Tag Archive for 'prestazione'

When the brain requires breaks

In an age when one must be “always on,” athletes represent a type of population to which this rule fully applies. The issue is that with this type of life setting it is not at all easy to find a balance between competitive demands and personal well-being.

Therefore, it is important for those pursuing a career in sports to find a way of life in which mental breaks are present in order to be able to continue to improve their ability to do quality work and sustain their well-being.

But the most compelling reason for taking a brain break is that it may improve your ability to do quality work. A 2022 systematic review found that even short breaks lasting 10 minutes or less reduced mental fatigue and increased vigor (meaning the willingness to persist when work became difficult).

These breaks especially improved performance on tasks requiring creativity.
The concept of micro-breaks originates in the ergonomics literature, defined as scheduled rests that individuals take to prevent the onset or progression of physical symptoms, such as musculoskeletal pain or discomfort. In the organizational literature, this concept was introduced as a brief resource-replenishing strategy, taken informally between work tasks.

Micro-breaks can be seen as natural reactions of the cognitive system to a possible cognitive overload that could affect performance.

In terms of specific outcomes, there are two individual-level components of well-being relevant for recovery: vigor (a pleasant activation) and fatigue (unpleasant deactivation). For the athletes, vigor is an intrinsic resource that must be replenished when exhausted. Vigor contributes to the willingness to invest effort into the tasks at hand and persist when difficulties arise.

Performance represents another key outcome on which micro-breaks are considered to have an impact. It is well known that cognitive and motivational factors are the main determinants of human performance. Breaks can improve task performance through beneficial resource-strain, cognitive, affective, and motivational mechanisms. Breaks are essential for performance on tasks requiring continuous attention, suggesting that the vigilance sensitivity decrement is influenced by the frequent use of cognitive resources.

Anxiety and thinking

Today in class I was asked how a coach can teach young people he or she coaches how to deal with competition anxiety. In this regard I quote a few paragraphs from my book Coping with Stress.

Thinking plays an essential role in the establishment of the anxiety response. In fact, in order to develop behaviors that can be defined as anxious, it is not only sufficient to look at alterations of a physiological nature. An even relevant increase in heart rate can occur from a rather wide range of situations such as running stairs, carrying excessive weight, walking at a fast pace, and many others. These conditions relate to psychological states in which an individual might at most feel tired or fatigued but certainly would not call himself or herself anxious. One’s heart rate can also be accelerated at other times, such as evaluative situations (the school test, the college exam, a job interview, a sports performance, a new professional responsibility); in those instants while one is aware of the alteration in one’s heart rate it is possible to have two types of thoughts:

  1. confident – “This is how I feel every time I do well, my heart is sending me energy,”
  2. not confident – “My heart is in my throat, it’s all rumbling inside me, I’m not getting it right anymore, I will definitely make a mistake.”

It is thus shown that it is thoughts that largely determine whether the physiological reactions one feels are favoring or hindering performance. It is thus thoughts that guide the interpretation of physical sensations, so identical physiological conditions can be experienced as adequate to provide optimal performance despite the fact that, on the surface, they may appear to be hindering. This pointing out is particularly important to understand and especially to remember in the moments that matter, since it gives us the ability to guide our actions through the development of thoughts that we can consciously construct ourselves. In sports of excellence this aspect is particularly evident, as it is certainly not possible to remain calm and serene before an Olympic final, especially if one can win. Athletes know that the anxiety they feel is positive, it is pure energy that they are feeling in those and that tells them, “Come on, the whole body is with you, get busy, go and do what you can do: do your best.” It is precisely from them that we should learn to feel the stress, to feel the fear, experiencing it as a demonstration that we are about to do something that is very important to us, and if it is important, how can you not have your heart in your throat?

What distinguishes those who will then provide an outstanding performance is their ability to handle their pre-race anxiety in positive terms, translating it into energy that will drive them to enhance their skills, because they have learned how to use them in a positive way In these situations the winning athlete does not let his or her emotions dominate him or her, because if that were to happen he or she would be paralyzed by the fear of failure and the responsibility of having to provide a great performance at all costs. Here is what some great champions have said in this regard.

“You are strong in the head if you can remain calm and have fun even when things are not going well, and if you can never lose confidence in yourself and in teamwork.”(Valentino Rossi, driver, 7-time world champion)

“It depends on the characters, nervous tension used to eat me up. I was losing three kilos in the race: the more I ate, the more weight I dropped. And at night I wouldn’t sleep, my eyes were wide open. I was a lit pile, ready to jump from too much tension.” (Mark Spitz, swimmer, 7 gold medals at the Munich ’72 Olympics) (from E. Audisio, Hackett and the club of the elect, La Repubblica, March 22, 2007).

“That day in Los Angeles I cried out that I wanted mommy, I wanted someone to cradle me in their arms, I wanted to be considered for the first time a fragile, tender, not bomb-proof creature. Yes I was the one who dominated myself, the one who sought strong emotions by blasting them in the right way. But in an instant I realized that all that stress had burned me up inside, that by dint of living always on the edge convinced that with my very last energies I would pull myself up, I had consumed everything and eroded even that small personal reserve one keeps for special occasions.” (Sara Simeoni, high jump, 3 medals at the ’76, ’80 and ’84 Olympics) (from E. Audisio, Quanti modi per dire mi arrendi, La Repubblica, July 13, 1987).

The awareness that even champions can be anxious before an important competition should be helpful to all people. Sometimes people are inclined to think that winners are cold, calculating individuals who do not feel the same emotions as ordinary people and that this condition of theirs is a gift they carry with them from birth and have inherited from someone in their family. Their sporting achievements become memorable feats and so some become myths, in which the tale becomes legend and surpasses the reality of the facts. Instead, even champions have struggled to rise to this role, and as a great writer like Ernest Hemingway rightly reiterated, genius is 10 percent talent and 90 percent sweat.

This means that the management of one’s emotions is a skill that can be improved, and that psychological condition we call anxiety, stress or excessive tension that arises from situations that are not objectively dangerous is not in itself bad, because even those who deliver performance at the highest level, such as sports champions, can feel very anxious before competition. The difference between people is, therefore, in the ability to positively emerge from this psychological state. Further confirmation comes from the remarkable popularity of relaxation techniques over the past 100 years; it is a practical demonstration of how anxious people can learn to reduce these reactions of theirs and carry out a satisfying daily life.

It is well known that learning to relax involves learning to influence certain physiological functions (heart and respiratory rates and visceral functions) and muscle tension, in parallel with a gradual mental relaxation. In this area, it is no coincidence that one of the most popular techniques, autogenic training devised by Schultz in the early years of the xx century, consists of relaxation training that the individual generates for himself. Training that requires daily application of at least 10 consecutive minutes for several months. This approach reveals that the psychological state called relaxation is a condition that can be achieved voluntarily through an activity that is absolutely analogous to that which each person has carried out whenever he or she has learned something new be it a cognitive activity as it was in school for math and Italian or a motor or sports activity.

The secret lies in the willingness to want to learn, following a correct method, and repetition for a sufficient period of time to develop the level of skill one intends to achieve or that is necessary to successfully overcome certain psychological conditions, such as anxiety before a personally important event.



Napoli: performance anxiety?

There is talk, in these days, of the performance anxiety that would have hindered Napoli at least in the last two games, important to remain among the favorites for the final title. Attributing the negative results of a team to this psychological dimension has been very successful among the media. It means feeling insecure in the decisive moments of the championship, with the effect of providing unsatisfactory performances. It is a reasoning that labels a team and expresses a collective psychological condition that is invalidating. Were I a coach, I would reject this explanation by asking myself, “How should players interact on the field in order to show unity and confidence in their team skills?” I would also ask myself, “How can I stimulate performance that is superior to what each could provide individually?” Napoleon used 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 team effectiveness. In this way, we are no longer talking about anxiety but about collective effectiveness and how to train it. The theme consists of understanding what behavioral approach is necessary to achieve victory, providing each player with precise and different tasks, so that when someone makes a mistake the others know what to do. Each player needs to know and be a part of the story that the team is building as the minutes go by, and this task orientation needs to be trained specifically throughout the weeks. However, it is not just a technical/tactical issue, it requires each player to perceive himself as an active part of a program that goes beyond his person and is about the success of the team. By developing this collective mentality, it will be possible to come out effectively from situations of greater competitive pressure, without falling into the victimhood inherent in the explanation that attributes failures to anxiety, a manifestation of a character limit that requires a long time to change, while the league, moving on weekly appointments, requires a great willingness to change. Therefore, the question is not so much whether players are anxious, but how willing they are to quickly change ineffective behavior.

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.

The breath can obstacle performances and well-being

You can perform any activity

to promote well-being and develop skills

to train and to compete


every motor, sport and mental action is regulated by our breath.

and if I breathe badly, I won’t get the results I train for.

Successful coaching in 10 rules

The 10 rules for successful training

  1. Self-awareness - The purpose of training is the improvement and optimization of all the athletes’ skills and the development of awareness of what they can do, what they still need to improve and what they need to learn.
  2. Want to learn - The athlete lives in a continuous process of improving the performances and they must be fully aware of it.
  3. Recognizing opportunities - Training consists of a set of situations to be addressed and resolved with the full commitment.
  4. Commitment with consistency and accuracy – Motivation is based on these two aspects that are the basis of any activity in which the athletes are engaged.
  5. Wanting to take risks - Training is not an exact science and even the best trainings are based on the athletes willingness to take the risk of making mistakes.
  6. Tolerate difficulties - The athletes must be aware that every time they reaches a level of performance higher than the previous one, he detaches the ticket to face new difficulties.
  7. Accepting defeats - In sport, mistakes happen frequently and they must be accepted as unavoidable facts; for top athletes, they may be infrequent but are often decisive in preventing a winning performance.
  8. Give importance to time – To become expert it takes a long time and the athletes must be fully aware of this condition.
  9. Collaborate with coaches and staff - Recognizing the coach and staff leadership is a decisive factor for the athletes’ success.
  10. Analyzing one’s own performance - The athletes must know how to evaluate they performances with specific and precise criteria, without evaluating them only in terms of results.

How the positive thinking can destroy our performance

How many times we have heard we must be optimistic, that we have to believe we can win, or that “with everything we’ve done we deserve to achieve a great result.”

There is apparently nothing of wrong to have this thinking, “That’s the way to push ourselves” many people say.

They also add: “What should I tell: to lose? Nobody start a competition with the goal to lose, therefore, you must start the race with the will to win it, because if you don’t even think it, how will you get it?”

In short, “think positive and you will see that it will happen what do you want.”

Well, all these good thoughts are useless and they can become harmful, because at the first difficulties and errors during the race, the athlete will not be ready to react immediately because he expects to win, that is to say that she is focused on the result and not on what to do to get it. “I was ready … and then things didn’t go as I had expected.”

These are often the words of those who start with a too trusting attitude and then at the end of the performance they attributes the result to something out of themselves, without taking responsibility for what it has happened.

These thoughts, which represent the athletes’ expectations about the race, can really be considered as the performance killers. They are amazed by their own mistakes and the difficulties they face in the race and they have not prepared a plan to react effectively to these situations.

Emotion and activation role in sports

It is not enough said that sports, but not only them, should arouse high levels of physical and mental activation and be perceived as pleasant.

We know that many people are stimulate even through the feelings of anger and anxiety, I would say, however, that are not wellness-oriented and positive to teach the young athletes. Even the sports professionals (athletes of international level) have to learn to manage difficult times and competitive pressure with the same approach, taking pleasure and not suffering from their activities. What does it mean to be an athlete of the highest level and live performances with fear/anger and a feeling of unpleasantness.

Mistakes coming from a poor awareness coaching

If your athletes commit any of these mistakes, it means that you have not taught them to give value at their commitment in training:

  1. When you ask them to take a deep breath, they snort or sigh
  2. Without no reason they modify times and ways of the warm-up
  3. They say: “But I thought I was ready while …”
  4. They get angry or easily disappointed even in training
  5. In training they have result outcomes  and less frequently process outcomes.
  6. They are focused on the results of their performance and not on how to perform effectively
  7. They are only partially aware that it is how you prepare yourself that determines the quality of the performance
  8. They think: “I have the technique therefor I know how to compete
  9. They are deluding themselves to do well only because they have done it before and they are not aware that every time it is different and the commitment must be consistent
  10. Usually from their favorite champs they take only the most superficial and most glamorous behaviors

The best athletes suffer of emotional overload

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