Cristina Agostinelli – Swimming coach

Cristina Agostinelli works as educator and swimming coach at Cgfs for more than 10 years. The cgfs’s swimming sportive groups of Prato attend Uisp and Libertas championships and national Fipsas league (Finswimming competitions) since 2009.


What do you think about the following factors able to influence the level of resilience of the children in sport?

Many aspects influence the level of resilience of boys and girls, and starting from my personal experience of Italian Swim coach of CGFS I can say that CGFS mission is to consider the sport an educative tool able to train, in turn, the increment of resilience of young people.

I think that it happens all times that the sport gives the possibility to get involved, to adopt tactics, to face with a team mate or with opponent and to play under emotional pressure either positive or negative.

The educative frame of sport is a crucial factor to maintain the motivation and participation of young people in sport practice, but many external factors can guide the attitude of resilience of young people

Which are the most important in terms of contrast to dropout ?

The Pysd research investigates on the skill of resilience of young athletes as individual attitude able to reduce the possibility of sport dropout phenomenon of children and young people.

In my personal experience the family connection, the school connection and personal goals and ambitions are the main aspects that influence the behavior of young people, also in sport, against the dropout phenomenon.

I consider important to involve these aspects in the sport frame in order to merge and share, above all, with the family the same educative approach and experience. The parents should play an active role to increase the motivation and support of their young people in sport experiences. It could be a good chance to define, from the first day, with the family a sort of “educational agreement” about the sport experience that the young people will take in the sport club.

Which is your experience concerning school connection?

The school connection of young people of my swim groups, in my experience, could be very fluctuating and it can be due to several organization reasons or school pressure and low attention from side of school system of real needs of young people. But, on the other side the relationships with value teachers can be very strong and inspire the decision for the future of the young people.

Why the links among sport and schools are so poor?

In general, in the Italian school system the attention to sport activities is not so deep rooted. The young people’s selection sometimes is between or to be a good student either to be a good athlete. This wrong approach is often assumed as a limit for the young people, while several researches show that sport practice empowers the performance of the young people in the student life.


Are you somehow working on family ties and the role of the family to fight against dropout?

I consider this aspect the most challenge feature of my work as swimming coach. The relationships with the family could be in some occasions very positive and on the other side negative or in the worst case completely absent. The daily mission is to create a mutual trust relationship and share the educational sport frame, and to let the family be part of a team, beyond the young athletes.

Concerning the dropout phenomenon, CGFS is considering the possibility to involve directly the family with experts, sport psychologists and coaches in specific sensitive initiatives in order to discuss and understand the importance of sport for young people and the possible reasons that produce dropout.

In your daily experience which is the different role of mother and father in supporting the youngsters in the sport activity?

My daily experience shows that when both parents are present and involved in the sport activities of their children, they play different roles. Every relationship is unique, but I can say that I have assessed:

Mothers averagely are more effective to:

  • Guarantee in general the support of logistics organization for the training sessions.
  • Take care to merge study commitment and sport training sessions.
  • Follow the emotional aspects of their children during the training session.

Instead, fathers:

  • Support the young people during the competition
  • Encourage the improvement and the efforts during the training session.

Therefore, I can say that from my experience I expect a different involvement of the parents among training sessions and daily sport routine and the moment of competition.

How do you concretely try to involve parents in communicating the positive values of sport and the importance of life-long sport activity?

The actual activities that I propose to parents in order to sensitize to positive values of sport are:

  • Share periodically the improvement of the young people not only as an athlete but also as an active young people at school and in social life.
  • Spread initiative of cgfs associations concerning the sport event, communication of cgfs sport mission and workshops with sport doctors and sport psychologists.
  • Spread and inform about the cgfs sport school activities: they represent a flagship of the sport association, where the advantage is that most of cgfs’ coaches and educators works also in the school of Prato as external sport educators and they have a point of view that can guarantee a link between “sport at school” and “sport outside school”.


In your opinion which factors in the Coach-Athlete Relationship are more potentially able to guide children’s resilience against the dropout?

The factors that influence an improvement of resilience of athletes in my personal perception are linked with the self- esteem and the training of problem solving and empathy.

Some strategies used during our swimming sessions are:

  • Implementing a collective vision (a challenging aspect in an individual sport like swimming)
  • Sharing decision making and leadership responsibilities (the organization of the goals and the training sessions is discussed on a monthly-basis with a directly involvement of the young athletes that take part actively in the decision making)
  • Increase the problem solving, through plays and activities linked with choose of strategies under pressure.
  • Management of performance anxiety, with specific activities that improve the skills to manage the anxiety pre-race.
  • Valorize the attempts of the young athletes and the team to propose an alternative solution despite the reached/reachable awards.
  • Showing the coach sincerity, vulnerability and modesty to manifest that the pressure and difficulties are common factors that could have an impact on everyone.

In your daily experience how are you stressing the main values that characterize this relationship: affection, commitment, sense of responsibility, sympathy, sense of duty?

The strategy is to use a coaching model focused on the “performance” approach (Motivational Climate and Target Model Nicholls, 1984; Ames 1992) CGFS is testing this approach based on the skills and not on the performance of young athletes.

Every factors could be useful to reach a good relationship among athletes and coaches and the effectiveness of such relationships on both sport skill side and human way

  • Propose of gradual tasks by difficulty
  • Proposing activities on the basis of individual skills
  • Sharing of decision-making: the athletes agree the short- terms goals (individual and common), they do self-assessment and to store the results.
  • Enhancing of empathy and of skills: The coach reward the personal commitment and the improvement of the athletes
  • Enhancing a flexible approach :the athletes have individual time to learn and it’s not perceived as a limit