not for money or to please someone, and certainly not out of duty. These are activities undertaken to satisfy the child within us, often labeled as useless, leading nowhere, and perhaps even tedious and boring in the eyes of others.

However, these are the activities that give a profound sense of purpose to life, that bring happiness in their execution, that help us better accept the rest of our lives and temporarily distance ourselves from disappointments.

A story like this is realized by Ochirvaani Batbold, 26 years old, who cycled 10,000 kilometers from Mongolia to fulfill his dream of meeting his idol Wayne Rooney and cheering for Manchester United.

In his youth, he was an emerging player in his country, Mongolia, playing in several teams of the top Mongolian league. Then someone promised him a trial with the Los Angeles Galaxy in exchange for 3,000 euros, but he lost his money because the offer turned out to be a scam. It seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime. To escape despair, he wrote a letter to Manchester United explaining his situation and thus set off a year ago, taking all this time to reach England.

The former English striker couldn’t believe it and declared: “I wanted to meet you at all costs,” Rooney said to an emotional Batbold upon his arrival in Manchester, “to tell you ‘well done’! You think we footballers gave you inspiration. But what you did is something incredible, and you should be very proud of it.”

Social media effects in young

Bozzola E, Spina G, Agostiniani R, Barni S, Russo R, Scarpato E, Di Mauro A, Di Stefano AV, Caruso C, Corsello G, Staiano A. The Use of Social Media in Children and Adolescents: Scoping Review on the Potential Risks. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Aug 12;19(16):9960.

Social media is increasingly being used by children and adolescents, especially during COVID-19 pandemic and the health emergency. Although social media use demonstrated to be of utility, an excessive or non-correct use may be a risk factor for mental health, including depression, anxiety, and addiction.

Social media use may also correlate to a non-adequate nutrition with consumption of junk food marketing leading to weight gain, obesity, dental caries, and unhealthy eating behaviors. Associations have been found also with increasing physical problems due to sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and non-physiological postures. On the other hand, social media can cause problems with body image visualization and acceptance, especially inyoung adolescent girls with lower self-esteem, who may look for contents for losing weight rapidly, and this can help the extension of anorexia disorders.

Children and adolescents who use social media for many hours a day, are also at higher risk for behavioral problems, cyberbullying, online grooming, sleep difficulties, eye problems, (such as myopia, eye fatigue, dryness, blurry vision, irritation, burning sensation, conjunctival injection, ocular redness, and dry eye disease), and headache. Moreover, uncontrolled social media use, can lead to sexting, exposure to pornography, exposed to unwanted sexual material online, and early sexual activity. Social media users meet more online risks than their peers do, with an increased risk for those who are more digitally competence.

Public and medical awareness must rise over this topic and new prevention measures must be found, starting with health practitioners, caregivers, and websites/application developers. Families should be educating on the dangers and concerns of having children and adolescence online. Prerequisite to inform families how to handle social media is to educate those responsible for training, including health practitioners.

In detail, pediatricians should be reminded to screen for media exposure (amount and content) during periodic check-up visits. They need to keep in mind a potential correlation of problematic social media use with depression, obesity and unhealthy eating behavior, psychological problems, sleep disorder, addiction, anxiety, sex related problem, behavioral problem, body image, physical inactivity, online grooming, sight compromising, headache, and dental caries.

Pediatricians can also counsel parents to guide children to appropriate content by consulting ratings, reviews, plot descriptions, and by a previous screening of the material. They should inform parents about the potential risk of digital commerce to facilitate junk food, poor nutrition and sweetened aliments, facilitating overweight and obesity. On the contrary, a healthy diet, adequate physical activity and sleep need to be recommended.

Pediatricians may also play a role in preventing cyberbullying by educating both adolescent and families on appropriate online behaviors and on privacy respect. They should also promote a faceto-face communication and to limit online communication by social media. Pediatricians may encourage parents to develop rules and strategies about media device and social media use at home as well as in every day’s life.

Coco Gauss mindset

Brad Gilbert began working with Coco Gauff in July 2023, joining her team as a consultant. That November, he took over as her main coach two months after she won the US Open for her first Grand Slam title. “Coco is a special talent,” he said just days after Gauff’s big win. “She has incredible ability, she has great resilience.

Working with tennis greats is nothing new for Gilbert, who’s trained top players like Andrea Agassi and Andy Roddick. Under his tutelage, Agassi won six of his eight Grand Slam titles and Roddick secured his 2003 US Open victory.

Before the Australian Open in January, Gauff opened up to reporters about the pressure she previously put on herself to win high-profile tournaments. “I think I put too much pressure on winning a Slam. I think I was feeling like I have to do it,” Gauff said at the time. “When I went on the scene at 15, I felt like I had to win a Slam as a teenager because that’s what everybody thought.”

When reflecting on her first-round loss at Wimbledon last year, Gauff said “The world didn’t end,” and added, “The sun still shines. I still have my friends and family.”
“I realized that losing isn’t all that bad, and that I should just focus on the battle and the process and enjoy it,” Gauff added. “I found myself being able to play freer and trust myself more.”

Gilbert spoke about Gauff’s mindset ahead of the French Open, noting that she was “focused on the moment” despite the prestigious European event being only six weeks away at the time.

While training to clinch victories is serious business, Gilbert’s sure to bring the fun. Gauff admitted to being “worried” at first about their age gap prior to meeting, but she’s come to learn that Gilbert “still has the mind of a 20-year-old.” She joked, “Maybe even younger, a 10-year-old kid sometimes.”

How athletes use social media

Studies on athletes’ use of social media highlight both positive experiences and implications (e.g., team support, motivation, image management, and connection) and negative ones (e.g., criticism, obligations, and anxiety). It’s important to note that these studies explicitly focus on social media, which represents only one aspect of smartphone use.

A study on Canadian athletes revealed a weekly smartphone usage frequency of 32 hours, with social media being the most used application, exceeding other types of usage by 7 hours. This highlights a strong presence of these activities throughout the week, likely surpassing the number of hours dedicated to training.

This research detailed specific aspects of the relationship athletes can have with their smartphones. These findings need to be confirmed by further studies but are consistent with what is described about adolescents. Athletes report using Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, music, and organizational tools such as the calendar, alarm, and email applications. 81% reported using it in a moderate or almost always-intensive manner.

Intensive users reported always having their smartphones with them or nearby and using the device for “everything” during the day. They described the need to constantly check and respond to notifications immediately. Moderate users identified themselves in similar terms to intensive smartphone users, with the difference that they regularly tried to monitor their smartphone use and reduce unhelpful smartphone habits. Conversely, light users reported feeling the need to use their phones only for essential tasks and otherwise feeling able to separate and ignore the device without feeling obligated to respond to messages, calls, or notifications.

The greatest paradox expressed by the athletes concerns the experience of being separated from their smartphones. Many identified deliberately taking a “break” from the phone as a source of relief. However, this relief is present only when the athletes are not expecting important information via their phones. If the smartphone separation is forced (e.g., forgetting the phone, the phone freezing), it can induce a state of anxiety and/or panic. One athlete explained her dichotomous position: “I think I am calmer when I know I don’t need it. Because I know if I need it, then I keep checking it, becoming anxious… It’s a mix between freedom and anxiety. It’s the freedom of simply not having the phone. And then anxiety, of course, if you’re waiting for something.”

It is clear that university athletes use their smartphones to manage roles and demands in multiple contexts (e.g., sports, school, home), and therefore, simply focusing on the negative implications of use does not recognize the entire range of athletes’ interactions with their phones. Based on this data regarding smartphone use in the sports context, it is recommended that sports psychologists, coaches, and athletes avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to usage rules.

Age to access at social media

To those who are still convinced that the use of cell phones and social media by children and adolescents is an absolutely positive thing, they can read this news.

The city of New York has provided an example of what can be done globally by initiating legal proceedings against three social media giants: TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube. They are accused of exacerbating the mental health crisis among children and adolescents by exploiting their vulnerability to generate addiction to their platforms. Mayor Eric Adams has filed this lawsuit, which echoes a similar legal action initiated in California in 2022. The complaint focuses on aggressive marketing tactics and algorithms that, according to the accusation, “attract, trap, and fuel addiction in young people,” exposing them to harmful content.

Florida, on the other hand, has decided that platforms are required to close accounts that are believed to be used by children under 14, while teenagers who are already 14 or 15 years old can have a profile only with parental consent.

In France, Macron has established a commission on these issues which has reached the following proposals. According to the commission, the use of smartphones and tablets must be regulated according to age. In summary, the rules are as follows: an absolute ban on screens before the age of 3, a ban on cell phones before the age of 11, a ban on the internet before the age of 13, a ban on access to social media before the age of 15, and between the ages of 15 and 18, access only to “ethical” social networks, excluding Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Telegram. The experts have also called for a fight against so-called “predatory services” that connect users with the start of automatic video streams, mostly characterized by scenes of pornography and violence. This is a sort of guide particularly for parents, whose individual responsibility is directly called into question.

In Italy, the minimum age for registering on social networks is 14, while 18 years are required to conclude an online contract for a specific application or to join a community. In other words, children under 14 cannot register on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and all other social networks. However, there is a clause that would allow them to join social platforms as users. Children under 14 can, in fact, have access if they obtain parental consent. The problem is that the dangers of the web are many and the youngest are often unaware of them. Driven by the group and the community, they decide to surf and register on social media to feel part of something and to emulate the older ones.

These are examples of how many institutions are moving to curb the problems generated by the use of smartphones among young people and how the perception of the gravity of this phenomenon is becoming increasingly evident in the Western world.

The free play- based approach to children personal development

Children seek the thrills provided by free play, where they experience situations with their friends that they organize themselves, free from adult involvement. Unfortunately, today this opportunity is almost entirely absent; their lives are completely structured and almost always unfold under adult supervision. When they are not at school or at home, they usually participate in an activity organized by adults from a sports club.

This leads to an inability to learn how to organize their own time, and they are not free to behave spontaneously because some adult is always watching, exercising control in some way. Over the years, this way of life results in an inability to resolve conflicts with peers, limited decision-making skills, and the inability to face any difficulty alone without the help of an adult.

As teenagers, they have difficulty managing the typical changes of this age and need someone to solve the problems they encounter. How they live today is the exact opposite of how young people grew up in the past. They would go to school, come home, spend the afternoon between homework and going out with friends, to the oratory, to the scouts, biking, playing in the parks, and then return home for dinner. It was a life centered on free play, essential for physical, mental, and social health, whereas now this opportunity to engage in outdoor free play is denied.

Starting in the 1990s, at a much faster pace than in previous years, a radical change in lifestyle began, which is still ongoing:

  • Parents preferred to think that outdoor free play was too dangerous for their children because they might be attacked by people who would abuse them.
  • Sports have definitively taken over organized play, managed by clubs dedicated to specialization in a single discipline, thus limiting and perhaps eliminating free play.
  • The use of smartphones starting in 2012 has allowed young people to confuse the virtual life produced by social media with lived reality, creating the foundation for what is now called the anxious generation.
  • Risky play has disappeared in the name of a false sense of security. Free, exciting, and engaging play, which involves uncertainty of outcome and a possibility of getting hurt, is no longer accepted today. Perceived risk is no longer seen as an opportunity for decision-making and personal development. Today, parents instead think that children at home glued to their phones are at least safe from these dangerous situations, while they do not know that perhaps their child is watching a porn video on their smartphone or feeling bad about not having sculpted muscles like those on Instagram. The same goes for a teenage girl who doesn’t feel beautiful like those who post on social media or sees others having fun at a party, while it’s not true; it’s just a selfie where everyone pretends to feel joy they don’t actually feel.

We certainly shouldn’t blame ourselves for how young people live today. It’s about understanding that this lifestyle has many limitations and does not stimulate personal development.

Klopp is gone and Guardiola is thinking about it

Jurgen Klopp has ended his time at Liverpool by bringing it back in recent years to achieve great results. Pep Guardiola after winning another Premier League has made it clear that he will probably stay only one more year at the helm of Manchester City. Klopp had said at the beginning that the fans would see exciting soccer and so it was while Guardiola applied and modified his ideas achieving unthinkable results such as among others the triplete.

Soccer wears out, winning every week wears out managing a high emotional team environment wears out. These coaches, every week, in addition to preparing tactically for the game must support and push the team to work hard, because less than this is not expected and is dangerous for the game on the field and the need to keep the team very united. That is why sport is alternative to war, the goal is to defeat the opponent, within the rules we strive to win and at the end we embrace each other

However, this exaggerated need to always be at one’s best as a person and collective over the years depletes one’s vital momentum toward soccer and one probably begins to get nauseous toward this kind of intensity, which is repeated the same every week. You can lose self-control as happened to Massimiliano Allegri or you leave for a while or do something else, no matter how much you are paid or leave like Spalletti because you think you have achieved a one-time goal.

Absolute level sport, it exhausts emotionally and probably Klopp and Guardiola have understood this. The former has just started this new path, the other is thinking about it.

How to change your attitude during a tennis match

Our daily lives are filled with instances where our performance is influenced by the moods and emotions we experience at those moments. The mood with which we approach challenging tasks does not always help to facilitate satisfactory performances. Sometimes, we may feel too angry to listen to someone whose ideas could be beneficial, or we may be pessimistic about our ability to perform well, or we may believe we are incapable, which leads us to approach a task with little conviction. How often do we think, “If I hadn’t felt that way, I would have done much better”? These are common thoughts that highlight the central role of emotions.

The same happens on the tennis court during a match… rackets slammed to the ground, self-criticism, thinking you’ll never play another match, getting angry at an opponent who wastes time, or blaming fate for your missed shots are reactions we have all experienced.

A useful way to improve your awareness regarding the influence of emotions in tennis is to reflect on:

  • The best matches you’ve played, focusing on the actions taken to make them possible and the emotions you felt. This way, you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and how they influence your way of playing.
  • The first games of the match, identifying the predominant moods and thoughts. Am I happy or do I wish I were different? What emotions and thoughts could improve the effectiveness of my game at the start of the match?

On the other hand, it is important to avoid pessimistic explanations that lead to not changing and accepting your game fatalistically, assuming thoughts like: “I’ve always made these mistakes and have never been able to change,” or “I’ve always been a nervous person, getting easily angry as soon as I start making mistakes, and I can’t change now after a lifetime of playing this way.”

It might also be true that you have tried to change without achieving a satisfactory result, convincing yourself that improvement is not possible. In almost all cases, however, these attempts at change were conducted incorrectly, without following an improvement system. Often, people try to change a behavior (e.g., getting angry after a mistake) by telling themselves not to do it (“Don’t get angry”). Usually, the effect of this action is to continue feeling angry. Everyone has heard from their tennis coach that to calm down and recover, you should take a deep breath; you follow this advice, but often it doesn’t work, leading you to believe that deep breathing is useless.

Where did these tennis players, who tried to respond to difficulties, go wrong?

The first case highlights that you don’t change simply by telling yourself “not to do something,” otherwise our changes would be implemented through phrases: you’re angry, just say “don’t be angry,” you’re agitated, say you don’t want to be agitated, you’re distracted, say you don’t want to be, and so on. Telling yourself phrases is useless if you don’t also address the emotions.

The second case is very typical in sports, because many athletes don’t know how to perform a deep breath correctly, and when they try, they inhale little air, perhaps in jerks, and exhale it too quickly, making their breath more like a sigh or a huff. For this reason, it is ineffective. On the contrary, everyone can learn to take a deep breath, but first, they must practice doing it correctly; its effectiveness must be tested in training and only then performed in a match. At that point, there is no doubt it will help reduce emotional tension. For training in these skills, you should consult a sports psychologist.

How to manage the competitive stress

The events of high-level sports highlight the necessity of managing stress. The stress of Massimiliano Allegri, the mental fatigue of Atalanta, the stress of those still needing to qualify for the Olympics, and the teams across various disciplines playing in playoffs are just a few examples.

The stress from difficult, long seasons in highly competitive environments generates all kinds of psychological difficulties that athletes must learn to overcome to continue their journeys successfully. It might seem trivial to emphasize the importance of psychological recovery; of course, it is not, but this practice is not as widespread among athletes as it should be.

I would say that relaxation and visualization should be two techniques integrated into an athlete’s daily life. It should be noted that relaxation leads to:

  • Better physical recovery
  • Better sleep
  • Freer and less stressful thoughts
  • Greater ability to distance oneself from daily events
  • Ability to recover quickly from stressful situations

Imagination, on the other hand, leads to:

  • Ability to immerse oneself in competitive situations
  • Better ability to focus on the present
  • Ability to stop thoughts that hinder performance
  • Better contact and awareness of one’s emotional states
  • Ability to shift from thoughts/emotions that hinder performance to those that enhance it

In essence, anyone experiencing significant and meaningful competitive situations should train psychologically in this way to avoid the risk of suffering from stress without having acquired the skills to reduce it. Unfortunately, many athletes still do not understand the value of this type of training. This often happens due to superficiality, closed-mindedness, fear of staying in touch with themselves, superficiality, and the presumption of already knowing how to handle it on their own.

Max Allegri ‘s anger

Negative moments of anger can occur in a coach’s life, but they must be managed so as not to overwhelm one’s self-control. This seems to be what Massimiliano Allegri did not do during the last minutes of the Coppa Italia final and during the awards ceremony.

Losing self-control is a serious matter for anyone. It involves nearly canceling out any form of control usually present in interpersonal relationships and acting solely on emotional pressure, which blocks every logical and rational thought in the mind. Being enthusiastic or being angry are two extremes of the same continuum, one positive and the other negative, representing two different ways of investing the physical and mental energy available.

In both cases, emotions took over rational thought, which in these moments amplifies with words what the moods represent at that time. One can act in this way during the game to draw attention to oneself, to relieve pressure from one’s team, and to intimidate the referee.

Allegri is a winning coach, so it is even more surprising that he would indulge in these outbursts of anger. Whatever shortcomings he may have observed in the club’s management, he has nonetheless achieved the goals that were set for him. This would have been the response to counter criticism, not verbal violence and uncontrolled gestures.

However, history cannot be undone, and we will see in the coming days what kind of actions Allegri and those who were the object of his reactions will take.