Tag Archive for 'Vincere'

The manager: if the team loses you are fired

These last matches of the Champions League and the comments appearing in the media have highlighted very clearly the current limitations of Italian football. Attention is focused on the style of play, the quality of the players, the money it all costs, and the analyses are often merciless towards Serie A. Football is a complex phenomenon that requires many different professional skills to integrate in managing and developing a team. Among the many factors that contribute to determining the value of a team, I would like to focus on the coaches. Criticizing them is rather easy because their judgment depends on the team’s results. As we all know, they are the first to be sacked when the results don’t meet the club’s expectations. In this ongoing season, a record of 14 coaching changes out of 20 teams has been reached. Only the Spanish La Liga follows closely with 13 sackings, while in Germany there have been 8 and in England 5.

Football is a high-risk sport where defeats are not accepted, representing a high level of stress for coaches. While on one hand, coaches in professional teams are well remunerated, on the other hand, it’s not easy to live in this condition of uncertainty even if it’s a choice they made. It can be said that incoming coaches find themselves having to deal with an emergency situation; they must heal the patient, the team, quickly and at any cost. There are few coaches who can afford to wait for the right call and take the time they desire to wait for the team that meets their needs; the majority, instead, must be ready to dive into the fray and work tirelessly to quickly find a solution and naturally show satisfaction for the opportunity offered. All of this is well paid, but to my knowledge, I have not seen in-depth analysis on this human condition from their organization or individual clubs.

It seems to me that the value of the human side of football has been lost at the expense of a one-dimensional conception of football where you either win or you’re nothing.

One fundamental sports rule

Sports follow a simple and clear rule that climbing the world and national rankings means emerging victorious by comparison with those who have a better ranking at that time. In other words, you improve your ranking by beating those ahead of you in the rankings .

Many athletes do not have this awareness and, instead, experience the comparison with those better than them at that moment as bad luck or something that should not happen. The lack of this mentality is a major limitation that must be overcome or it will be difficult to build a successful and personally rewarding sports career.

Obviously, to win you have to put that idea aside and focus on what you want to do to express your competitive qualities to the best of your ability in that race. This step is not easy and should never be taken for granted. It must be a specific goal each time that you set yourself, aware of the difficulty you are going to face. Sometimes athletes are blinded by the possibility of winning or think that since they feel fit they will deliver a winning performance.

In this way they do not prepare themselves for the difficulties that the race may hold in store for them, and this too often leads them to not accept mistakes and to find themselves in trouble. Wanting to win is a powerful thought but one must always know that it will not be easy and that the difference in the end will be in how they accepted and reacted to the mistakes.

The question that coaches and athletes should answer is: how willing am I as an athlete to act in this way and in the case of coaches how often have I coached to overcome these obstacles?

Carlo Ancelotti’s winning mentality at the service of Brazil

Carlo Ancelotti will be the next technical commissioner of Brazil, in a country where soccer is experienced as a religious faith and defeats are a national mourning. Will he be able to express his way of working even in this environment where it is normal to think that the task of the national soccer team is to express the best soccer and win the World Cup?

It is a feat that I think fills with pride those who face it as director of this team in a country where soccer is everything and at the same time scares because you are called upon to achieve the only result that can make Brazilians happy, to win after more than 20 years since the last success. Ancelotti with his pragmatic doing will also try here to follow his style of work that is based on 9 characteristics. Adjustments will probably be necessary because coaching a club is obviously different from coaching a national team, which is also the most iconic in world soccer.

  1. Educate the team to pursue victory through offensive and creative play
  2. Fostering the development of a positive work environment
  3. Build a strong team spirit by stimulating a high capacity for sacrifice and mutual commitment
  4. Fostering in each individual a sense of responsibility (evaluated on the basis of his or her actions and behaviors)
  5. Protect the tradition and principles of the club
  6. Working to provide continuity for the Club’s successes
  7. Compete for all major trophies
  8. Build a clear identity and style of play that takes into account the Club’s tradition
  9. Build good relationships among the various work teams

The key words are: educate, environment, spirit, responsibility, Club tradition, identity, relationships, work and compete. It is an approach centered on focusing on engaging the whole environment and caring for interpersonal relationships. In this way, group values, understood as Club principles and identity, team cohesion, and a sense of responsibility among players and staff, are enhanced and continually nurtured. It is on these foundations that the work is based and team spirit is kept high during the long and intense competitive soccer season and in all competitions in which they participate. In particular, the team must become dominant on the field, playing without fear, showing personality and character for the purpose of taking collective responsibility for developing an offensive game.

Killer instinct in tennis

How many times have we seen ditching the match point and then lose the game? Too many!
How many times have we seen players play a set very well and then lose resoundingly the next one maybe to zero? Many!
How many times after some mistakes have we seen one tennis player lose his/her mind, continuing with this negative sequence until the end of the set? Many!
Are all situations in which the tennis player has not used the killer instinct, the result is that one player dominated the other.

What is the killer instinct:

  • Will to do what it’s reasonably necessary to win or achieve the goal.
  • Awareness about when to push to close a game, set or match, and do it.
  • Knowing that when the we lead, it needs to continue to do it.
  • Knowing that when the opponent is down, we must continue to keep him/her down.
  • Will to react successfully from a negative momentum.
How to develop it:
  • Never think that it will be easy to win. No one can guarantee the outcome, not ourselves.
  • Never relax during the game, if the psychological tension go down give ourselves the stimulus to psych up, to keep the concentration high.
  • When we are leading the match we could reduce the competitive tension, it is dangerous. Use mental images that maintain a constant level of activation.
  • The over-confidence can become a trap that surrounds and supports the emergence of distractions. We must act to stay mentally focused point by point.
  • Never think about the end result but as mentioned we need to stay focused on the present, play at the best.
  • Always keep the highest pressure on the opponent is one of the keys to success. The aim is to convey to the opponent the idea that anything he/she can do, he/she will always remain down.
  • Never be in a hurry during the time between the points, we must always have the same timing is that we serve or return.

Without cohesion a team can’t win

Some time ago, Spalletti said that “now Napoli is showing compactness and mentality, and we have a group of friends”. The players must be united on the field and not necessarily friends, however, these words indicate important aspects of a group. A sign of this mentality concerns Insigne who despite leaving at the end of the season continues to play his fundamental role. A team must be united, and there are no alternatives; Sarri has also understood this and with Lazio has re-established a climate of greater union with the players by improving the human relationship with them. An example on all, in our league, is represented by Mourinho that in exchange for the maximum commitment of the players supports the team whatever the difficulty. This is not the old system of carrot and stick but empathy, which in the case of leaders consists in pursuing the chosen objectives while understanding the needs of the players. Napoleon already said this when he affirmed: “I win my battles also with the dreams of my soldiers”. United we win, we have always known this, the strongest armies of the past were based on this concept. In competitive terms, it must be applied with the awareness that the commitment of all is essential, the best players are not needed if they do not know how to play together. The most recent example of a lack of unity and a presumptuous mentality was provided by Inter in last week’s derby. Milan was psychologically compact until the end while Inter showed, over time, a level of cohesion centered on a lower and lower level of intensity and aimed to maintain the acquired result. In the end, the most motivated and united team won. In summary, cohesion is synonymous with common purpose, willingness to sacrifice for the team and intensity of play. A team that is not very united can win a match by using the quality of the single players, but it will never win a championship or obtain salvation if it is not united.

The teams lose because they are available to change

In Serie A, losing is an unforeseen option. After three matches, three coaches have already been fired. Others, from Allegri, to Sarri to the same Mourinho who lost only the last game after 6 wins are very worried.

On the one hand it is obviously correct, they are paid to make their teams win and the players themselves cost a madness, even the most scarce, so there can be no alibi behind which to hide.

This reasoning goes beyond the quality of the single players. Juventus only lines national players but has not yet won a match. Coaches play a fundamental psychological role, they are the true leaders of the team. Every new coach wants to introduce his own mentality to the team which manifests itself through a certain type of game.

There are players who do not fully adapt to this approach and Cristiano Ronaldo represents an extreme example, because he is the team’s game. He left Juventus and without manifesting any need to acclimatize to immediately continued (more than resumed) to score. Others obviously do not adapt because they do not show the necessary mental availability and therefore are not effective in the field.

Others have difficulty in following the mental scheme proposed by the coach. When I worked with Arrigo Sacchi, one of his questions was to tell him which players could process a lot of information and put it into action and which ones, instead, had to be given little information otherwise they would get confused. The coach-player does not always manage to find this synthesis.

On the field, there must always be at least one leader who leads the team in moments of difficulty. Often in this regard we have spoken of the Italian block of Milan champions and not only for its skill but for this union that was transmitted to the team.

There are many reasons why a team does not acquire the mentality and the game that the coach wants but it is from these details that success is born.

The chunking could explain the longevity in sports

When we review the results of international competitions of many sports we often observe the exceptional longevity and continued success of athletes who are no longer young for their sport and who continue to be serial winners. Novak Djokovic in tennis, Federica Pellegrini in swimming, Tom Brady in American football or Gigi Buffon in soccer are just some of the many champions who seem not to age. Their talent is beyond question as is their desire to continue to be winners.

How can we explain this ability?

One reason for the continued success of these athletes could be related to their enhanced ability to mentally integrate large amounts of information related to their performance: chunking. Chunking involves taking single units of information and grouping them into a smaller number of meaningful sets for the athlete.
In this way, the information thus grouped becomes easier to retain, recall, and implement in competition. Chunking is an important feature of performance. An example of chunking in team sports and in individual games with a prevalence of tactics is represented by the play schemes, if each of these were not stored in a specific file, this type of information could not be recalled by the player during a game in less than a second.

It is therefore realistic to hypothesize that these athletes have developed a chunking system so effective that it gives them a competitive advantage over athletes who are equally good but have less playing experience.

To reflect on winning

The only way to develop a winning mentality is to win. I’m not saying we have to start winning because we already win, but we have to win more and more (Julio Velasco).

The biggest difficulty I have had with my players in my career is translating to them in training the difficulty of competition. I ask them to do certain things in a certain way, not because I like it, but because otherwise they will find an opponent who will not let them do it. In basketball, things have to be done with a big guy like you pushing you when you touch the ball. Things have to be done with ten thousand people insulting you. Things have to be done with a referee that you might not see. And then you have to get used to these things in training, you can’t ask me for 10-15 games to understand what life is like (Ettore Messina).

It is a problem of self-need. I believe that I can be a coach if I struggle to stimulate self-desire. If as a coach I can convince 3 of my 10 players to be self-demanding with themselves and their teammates, I’ve won. I don’t coach anymore. I just watch, and the car goes on its own. Our struggle is not change of direction, schema 1 or schema 3. Our struggle is for our players to get to the point where, under great pressure, they pass the ball to each other (Ettore Messina).

“We have to stop considering cleverness a virtue and hustling an art: perfectionism has to beat our ingrained brashness … Motivation is like strength: it is never the same for anyone. But like strength, motivation can also be trained, and the most effective way to do this is not to rest too much on our laurels (Arrigo Sacchi).

Making a team win is not a matter of how great the player or players are. They all have to be willing to sacrifice and give something of themselves to become champions (Phil Jackson).

The spirit, the will to win, and the desire to excel are the things that last. These are far more important than the events that happen (John Wooden).

A champion is afraid to lose, everyone else is afraid to win (Billie Jean King)

For those in a hurry to win

“I trained 4 years to run 9 seconds. It’s funny how people who don’t see results in 2 months give up and leave. Sometimes failure is sought by oneself.” (Usain Bolt)

La foto ironica di Usain Bolt sull'importanza del distanziamento sociale  per il Covid-19


Winning is not everything

Beginning in the 2000s, the purpose of the work of Smith and Smoll, who introduced a system for evaluating coach behavior twenty years earlier, has turned to the study of systems for training youth coaches to be more aware of their own behaviors and to improve them.

Their approach is based on four principles that all coaches should adhere to:

  • Winning is not everything, nor it is the only thing - Young athletes will drop out of the sport if they believe that winning is the only goal to be fulfilled. There are other equally important goals that sports allow them to achieve that must be understood by athletes.
  • Failing is not synonymous with losing - It is important that athletes do not associate that failing and losing mean the same thing.
  • Being successful is not a synonym for winning - Success or failure is not dependent on the outcome of a race. Winning and losing are about the outcome of a competition but do not refer to success and failure.
  • Athletes must learn that success is linked to commitment - They must be taught that they will never be a loser if they try their hardest.

Starting from these principles, they have identified and implemented a training system that has produced extremely effective results.