Nothing is impossible

Immerse ourselves with into the stress

It is often said, “Just focus on playing,” or “Concentrate on what you know how to do,” or even “Mistakes happen in the competition; the important thing is not to avoid mistakes but to refocus on the task.”

Of course, these phrases and many others are spoken to athletes who make sports their profession. They train for many hours every day, are coached by experienced trainers, and participate in international competitions with the intention of expressing themselves to the best of their abilities.

However, despite many efforts, it is difficult for everyone not to feel the tension that precedes the start of these important events. These are the occasions when these young individuals go all out, knowing that this is their opportunity. There will be others, but this one that is approaching is one of those.

They all know that they need to focus on the task at hand, the one they have prepared for. The issue, however, is that their entire sports and social world expects to see if they are truly as good as they are claimed to be, or for the more experienced, if they will repeat past performances.

It is not enough to know how to concentrate or to have experienced this stress condition several times in order to control it and even turn it into a faithful friend that does not betray you.

Once these abilities are possessed, the final step is represented by the desire to experience this stressful situation, the pleasure of feeling tense but convinced that there will be a solution no matter what problem arises. The pleasure of living this stress, that is the state of mind to dive into, feeling comfortable in uncomfortable situations, desiring to face the opponent and challenge them to the end.

So, let’s immerse ourselves in stress and experience it fully with joy!

Need balance between grit and thought

When a realistically achievable outcome is at hand, that’s when the tension before a competition skyrockets. It may seem absurd, but usually, the higher the likelihood of delivering an excellent performance, the greater the stress and uncertainties that arise in the pre-game mind.

Over the years, I have learned that putting oneself in the optimal psychophysical condition is easier said than done.

Regardless of the sport, the athlete’s effort is directed towards balancing their determination or grit with the need to have those (simple) thoughts that allow them to stay focused on the task.

One can overdo determination, risking impulsive actions, or become too reflective, expressing doubts about the choices to be made. In both cases, the probability of making mistakes increases, deviating from the balance between grit and thought.

The purpose of mental training should be to teach awareness of the importance of this balance and enable the learning of the necessary ways to respond to the prevalence of one aspect over the other.

There are many psychological techniques to learn how to stay in one’s optimal mental condition, which can be acquired through constant training. In any case, this journey begins with the athlete’s awareness of the need to maintain this kind of balance during the competition.

Cellphone distraction in the classroom can lead to distractions

Arnold L. Glass & Mengxue Kang (2019) Dividing attention in the classroom reduces exam performance,Educational Psychology, 39:3, 395-408.

When students are allowed to use phones, tablets or other devices for non-academic purposes during classroom lectures, they perform worse in end-of-term exams, according to a new Rutgers University–New Brunswick study.

The study, published in Educational Psychology, also found that students who don’t use electronic devices in class, but attend lectures where their use is permitted, also do worse – suggesting that phone and tablet use damages the group learning environment.

“Many dedicated students think they can divide their attention in the classroom without harming their academic success – but we found an insidious effect on exam performance and final grades,” said lead researcher Arnold Glass, a professor of psychology at Rutgers–New Brunswick’s School of Arts and Sciences. “To help manage the use of devices in the classroom, teachers should explain to students the damaging effect of distractions on retention – not only on themselves, but for the whole class.”

Glass, working with graduate student Mengxue Kang, led the experiment to test whether allowing students to divide their attention between electronic devices and the lecturer affected performance on tests taken during class as well as the end-of-term exam.

The experiment included 118 Rutgers–New Brunswick cognitive psychology students during one term of their course. Laptops, phones and tablets were banned during half of the lectures and permitted during the other half. When devices were allowed, students were asked to record whether they had used them for non-academic purposes during the lectures.

The study found that having a device didn’t lower students’ scores in comprehension tests within lectures but did lower their scores in the end-of-term exam by at least 5 percent, or half a grade. This finding shows for the first time that the main effect of divided attention in the classroom is on long-term retention.

In addition, when the use of electronic devices was allowed in class, performance was also poorer for students who did not use devices as well as for those who did.

This is the first-ever study in an actual classroom showing a causal relationship between distractions from an electronic device and subsequent exam performance.


There nothing to do to go beyond the daily stress?

Talking about stress is easy; we all experience sudden changes in our mood triggered by a phone call, a mistake, or other factors. However, often due to this ease in feeling stressed, we develop the habit of thinking that there’s nothing we can do against this psychological condition. Then there are optimistic relatives who go around saying not to worry too much because this discomfort will pass at some point.

It’s not just a matter of thoughts, as anxious feelings transform into behaviors to distract oneself from this unpleasant psychological state. The more active individuals, at this point, engage in behaviors to distance themselves from this discomfort: some eat, others consume alcohol, and some stay up late to avoid immediate sleep and forget about themselves, and so on.

Fear dominates these actions and thoughts, gradually solidifying, leading to learning to live with this psychological discomfort as if it were unchangeable. Many even consider themselves unfortunate because they associate with others whom they believe do not suffer from stress. When this magical thinking of misfortune combines with psychological discomfort, individuals become more submissive and passive, possibly starting to think that there is nothing to be done.

Now the next question is how to get out of this tunnel of passivity.

The truth is that living in fear or thinking that there’s nothing to be done is harmful. Courage lies in learning to know oneself, accepting oneself, and being reborn.

The winners thinking

High performance requires deep thoughts that lead to the acceptance of one’s anxiety and any emotional state the athlete may be in.

Here are some examples of great Italian champions:

Giovanni Pellielo (shooting, 4 Olympic medals, 4 world golds)

The last series of selection was the heaviest; I scored zero on the penultimate target in the first platform, and I finished with twenty-three. It was the series where I suffered the most because I had to achieve the result in difficult conditions and with a very high emotional load, as I was the man who had already won two Olympic medals. Let’s say that on that occasion, all the ghosts came to mind; it was difficult to close that result, but I did it. Then I thought about the final, referring to the baggage of four years of experience, and I relived everything I had done in the last year in terms of preparation, especially psychologically, so as to face the final as I wanted and desired.

Valentina Vezzali (6 Olympic golds)

I have great respect for the opponent to the point of trembling like a leaf before the start of each competition. When there are ten minutes left until the match, it feels like going back to the high school graduation exam. I feel the same anguish.

Jannik Sinner (tennis, 1st Italian to win a Grand Slam tournament in 48 years)

Under pressure? Nothing compared to that of a surgeon or a head of the family who has to put dinner on the table. Maintaining a family or not knowing if a rocket is going to hit your house, that’s pressure. Playing tennis is a privilege, something to feel honored about.

Unbelievable Sinner: “Now I’m getting back to work”

A friend just sent me this text that he sent to his players and players.

Guys print it out on yourselves. This one just made history and already talks about how he can coach better….
This is the epitome of the way things should be done, regardless of whether you’re a tennis player or an entrepreneur.

In fact, Sinner responded just that way:

Now what? So much will change. “But what? I’m still the same guy I was the day before yesterday. The moment is beautiful, but now we’re going to calm down and get back on track.”

In what way? “Simple: there’s a lot of work to be done, and I’m looking forward to it because I like it. We have accomplished a beautiful thing, which lets us know that I am doing the right things. So the important thing is to live peacefully with my team and work because the opponents now know me, it showed in Melbourne, and so I have to improve a lot.”

Football: the way we were

It is not about nostalgia for the past. It is knowing where we came from and reflecting where we have arrived today in soccer. In Rocco’s Milan, the genius he speaks of was Gianni Rivera.

60 years later, aside from the differences in the game, the donkeys have studied.


Marathoners’ mental strategies

For sports psychologists, the study of the cognitive strategies of long-distance runners is particularly interesting, as these athletes undergo extremely high psychophysical stress during which they must perform at their best.

The first systematic study conducted on the cognitive strategies of long-distance runners was carried out by Morgan and Pollock [1977], with a sample consisting of world-class athletes and lower-level middle-distance runners. To classify the strategies used during running, the authors used the terms association and dissociation.

In the first condition, athletes focus on sensations coming from their bodies and are aware of the fundamental physical factors for that type of performance. In the dissociation strategy, on the other hand, the athlete’s thoughts are concentrated on anything other than bodily sensations.

During competition, the cognitive strategies of the elite group differ from those of the other group based on these two characteristics. In fact, to counteract painful stimuli, lower-level athletes use the dissociative strategy, while elite athletes use the associative one and consequently modulate their pace.

Moreover, experienced marathon runners do not attribute much importance to the so-called pain zone, for at least two reasons that differentiate them from less experienced runners. The first refers to their physiological superiority, which allows them to run at their limit with less difficulty. The second involves the fact that they avoid this pain zone because they can self-regulate throughout the entire race based on their internal sensations.

Specifically, in the associative phase, the runner, in an effort to maximize performance and minimize discomfort or painful sensations, continuously focuses on physical sensations such as breathing, temperature, the heaviness of calves and thighs, and abdominal sensations. This cognitive mode is quite demanding for athletes, as it requires the ability to concentrate for extended periods. The dissociative phase occurs when the athlete voluntarily distracts themselves from the sensory feedback continuously received from the body.

In summary:

Association and dissociation should be considered as the two extreme poles of a continuum and not interpreted in dichotomous terms, especially when used in long-distance races.

  • The use of associative strategies is more strongly correlated with fast long-distance performances than the use of dissociative strategies.
  • In races, runners prefer to use associative strategies (focusing on monitoring body processes and controlling race strategy).
  • In training, however, they tend to use dissociative strategies more, although both strategies are still used in both contexts.
  • Dissociation is inversely correlated with physiological awareness and feelings derived from the perception of exertion intensity, as highlighted in laboratory studies.
  • Dissociation does not increase the likelihood of injury and can reduce the fatigue and monotony of running and recreational races.
  • Association can allow the athlete to continue competing even in the presence of sensory pain.
  • Dissociation should be used as a training technique by those looking to increase their exercise adherence, as it allows for a better and more enjoyable perception of the end of the exercise.
  • As training load increases, there is a shift from dissociative strategies to associative strategies to increase the athlete’s concentration on the task at hand.
  • When using mindful focus on oneself to enhance running efficiency, attention should be directed toward bodily sensations rather than automatic responses such as breathing and running movements.

The collettive efficacy in sport teams

In team sports, it is important to remember that to win, “The champion team beats a team of champions,” indicating that even an ideal team composed solely of champions must still integrate each individual’s skills effectively, despite possessing a superior qualitative potential at the individual level.

To integrate skills, it is necessary to distinguish between competence acquired through the experience of playing a specific sport and the experience of playing on a particular team.

The importance of this distinction has been highlighted by studies that have emphasized the significance of shared knowledge for team coordination, emphasizing the importance of sharing knowledge with other team members, both through playing the sport and playing on that specific team.

Shared knowledge is also acquired before a given match through explicit planning. Coaches typically provide players with information about the team’s planned actions, communicating action plans to face opponents. Planning can occur at different levels of team functioning.

At a more general level, the desired outcomes are established, such as “winning 2-0.” Planning at this level involves a decision on which result to pursue.

At the immediately lower level, the design refers to the overall behavioral approach adopted to manifest a specific attitude, such as “aggressive play,” and the decision on which approach to employ is termed a schema.

Subsequently, procedures constitute specific sequences of global actions, such as “attacking from the center.” Planning at this level involves a decision, called a strategy, on which procedure (or procedures) to employ.

At the lowest level, operations constitute micro-level actions, such as “player X should try, whenever possible, to pass to player Y.” A decision at this level on which operation to employ is called a tactic.

While planning can occur at any level of abstraction, the design, or the game plan involving only the highest levels, imposes few constraints on how that action plan might be implemented at lower levels. For example, in soccer, the plan of “playing in attack with high intensity” provides few specific constraints on the moment-to-moment player selections at the operational level during the game, allowing flexibility in the use of tactics to attack with high intensity.