Tag Archive for 'Covid-19'

The motivation to start the new sport season

In many sports this time of year is usually a period of restart, I am referring to team sports such as soccer, basketball and volleyball and many individual sports.This happens again this year with a variant, in different disciplines is from February that the athletes do not compete or have competed but only in races held in Italy, often without the appeal of the comparison with the best athletes. It is not easy then to restart the training, when you have not done anything else for months or you are competing in races that until a few months ago athletes of absolute level considered secondary.

In these days I have been talking to athletes who experience this situation and their training and daily lives suffer from it. It is in these moments, that we all realize the importance of competitions. Not only because they represent the test in which to demonstrate one’s value as an athlete, but above all their absence determines a disaffection from training, from the desire to correct oneself. We are talking about athletes who train about 1,400 hours a year. This commitment is aimed at providing performance at their best, but if the opportunities are missing, it is not so easy to find every day the right motivation.

The work with the sports psychologist can be very useful to support the athletes in this commitment and in establishing objectives and evaluation systems within the training cycles that allow them to maintain at the highest level the quality and intensity of training.

Benches in the gym: the end of sport in Italy

Si sta affermando l’idea che le palestre non saranno a disposizione delle associazioni sportive perché diventeranno delle aule e per problemi di sanificazione. Questo vuol dire uccidere le società sportive dilettantistiche, creare disoccupazione e impedire la pratica sportiva dei giovani. Comporta anche la riduzione del benessere e della salute di tutti, atleti e operatori dello sport. Infatti, le società sportive si aggiudicano l’uso delle palestre e la quasi totalità dello sport giovanile e amatoriale che si svolge al coperto, a eccezione del nuoto, è all’interno della palestre delle scuole. Se questi spazi diventeranno delle aule o se i costi della loro sanificazione quotidiana saranno eccessivi un pezzo importante del mondo sportivo italiano avrà perso il luogo dove allenarsi e gareggiare.

Molti amministratori pubblici hanno fatto dichiarazioni in tal senso, con la scusante di non poter garantire la salute all’interno delle scuole. Queste dichiarazioni confermano ancora una volta la superficialità di chi, invece, dovrebbe fornire soluzioni che non discriminino un’attività (lo sport) rispetto alle altre. E’ chiaro nella loro mentalità che lo sport è un’attività non significativa sia dal punto di vista professionale (i lavoratori del settore) che di chi la pratica (gli atleti). Proprio perché se ne può fare a meno non si pensa concretamente a soluzioni e a circa due settimane dall’inizio dell’anno scolastico si cerca una soluzione alla carenza di aule nell’uso delle palestre. Lo sport giovanile non ha mai suscitato grande interesse fra i nostri politici e il Covid-19 mette in luce che questa concezione continua a essere ben consolidata e diffusa. Vivere una situazione di emergenza come quella attuale nonché i problemi creati dal distanziamento fisico e dall’uso di mascherina e dalla mancanza di spazi nelle scuole non giustifica comunque un approccio così poco curante nei confronti dello sport. Lo sport è necessario per il benessere dei giovani così come imparare la matematica e l’italiano, quindi questo approccio non ha alcuna ragione di esistere e di essere proposto da chi svolge una funzione pubblica. La questione della scuola va risolta ma senza lasciare indietro nessuna attività tra quelle svolte all’interno degli istituti. Non ho letto dichiarazioni che sottolineano un senso di comunità tra chi lavora all’interno delle scuole ma solo affermazioni categoriche, in cui si dice che le palestre non saranno più disponibili per far praticare sport alle varie associazioni perché diventeranno aule.

Siamo abituati a trovare soluzioni all’ultimo momento e non programmate in anticipo, mi auguro che questa sia una di quelle situazioni in cui ciò potrà avvenire. Sono convinto che in condizione di emergenza anche le soluzioni devono essere meno stereotipate come lo sono quelle di occupare le palestre e le biblioteche scolastiche. Mi sono sempre chiesto perché non si usano le caserme come aule, o perché non si posso fare lezioni al pomeriggio certamente trovando le risorse economiche necessarie o assumendo nuovi insegnanti a tempo determinato.  Non è mio compito trovare soluzioni, ho voluto evidenziare un problema di cui sento parlare quotidianamente da chi lavora nello sport ma di cui non ho trovato proposte da chi ha il compito di consentire lo svolgimento dell’anno scolastico in modo regolare e l’utilizzo degli spazi scolastici senza escludere nessuno.

Ideas for the new sport year

I started again last Saturday the activity of what I consider the new sports season. I started with tennis, volleyball, handball, the revision of an article on teaching soccer to children with autism and the reading of a dozen thesis projects being carried out. It hasn’t been a soft start but it’s giving me a sense of work normality, at a time that obviously is not the case. Like everyone else I live with this perception of uncertainty and not knowing what will happen in the coming months.

My work is quite planned and without this pandemic it would be varied and interesting. In the meantime it is done “as if” it should proceed as planned, with the awareness that I have to prepare for the necessary adaptations and changes depending on how the health situation will evolve. I am thinking, for example, at “Calcio Insieme” project with our 80 young people with autism playing soccer. With AS Roma and the Integrated Football Academy we are organizing ourselves in order to be able to carry out the training activity in conformity with the rules and in safety for everyone.

My main work is with teenage athletes who aspire to excellence but don’t know if they will reach these levels and with top athletes who are preparing to establish themselves internationally. To a large extent, they are aware of the importance of the mental component of their activity, knowing that they must also engage in psychological work, which is certainly not easy to do. In a time of crisis as it is today, psychological support becomes even more essential to learn to accept fears, anxiety about the future and the limitations required to ensure your own health and that of the people you work with on a daily basis.

I experienced their fears during the lockdown, when left alone at home, many risked living in angst and passively suffering that period. Psychological support with them was, in my opinion, indispensable to allow them to take their lives into their own hands even in those negative moments. Now the limitations have been greatly reduced, but the fears remain until we will have the vaccine. The psychologist remains the only person with whom to share these concerns and to improve resilience and confidence.

Our main sports organizations, compared to those of other European countries, have not clearly dealt with these issues and the same is true for the organizations of sports psychologists. No shared and specific documents have been produced and, therefore, the responsibility has been left to the individual initiatives of professionals.

What can I say, I hope to realize together with all the people I work with the projects we have planned. What is certain is that we never give up, we have been and will always be ready to solve the problems that will arise. My motto is: “something done well, you can do better” (Gianni Agnelli).

Good luck to all the optimists!!!

How to restart our activities in September?

It is difficult to predict with certainty how the new sports year will start, but also what the beginning of the school year and the return to the companies will be like. We do, however, have some firm points:

  • anyone who doesn’t follow the rules can become a weapon for the spread of the Covid-19.
  • many people don’t follow the rules if they’re left free to behave as they think they should.
  • this awareness increases the worry and anxiety in the future
  • we can’t live waiting for everything to go back to the way it was because it’s fake.
  • we must be aware, instead, that our lives and the way we act on a daily basis will be different.
  • we’re living in an opportunity for change to build together in our environment, not deny it

So we have to:

  • establish our goals
  • develop ideas, projects and actions appropriate to the times we are experiencing
  • do better and differently and not do like before
  • consider technology as an indispensable means of achieving our goals
  • never stop updating, understood as an ongoing and not occasional process
  • increase our social and professional network to increase the impact of our activities
  • maintain a high level of interpersonal communication, sharing goals and actions
  • maintain physical distance but seek intellectual proximity
  • to know that it’s going to be difficult and challenging, and that’s why we’re getting ready
  • be aware that the result will not be guaranteed, but on the other hand this was true even before!

 

Guidance to cope with the loss of competition

*A guidance report recently produced by the Covid-19 Sport and Exercise Psychology Working Group on behalf of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology has highlighted three priority areas with which to support athletes.

  1. Mental health and dealing with uncertainty

With many events and competitions postponed indefinitely, with no certain confirmation of when some will resume, this is likely to cause a significant amount of stress for athletes.

If athletes struggle to cope with stress, over time it is likely to have a negative impact on their mental health, especially if they do not seek support or begin to take proactive measures to manage their well-being.

There are several successful psychological strategies which athletes can use to cope with stress or manage their mental health. These strategies may also be effective to help with the uncertainty caused by coronavirus:

Control the controllable(s):

  • Focus on what is within our control (e.g: exercising and training safely, seeing opportunities for personal development and growth, maintaining physical distancing but maintaining social interactions).
  • Accept that some sources of uncertainty are outside of our control (e.g: when sporting events will be resumed, when physical distancing restrictions will be lifted).
  • Accept that feelings associated with stress and anxiety are normal responses to uncertainty.
  • Maintain a sense of perspective (e.g: given the lockdown restrictions it may not be possible to maintain ‘typical’ levels of fitness).

Athletes tend to prefer ‘problem-focused’ coping strategies. However, this approach may not be effective if the source of stress is outside of our control. Therefore, we recommend that athletes prioritise strategies that cope with what is within their control and learn to accept what is outside of their control.

Focus on our responses to the uncertainty:

  • Practice deep breathing
  • Use relaxing imagery
  • Engage in mindfulness or meditation
  • Listen to music
  • Develop routines to connect with family, friends, team-mates or coaches about how our feelings
  • Write thoughts, feelings, and worries down regularly

When faced with sources of stress outside of our control, it is better to focus on regulating your emotions rather than the uncertainty itself.

Use helpful distractions:

  • Train or exercise (within social distancing guidelines)
  • Take a walk in a green space-where possible (this has been shown to reduce stress levels)
  • Take up a new hobby at home
  • Do an activity with members of your household
  • Watch television (but be wary of repeatedly watching too much Covid-19-related news stories)
  • Take part in a virtual quiz
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Avoid reminders of cancelled sporting events

Research has suggested that, when unable to compete and train with fellow athletes, distraction and avoidance can be an effective way of coping with stress for some sportspeople.

 2. Maintaining social connections

Covid-19 has resulted in great changes to the rhythm of daily life and to how we maintain social connections and have a sense of belonging. Athletes have a strong professional-identity; created, in part, from the time spent within the organisational structure of sport and socialising with other members.

Feeling connected with others and being part of groups that we perceive to be positive and meaningful is beneficial for our psychological health and well-being.

Therefore, it is important for athletes to consider how narrow or wide their social network is in terms of personal and professional relationships, and who they want and need to maintain communication with, within and outside sport:

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Peers in sport
  • Coaching staff and management

By keeping communication channels open and by scheduling regular connections with key individuals or groups it will be easier to raise difficulties before they become more problematic.

Presently in our work with elite sports teams and individuals we have found the scheduling of online coffee chatrooms is an easy way to maintain communication along with sharing daily hassles and concerns, while also maintaining a sense of fun, and dressing room ‘banter’.

       3. Motivation and goal setting

Many sports people will have begun this year immersed and focused on high-performance goals that may have represented the culmination of years of dedication and commitment.

The impact of coronavirus and the cancellation and suspension of competitions and training means that these goals are no longer a daily presence and driving force; and for many, are now unobtainable this year.

The sudden loss of this opportunity to achieve our goals combined with isolation, restrictions on social movement, exercise and training can lead to significant mental health issues.

Adopting strategies and adjusting or re-engaging in alternative goals can improve well-being through increasing feelings of self-control.

Create a daily structure and alternative goals for well-being:

  • Creating new social networks and maintaining contact
  • Physical well-being, for example sleep patterns, nutrition and Pilates to name a few
  • Personal development such as learning a new skill, or taking up a hobby

Many athletes also find the use of a reflective diary as a useful and effective way to log their progress, but in the current situation such diaries can be used to disclose worries and anxieties.

The act of writing problems down can be an effective technique to help deal with worries and concerns.

Re-adjust and reframe goals

As athletes look to the future they may also want to think about taking some time to define or redefine mastery goals. Mastery goals are those that focus on self-improvement (getting better at a skill, having insight into why improvement occurred), they help maintain motivation and can provide a sense of purpose as we move into the new normal.

Importantly, when we are setting goals, whether these are to structure our day or mastery goals to aid us moving forward, we must remember to be realistic, use our support network to help achieve the goals and don’t be afraid to reach out to our social network for advice and feedback.

Ultimately, the COVID-19 lockdown is an uncertain and stressful time for many people including elite and professional sport performers. The ability to cope with stress, largely depends on our ability to have a flexible mindset along with engaging and adhering to some of the evidence-based principles above.

The present adversity may also offer some an opportunity for reflection and contemplation on work-life balance, life expectations, priorities, and goals.

*This blog was compiled by Dr Jamie Barker, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology, Loughborough University and the Covid-19 Sport and Exercise Psychology Working Group on behalf of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology.

The goals of this long training period

Recently I wrote a blog titled “Back to field, how the training without competition?” I said:

These are trying times in any professional field and even sport has had to stop in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.These first two months of lockdown at home have been really hard for those who are used to spend their days engaged in intense and prolonged training or to travel and participate in competitions. Who better spent this unique time in everyone’s life? Probably those who have managed to make sense of their days by recreating their habits and activities within the walls of their homes. For example, from Cristiano Ronaldo to the young junior athletes, to follow a program of physical preparation has been an important moment of their daily life, representing a bridge between yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Set goals. Having new goals is necessary, as this training period has been and will continue to be much longer than usual. Athletes should consider this period as an opportunity to continue to improve. Their goals will not change but the timing of these goals will have to be adapted to the lack of competition.

Be resilient and tough. Knowing how to adapt to this moment of their career is based on these two psychological skills, more than ever essential to maintain a high level of motivation during training. The speed and quality of adaptation will have a major impact on how they will behave in the future. Resilience and toughness with respect to how their competitors are reacting and coping. If they can adapt better than their opponents, then they will return better than before coronavirus period.

Use time wisely. There is much time now, much more than ever. It should be used as an opportunity to work on those skills that are usually more neglected or that they have not been able to work on. For example, the importance of breaks in one’s sport to recover physical and mental energy and refocus on the immediate future, develop attentional training and improve in managing one’s stress and negative moments.

Sharing. It is always important to have people with whom the athletes share their dreams and fears, goals and obstacles along the track, achievements and mistakes. Physical distance should not involve psychological distance from people who are important to athletes.

To find out more write to me!

What I have learned in these last two month

In these days of slowing down the lockdown we were living in I wondered what I had learned, what I was taking with me as an experience of these 2 months.

Interpersonal contacts vs. digital communication
Interpersonal closeness to people, not mediated by technology, is a necessity for us mammals accustomed to lead a daily social life based on immediate physical contact. This period I understood that digital communication alone cannot replace this need, which has always been satisfied by human beings.

On the contrary, however, I could also fully become aware that online communication and the ease of its access are factors with an extraordinary impact on work and relational life. Digital acts in the direction of giving us a greater availability of the resource from which we suffer the most: the time. It is a saving that also has an effect on our daily well-being, reducing stress due to a lifestyle in which travels take up too much of our time.For the future, we must enhance the care of interpersonal relationships through physical proximity, but at the same time digital is the most effective way to better manage the complexity of professional life.

Balance and priority setting between well-being and work
In these weeks of lockdown personal wellbeing and professional needs have become more clearly intertwined than the usual organization of our days. The effort of adaptation has been very significant as we found ourselves living an unforeseen and previously unplanned condition. Just think about the difficulty of many families divided between the work organization of the parents and the online school commitments of their children. In an increasingly digital future it will be necessary to find a balance between private life and work, between everyday stress and well-being.

Work in presence and work online
In my work with athletes and professionals from other professional fields it was necessary to adapt to this new solution – at a distance – especially in understanding and making them understand that working together was not “something, waiting to start again in the usual way” but it was the best way to train mentally and to prepare for performance in a way that was certainly different but no less effective. The mental attitude of doing something “waiting to” was widespread and it took some time before accepting a different way of thinking. Currently the people I work with are convinced that this period has allowed them to become aware of aspects of their performances and the importance of developing certain skills that they would never have achieved, as they would have been too involved in the running of the season.

Research: the athletes’ life during corona virus

Applied research is an important aspect of promoting the profession of psychologist.
In relation to what we are living in these weeks, it is relevant to know how athletes are facing this moment of long crisis never experienced before in these extreme forms.
Below is the invitation to participate in this survey, through the compilation of a questionnaire on the web.

Hello everyone,
Together with a group of psychologists and experts in sports psychology we are investigating the consequences caused by the new coronavirus (COVID-19) on the everyday life of people for whom sport is essential.
We decided to structure a research to understand the impact that the current situation is generating in the lives of Coaches and Athletes. We are investigating not only their sports habits, but also how they are experiencing this period, the emotions and stressful events they are experiencing, as well as the strategies they are putting into practice to best manage it.
That is precisely why we need your help, indeed the help of the whole sporting world.
In fact, we invite you to complete the following QUESTIONNAIRE (which can also be completed by smartphone and tablet) and to spread this initiative to as many athletes, coaches and clubs as possible. It will be thanks to you that we will be able to better understand how to face this situation and to build resources for the future to the resumption of sports activities.

https://bit.ly/sportestop

You can also follow us on www.facebook.com/sportecovid
Thank you

The mindset of the people who do not respect the rules

As long as I breathe I hope,” Cicero said, today we could translate it into “as long as there is life there is hope,” more brutal but equally true. The coronavirus affects precisely this capacity that is at the basis of the physiological and psychological needs of living beings. You may not drink or eat for a few days, but you can’t breath for a few minutes if you are not a champion of underwater apnea. Correct breathing is at the base of self-control and the stresses of our daily life determine as a first negative effect our own breathing problems. Fear makes us block our breath, anger hates it to allow us to scream at someone, sadness reduces it to a trickle of air that goes in and out and anxiety makes us breathe in a shallow and superficial way. Breathing reflects our level of physical fitness and well-being and one of the effects of this new virus is to block it, making assisted breathing necessary in many cases. Mario Garattini, founder of the Mario Negri Pharmacological Research Institute, MIlano, said that “everything will depend on us, on our ability to avoid contagion. Let’s adhere to the dispositions. If everyone had adequate lifestyles and there was adequate prevention, perhaps we would be more resistant”.

This awareness, combined with the worldwide spread of the coronavirus and its devastating effects, should have frightened people enough to never leave their homes again, motivating them to respect the rules that have been spread and whose implementation is mandatory. Nevertheless, thousands of people have continued to travel throughout our country and the police have fined more than 2000 people for violating the restrictive rules of the government decree. What are the reasons for this behaviour? Superficiality, too positive approach to the problem, anxiety and a lack of habit of following the rules. Superficiality is a kind of magic thought, in which people think that the coronavirus is a problem that affects others, such as the elderly and sick, is a way to protect themselves from feelings of sadness in the short term. These people deny the existence of the problem and, therefore, engage in behaviour to escape from their reality. A second type of attitude is people who have an approach not mediated by reality and that is too positive, such as those who thought at the beginning of the spread that it was little more than a flu. They are individuals who live under the illusion of positive short-term solutions. A bit like those who start a diet or want to quit smoking and are confident that they will succeed just because they have made this decision, they are illusory forms of thinking so that at the first obstacles people give up following the new rules they have given themselves because it is too difficult. In the case of the coronavirus the problem manifests itself in the difficulty in maintaining the rules of physical distancing from other people and then they go out, take a walk with friends and take their children to play in the gardens. Similar for the effects but different in reasons is the approach of those who feel angst in staying at home. They perceive themselves as prisoners, feel violated in their freedom of movement and live this condition in a claustrophobic way. To overcome it the only solution in going outside. Finally, there are those who live reactively to the rules, have an attitude of eternal adolescents fighting against the norms of the adult world. They find it difficult to make the rules their own, which in this case are mandatory, and to develop a pluralistic concept of social coexistence, based not only on their rights but also on their duties towards the community.

These are some possible interpretations of behaviours that in a period of world crisis like the one we are experiencing and of upheaval of our daily life can explain the actions of the many who seem not to want to adapt to the new rules.

The science indispensable value

Science: when this coronavirus nightmare will be behind us, let’s remember the essential role of science to solve the problem. And let us not forget to eliminate from any public debate all those charlatans who have confused public opinion and poisoned the social climate. Let us also reduce to silence the people who play a public function and who have given space to these charlatans, discrediting the work of the scientific community.

Some ideas published, to confirm that in these days the awareness about the science role is increased:

In Italy, “over the days, scientific awareness has also grown, in the map indicated with the term “modernity”, where it is understood that the modernity of science allows to better govern phenomena. This space has constantly grown and has allowed to lower the anxious part, even if it has maintained the feeling of fear. That is, the greater awareness has taken away indistinction from the epidemic, but has confirmed its dangerousness”.

Others can be found reading the HuffingtonPost