When working in any sport, a consultant needs to immerse themselves into the culture and learn as much about the sport as possible. Roberto was proud to have worked with the GB Commonwealth Games Boxing Squad under the guidance and leadership of the excellent Performance Director, Terry Edwards. Terry’s success in boxing is unsurpassed, with a pedigree of elite boxing success at Olympic and World Championship levels.

The 11-man squad were the most successful GB team at the games, winning eight medals (5 gold, one silver and two bronze).

Below is a summary of the work undertaken with the squad:


English box to success
Positive psychology is crucial for boxers to achieve international success. As part of the Team England boxing squad’s preparation for the Commonwealth Games, they worked with English Institute of Sport Psychologist Roberto Forzoni on their psychological preparation.

With England’s boxers being incredibly successful out in Melbourne, the English Institute of Sport asked Roberto Forzoni what he had done with the boxing squad and just how it would have helped them at the Games…

What did you do with the England boxing squad?

This was the first time I had worked with boxers, so the first challenge was to gather as much information and learn as much about the sport in as short a time as possible. I was particularly interested in the culture and demands of boxing and took my first blow when I was told they had had a poor experience with psychology in the past!

Initially, speaking with the Performance Director, Terry Edwards, and with Dr Loosemore gave me a fantastic insight into the sport. I attended the pre-commonwealth training camps and immersed myself in helping and generally ‘hanging around.’

I had successfully used motivational videos on a number of occasions with other squads and knew the impact could be pretty inspiring, so I began filming sessions and taking photographs to make some motivational posters. The first video was watched by 16 boxers and staff, all sitting in the ring! The result of all of this was that some good rapport and trust were developed. Also, by attending early morning (7 am) sessions and late night sparring (8 pm), I felt I quickly became a team member, and my work began to have some impact. Over six weeks, working closely with the PD and coaches, we developed a DVD resource which included four motivational videos along with boxer and staff profiles.

What was the aim of the work with England Boxing?
Motivational DVDs can be a huge confidence builder for any athlete. Confidence comes from several sources, and in particular previous performance accomplishments. Other sources include verbal persuasion, vicarious experiences and emotional arousal. By carefully including all these elements into a video (by using commentary, speeches, on-screen graphics etc.), the resource could provide a pre-competition confidence booster to the boxers. The showing of training and sparring also highlighted precisely how hard the guys had worked and how prepared they were for the Commonwealth games. There were also some general notes on developing mental toughness on the DVD (which could be played with a music background).

What was the feedback?
When athletes receive a professionally produced DVD, the feedback usually is very positive, and with the boxers, this is precisely what we received. I had taken so much footage that three different videos were compiled, all with a ‘Gladiator’ theme. One showed a day’s training session, another slow-motion sparring, and a third showed preparation and fight scenes. We would review the DVD each week and add/change some aspects so that by the end, the whole team were happy with the end product, which was shown in the Pre-games press release. The coaches liked the project so much that one even filmed the action from the dressing room to walking into the arena for a competition in Dublin just before flying out to Melbourne. This footage was used to compile a fourth video on the DVD.

What principles were you trying to achieve?
Specifically, the intention was to increase boxer self-efficacy when competing under pressure. One of the aims of the PD was to improve fighter Mental Toughness, which is what we set out to do as EIS sports psychologists. A number of guiding theories are used to help produce a resource that has some scientific rationale (including Self-Efficacy, Self-modelling and peer-modelling theory). The main message is, “you’ve trained well to reach your peak; you’re ready to go!”

When will they use them, and are they still using them out there?
The DVD and posters were compiled to use at the games, and time had been set aside to view the videos on both a team basis and an individual basis. Each boxer had his own DVD so that he could view the DVD pre-fight.

Can this work with other sports and athletes?
Most certainly. I am currently working with a Premiership team in the semi-final of the FA cup and showed a motivational video before on the afternoon of their previous round! I also use these resources with tennis players and athletes.

By Ally McDonald