Tag Archive for 'leadership'

Leadership of elite coaches

Gomes, A.R., Araújo, V., Resende, R., & Ramalho, V. (2018). Leadership of elite coaches: The relationship among philosophy, practice, and effectiveness criteria. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 13(6) 1120–1133.

Coaching philosophy is an important topic in both coaching literature and education. However, there is little research regarding the way that coaches’ philosophies translate into their practices. Additionally, there is very little information about the specific effectiveness criteria coaches use to evaluate their philosophies and practice.

This study addresses the complex set of relationships among coaches’ philosophies, perceptions of their practice, and effectiveness criteria. Ten elite coaches were selected for the study (9 males; 1 female), all of whom had successful careers in their respective sports. The coaches responded to an interview guide that addressed the topics of philosophy, practice, and effectiveness criteria.

The results indicated four main themes:

  • importance of athlete motivation
  • importance of building a relationship with athletes based on personal respect
  • presence of high levels of cohesion among the team
  • need for formal and informal rules that regulate the team’s functioning.

There were several areas in which coaches did not establish a relationship linking philosophy, practice, and effectiveness criteria. The results suggest the need to educate coaches regarding methods of establishing a relationship among their philosophies, their practices, and the effectiveness criteria they use to evaluate their performance as coaches.

The authoritarian leadership risks

When the leader of a team does not listen and tries to impose himself in an authoritarian way, this can have several consequences on the team and its functioning. Here are some of the possible reactions from the team:

  1. Frustration - Team members may feel frustrated and ignored when their leader does not listen to their opinions or ideas. This can lead to tension within the team.
  2. Lack of commitment - If team members feel that their voices do not count and that the leader makes all decisions unilaterally, they may lose motivation and become less committed to their work.
  3. Disconnection - Lack of listening from the leader can lead team members to feel disconnected and distant from the decision-making process. This can damage team cohesion.
  4. Decreased creativity and innovation - When the leader tries to impose himself or herself and does not allow free expression of ideas, the team may stop coming up with creative or innovative solutions to problems.
  5. Attrition and conflict - Lack of listening from the leader can lead to conflict within the team, as members may begin to openly disagree with the leader’s decisions or argue with each other.
  6. Reduced values - Authoritarian leadership may contribute to reduced values within the team. Team members may feel unmotivated and dissatisfied with their work.
  7. Team rupture - In some cases, if the leader’s authoritarian behavior persists without improvement, a rupture in the team may occur, with some members choosing to quit or seek opportunities elsewhere.
  8. Loss of trust - When the leader does not listen and tries to impose himself in an authoritarian manner, team members may lose trust in their leader. Trust is a key element in the smooth functioning of a team, and a loss of trust can severely damage the relationship between the leader and his subordinates
  9. Reduced collaboration - A leader who does not listen can discourage collaboration among team members. If team members see that their leader is unwilling to consider their opinions, they may be less inclined to work together and share important information.
  10. Difficulties in recruiting and retaining talent – A leader who does not listen and imposes himself may have difficulty recruiting and retaining high-level talent. Talented professionals often seek a work environment where their ideas and contributions are valued, and an authoritarian leader may reject them.

These consequences underscore the importance of leadership that is empathetic, collaborative, and open to listening to foster a healthy and productive work environment.

Luca Banchi leadership style

Luca Banchi, basketball coach, led Latvia to a fifth-place finish in the world championship and now recently coaches Virtus and is achieving great results.

The key to his success can be seen in this sentence that expresses a fundamental concept of a coach’s leadership: “I traveled to Latvia, we met in my room and I ordered the meal delivery. I talked to players, coaches and managers, generally anyone who could help me get into their mindset, understand their vision and needs.”

I would say the opposite of what the coach of the women’s national volleyball team, Davide Mazzanti, and the new coach of Napoli, Rudi Garcia, have done. They follow the principle that it is the others, the players and players, who have to adapt to their ideas, to the exclusion of those who do not accept this system.

Messina and Pioli leadership style

Ettore Messina: “The most important thing when talking about teams and coaches is to understand what it means to be a winner. In Italy there is a tendency to create a strong difference between who comes first and the others; we want to win, in the sense that we want to be the best version of ourselves, but usually the one who manages to be at the top at the crucial moment of the season wins, because always being at your best is not possible, just as not everything can go right throughout the year.”

Stefano Pioli: “By now everything has changed, now if I enter the locker room and there is silence I get worried. Usually there is always music blasting until the last second. In my opinion they are phenomena: it’s music you can’t hear, for what my taste is, although I have modernized lately. But it used to be that if you put the music on, it looked like you weren’t focused, whereas now the players turn off the music, come onto the field, and they’re ready. We have to adapt. The most difficult but also the most motivating thing is to put together so many mental and cultural characteristics to get to know each other and to find that balance that allows us to work together with great willingness and with great sharing, which I think is the best possible term.”

Ettore Messina: “Stefano Pioli used a beautiful concept: getting to know each other. To know each other means to accept what are habits, cultures, religions or even just how you prepare for a game and/or how you understand sport, to accept each other on everything. Here, for example, the figure of the coach is interpreted differently from how a Serb or an American or an African interprets it. Some would like you to be more pushy others less so because they are used to that. Sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don’t. With respect to the public’s perception, a coach is aware that in the group concept it is not true that everyone has to do the same things. If you see a guy with headphones, it’s not that he doesn’t do group but maybe he just listens to different music. Not everyone can watch the same movie and those who do not watch it cannot be defined as antisocial.”

Stefano Pioli: “My way of coaching has changed so much, I delegate a lot and I focus more on priorities, however, I have to be ready to confront everyone about everything. Being the center of attention, you have to be prepared to confront everyone. Communication is more and more present and constant. Coming prepared for journalists’ questions is important. You have to be prepared and consistent to make your working method credible.”

Ettore Messina: “I used to hear that Stefano Pioli at Milan has 10 assistants. I consider myself lucky because I have four assistants and two video analysts. In 1989 when I started I had one and a half. Today a coach coordinates high-level specialists and then puts their opinions together to make technical and tactical decisions. Then communication changed. Now instead of having a meeting you send three clips via Whatsapp to a player and get a better result. So he doesn’t even hear your voice. Coach Popovich was scared of seeing players too many times: he would rather have one less meeting, one less practice, one less team dinner than take the risk of being seen too much. Everything changed.”

The future of football between algorithms and creativity

If soccer is the last religious ritual of the laity, based on the fact that the goal is that rare event during the game that can happen at any instant and change the face of a game, the algorithms proposed by Wall Street Football, a start-up that deals with soccer, can destroy the emotions generated by this simple rule and make the game predictable, thus boring in the eyes of all fans.

Every company has the right to pursue its own goals, which in this case were well expressed by ceo Giovanni Bertoli when he states that it is possible to predict the footballer’s performance: shots, goals, fouls made and suffered, any action. It is an excellent opportunity offered to bookmakers who have to set odds but also for fans, for fantasy soccer. Soccer clubs could use it to get to know the players, and in the future a coach would know when and whether to replace a particular player, taking advantage of the possibility of having the data during the game in real time.

I agree with the use of the data that can be collected, but have the effects of this approach on the coach and the players been studied? Will doing the right thing at the right time be determined only by the data that comes to them or will the subjectivity of the coach continue to play an important role? Will coaches filter this information according to their own ideas or will they be induced to use it without any critical reflection? Will players become prisoners of the algorithm that will suggest how to play or will they still use creativity to get out of difficult situations?

And then why hasn’t it been studied how to apply the algorithm to the coach’s behaviors during the game to identify the effects of his leadership, finding out what percentage produces effective results and at what stages of the game. If he fills the role of leader as everyone claims, his leadership style should have a significant influence on the players, why hasn’t there been a study of how to improve his directions by scouting his behavior?

In essence, let’s not take away from the game of soccer the unpredictability of the outcome, which is determined by the subjectivity of individual players, their interactions as a team, and the coach’s behaviors, because no one wants to see perfect soccer players moving like toy soldiers coached by the coach-algorithm.

Are you change oriented?

If the change orientation of a leader is one basic attitude to take, the other two are the desire to take on new responsibilities and to give them to employees.

  • Feeling responsible means being aware that you have acted exactly as you should have with the thoroughness and speed required, considering yourself totally involved in the results achieved. The question to be answered is, “Did I do everything in my power to do?” In this way, the firm is able to ensure that the firm’s work is carried out in the best possible way, using the necessary resources, and that it feels responsible for what it achieves.
  • This is a key aspect of assigning responsibility to employees. For example, in situations of prolonged organizational stress, it can happen that a manager is convinced that he wants to give more delegation to his employees because he feels pressured by too many requests, he has difficulty managing them, and this leads to a reduction in the time dedicated to planned activities and a consequent increase in the time dedicated to emergency activities. The daily activity flows so fast for him that little by little the awareness of having to change is replaced by habituation to this condition of not governing the situation.
  • On the other hand, even employees, who in turn are extremely accustomed to this way of acting, run to their bosses as soon as they have a problem, expecting solutions. This vicious circle is also often encouraged by a condition of mutual satisfaction between managers and employees. In fact, the former is still gratified by perceiving himself as indispensable and by his ability to lead others by providing technical solutions. The latter are satisfied that they do not have to make decisions that could be wrong, and that they act under guidance that spares them from taking on responsibility.

In short, there is a widespread belief that to be successful, it is not enough to have the know-how or to have the professional skills and experience. The validity of this view has long been amply demonstrated in sports. David Hemery, winner of a gold medal in the 400m hurdles in the distant 1968 Olympics, interviewed 63 elite athletes from 20 different sports and showed that awareness and responsibility were the two most important attitudes that these athletes recognized as being at the base of their success. The Canadian psychologist Terry Orlick (1992), who has had forty years of experience with athletes, managers and astronauts, in his model of human excellence has shown that commitment and confidence were the most important psychological skills shown by top performers, others have added to these two skills the goal setting, which corresponds to the ability to establish clear, specific and challenging goals and to pursue them through planning articulated in weeks and months (Durand-Bush, Salmela, and Green-Hemers, 2001).

From these data, it is clear that if professional skills and experience are not supported by an adequate mental approach, one finds oneself in the condition of someone who, while owning a Ferrari but not knowing how to drive it, runs the risk of being overtaken by a less powerful but better-driven car.

Those who wish to have further information on how to develop these skills can contact me directly through this blog.

Coaches’ psychological skills

To lead a team, the coaches’ leadership must be supported by some psychological characteristics

  1. Analytical and multitasking skills - Coaches work in highly technical activities, must develop excellent problem solving skills and be able to tackle multiple tasks at the same time.
  2. Emotional regulation - Ability to stay focused on a task in presence of many potential distractions and disruptive factors. Coaches need to increasingly enhance their ability to control emotions of frustration and anger.
  3. Time management - Good time management requires the use of those analytical skills necessary to prioritize among tasks and identify responsibilities to be assigned. In addition, coaches must be able to identify their own personal limitations and those of their athletes.
  4. Confidence and Competitiveness - Coaches must refer to themselves for encouragement, support, motivation and reinforcement. There will be bad and frustrating days. Individuals must be confident and motivated enough to deal with frustration and lack of support.
  5. Quick Decision Making - Success depends on the individual’s ability to deal with situations of tension, anger and frustration, and to respond very quickly and appropriately. Many times, in fact, it is necessary to respond quickly. Anxious individuals become distracted by paying attention to stimuli that are not relevant to that task and by distracting thoughts/emotions. When under pressure they have difficulty listening, solving problems, or making effective decisions.


Master per Allenatori in Tecniche di Ottimizzazione della Performance Sportiva

Nello sport si parla molto di come sviluppare le competenze psicologiche degli atleti. In questi ultimi 30 anni sono stati formulati programmi che prevedono l’apprendimento delle abilità mentali di base a partire dalla fine dell’infanzia, per poi giungere negli anni dell’adolescenza a piani di allenamento specifici per ogni disciplina sportiva e, infine, a programmi altamente personalizzati per gli atleti di livello assoluto. Un programma così diversificato non è stato invece proposto per chi ricopre la responsabilità di guidare i giovani attraverso queste fasi della loro vita sportiva: gli allenatori.

Le ricerche evidenziano che gli atleti vincenti richiedono allenatori che siano eccellenti, non solo per i programmi di allenamento che propongono ma come leader che li guidano con competenze tecnica e psicologica. Lo stesso sostengono allenatori come José Mourinho quando afferma che chi conosce solo di sport non sarà mai un allenatore di successo, o Jurgen Klopp quando dice che: “Bisogna servirsi della tattica con il cuore. La partita va vissuta intensamente altrimenti è noia”. O Pierluigi Pescosolido, Fiamme oro e allenatore di molti campioni del tiro a volo, con cui da molti anni ci confrontiamo per migliorare continuamente l’allenamento di questi atleti di livello assoluto parlando della gestione della loro vita, della concentrazione nei momenti decisivi, delle competizioni ma anche di come insegnare queste competenze ai giovani junior che si affacciano per la prima volta al mondo competitivo.

Emerge così con forza la rilevanza della dimensione psicologica del lavoro dell’allenatore a livello giovanile e assoluto. Sono queste le ragioni che mi hanno convinto ad accettare l’invito di Psicosport, l’organizzazione che da 28 anni realizza il più longevo e di successo Master in Psicologia dello Sport, a promuovere insieme a un gruppo di esperti un Master TOP per allenatori in Tecniche di Ottimizzazione della Performance Sportiva. L’obiettivo è duplice:

  • Migliorarne le competenze psicologiche in qualità di specialisti della Prestazione.
  • Ottimizzare le loro abilità nel supportare gli atleti a costruire un profilo vincente in ogni impegno della vita sportiva.
Il Master prevede tre moduli formativi:
  1. Auto-sviluppo - Sviluppare le risorse dell’allenatore e la sua comprensione psicologica degli sport.
  2. Eccellenza - Identificare le aree di miglioramento dell’allenatore e sviluppare un piano di azione personale.
  3. Leadership - Conoscere e applicare gli stili di leadership più efficaci.
E’ l’inizio di una nuova impresa. Chi desidera avere più informazioni può visitare il sito di Psicosport.

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.

Ibrahimovic at Milan:will he lead the rebirth?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will play for the next 6 months at AC Milan. There’s a lot of talk about the reasons of this choice on the part of the Club: “Is he too old (38 years)? “He was retired in Los Angeles, how will he fit into the Italian championship?”.

Only he can know if he will be the Savior of the homeland, taking the leadership to lead Milan on the pitch with his fighting attitude, playing the role of Chief in the locker room and in the match. It seems to me, that this is the challenge he would have accepted, choosing to come back and play in Milan. In this way we will have the chance to see if his famous statements continue to represent him or if they too will have aged:

“I don’t accept losing, I just don’t accept it. I learned it from life. For me, determination and aggressiveness, determination and concentration on one’s goals count. I have the mission to win”.

“I am the seventh strongest player in the world. Maybe in twelve years I’ll be the sixth.”

Anyway, good luck! And may it really be a positive life experience, because beyond all economic considerations, the matches show who you are and your personal ambitions.