Tag Archive for 'talento'

I was not born with the right talent to become a champion

When talking about sports champions and attributing their success to innate talent, a reassuring illusion is created. This allows us to justify the gap between them and ourselves by attributing their success to something beyond our learning abilities. Essentially, we tell ourselves that they were lucky to be born with a special talent that we lack.

This mindset can have dual effects. On one hand, it may relieve pressure as we attribute the success of these champions to something beyond our control. On the other hand, it can discourage effort and practice, as we are convinced that talent is the determining factor, and if we don’t have it naturally, then it’s futile to try.

I think our culture tends to celebrate talent because it’s flashy and often comes across as innate or effortlessly acquired. It’s like witnessing someone pull a rabbit out of a hat—you’re more likely to be amazed by the trick than the hours of practice it took to master it.

On the other hand, skills that can be learned and developed over time might not have that instant “wow” factor. We live in a society that values quick results and instant gratification, so the gradual process of skill acquisition can be overlooked.

It’s also possible that celebrating talent fits into the narrative of natural giftedness and reinforces the idea of certain individuals being destined for greatness. This can create a mindset that either you have it or you don’t, which might discourage people from putting in the effort to learn and improve.

However, the truth is, with dedication and practice, anyone can become proficient or even excel in various skills. It’s essential to recognize and appreciate the hard work behind the scenes, not just the end result. After all, there’s a unique kind of talent in the tenacity and perseverance it takes to become good at something.

Paolo Maldini: we have to create the players

I have always admired Paolo Maldini not only because he was a champion in soccer but also for his way of expressing his ideas clearly, directly, and in a calm manner. His leadership is competent and unquestioned. He seems to be able to make you feel wrong even with just a smile. Even now when talking about Milan’s crisis, he has wanted to recall the goals that Milan achieved last year, goals that it has not achieved since several years. It is not a way to hide the present but to keep alive the memory of the past of a few months ago, declaring it to a sports and media world that has exasperated if it is still possible the value of the present that crushes all other evaluations.

Maldini ended his assessment of Milan with a sentence that should give pause for thought: “we can no longer take already formed champions, but we have to create them.” If this concept were to be put into practice, soccer would change. It means that the much-vaunted Leao, De Keteleare, and the many who are in every team are probably not even very good footballers but must be trained. So the clubs pay million-euros salaries for young people to be trained. Hence the question: are you sure there is not a better way to invest the limited economic resources? Have you studied alternative plans to buying young people who require expensive investments but are still immature to play at a high level?

And then who should train these youngsters-costly, only the first team manager or should they have assistants who arrange hours, beyond practice with the team, to reduce their limits including mental limits. To my knowledge there is no such approach, their development is left in the hands of the manager who is coaching talented players who have little ability to think on the pitch, have little developed sense of team, and are aware that even if they fail on that team they will find another one to play on and continue to make a lot of money. With this approach, thinking, making sacrifices, and striving to improve become tasks that are meaningless because they will always have a place on some team.

Identifying and developing young potential talents

The Global Challenge
The ability to perform at a high level, make appropriate decisions in the required timeframe, without losing sight of the big picture and long-term goals are necessary and critical skills for today’s managers. According to The Economist, the most significant challenge companies face is identifying, selecting and developing individuals who can work successfully at the middle and senior management levels.

A daunting task
In relation to career and management development planning, firms often find it difficult to find individuals who have the skills required to deliver absolute value under the pressures of today’s marketplace. This is attributable to two main reasons: 1. today’s levels of competitiveness require considerable commitment and dedication from managers, and 2. the skills required to excel in technical and professional roles are very different from those needed to succeed in senior management roles. Therefore, it is not easy to identify and coach individuals who are willing to become intensely involved in the work and who have the willingness and application skills to take on increasingly complex and decision-making roles.

Identifying Young Potential Talents
For the Italian business system, the identification of young potential talents represents a strategic objective to be pursued in order to compete successfully on the global market. The activity carried out in recent years with world-class athletes and leading companies has allowed me to build, in collaboration with Enhanced Performance Systems with Robert Nideffer, a system of identification of young talents based on the use of interviews, questionnaires and observations on the job. The concentration patterns and interpersonal skills required to fill specific roles at different levels of responsibility were thus detected.

Training Young Potential Talents
Having identified the individuals, it is a matter of formulating a course that promotes their skills and significantly reduces the most critical areas. It is the beginning of a real training that involves the achievement of certain professional and behavioral results to be cadenced in agreement with their direct managers. It is a work program organized on an annual basis, during which the young people involved will have to pursue the improvement goals they have set themselves, will be supported and confronted with the consultant who will follow them in this process and evaluated by their direct superiors.

Talent transfer: Valentina Margaglio

The sport story of Valentina Margaglio who became the first Italian on the World Cup podium, in skeleton is an example of what is called talent transfer.

It therefore consists of a program of re-assignment of an athlete to another sport that possesses similar structural characteristics and transferable through informal programs based only on personal desire for change or formal talent search conducted by sports organizations.

The most important cases

One of the most famous examples in relation to this approach is the story of Clara Hughes who moved from speed skating to road cycling winning a medal in both the Summer (1996) and Winter (2002, 2006) Olympics.

The Australian Institute of Sport has implemented an ambitious program with skeleton as an uncommon discipline with the aim of transferring those with natural sprinting skills to an event where explosive speed is a necessary condition, while also striving to create an environment that would allow for rapid learning of ice riding skills and rapid adaptation to the unique characteristics of the track.

Beginning in 2006, UK Sport in preparation for London 2012 has developed a number of initiatives in relation to the pursuit of talent involving 7,000 athletes. Some of these programs have included a talent transfer approach. “Pitch 2 Podium” involves soccer and rugby players who have not been awarded professional contracts participating in a selection process to become athletes in sports such as rowing, cycling and skeleton. “Fighting chance,” meanwhile, encouraged martial arts athletes to compete in taekwondo, while “Girls4Gold” asked girls with competitive experience at the regional level or above in any sport to participate in selections for cycling, rowing, modern pentathlon, sailing and skeleton. This a produced 50 national athletes and 54 medals at international events.


Atleta                          Sport di origine e risultati                    Nuovo sport e risultati


Eddie Eagan                 Boxe                                                   Bob a 4 uomini

(USA)                           1920 –oro                                           1932 – oro

J.   Tullin Tharms      Salto con gli sci                                  Yachting, 8 metri

(NOR)                           1924 – oro                                          1936 – argento

Christa Luding            Pattinaggio velocità                          Ciclismo, 1000m

Rothensburger (DDR)   1984, 1988 – 2 ori, argento         1988 – argento

Willie Davenport        Atletica, 110m ostacoli                        Bob a 4 uomini

(USA)                           1964, 1976 – oro, bronzo                    1980 – oro

Chris Witty                   Pattinaggio velocità                             Ciclismo, 500m

(USA)                           1998 – oro, argento                             2000 – 5° posto

Clara Hughes              Ciclismo strada e prove a tempo          Pattinaggio velocità e fondo

(CAN)                           1996 – oro, argento                             2002, 2006 – oro, argento, bronzo

Hayley Wickeheiser   hockey su ghiaccio                               Softball

(CAN)                           1998, 2006, 2 oro, argento                  2000 – 8° posto

Igor Boraska               Canottaggio, otto                                  Bob a 4 uomini

(CRO)                           2000, 2004 – bronzo                           2002 – 26° posto


Esempi di trasferimento del talento di atleti che hanno partecipato alle Olimpiadi invernali e estive (modificato da Gulbin, 2008).

Working with young talented athletes

Working with young talented athletes, roughly between the ages of 14-20, is in my experience the biggest challenge for a psychologist and of course for coaches.

These young people go through the phase where the goal of their activity is to learn to be competitive and acquire a winning mentality. This is accompanied by the fact that high level youth sport has become increasingly challenging as young athletes compete against their peers at European and world level, consequently the competition to reach the top ranking is very strong.

I realize that in these contexts learning to dominate the game, in the case of tennis and all opposition sports (fencing, table tennis) or knowing how to perform to one’s own standard as in athletics or diving competitions is really difficult.

The main issue is the management of the competitive stress generated by mistakes and the need to immediately return to a mental condition of orientation to the next point or the next execution. This work is not easy, it requires toughness and a mentality oriented to live these difficulties as phases of the performance and not as something that should not happen or even worse as signs of incapacity.

Talent and experience

In soccer players’ talent is not enough to win

In soccer, as in all team sports, it is good to remember that in order to win, “The champion team beats a team of champions”, indicating that even the ideal team composed of only champions must still integrate the skills of each one despite possessing a priori a better quality potential at the individual level.

So how often does the favored team win?

A statistician Chris Anderson together with a behavioral economist David Sally have studied this phenomenon [2013] and found that in the European soccer championships this happens in just over 50% of the games, the percentage rises to about two-thirds of the time in German handball, USA basketball and football while in baseball it is about 60% of the matches. To understand team performance we must reduce the focus on the intrinsic value of the teams highlighted mainly by the level of individual talent and put more interest in the study of the skills needed to work together.

What to do to increase the likelihood of winning?

An important key parameter for distinguishing winning teams from others relates to the positive/negative connotation and frequency of dialogue between players on the field. It has been shown that the three positive effects most cited by players are:

  • Increase in player coordination that stimulates mental repetition of critical situations.
  • Improvement of their concentration and the refining of the precision of their movements.
  • Increase in their ability to make correct decisions accurately and in the shortest possible time [Farina and Cei, 2019].

Breathing coaching

These are the topics of my workshop titled:
Development of psychological skills in high potential athletes: 
breathing as a key tool to build mental skills programs
Online European Conference Psychology of Elite Sports Performance - November 21-22, 2020, Universidade Lusófona, Lisbon, Portugal
  • Self-control
  • The breathing: a long story
  • Breathing and human basic motivation
  • Breathing during the competitions
  • Breathing and cognitive processes
  • How to improve self-control through breathing
  • The breathing into the training programs
  • The practice

Zero talent, the best results if

Risultati immagini per habit and success performance

Book review: Handbook of Embodied Cognition and Sport Psychology

Risultati immagini per Handbook of Embodied Cognition and Sport Psychology

Handbook of Embodied Cognition and Sport Psychology

Massimiliano Cappuccio (Ed.)

Cambridge, MIT Press

2019, 26 chapters, 740 pages


Although sport is played with the body, it is won in the mind.

(Aidan Moran, Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2004)

From the Introduction (Massimiliano Cappuccio)

Today, to clarify the mission and the scope of sport psychology requires understanding the deep intertwinement of “body” and “mind” within the framework of cognitive science and cognitive philosophy. That is one of the reasons a joint venture between sport psychologists and cognitive scientists—including, importantly, cognitive philosophers—is a must.

This volume is composed of seven sections. With the help of multidisciplinary teams of researchers, each section explores a particular area of thematic interest situated at the intersection of embodied cognitive science and sport psychology.

Section 1 presents the key notions and concepts necessary to lay the theoretical foundation of our interdisciplinary discourse. The very meaning of embodied cognition, and the reasons that make it relevant to the theory and practice of sport psychology, are introduced and discussed.

Section 2 tackles one of the issues that most seriously concerns athletic performance: the nature of embodied skill, its cognitive preconditions, and the factors that disrupt it. A correct understanding of the roles played by attention, self-awareness, and conscious- ness is key to developing a consistent theoretical account of both sport performance in optimal conditions and its failure in pressure-filled environments (the so-called choking effect).

Section 3 talks about the role of sport pedagogy inspired by the embodied theory, how cognitive enhancement is facilitated when accompanied by an appropriate regime of physical exercise and training.

Chapter 11 investigates an issue that is hotly debated by scientists and various categories of people working in the sport business: What is talent, and how can it be identified? Is it an inherited gift or the result of long and hard training? According to the authors philosopher Mirko Farina and sport psychologist Alberto Cei, the answer suggested by embodied cognition is articulated and complex: appropriate practice and intense experience during optimal periods of development, characterized by higher rates of neuroplasticity, can express and maximize the innate potential if accompanied by environments conducive to learning and well-designed training methods.

Section 4 is dedicated to the intersubjective and social dimension of sport skills, with a particular emphasis on team sports and other competitive athletic disciplines.

Section 5 discusses the best research methods in the social sciences for developing the sociological, anthropological, and cultural side of sport practices.

Section 6 deepens the theoretical background: according to the ecological approach to perception, objects are not just neutral sources of visual information, but “invite” the actions allowed by their shapes and their intrinsic possibilities of manipulation.

Section 7 inquires about the source of the mind’s predictive capabilities. This inquiry, central for both the tradition of philosophical psychology and the future of embodied cognition, is particularly debated now that predictive processing theory promises to unify the understanding of various mental functions (perception, imagination, memory, inference) under the same general Bayesian mechanics: the brain’s fundamental goal is to reduce the mismatch between sensory input and the corresponding predictions generated by feedforward systems.