Marcelo Roffe: Youth World Cup Champion Sports Psychologist With Argentina


ES:   Why did you decide to study the field of Sports Psychology?

MR:   I first decided to study Psychology to help people to suffer less. First in Clinical, I then decided to specialize in Sport Psychology because Soccer was my passion, and I felt I could help athletes feel better, and obtain more. As I said in my first book, “Psychology of the Soccer Player” it was a mix of passion and profession, bearing in mind that only Twenty percent of the people, do what they like in life, I feel privileged.

ES:   You decided to study for your Masters degree in Madrid. How was the experience of going overseas to another country?

MR:   It was a distance for that Masters degree, that was directed by Jose Maria Buceta, a first rate Sports Psychologist, having worked in the Real Madrid Futbol Club. This master’s degree helped me very much. I had been working in sports, but our training in Argentina is psycho-analytic and the Spanish approach is cognitive behavioral therapy. I remember we had to study a lot, and we favored the change of the dollar to the Peso, one for one at that time.

ES: How was the experience in your first job, working in the reserve system for the team of Ferrocarril Oeste?

MR: It was my first experience, and I knocked on the door with my project in hand, and the doctor of the team, Dr. Rotemberg, said yes to my ideas, but that i would start with the younger age players first.

I  had now entered into the system, and discovered that I loved the process of my work, uniting passion and the profession, and that it’s needed in sports. I spent many hours working away, and started in the fourth division, and then even more coaches and players, of all of the age categories.

A key person in the process was Miguel Angel Tojo, Technical Director of the Fourth Division team. At the same time I was tutoring kids in school, I also watched all of the training, went to games, performed group talks, making evaluations. I was an advisor to the coaches and gave talks to parents, etc.

This was a great experience for the first five years, which then opened the doors to be part of The Argentina Selection under Head Coach Jose Pekerman.

ES:   What was it about the 2001 Argentina U-20 team that made them so special, and work so closely as a group? The team of Javier Saviola, Leandro Romagnoli, Fabricio Collocini, and Andres D’Allesandro etc…

MR:  You are right, a very special team, and they would have won the tournament even without my psychological advisement, and that’s not false humility. They had a very good squad of players, and a great coaching staff.

I noticed a strong psychological effort from them when we went down 1-0 against Egypt in the first five minutes, and came back to score three goals very quickly, ultimately scoring seven in that game, or when the horrible injury against France occurred to Chori Dominguez.

Also to maintain composure in the Final aginst Ghana, where we had come out and scored two goals very quickly, and then we had kept our composure to strongly hold them off, and then ultimately to win that match 3-0 after Maxi Rodriguez scored in the Seventy-third minute.

As the home team we were required to be champions, and the pressure of that, and of working together as a unit of great players was transformed into motivation. We had a great leader in Prof. Pekerman, and Saviola was going through a tough time in his life at that point as well.

Saviola finished the tournament with 11 goals which was an incredible number, and Coloccini was a great captain for that team. Nobody felt like a star above the rest. The WE was more important than the I.

We finished the tournament undefeated in the seven games with an average of almost four goals per game, and it was the first time that projects like anti-stress relaxation, and visualization drills were used with the elite level team.

ES:   How does your work change during the pre-season or first round of a tournament versus one or two days before a final, or day of a final?

MR:   An athlete of a team is mentally at the top of his game because there is a smaller amount of stress, no crazy fans insulting you no crazy coach etc… but then things change like always, and on the day of a game only Thirty percent of the players perform like in the training sessions, and on the day of a final only Ten percent perform equally, and only One percent perform at an equal level or better for Country like they do for their normal Club.

For a Final, it is about reviewing important aspects that got you to that final like devoting and commiting yourself to your goal, and not partying until the tournamnet is over. Usually there will be some relaxation exercises to relieve pressure, and to clear the mind of all outside things that can interefere with your athletic performance