Tag Archive for 'football'

From last to winning: the story of a deaf team

What the American football team at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside is demonstrating is the most classic demonstration of how a difficulty can turn into an opportunity for improvement and success, even in a sport where the noises derived from fighting between players are an integral part of the game. For seven seasons the Cubs team had always lost, and often their opponents had humiliated them not only in the game but in the words they used to refer to them.

But this season they are undefeated and are two games away from winning the championship. That would be the first time in 68 years.

They are coached by the school’s physical education teacher, Keith Adams, a deaf, burly, effervescent man whose two deaf sons are also on the team. The Cubs have become a fast, hard-hitting team. Their weapon is a system of coded hand signals between close-knit teammates and coaches that confounds opponents with its speed and effectiveness.

In a part of California that suffered greatly during the pandemic with high unemployment and more than 5,000 deaths, the Cubs’ excellence lifted the school and the surrounding community.

The team’s success broke the die-hard stereotype that deafness is something you can’t overcome in soccer. Adams, applied his philosophy to this group of athletes that what might be thought of as a limitation can be an advantage. Through this approach, rigorous training and a group of talented young men who were already playing together at lower levels, he built a winning team.

Coaches also say deaf players have enhanced their vision by making them more attentive to game movements. As a result, they gain a better sense of their opponents’ positioning.

On Friday night, the Cubs beat the Desert Christian Knights, 84-12.

Tom Brady’s exceptional life

Tom Brady: 43 years old for an NFL player is really a long time and he has won the right to play the tenth Super Bowl of his life at his age, in a new team that before him had obtained more delusion than success, in a new environment after twenty years of victories in New England.

But how does he do it?

Philosophy: “When it’s time for the race to start, you put one foot in front of the other. The rest isn’t up to you. Everything will happen at the pace that it needs to happen. You can’t know what it’ll be like until then. So why not appreciate and enjoy the journey?

Mindset: “I’m trying to do things that have never been done in my sport. That’s actually fun for me, too, because I know I can do them. When a team gives you the opportunity to do those things with them, well … if not with them, then who?”

Psychology: “At some point, you have to throw your whole body into what you’re doing. You have to say, Let’s ride. Let’s see what we got. I want to show everybody what I got.”

Goal: Be who we are

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is  one of the best motivators in college football. He is constantly oriented to find new ways to motivate his players. In the video below, you find his last epic pregame speech.

He said:

“They can prepare for a month for what we do, but they cannot prepare for who I know we are.”

“Everybody understand that? So you be who we are. Let’s played the best four quarters we’ve played all year tonight. Everybody got that? … This is just the next step and you’ve got to walk it out. … Get that eye of the tiger and you put that heart of a champion on full display tonight.”

Sara Gama: a wonderful gift

Sara Gama: Se il carattere di una squadra si vede da come si vivono le difficoltà allora direi che oggi abbiamo dato un ottimo spunto. Ci siamo fatte un bellissimo regalo per il nostro debutto. Avanti così!!!

Concentration and self-talk in football

Concentration and self-talk in football

Mirko Farina and Alberto Cei


Concentration and self-talk are key (often under appreciated) factors underlying elite sport performance. In this chapter we define concentration and self-talk and look at some of their applications (section 1). We investigate their relation, their functions, and discuss their contribution to sport performance (sections 2). We focus on the specific role that concentration and self-talk play in football (sections 3; 4). So, we analyse how they improve players’ performance by, for instance: (i) providing a balanced level of anxiety, (ii). enhancing focus and attention, (iii).promoting decision making skill and decreasing reaction time, (iv). motivating to increase efforts, (v). improving coordination with teammates and, more generally, deterring behaviours that have negative consequences on the field. We then analyse (section 5) the peak moment of any football performance (the act of scoring a goal) and look at how to use concentration and self-talk to increase the chances of scoring a goal (or not conceding it). We conclude (section 6), by providing practitioners with a series of applied coaching strategies that can be used to build more successful coaching programs (both in team sports and in football).To do so, we first identify some crucial game factors influencing football performance (e.g. game momentum, stress, anxiety, the players’ capacity to re-focus on the present) and then look at how coaches can intervene to satisfy some of these games demands.

In: E. Konter, J. Beckmann, T.M. Loughead (eds.), Football Psychology. Oxford: Routledge.

Salma al-Majidi: first woman to coach a football male team in the arab world

Salma al-Majidi, 27 years old, is the first woman manager of a male team in Sudan. Soccer is very diffuse in the arab world and FIFA has presented her as the first soccer manager.The team is Al-Ahly Al-Gadaref in the city of Gedaref  in Sudan at east of Khartoum.

Football: interview with Damià Abella Pérez about stress, pressure and high performance

Book review: One Goal – The mindset of winning soccer teams

One Goal

The mindset of winning soccer teams

Bill Beswick

Human Kinetics, 2016, p. 222

What I liked more in the book titled “One goal” by Bill Beswick is the great passion and competence that he shows in every chapter. The goal of this book is to describe why/how a psychologist has to be committed in this kind of job. The answer is that there are a lots of things to do, but only if you are passionate. This means that what you read inside, you cannot in any other book concerning performance psychology, because is coming from the application of the expertise and passion to a specific context. The second reason to read this book comes from the several professional examples that Beswick provides in each chapter. This approach is relevant because the young professional has to know that the consultant job with a team needs these skills. It means that our knowledge science-based need to be translated in terms to be useful in the everyday job with the team, the players and the head coach and probably with the team managers too. The book goes around a main focus based on two interrelated concepts: the positive environment supports the fighter mentality. Therefore the team has to share a unifying identity and culture and it must be very well clarified that the positive results come from this homogenous mindset and the viceversa is never true. So the team culture is based on common: effort, enthusiasm, execution and endurance. First the attitude, than any other specific competence (strength or focus or game schema).  At this regard, Beswick say:

“Arguably, the most successful team in international sport, the New Zealand All-Blacks rugby team, clean their own locker-room after the game, showing the humility that is common to many great teams.”

Another relevant topic concerns how the coach teach individual and collective responsibility, in the first part of the book there many ideas that a coach can use to work on it, to reach this important goal. In the second part the main topic is presented in the chapter titled “Fostering coachability.” It’s a key attitude to develop a winning career. The players’ progresses depends on their coachability, that is the relatively stable position to be involved in the process of continuous improvement independently from the current skills, performance level and roles. Another important point is related to the players’ personal accountability and I agree with the Beswick’s  Ten key elements of the accountability cycle (goals and standards, reminders, culture, learning environment, accepting justified criticism, regular feedback, thunderbolts, internal challenge, can’t do or won’t do?, accountability without blame). If the team and the coach will respect these rules they will show an higher threshold for alibis, becoming more accountable and successful.  As Michael Jordan said:

“the better players learn to say «I played bad but tomorrow I’ll play better». A lot of younger players are afraid to admit they have bad nights but everybody has bad nights and it’s how you rebound from those bad nights that dictates what kind of player you are going to be.”

The third part of the book is about competition and the key words are competing cohesively, the momentum, pressure, overcoming adversity, repeat success. Also in this section Beswick shows how to apply the psychologist’s professional skills to work with a constructive approach in the most competitiveness situations, because “pressure is nothing more that the shadow of a great opportunity.”

Higuain: how the mind go wrong the penalties

The day after the final of the AmericaCup  and penalty-photocopy kicked up by Gonzalo Higuain, we speak of kicks from eleven meters with an expert in sports psychology. Alberto Cei  teaches “Coaching” at the University of Roma Tor Vergata and he has been working as mental coach with many Olympic athletes, sports teams or coaches.

Un rigore rappresenta un momento particolare per un atleta, che sia definito un campione o meno?
Il rigore è il massimo momento di solitudine e di pressione per un calciatore, va detto che di solito i rigori li tirano i migliori, infatti esistono i rigoristi in ogni squadra. Parto dall’idea che è la testa che guida, non il piede o la gamba. Puoi avere la macchina migliore ma poi ci vuole il pilota, quindi occorre una preparazione psicologica e mentale per questi momenti.

De Gregori ha torto o ha ragione: è da questi particolari che si giudica un giocatore?
Un campione resta un campione anche se ha commesso un errore o più di uno. Perché nel tirare un rigore non si mette in discussione la capacità tecnica del giocatore ma la sua capacità mentale. Il percorso che si compie dal centro del campo fino al dischetto è fondamentale, come ciò che si pensa prima di tirare. Ricordo che tanti anni fa Gullit disse che se sei molto stanco l’importante è che tiri forte perché se cerchi il gesto tecnico è più facile che sbagli. Ciò che conta è essere decisi e creare mentalmente un legame tra te e dove vuoi che finisca il pallone. E’ come tirare una freccia, devo prefigurare dove voglio che finisca.
Noi perdemmo un mondiale per un rigore sbagliato di Baggio, non si può mettere in discussione un campione per questo. L’importanza la dà solo il significato che quel tiro ha in quel determinato momento.

Dopo quell’errore Baggio disse «I rigori li sbaglia solo chi ha il coraggio di tirarli», è questo il modo giusto di reagire?
È un buon modo per rispondere a un momento di difficoltà, con un attacco. Poi magari nei mesi successivi quell’errore ti resta dentro ma è importante aver dato questa risposta che sottolinea la stima verso te stesso e l’orgoglio che hai per averlo fatto.

Higuain si è da poco reso colpevole di un errore nella finale di Coppa America e precedentemente aveva sbagliato un rigore nel Napoli contro la Lazio in un’altra partita che potremmo definire fondamentale. Due rigori fotocopia e due errori, ci può essere un legame?
Commettere due errori uguali è possibile perché talvolta noi ci fissiamo sull’errore: prima di tirare magari ti ritorna in mente che avevi sbagliato proprio in quel modo e non vuoi ripeterti. La conseguenza, invece, è che ti esce lo stesso tiro.

Cosa passa per la testa di un atleta quando si avvicina al dischetto?
Non possiamo prevedere cosa ci verrà in mente mentre tiriamo, per questo c’è bisogno di allenarci mentalmente a questi momenti. Higuain avrebbe dovuto pensare che nel momento in cui si apprestava a calciare quel rigore sbagliato sarebbe potuto tornargli in mente, e quindi avrebbe dovuto lavorare su questo. Magari lo ha fatto ma non è che sempre si riesce a metterlo in pratica nel momento giusto. Occorrono costanza e lavoro, allenandoti a cambiare quell’idea che potrebbe ritornare. Certo è un lavoro sulle possibilità ma dal momento che sbagliare un rigore può risultare fondamentale, lo devi fare.

Accade anche negli altri sport, immaginiamo.
Tutti gli atleti che praticano sport di precisione, come il golf, il tennis, lavorano su questi aspetti mentali, lo stesso Federer per mettere dentro l’82% di prime di servizio si allena tutti i giorni. Ma non sull’abilità tecnica, bensì su quella psicologica perché ti alleni mentalmente a metterla sempre dentro.

Higuain ha comunque dimostrato coraggio nel tornare sul dopo gli errori commessi in questa stagione?
Aver sbagliato e tornare sul dischetto significa sicuramente aver coraggio, ma riprendersi dipende dalla voglia di allenarsi per non ripeterlo.
Il concetto fondamentale, e anche la difficoltà per un campione, sta nel mettere insieme il coraggio con l’umiltà. Bisogna avere il coraggio di tirare un calcio di rigore ma anche l’umiltà di allenarsi per fronteggiare questi momenti, mettersi lì giorno dopo giorno senza pensare che basta essere un campione per fare sempre bene. È utile pensare “sono un campione” ma non basta, devo anche saper fare il campione quando sono in campo nei momenti giusti. L’abilità è essere pronto quando devi esserlo. Le faccio due esempi.

LeBron James non era abile nei tiri da tre e si arrabbiava perché sbagliava tanto. Sa come hanno risolto? L’allenatore gli ha preparato un video di dieci minuti in cui gli mostrava tutte le volte in cui faceva canestro col tiro da tre. Doveva guardarlo tutti i giorni e contemporaneamente si allenava tutti i giorni sui tiri da tre. Esistono delle tecniche per migliorare, non basta la forza di volontà del giocatore. Vale anche per il rugbista Jonny Wilkinson. Ha un sistema di allenamento anche mentale per avere la più alta media realizzativa nei tiri e il suo metodo è lo stesso che usa Cristiano Ronaldo. Allenarsi, non significa che non sbaglierai mai ma che avrai più fiducia in te stesso e quindi saprai gestire la tensione emotiva in quei momenti.
(Intervista di Francesca Leva da Il Napolista)

Stop with the football to live a long and healthy life

“I just want to live a long, healthy life,” said 24-year-old Chris Borland in announcing his retirement from the NFL on Monday. The San Francisco 49ers linebacker, who had signed a nearly $3 million contract and seemed on the verge of an all-pro career, quit football because he was concerned about its effect on his brain. “I don’t want to have any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise,” he explained.

Borland’s surprising, early exit from the league has been taken as a sign that players are getting wise to the dangers of their game. We’re told the sport itself is now at risk. “Borland’s decision-making process is what represents the fundamental danger to the NFL,” wrote Will Leitch in Sports on Earth. “The problem is that more Borlands are coming.” ….

His retirement comes less than a week after that of his teammate Patrick Willis—a 30-year-old, 7-time Pro Bowl linebacker and defensive captain who was in the middle of a $50 million contract. …. Willis had good reason to be concerned about his feet. They’re special: “I don’t know what it is about these feet, but they got y’all saying, ‘Wow,’ ” he said during a tearful press conference last week. “Lord made my feet like the feet of a deer.” Wills worries that his hooves have already lost some “Wow,” and he’s concerned about what might happen if he gives them more abuse …

That distinction between a player’s brain and body reflects a systematic bias in how we think about the NFL. We know that football players hurt themselves in lots of ways, and that they may suffer from these injuries for all the years that follow. But we assume that one source of disability matters more than any other. A damaged foot, a damaged knee, a damaged spine, a damaged shoulder: These seem like inconveniences. A damaged brain? That’s a different thing entirely—an insult to the soul, an affront to personhood, a life-destroying tragedy. The body can be broken in 200 places, but we tend to think a broken mind is sui generis. The risk of encephalopathy stands alone.

This is not a medical fact; it’s a matter of opinion. Consider that more than 40 percent of NFL retirees report arthritis before they reach the age of 60, a rate that’s more than triple that of other men. Another survey found that four-fifths suffered from “moderate to severe pain,” again more than triple the baseline rate in the general population …

If anything, Willis’ decision to retire sends a more unexpected and important message to the NFL: Even if you don’t care too much about concussions, and even if you think that men should bang their heads like rams, then you might still decide that football is too dangerous. You might still decide to quit, or you might still pull your children from their Pop Warner team. It doesn’t matter if it’s a danger to our bodies or our minds; either way, football might not be worth the risk.

(Read the full article by Daniel Engber, columnist for Slate)