Tag Archive for 'coesione'

Mazzarri and Napoli cohesion

We start with a basic idea, and that is that a team’s performance is most effective if there is agreement on goals and the means to achieve them. This finding is a fundamental part of the concept of cohesion, which is the dynamic process that reflects a team’s tendency to stick together and remain united in pursuit of its goals. Lack of cohesion, in my opinion, has been the problem that Napoli has manifested during Rudi Garcia’s management.

This is because one of the most common problems that occurs in teams when the coach’s goals do not match the team’s goals. Garcia has also failed to find effective ways of communication to get his proposals accepted. It should be obvious how necessary it is for the members of a team to identify with the goals of the coach otherwise what happened happens: the team loses confidence and the coach is exonerated

Mazzarri was faced with a situation in which the players were not satisfied with the role they played in the team, they had lost confidence in the strength of the group, and the negative results were confirming and worsening these negative moods.Garcia’s approach did not include discussion on these issues, which is necessary to manage a team in a winning way. If asked,

I would suggest that Mazzarri introduce moments of discussion on the same issues. It can be concluded that although various approaches can be used to convince individuals of the worthiness of the proposed goals, a system centered on team enhancement will certainly be very effective. In this way, a positive relationship is built between individual motivation and commitment, leading to effective performance and a consequent positive perception of the value of individual contribution to collective work.

Cohesion and shared goals

I want to continue the reasoning of yesterday’s blog on the importance of the relationship among soccer players, emphasizing that this is the basis of cohesion. In fact, the interpretation of events by group members, especially the evaluation of negative ones, is influenced by the degree of cohesion. If the group shows a poor level of cohesion, individual players tend to blame other team members for what happened. On the other hand, if, on the other hand, the team is united the players tend to be more objective in their evaluations and more readily admit their share of responsibility.

It is clear from what has been illustrated that team performance is more effective if there is agreement on goals and the means to achieve them. This finding is also present in the very definition of cohesion, understood as a dynamic process that reflects a group’s tendency to stick together and remain united in pursuit of its goals. One of the most frequent problems that arise is that sometimes the goals the team has set for itself do not match those chosen by the club. In sports it happens, for example, that players’ goals may diverge from those of their club, and coaches find themselves in the position of having to find effective ways of communicating to reconcile these differing needs.

It is indeed necessary for the members of a team to identify with the goals of the sports club in order to provide optimal performance as a team. To approach this problem, reference can be made to the system used 70 years ago by Kurt Lewin during World War II and reported by Forsith [1983] in a study of group change dynamics. Because of the lack of veal, the National Research Council asked Lewin to develop a strategy to change the eating habits of the population. A short period of time was given to persuade housewives to serve quickly prepared but less desirable dishes for families. Lewin devised a strategy based on two different approaches.

In the first, groups of housewives attended conferences in which the nutritional benefits of the new diet were explained to them within a discourse that included appeals to patriotism. In this situation, no form of interaction between the participants was provided. Instead, in the second approach, moments of discussion on the same topics addressed by the lecture were introduced. Participants were stimulated to agree on at least one issue.

Lewin later verified that only 3 percent of the housewives who had participated in the first situation had changed their eating habits, in contrast this figure rose to 32 percent among those who had participated in the interactive situation. Lewin verified the validity of this interactive group approach in relation to other problem situations as well, concluding that it is easier to change individuals when they are united as a group than to act on them individually.

From these results, therefore, it can be concluded that although various approaches can be used to convince individuals of the goodness of the chosen goals, an approach centered on group enhancement will certainly be very effective. In this way, a positive relationship is built between individual motivation and commitment, leading to effective performance and a consequent positive perception of the value of individual contribution to collective work.

Teams need to place more value on teamwork

The fluctuating results of the Serie A championship in these first two rounds of the restart after the World Cup, Inter beat Napoli but then drew against Monza, as well as Milan’s elimination from the Coppa Italia, highlight how difficult it is to give continuity to performances and how this is more of a problem affecting the collective and not so much the individual player. It is easier to criticize the individual player or one team unit while it is more difficult to analyze the results in terms of team play. Even among nonsports teams, such as hospital teams, it has been found that those that work to improve collaboration on specific team goals are 2.8 times more likely to achieve high performance than teams that do not.

This is because teams are identifiable units of work, composed of multiple people with several unique characteristics who continually interact with each other.

The team characteristics include:

  • dynamic social interactions with meaningful interdependencies,
  • shared and valued goals,
  • a discrete duration of time,
  • distributed skills
  • clearly assigned roles and responsibilities.

Thus, task interdependence among players if practiced constructively fosters the relationship between teamwork and performance, demonstrating the importance of teamwork.

At this regard, it finds confirmation in the saying that choosing the 11 best players for each role does not necessarily make the best team.


The different mindset between Napoli e Juve

Knowing the mentality of a collective allows one to predict how a team will react when faced with emotionally intense situations. In this soccer league, Napoli and Juventus represent the two extremes of a continuum in which success and team cohesion are opposed to failure and lack of cohesion. Those who want to understand the reasons for these differences between the teams should analyze the following factors:

  • Organizational quality of the football Club - The organizational system consists of the set of organizational strategies and structures, decision-making system, planning and control system, leadership style, culture, climate and values. The better the efficiency and effectiveness of the organizational quality, the better the ability of the team and coach to play with a winning mentality.
  • The quality of the image of the football club - This refers to the satisfaction of the membership and identification needs of the team and its stakeholders. This dimension is mainly concerned with, the authority of the corporate leadership, its credibility, the personality and professional competence of its key figures, and the results and prestige gained over time.
  • Team goals - This refers to the goals of the current season (winning the championship, ranking among the top four, staying in Serie A) are result goals. Then there are also performance goals (achieving a certain individual and collective performance standard) and process goals (centered on improving individual technical-tactical, psychological and physical skills). It also concerns the development of a team mentality that is able to give itself new goals on the field in relation to the different phases of play in a game. It involves knowing how to use the positive moments of a match to one’s advantage, as well as requiring the presence of a pre-ordained plan for dealing with the negative phases of the game or phases of increased competitive tension.
  • The technical-tactical quality of the team - This refers to the stock of football skills and their integration into team play, which determines much more than simply the sum of the qualities of individual players. The greater the team’s technical-tactical competence combined with an optimal degree of physical preparation, the greater the likelihood that the team will be able to cope with the different, even emotional phases of the game.
  • Collective effectiveness - It is expressed through performances that are superior to those that each could provide individually. Technical-tactical quality is part of collective effectiveness; cohesion and conviction refer to its relational and cognitive-social aspects. So the question that needs to be asked is, “How should players interact on the field for the purpose of showing unity and confidence in their skills as a team?” Napoleon was accustomed to say that he also won his battles with the dreams of his soldiers; this phrase is an effective metaphor for what should be meant by collective effectiveness.
  • Players’ motivational orientation - Players and the team as a whole must manifest a growth-oriented mindset. An example of the application of this concept to soccer may involve the purchase of a soccer player. Generally this is done on the basis of technical and tactical background; thus, it is believed that a player who performs well on one team will manifest the same effectiveness on another. In many cases, this phenomenon has not been repeated, and this can probably be attributed to this static conception of mentality, which does not take into account the different conditions between one club and another and how these affect the players’ adaptation and consequently the quality of their performance.

Without cohesion a team can’t win

Some time ago, Spalletti said that “now Napoli is showing compactness and mentality, and we have a group of friends”. The players must be united on the field and not necessarily friends, however, these words indicate important aspects of a group. A sign of this mentality concerns Insigne who despite leaving at the end of the season continues to play his fundamental role. A team must be united, and there are no alternatives; Sarri has also understood this and with Lazio has re-established a climate of greater union with the players by improving the human relationship with them. An example on all, in our league, is represented by Mourinho that in exchange for the maximum commitment of the players supports the team whatever the difficulty. This is not the old system of carrot and stick but empathy, which in the case of leaders consists in pursuing the chosen objectives while understanding the needs of the players. Napoleon already said this when he affirmed: “I win my battles also with the dreams of my soldiers”. United we win, we have always known this, the strongest armies of the past were based on this concept. In competitive terms, it must be applied with the awareness that the commitment of all is essential, the best players are not needed if they do not know how to play together. The most recent example of a lack of unity and a presumptuous mentality was provided by Inter in last week’s derby. Milan was psychologically compact until the end while Inter showed, over time, a level of cohesion centered on a lower and lower level of intensity and aimed to maintain the acquired result. In the end, the most motivated and united team won. In summary, cohesion is synonymous with common purpose, willingness to sacrifice for the team and intensity of play. A team that is not very united can win a match by using the quality of the single players, but it will never win a championship or obtain salvation if it is not united.

France in crisis: lack of cohesion

Hungary-France 1-1.

Once again we have witnessed the occurrence of a simple concept: it does not win the team composed of champions, but the one that stays compact around its game tactic for 90 minutes.

It is an idea that although everyone knows, it happens that the stars of a team forget it, thinking that sooner or later something will happen to allow them to score a goal and win. Less strong teams cannot afford this superficial attitude, aware (always if trained to this concept) that their only chance to win comes from the cohesion in the field guided by tactical project.

In soccer it is therefore possible more than in any other team sport that the underdog team can put the opponent in difficulty and when it goes into advantage, it can have many chances to end the game with an unhoped-for result.

For the team of champions that suffers this situation it is never easy to change the mentality when the game has started, often prevails the shock and the search for the individual solution and not for the team.

W Hungary that gave us the pleasure to watch this match, proving that value must be acquired every time on the pitch and not with words.

Juventus: Moments that destroy a season

Fabio Capello analyzed the mistakes made by Juventus against Porto in the first and second matches, not sparing a harsh criticism towards Cristiano Ronaldo: “The first goal in the first match was a gift, great inaccuracy in the second, you can’t concede certain goals. The penalty kick tonight was another gift. Demiral was too naive, you cannot try to anticipate, it is a very serious mistake. But the top is this. Cristiano Ronaldo jumping and turning in the barrier. Whoever is in the barrier cannot be afraid of taking a hit. It is an unforgivable mistake that has no excuse”.

Capello is completely right and reiterates the concept that besides the play of a team, in soccer it is the single episodes that determine the result of the match and in this case the elimination from the most important European competition for a soccer team.

But … if this is the situation, how can these mistakes be avoided. Above all, those of Bentancur and Ronaldo, absolutely avoidable mistakes that have changed the evaluation of an entire competitive season.

The problem is not so much the distraction in itself but the effect it has. This is what the players should remember before acting in this way.

Superficiality or even presumption that nothing so bad can happen.Probably team also not very united, there does not seem to be someone with the role of keeping high the attention in these moments.
Probably team also not very united, there does not seem to be someone with the role of keeping high attention in these moments.

Porto has deservedly won because it has been more consistent in keeping the attention high, Juventus has shown too many ups and downs and consequently has paid these moments of distraction.

How much does Juventus train to avoid these episodes from happening? Moments that destroy a season.

The football team mindset

Per mentalità s’intende il modo di concepire, intendere, giudicare avvenimenti individuali e sociali. La partita di calcio è una tipica situazione di confronto sociale fra due squadre, ognuna delle quali vuole imporre il proprio modo di giocare attraverso le azioni svolte dai calciatori durante l’arco dei 90 minuti.

Conoscere la mentalità di una squadra permette di prevedere come reagirà di fronte a situazioni emotivamente intense, come ad esempio subire un goal decisivo negli ultimi minuti di una partita. Permette inoltre di sapere quali sono i giocatori che reagiranno meglio o peggio in situazioni imprevedibili.

La mentalità di una squadra è determinata da un insieme di fattori tra loro interagenti che comprendono:

  • La qualità organizzativa della Società di calcio – Il sistema organizzativo consiste fra l’altro nell’insieme delle strategie  e strutture organizzative, nel sistema decisionale, nel sistema di programmazione e controllo, nello stile di leadership, cultura, clima e valori. Migliore è l’efficienza e l’efficacia della qualità organizzativa, migliore sarà la capacità della squadra e dell’allenatore a giocare con una mentalità vincente.
  • La qualità dell’immagine della Società di calcio – Si riferisce alla soddisfazione dei bisogni di appartenenza e di identificazione della squadra e dei suoi stakeholder. Questa dimensione riguarda in prevalenza, l’autorevolezza della leadership societaria, la sua credibilità, la personalità e la competenza professionale delle sue figure chiave, i risultati e il prestigio conquistati nel tempo.
  • Gli obiettivi della squadra -  Si riferisce agli obiettivi della stagione in corso (ad esempio, vincere il campionato, arrivare tra le prime quattro, restare in Serie A) sono obiettivi di risultato. Vi sono poi  anche  obiettivi di  prestazione (raggiungere un determinato standard prestativo individuale e collettivo) e obiettivi di processo (centrati sul miglioramento di singole abilità tecnico-tattiche, psicologiche e fisiche). Riguarda, inoltre, lo sviluppo di una mentalità di squadra che sia in grado di darsi in campo nuovi obiettivi in relazione alle diverse fasi di gioco di una partita. Comporta il sapere sfruttare a proprio favore i momenti positivi di un match, così come richiede la presenza di un piano pre-ordinato per affrontare le fasi di gioco negative o di maggior tensione agonistica.
  • La qualità tecnico-tattica della squadra – Si riferisce al bagaglio di competenze calcistiche e alla loro integrazione nel gioco di squadra, che determina molto di più della semplice somma delle qualità dei singoli calciatori. Maggiore è la competenza tecnico-tattica della squadra associata a un ottimale grado di preparazione fisica, maggiore è la probabilità che la squadra sappia affrontare ogni fase della partita con la mentalità vincente.
  • L’intelligenza collettiva – Si esprime attraverso prestazioni che sono superiori a quelle che ognuno potrebbe fornire singolarmente.  La qualità tecnico-tattica è parte dell’intelligenza collettiva; la coesione e la convinzione si riferiscono ai suoi aspetti relazionali e cognitivo-sociali. Quindi la domanda che bisogna porsi è la seguente: “in che modo i calciatori devono interagire in campo allo scopo di mostrarsi uniti e fiduciosi delle proprie competenze di squadra?” Napoleone era solito dire di vincere le sue battaglie anche con i sogni dei suoi soldati, questa frase è una metafora efficace di cosa si debba intendere per intelligenza collettiva.
  • L’orientamento motivazionale dei calciatori – I calciatori e la squadra nel suo complesso devono manifestare una mentalità orientata alla crescita e non pensare, invece, che la mentalità vincente sia qualcosa di data una volta per tutte e che non debba essere allenata in modo continuativo. La tabella 3 mostra le differenze fra chi ritiene che la mentalità sia un’entità statica e scarsamente modificabile e quelli che invece ritengono che la mentalità può essere ulteriormente sviluppata quale che sia il livello a cui si gioca. Un esempio di applicazione al calcio di questo concetto può riguardare l’acquisto di un calciatore. Generalmente questo avviene sulla base del bagaglio tecnico e tattico, si ritiene così che un giocatore che fornisce ottime prestazioni in una squadra debba per forza farlo anche in un’altra poiché la sua abilità lo garantisce. In molti casi questo però non è avvenuto e ciò è probabilmente da attribuire a questa idea statica della mentalità che non tiene conto delle diverse condizioni che vi sono tra un club e l’altro e come queste influenzano l’adattamento del calciatore e di conseguenza la qualità delle sue prestazioni.


Diagramma della mentalità (modificato da Dweck, 2009)

Mentalità  statica

Mentalità orientata alla crescita

Intelligenza statica Intelligenza può essere sviluppata
Evita le sfide Affronta le sfide
Reagisce agli ostacoli in modo difensivo o rinuncia Persiste di fronte alle difficoltà e agli insuccessi
L’impegno è poco considerato L’impegno è percepito come il mezzo per padroneggiare
Ignora le valutazioni negative costruttive Impara dalle valutazioni negative costruttive
E’ spaventato dai successi degli altri Impara dai successi degli altri
Raggiunge rapidamente uno standard prestativo ma è inferiore al suo potenziale Raggiunge elevati livelli di successo
  • Lo stile di leadership dell’allenatore – Ogni squadra ha un leader che la guida ed è responsabile delle prestazioni che vengono fornite, questo leader è l’allenatore. Non deve sottrarsi a questo ruolo che è di guida nei confronti del gruppo, di distributore di ruoli e di compiti da svolgere con precisione  e fermezza. E’ il principale motivatore della squadra, deve conoscerne la psicologia così da trarne fuori il meglio che sia possibile.

How the coaches have to build cohesion

In this early period of the team games season, I am often asked how to improve the cohesion of a team especially by the coaches who work in junior teams and and also not professional teams. I make this distinction because among these coaches there is a widespread idea that having little time available, everything that goes beyond the technical work done in the field is unnecessary work, which we do not have time to do, precisely because: “We are not a professional team, where the players are always available.”

This attitude is the motivation that drives many coaches to believe that the players must adapt to their working method and the hierarchies proposed. Physical and technical/tactical preparation are the masters and if someone doesn’t agree, it’s worse for him/her.

Leadership is essentially manifested in the administration of a training program that must be followed without discussion. They start from correct considerations (limited time, reduced economic resources, not optimal hours for training) to arrive at wrong conclusions. Those who do not accept this approach are usually labeled as lazy, unwilling to make sacrifices or presumptuous.

Unfortunately for them, the culture of work and team cohesion are essential factors in a team sport and are not built with this approach. Team performance instead draws its strength from the daily training of the concept of US: the winning performance comes from the integration of the behavior of various players, teaching more players to do different things well, together and at the same time.

Coach has to:

  1. Encourage participation by listening to the players’ suggestions
  2. Avoide favouritism
  3. Reward altruistic behaviour
  4. Reduce individualistic behaviour
  5. Assign challenging and achievable goals to each player
  6. Assign each player a specific role
  7. Encourage a learning and collaborative training climate
  8. Stimulate maximum commitment and constantly reinforce it
  9. Always support the team when it is in negative momentum
  10. Spend time with athletes to evaluate their commitment to training
  11. Analyse coldly with the team the results of the matches

The question for coaches is: how much time do you spend developing these performance factors?

Magic Johnson and team cohesion: An old story always true

In basketball the cohesion is a need to achieve the team primary goal: cope with the opponents with confidence and grit. The internal rivalries, if not limited to few episodes are wasted energies and keep the players engaged in activities with a disruptive impact on training and match. The team must always think in terms of US and the coach should encourage the participation of players, listen them, treat everyone with the same criteria and avoid favoritism, support altruistic behaviors and reduce the individualistic behaviors.

Magic Earvin Johnson’s story is an example of how even a champion have to move from too individualistic behaviors to greater cooperation with the mates. In fact, when Magic played in the Los Angeles Lakers also stood out for his dedication to teamwork: passed and defended rather than thinking about scoring points. It was Magic to explain to his coach Pat Riley as he had established this great attitude.

When he was a little boy, playing Youth League basketball in East Lansing, Michigan, his coach told him he was the best player of the team and he should have to shoot the ball all the time. He did it, scoring  most of the points of the team, which won all the time. Despite these victories the other teammates looked miserable, were depressed and nobody thanked or appeared pleased about what he was doing. Magic also was not lucky and he did not want to be this kind of player. He decided to change, becoming more altruistic, defending and passing the ball to the mates. The team mood changed completely and the mates became much more motivated, increased their skills and continued to have success.

What about your team, the players put aside their ego and work to be cohesive independently of the match momentum?