Tag Archive for 'attenzione'

Tennis, Badosa: +expectations = -game focus

Everything seemed all set for Paula Badosa‘s ultimate rise in the stardom of women’s tennis, but 2022, which was expected to be the year of consecration, has so far been rather disappointing (the last defeat yesterday in Tokyo against 19-year-old Qinwen Zheng of China). This is a paradox when one considers that Badosa at one point this season, precisely after the Stuttgart tournament, became world number two, a position held, however, for only two weeks. How did it get from world number two to Badosa’s now well-known tweet this morning? “I don’t even win at parchìs.” A strong statement for a tennis player who is currently ranked number eight in the world but is going through a complicated phase emotionally. The reference to parchìs is typically Spanish, a board game with dice in which four players compete to achieve a goal, very famous in Spain and with some similarities to the game of the goose. A metaphor that betrays Badosa’s frustration, who in the tweet afterwards thanked everyone for the support, adding that he will keep fighting.”

This news highlights how difficult it always is to achieve results that match the outcome standards an athlete has set for herself. At first glance these would seem to be situations more typical of a teenage age when one does not yet know one’s qualities well, but instead these are the experiences of absolute world-class athletes. In fact, The Abbess is not the only one to experience these crises just remember Osaka or the difficulties of many other top 10s.

A survey I conducted with Robert Nideffer and Jeff Bond (former director of the Australian Institute of Sport) of absolute world level athletes showed that the difference between Olympic medal winners and those who had won more, so-called, serial winners consisted essentially in the latter’s greater ability to stay focused on the task.

This result would indicate that serial winners do not get distracted by their own expectations and those of their environment, think less about the outcome, are less influenced by the external environment and instead show a total focus on performing at their best. Other investigations conducted mainly in athletics have in turn shown that for these athletes the last two hours leading up to the race are crucial in activating this attentional mode.

The cost of Donnarumma’s distraction

Have you ever experienced the frustration of wanting to focus on something and not being able to, because your mind goes all over the place and you can’t bring it back, to the idea, action or feeling you wanted to experience.

I would say, that you should not worry too much when this happens. Getting distracted is in fact a very common experience and common to all people. However, there are times when we pay too high a price for a simple distraction. Let’s think, for example, of Paris Saint Germain goalkeeper Gigi Donnarumma, who against Real Madrid made a pass that crossed the entire length of the goal he was defending and on which an opposing player swooped with ease and put it in the net.

Probably Donnarumma had never made a mistake like that before, but he was distracted and so he did the wrong thing at the wrong time. You will say that one of the best goalkeepers in the world should not make such serious mistakes due to superficiality. Instead, as we have seen it is possible.

So, even in such experienced people distractions are always lurking and the greater the importance of the situation the more serious will be the effect of the error. Donnarumma, obviously, knows well that these mistakes should never happen but awareness is not enough to avoid them. His explanation of the error was aimed at convincing the referee that he had suffered a foul that hindered his referral. In essence, an attempt to shift the focus from the superficiality with which he had dealt with that action. In a match, superficiality is synonymous with a lack of respect for the opponent, which leads to give little attention to what is really happening in those moments.

In those moments, the player is distracted for several reasons including underestimating the threat posed by the opponent and the mistake, in the belief that everything will be fine.

Instead, a goal was scored by Real Madrid and this also led to the simultaneous conviction of the Spaniards to be able to win and to the depressive reaction of PSG, which was unable to regain its lost confidence, due to a distraction of one of its players. As teenagers playing tennis say about an opponent, when because of one lost point they lose many others in a consecutive way, PSG has melted.

How to be focused is so difficult

For an athlete to be focused is one of the most difficult mental activities to develop and manage.

In sports, concentration must be total, and its development never ends, because as the level of difficulty of the performance to be provided increases, so do the obstacles to maintaining the necessary attention.

Errors, moreover, are always lurking and any of them can take away energy and conviction to the ability to respond effectively.

Usually, athletes are not aware of the intensity level of their concentration: am I focused on the right things? Am I moving with an adequate degree of intensity= am I aware of the timing of my action (right, too slow or too fast).

Is it possible to be convinced to be attentive and make concentration errors? Yes!

You know that you make mistakes because: you act before you think, you think too much and you do the right thing at the wrong time.

Attention training consists in giving answers to these questions.

Do you know how to improve your focus?

Many young people are not aware of what is meant by the intensity of an exercise or a workout.

It is certainly easier to understand it in those sports where execution is required with a precise time or in any case with a well-defined speed.

But these definitions still refer to technical aspects. It seems to me, however, that there is often less awareness of the quality of their concentration and how much it is possible for them to increase it even when they believe they are at maximum focus on a task.

There is also little attention from coaches to train concentration and especially to improve it over time even in those who are focused and motivated. It is believed that attention and motivation are assets that the athlete must put on his or her own and that teaching should only concern technique or tactics or physical and athletic improvement.

Of course, even psychologists do not know how to enhance these psychological dimensions, since their course of study does not include these issues. I consider this deficiency rather serious in a world that bases everything on speed of response, on the management of more information and on the reduction of stress that these determine in everyday life.

How do we become aware of the way we pay attention and how do we train it to improve our performance?

World champions’ attention processes

Athletes can make three types of errors due to the type of attention they use at any given point in the race: the first relates to environmental distraction (audience, weather, opponents), the second relates to mental overload (excessive worry, high expectations), and the third relates to emotional overload (anxiety, fear, anger).

Based on these data, world record holders are particularly proficient in minimizing errors due to environmental distraction and thought overload compared to other world-class athletes in the three sport types (closed skill, open skill, and team) and adolescent athletes.

However, even for them, the main source of distraction relates to the emotional component of their thoughts, which, at the most important moments, can take over and disrupt the quality of their performance (Source: Cei Consulting, 2017).

In the true momentum it needs concentration


We are just a short time from the Tokyo Olympics, the most important event in the athletic careers of most athletes. As Robert Nideffer has taught, concentration is what unites Army special forces, managers, and top-performing athletes. The updated chart of the attentional style profiles of thousands of athletes around the world shows that even world champions make attentional errors due to emotional overload.Certainly to a lesser extent than other types of athletes, but this is still the main focus of their mental preparation if they want to perform at their best at the next Olympics.

Coaching Z generation

Daniel Gould, Jennifer Nalepa & Michael Mignano (2019). Coaching Generation Z Athletes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 32:1, 104-120.

Although it has always been essential that coaches adapt their coaching to athlete characteristics, this may be more important today than ever before as coaches adjust to a new generation of athletes who have grown up in a total digital age, which has had major effects on their characteristics and ways of behaving.

Today’s young athletes represent Generation Z (Gen Z):

  • Youth born after 1996, making up 26% of the U.S. population and 27% of the world population
  • Gen Z youth, they have been influenced by socioeconomic uncertainty (e.g., the global recession of 2008), international terrorism (e.g., 9/11) and natural disasters (e.g., Hurricane Katrina)
  • They are the best-educated generation in history and are the first generation of youth who have grown up in a totally digital environment, which has resulted in Gen Z youth having excellent technology skills
  • At the same time, because of the amount of time they spend on technology, they are thought to have shorter attention spans, the need for frequent feedback, and a lack of independence

Social psychologist Jean Twenge (2017):

  • Today’s youth grow up more slowly (e.g., engage in sex at a later age, hold off longer on obtaining a driver’s license, engage in alcohol consumption later than their millennial predecessors) and are the most protected and safest generation ever but at the same time avoid adult responsibilities such as moving out of the house and becoming financially independent.
  • Growing up in the digital world spend less time in direct contact with their friends and loved ones. This is one reason they have highest ever generational reports of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Finally, growing up in a highly engaging digital world, Gen Z youth’s attention spans are shorter, and they often multitask even when this may not be effective.

Encel, Mesagno, and Brown (2017) surveyed 298 British athletes to determine both their Facebook use and if Facebook use was related to anxiety. Results revealed that 68% of the athletes used Facebook within 2hr of competition, and time spent on social media was related to the Concentration Disruption subscale of the Sport Anxiety Scale.

At the beginning stages of working with Gen Z athletes, coaches felt that athletes lacked the ability deal with adversity.

Overtime, with structured resilience-building practices, coaches observed an improvement in Gen Z athletes’ abilities to handle adversity. By creating stressful practice situations and coaching athletes through them, Gen Z athletes improved their resiliency.

Athletes did not respond well to negative feedback. Athletes often took negative feedback personally and would get upset when confronted with criticism.

Gen Z athletes show short attention spans. Coaches also found that Gen Z athletes were easily distracted and had difficulty blockling out distractions.

Gen Z athletes were perceived to need structure and boundaries to guide them through their tennis development.

Gen Z athletes were mostly extrinsically motivated by results, material things, and social comparison. Coaches discussed how pressure from parents and coaches served as extrinsic sources that drove players motivation.  In terms of work ethic, most coaches discussed how Gen Z athletes worked hard and had a strong work ethic once on the tennis court.

Gen Z athletes had poor communication skills. Coaches believed that players had difficulty expressing their emotions, were shy and hesitant to speak up, and lacked basic conversational skills (i.e., eye contact).

Coaches also felt that Gen Z players would check what they were told by the coach and were not quick to believe something just because the coach had said it.

Coaches felt that today’s athletes were more educated than in past generations as they had access to an abundance of information online and had excellent technology skills that made finding information easy for them.

Gen Z athletes were perceived to be visual learners, which was discussed as a strength, as coaches were able to incorporate technology as a learning aid during practice and training. Last, coaches felt that athletes were curious and open to learning from coaches through their need to understand the “why” and the connection to performance.

Mindset and focus

We need to integrate these two aspects.




The attentional assessment

Analyzing the reasons why even very expert individuals, such as athletes of top level do not achieve the goals they set or under stress do not provide the performances they are capable of, the relevance of the human factor takes over from the technical and professional factor.

What do the best managers and leaders have in common with elite athletes and special army corps?

The ability to pay attention, not to get distracted and stay focused on one task at a time.

So knowing how to organize your attention is one of the critical components of success.

From the analysis of the attentive dimensions and the characteristics of the decision making processes you get information about:

  1. Immediate perception of the environment - It shows how well an individual is able to understand what is happening or is going to happen in the working environment and to what extent he/she is aware of the moods of the people he/she comes into contact with.
  2. Ability to analyze and to have strategic thinking - It is highlighted how much an individual is considered able to organize his/her own activity and that of the collaborators, if the person assigns responsibilities to the collaborators and if he/she regularly and promptly verifies the results in progress and in the end.
  3. Ability to effectively pursue one’s own tasks - It is highlighted how much an individual is considered able to accurately pursue the objectives that have been set or that have been provided to him/her by the company, acting in the manner foreseen.
For further information write to the blog email.

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.