«Motivation, concentration, trust, managing emotions». Sports psychologist Cecilia Morini immediately explains the four main factors that can transform a good competitor into a champion or, the opposite, if one of these factors wavers, jeopardizing the progress.
For Doctor Morini, 2016 will not be an ordinary summer; working together with Arianna Errigo, silver individual and gold team foil fencer in London 2012. And Matteo Piano, centre in the national Volleyball team and ex Città di Castello player, she will head to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (5th -21st August) to help her two athletes. «This will be my second Olympics – the Tiber Valley psychologist tells us – I went to London with so much enthusiasm but not knowing what to expect. This year my sense of responsibility is certainly greater, but I am more aware and sure of the work I have done. I still have thrills from the last jab in London in the women’s foil fencing team and seeing three Italians on the podium. They are emotions that stay with you».
by Andrea Tafini
How did your professional relationship with Arianna Errigo and Matteo Piano begin?
«First of all, I would like to say that I follow a lot of athletes, surely less famous, who give me a lot of satisfaction. Arianna and Matteo are a huge reason to be proud, not only for their talent. When I met Errigo, she was coming out of a difficult moment in her career, she had experienced a hard loss at the World Championship in 2011 and she had to prepare for her first Olympics. When I asked her objectives, she replied: the Olympic Gold. We immediately began to work…she “only” won the silver individual and the gold team medal. With Matteo we have begun working in 2014, he is a sponge, he takes everything you give him and increases its value».
What are the differences in approaching these two, the difference between an individual sport and a team sport?
«Arianna is pure talent, with her we do a very calculated work, never overdoing it. Athletes who do individual sports need the intervention of a sports psychologist more, but in reality nothing much changes. The commitment is very much on the athlete as a person, not only the improvement of the performance. The difference is mainly about limits: I don’t go with an athlete who is preparing with his team and I don’t go into the locker rooms during a match, something that could happen instead with those who practice individual sports».
Arianna Errigo has already achieved important goals on all levels: is it more difficult to work with an athlete who needs to prove himself or with a beginner?
«The higher the expectations, the more pressure there is, so the game becomes harder but also more stimulating. This year will certainly be more difficult even though for Arianna things won’t change much: beginner or confirmed champion, she always wants to win».
How do you carry on your collaboration between a sports psychologist and an athlete during a long period of time?
«It varies from athlete to athlete, from sport to sport. Doing this kind of work required a good amount of adaptation. I began in 2007 with tennis players and my greatest difficulty was finding consistency and time for the appointments. Luckily now Skype exists, which allows us to fill this hole. I try to follow them up for the whole season, intensifying the appointments before relevant competitions. It’s very important to see them in action, breathe the environment and understand the dynamics of the sport that they practice».
Between two athletes who are equally talented, what really makes the difference from a psychological point of view?
«Off the top of my head, I would say the capacity to know how to lose. The famous resiliance which consists in knowing how to endure the frustrations. Part of my work is guiding the athlete in the way he lives defeat, which, if well managed, prepares for new victories».
In a competition like the Olympics, where the matches are all held in just a few days, what do you concentrate on?
«At the Olympics the athletes are confined to the Olympic village and the security systems don’t allow more to have much interaction with them. We won’t work much in those days, but I understand, with immense pleasure, how much Arianna and Matteo appreciate my presence».
Why did you decide to become a sports psychologist?
«I united my passion for psychology with the love I have for sports, which contains important values and is a gym of life. I am fascinated by all the dynamics which come into play when one is confronted with himself and with others. Sports are a resource that should be given more value, especially in our country. When I am with my athletes, I don’t realize that I am even working, I enter a state of flow as we psychologists say, that is, I am absorbed in the present moment. It is a great privilege to be able to do this profession».