Tag Archive for 'attenzione'

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.
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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.


World champions also have to manage their emotions

Research data emerging from TAIS Performance Systems and elaborated by me show that the management of emotions is a decisive aspect for all athletes, be they College level, international level or world champions. In fact, the results below show that even world championship winners believe that emotions can be a significant disruptive factor to manage effectively.

They consider themselves to be better than the group called athletes, which includes athletes of international level in their sport. On the contrary, it emerges that in the business world, the men and women managers, perceive themselves to be much less emotionally influential than world champions. Probably on this difference in perception weighs the difference in age also very significant and the characteristics of performance, which in sport are typically individual and occur in a short time, quite frequent, predetermined and without possibility of postponement. To compete every week as in team sports, tennis, skiing and many others determines a continuous up and down of one’s emotional condition, requiring a constant and frequent control of one’s moods. This explains why the world’s top athletes follow psychological preparation programs in order to use at the best their sport and competitive skills, while maintaining a high level of self-control.

Attention in tennis

Analysis - comes from the internal awareness.  You use this broad-internal to assess what is just happened in the previous point, recovery energy, and prepare the next action.

Problem-Solving - narrow-internal focus. You use the problem-solving channel to work through the play situations and difficulties or to call up visualization and imagery scenes.

Action - this dimension is the one that is most compelling to athletes. It regards the skill executions. In the action the channel is narrow and external. No thinking taking place here.



The best athletes suffer of emotional overload

TAIS is a system for assessing attentional and interpersonal style and these data show that élites’ emotional overload is an important component reducing their performance, including world record holders, who instead suffer less the environmental distractions and cognitive mental overload. This also explains why top athletes use psychological preparation programs to reduce competitive stress.

Be focused to be tough

... the most important aspect of mental toughness in Tennis !

The focus is on the present. To show a consistent focus during all the points means be tough.

Coach the mindset to have success in sports team

Da tempo le nazionali degli sport di squadra non vincono più e presidenti di federazione e club si accusano vicendevolmente di fare poco per affrontare seriamente questo problema. Al di là di questa lotta sterile che evidenzia paradossalmente la difficoltà a ‘fare squadra’ per un interesse superiore alle singole esigenze, ciò che manca è il sapere come si sviluppa a lungo termine l’atleta. Sappiamo per certo che ci vogliono anni d’investimento, probabilmente almeno 10.000 ore di allenamento dall’inizio della pratica dello sport scelto sino a diventare giocatori esperti e maturi per affrontare eventi di livello internazionale. Abbiamo tanti presunti campioncini che non diventeranno mai giocatori di prima fascia per un eccesso di valutazione positiva quando sono adolescenti mentre i genitori si gratificano pensando di avere scoperto in casa un Totti, solo perché il loro figlio è più bravo dei suoi compagni o nella pallavolo e basket solo perché a 13/14 anni è più alto degli altri e allora ha vita facile a fare i punti. I genitori si entusiasmano, i club li sfruttano e l’anno successivo un altro diventa più bravo di loro e così avanti, il risultato è che si rovina l’autostima dei ragazzi che non sanno a cosa credere: ‘sono bravo oppure no?’.

In Italia la ricerca psicologica in questo ambito non è sviluppata perché difficilmente le squadre mettono a disposizione i loro giocatori per indagare sullo sviluppo psicologico di questi giovani. Non è lo stesso in paesi come il Regno Unito dove molte Football Academy hanno adottato un sistema denominato 5C’s che è un modello per sviluppare le abilità psicologiche (concentrazione, impegno, comunicazione, controllo e fiducia) durante le sessioni di allenamento. Lo stesso vale ad esempio in US per la Little League di Baseball, dove da 40 anno si utilizza sul campo un sistema per monitorare il comportamento dell’allenatore, il Coaching Behavioral Assessment System, che ne permette l’esame e fornisce al tecnico informazioni utili per migliorare professionalmente, tratte direttamente dal suo modo di lavorare con i giovani. Esistono, inoltre, sistemi per il miglioramento della concentrazione nelle abilità di precisione, trasversali a tutti gli sport di squadra come sono i calci di rigore, la battuta nella pallavolo, il tiro libero nel basket e i calci nel rugby, che potrebbero insegnare ai giocatori come affrontare queste situazioni, che dipendono in larga parte solo dalla convinzione che hanno in quel momento di fare nel modo migliore la cosa giusta.  L’utilizzo di questi approcci integrati nell’allenamento determinerebbe un migliore sviluppo dei giovani negli sport, potenziando in loro le competenze psicologiche di base, che saranno certamente utili anche nella vita di tutti i giorni ma che sarebbero di grande sostegno alle loro prestazioni che non sono mai solo tecniche. Rappresentano invece l’espressione massima del giocatore nella sua globalità fisica, tecnico-tattica e psicologica. Senza questo tipo di sviluppo personale e di gruppo sarà sempre difficile, al di là di qualsiasi forma organizzativa venga adottata dagli organismi sportivi, allenare futuri giocatori di successo.