Porzia Zara: “Playing sports also means knowing how to manage the days of despair”

LOCARNO – “Sport is important and promotes psychophysical well-being”. We hear this statement over and over again and in fact there is nothing better than motor activity to help the body and mind feel fit to face the day to day and the challenges that life “offers”. Sport, whatever it is, rhymes with well-being. Not always, however, since sometimes it can also rhyme with stress, especially when results and obtaining certain performances become the priority. In short, a very large area where there are many elements that can make a difference. Why do some decide to throw in the towel? Why do others do it? In Ticino, examples of athletes who have achieved exceptional results are not lacking.

We discussed the matter with Porzia Zara, sports psychologist and psychotherapist. “There are many reasons why a person may decide to stop their sports activity. Generally, dropouts can occur because of training that is too technical and repetitive and therefore not very motivating. As well as excessive competition from coaches or clubs, an aspect that could contribute to the loss of the playful dimension and the pleasure of practicing sport. In addition, other factors can take over, such as the difficulty of matching school and sports commitments, the inability to manage both the workloads and the pressures that both contexts require. Another reason is related to a state of psychophysical exhaustion given by excessive demands of training and competitions that can lead to the choice to say enough”.

Is there a category of people more prone to abandonment?
“The higher prevalence of dropouts among girls compared to boys should not be underestimated, mainly due to the earlier onset of puberty compared to male peers. In adolescence, women find themselves having to manage a major physical change and to become familiar with a body that they no longer recognize and no longer respond to as before. Performance could suffer performance declines with repercussions on self-esteem and motivation”.

In full lockdown – but in general during the pandemic – many people have stopped exercising, in some cases due to restrictions and closures. There are also those who have never resumed their activity: has society generally settled down?
“Let’s say yes, someone has decided not to practice their sport anymore. In some cases, due to force majeure, conditions have changed and some places, such as gymnasiums, have closed. Even team sports have had to take a bite out of the road due to the pandemic, which has meant greater limitations (distances, masks, etc.). In this context, some have chosen to reinvent themselves (walking, mountain biking, running, snowshoeing, etc.), while others have turned to activities such as exergaming (exercise via applications or games in line in the comfort of home), others they still preferred to turn to new hobbies”.

As you pointed out earlier, reconciling school and sport from an early age is often problematic. What is the best recipe for managing the huge load of commitments?
“Yes, pressure can be a decisive factor in the decision to give up a sports practice. These can come directly from the school for the study load or for low performance or even the dispositions of the parents. Among the strategies that can help the athlete, there is certainly that of accompanying the boy to develop a good ability to plan and organize commitments and days. This means taking into consideration – in addition to school and sports commitments – also leisure time, which is fundamental to balance everything, especially in a phase of adolescent life where relationships are fundamental. In this, the family plays an important role in facilitating this process”.

Lara Gut-Behrami, Ajla Del Ponte, Noè Ponti: these are just three local examples of successful athletes. There is obviously no perfect recipe, but what are the steps that led these athletes to never give up and achieve incredible results?
“Traits such as consistency and determination are basic elements. The importance of having clear and measurable objectives, accompanied by a strong passion for the sport practiced, is certainly fundamental. Another important characteristic is related to an athlete’s ability to know how to stand up in the darkest moments, to find the strength and the courage to move forward. Playing sports also means knowing how to manage days of discouragement and difficulty”.

Is this the key to success?
“Exactly. The attitude we have in the face of an error or a defeat. As already mentioned above, the role that a coach or a parent can play in this delicate moment is fundamental in supporting the child and allowing him to restart “.

What advice can we give to those people who are about to quit smoking?
“Rather than giving advice and suggestions, our role is to accompany them to understand what may be the reasons and the situations that lead them to want to give up the sport. In this way, it is possible to understand in a more conscious way what are the discomforts and moods underlying this choice. It can be important for an athlete to know that there is someone who listens to him without judgment.

SPORT: Results and rankings

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