SPORT SCIENCE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is Sport Science?
Sport Science employs scientific research in the challenge of developing world-class athletes. It encompasses a number of different disciplines including:
- Technical - Skill acquisition
- Tactical – Game Strategies
- Exercise Physiology
- Performance analysis/analytics
- Strength and conditioning
- Sport psychology/Psychophysiology Training
- Sport medicine/physiotherapy
- Vision Training
- Virtual Reality Training
- Decision Training
- Rest & Recovery Training
- Reaction Time Training
- Sport Equipment Technolnogy
Integration of Sport Science towards the Development of Champions
|Elite Athlete development requires:
Athletes with the technical fundamentals to compete elite/professionally
|Coaching skill acquisition, Biomechanics
|Clever tacticians and good decision makers
||Performance analysis, Decision Training, Vision Training
|Athletes with levels of fitness specific to the demands of their sport
||Strength and conditioning/exercise physiology/
|Psychologically strong competitors
||Sport psychology/Rest & Recovery/Decision Training/ Vision training/Virtual Reality Training
|Athletes with sound musculoskeletal systems and structures
||Sport medicine and physiotherapy
|Athletes who can compete under pressure
||Simulations, Mentoring, All of the above
|Coaches teaching the skills to succeed professionally
Components of a Sport Science Team
The Sport Science team offers advanced human performance testing and intervention support to athletes and coaches towards achievement of their sport performance goals. Consequently, a multidisciplinary team provides a range of services in an integrated and cooperative manner that allow the coaches and athletes to improve their understanding of how they perform and what can be done to optimize training efficiency and maximize both individual and team performance.
The role of the Director of Sport Science is to have a comprehensive vision of the qualitative and, quantitative sport performance perspective required to simultaneously integrate the multidimensional information from all the sport science disciplines within a yearly plan. Specifically, for each player, individualized Key Performance Determinates (KPDs) are identified for performance enhancement from the integrated player profiles.
This interdisciplinary approach, through the utilization of Integrated Support Teams (IST), is what helped propel Canada towards its fourteen Gold Medals, seven Silver and five Bronze (Total = 26) at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.
Example of Multidisciplinary Sport Science Teams
||Medical Screens, Assessment & Injury
|Athletic & Physiotherapy
||Injury Rehab and Prevention
||Acupuncture, Chiropractor, Podiatrist, Massage
|Talent Identification & Development
||Scouting, Drafting & Player Skill Development
|Strength and Conditioning
||Athlete Training Programs
||Player Nutrition Profiles
||Mental Skills for Peak Performance
||Physiological Analysis & Fitness Testing
|Biomechanics of Sport Performance
||Video Analysis of Skill Performance
|Sport Performance Analytics
||Scouting, Player Analysis, Team Info. Systems
|Player Resource Center
||Athlete Career & Education Services
||Purchase and maintenance
Integration of Sport Science into the Program is done in phases for optimal integration into the yearly training plan (e.g., see process model below):
Mindroom Sports Science Technology
At PSP Mindroom, we utlize the latest sport science technology available today. For example, the biofeedback and neurofeedback Thought Technology equipment (www.thoughttechnology.com) available today is being utilized in research, education, sports medicine, military and high performance sport. Other technologies such as Virtual Reality Training, Vision Training, Decision Training, Reaction Time Training, Rest , Recovery and Regeneration technologies are what set Mindroom at the leading edge of Sport Technology. Athletes/Clients will enjoy the same training technology programs as the Vancouver Canucks, Chelsea FC and AC Milan, NASA astronauts and Special Forces military teams. Optimal performance hinges upon careful analysis of the athlete’s adaptation processes to training, travel and competition. Mindroom helps coaches and the sports science team optimize the outcome of every individual training session by monitoring their training loads and intensities proportional to the athlete’s adaptation, which leads to optimal functional preparedness and readiness. Consequently, athletes can take full advantage of their skills, leading to unprecedented improvements in performance. In addition, from a Sports Medicine perspective, Cognisens Inc., has recently introduced assessment tools (e.g., Neurominder) and training devices (Neuro Tracker 3D-MOT) to aid Sport Medicine teams to assess the full spectrum of mTBI (mild traumatic brain injury) towards a complete neuro-monitoring and neuro-training rehabilitation system for concussion management in sports (www.congnisens.com).
What is Biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change or self-regulate specific physiological activity (e.g., heart rate, respiration, muscle tension, skin temperature & skin conductance) for the purposes of improving health and performance. Precise biofeedback instruments measure your physiological activity which rapidly and accurately as "feed back" information to the athlete/client. The presentation of this information — often in conjunction with changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior — supports desired physiological changes. Over time, these changes can be self-regulated by the athlete/client without continued use of any equipment.
What is Heart Rate Variability (HRV) training?
Heart Rate Variability biofeedback (HRV) is a technique that measures your physiological functions under stress and peak performance like breathing (RR) and heart rate (HR), and blood pressure (BP). This techniques teaches athletes/clients how to self-regulate these functions through diaphragmatic breathing techniques taught at an optimal pace to ensure coherence between heart rate and respiration. More specifically, heart rate is coordinated with your breathing patterns and vice versa. The athlete/client will receive feedback on the monitors how these physiological functions change (HRV) under situations of stress and optimal functioning in both performance and life situations. The aim of the process is to teach athletes/clients how to control or self-regulate HRV for optimal functioning under pressure and on demand.
What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback, also called EEG Biofeedback also known as electroencephalograpoh (EEG) Biofeedback, is a learning strategy that enables a person to alter their own brain waves. For over four decades, EEG have been used in research and medical settings to help train individuals to change brain wave patterns. Only recently, have advances in computer technology made it widely available for the general and athletic populations. Thus, neurofeedback can be referred to as brain exercise or mental training. Neurofeedback is training in self-regulation. Good self-regulation is necessary for optimal brain function and performance optimization. Self-regulation training enhances the function of the central nervous system and thereby improves mental performance, emotional control, and physiological self-regulation.
How does Neurofeedback work?
During a 45-minute Neurofeedback session, sensors are attached to the scalp at preselected locations, with EEG paste, which detects the brain waves. It is a painless procedure and does not involve the application of any voltage or current to the brain. It is entirely non-invasive. The Neurofeedback sport psychology consultant observes the brain in action on the computer screen from moment to moment by monitoring brain waves and rewards shifts towards more optimal and stable brain states. As the athlete/client engages in a training or video game that responds to the athlete’s brain waves that represent well-regulated attentional focus and arousal levels the graphics appear untinterrupted. Conversely, when the brain waves are not meeting the parameters set by the intervention, the training screen or video game is temporally stopped. Specifically, neurofeedback (auditory & visual) allows the athlete/client’s brain to detect and release unuseful or sub-optimal patterns, which can be a source of distraction - such as negative self-talk and self-regulate them and convert them into a positive attentional focus. Consequently, the brain responds to the challenge of the feedback and moves towards more adaptive and flexible functioning. During the course of the training program the settings are adjusted on the feedback program to define greater challenges for the athlete until the athlete/client achieves mastery. In some cases, this can be done in 5-10 sessions, in others it could take quite a bit longer.
Can Vision Training really improve performance?
There is a difference between ‘peripheral vision’ and ‘peripheral awareness’. Peripheral vision cannot be changed. What you’re born with is what you’ve got, and barring injury or disease, it’s what you will die with. On the other hand, peripheral awareness can be greatly enhanced by using retinal stimulation.
Retinal stimulation involves having the athlete maintain their focus directly in front of them while simultaneously reacting to a target that is rapidly moving in their peripheral field. At first, objects in the periphery may seem very murky and indistinct, but with training the athlete will quickly become more aware of them and as a result, react faster to peripheral action without losing their focus on the key target or objective. This improvement in peripheral awareness translates directly to improved athletic performance.
What is Decision Training?
Athletes must be able to make split-second decisions under the pressures of competitions, but often this vital learning is left to chance. In order to perform at their highest level, today's athletes need to receive equal measures of cognitive and physical training within their daily practices. Decision Training provides teachers, coaches , sport leaders, parents - indeed anyone involved in sport - with the information and insights they need to create dynamic training environments that will improve the decision-making abilities of their athletes/clients. Decision Training was developed by Dr. Joan Vickers and has been used in the National Coaching Institutes of Canada for many years, as well as by many elite sports programs, and has been shown to be effective not only by improving athlete performance, but also by improving the conditions under which athletes train.
What is Peak Performance in Sport?
Researchers in sports psychology have identified several common psychological factors characteristic of peak performance in sports. They are:
||Clearly focused attention
||Positive mental attitude
||Physical and mental readiness
||Positive competitive effect
||Perception of time slowing
||Feeling of supreme confidence
||Immersion in the present moment
||A sense of fun and enjoyment
These characteristics and other popular terms in sports such as “in the groove” and “in the zone” are generally used in sports by athletes and coaches to describe a performance feeling where almost everything went right for them that day. However, athletes and coaches are often at a loss to explain how this state and/or repeat it.
Sports psychology researchers have viewed peak performance as a state of superior functioning results in personal bests and outstanding achievements. Several common psychological approaches have introduced the concept of peak performance to explain those moments when an individual experiences feelings of “total unity, inner strength” within their sport.
Another term, the “flow experience” describes an optimal psychological state, one involving total observation in the task or activity. Other researchers have also identified that the peak performance athletes deal more readily with their competitive mistakes, possessed higher levels of self confidence, engaged in more positive self-talk, and were able to employ vivid mental imagery to their advantage. In general, when athletes’ energies are totally focused (e.g., utilizing a disciplined concentration routine), they may begin to experience peak concentration and confidence that can lead to “flow.” It is in this state that lifetime peak performance in sports often occurs. Therefore, the challenge for athletes and coaches is to develop the necessary psychological skills and strategies within an individualized game plan, which will give athletes the opportunity to perform closest to their optimal level of performance on any given day. peak concentration and confidence that can lead to “flow.” It is in this state that lifetime peak performance in sports often occurs. Therefore, the challenge for athletes and coaches is to develop the necessary psychological skills and strategies within an individualized game plan, which will give athletes the opportunity to perform closest to their optimal level of performance on any given day.
What are the critical psychological skills for peak performance?
Psychological skills for sports include: confidence, goal setting, relaxation, visualization or mental rehearsal, concentration, motivation, arousal, attention control. These skills are seldom utilized in isolation. Rather, elite athletes combine them in response to the situational demands they face in competition.
It’s been shown that optimal performance can be facilitated through focus and concentration. What does it mean to be focused? Concentration is the ability to direct one’s full attention to appropriate cues and stay focussed on task in the present instead of being controlled by irrelevant external (i.e. crowd, game conditions, etc.) or internal (i.e. thoughts, emotions, physiological activity, etc.) stimuli. During any given competition there are numerous irrelevant cues that surround players and directing their attention through their own efforts will enable them to perform to their potential.
In addition to maintaining focus, athletes must effectively shift attention during performance. There are four different types of attentional focus to shift from: broad-external, broad-internal, narrow-external, and narrow-internal. A broad attentional focus allows a person to perceive several occurrences simultaneously while a narrow attentional focus occurs when you respond to only one or two cues. In addition, an external focus directs attention outward to an object while internal attentional focus is directed inward to thoughts and feelings. Athletes go through each of these four attentional styles multiple times in executing a golf shot for example. However, under stress and pressure, we tend to skip some of these styles leading to poor performance. In summary, an athlete can benefit from increased awareness regarding focus and concentration in every aspect of their performance whether it’s pre-, during-, or post-game.
Motivation = Intensity + Direction of effort.
The direction of effort refers to whether an athlete seeks out, strategies, or is attracted to specific situations. For example, a national team athlete may be motivated to train for the Olympic team, or an injured athlete may seek physio treatment and set goals for returning to play. Additionally, athletes may be either extrinsically or intrinsically motivated for a given sport. Extrinsic motivation refers to an athlete being motivated by external factors such as money, fame, awards, etc. Intrinsic motivation refers to individuals being motivated by internal factors such as enjoyment, self-improvement, etc. Normally it is best for athletes to be intrinsically motivated because of the locus of control they have over their decisions versus external factors.
The intensity of effort refers to how much effort a person puts forth in a particular sport or team. An athlete can view intensity as a cycle within a yearly training plan in that it is normal for motivation to fluctuate and peak at the end of the season. Fortunately, there are ways to maintain or increase motivation by using psychological skills and strategies (i.e., goal-setting, vision questing, etc.).
It is one of the more well known but least underused tools in sports. A goal is an objective defined as attaining a specific standard of proficiency on a task, usually within a specified time limit. There are three types of goals. The most commonly used goal in sports are outcome goals which focus on the outcome of performance (i.e. winning a game, placing in the top three of a race, etc.). The second type of goal are performance goals which focus on improvement relative to one’s own personal best (i.e. faster time in the 1500m, number of shots per period, etc.) Finally, process goals focus on the tasks that an athlete will engage during performance (i.e. going through their pre-start routine, focusing on their cue words, etc.).
Some athletes and/or coaches utilize outcome goals, which refer to outcomes of games (e.g., focus on winning) where a comparison to others is predominant, in an effort to win. However, researchers have demonstrated that we have no control over outcome goals which are often accompanied by pressure and tension, and often disrupts optimal functioning. Utilizing a performance goal (e.g., a personal goal of shooting 35-34=69 today) means utilizing a self-referenced standard as performance game plan for competition. Finally, the selection of process goals involves selection of behaviors/cognitions on which the athlete will focus on during a competition. For example, focusing (e.g., in a pre-putt routine) on an individualized task-relevant cue (e.g., task focus), such as “put a good roll on the ball,” can help the golfer/athlete cope with pressure situations and contribute to the automaticity of pre-putt behaviours under pressure in golf or any other sport. Recent research as demonstrated that adherence to such a process-oriented approach may contribute to reduction of the athletes’ susceptibility to somatic anxiety in pressure situations, increased confidence and improved concentration on the task and ultimately performance on demand.
Imagery / Visualization
Imagery is a technique that 99% of athletes use already, even if they don’t realize it. Imagery is the ability to imagine a situation in your mind that you either want to happen, anticipate might happen, or already has happened. Think back on your athletic career to a time when you came through in a huge moment or even when you made a crucial error. Just closing your eyes and imagining that moment should bring back the feelings (i.e. increased heart rate, sweaty palms), emotions (i.e. excitement, happiness, disappointment), and details (i.e. feel of the ball, sound of the crowd, reaction of your teammates) of the moment you are reflecting on. That is the power of imagery, being able to truly mentally put yourself into a past or future situation, so that your body physically reacts as if you were actually in that situation.
So why is this valuable? Imagine a hockey player playing his first Stanely Cup game. This could be an overwhelming moment for some, especially if they haven’t been in this type of situation and environment before. However, if this player has practiced imagery for any length of time, he will most likely have practiced this situation already in his mind. He has already felt the emotions of that moment, seen the crowd all around him, felt the emotions he will feel, and most importantly, seen himself playing successfully in this environment. Simulating that experience beforehand is invaluable, because that athlete can go back to his positive visualizations of that situation, giving him the confidence to successfully perform instead of “choke”. While imagining your-self being successful is only a small piece of the puzzle, it can be the difference between performing well or failing in specific situations. A few tips and strategies for imagery are:
1. Vividness – pick out as many vivid details as possible using all 5 senses in the situation to make it as real as possible.
2. Controllability – it may be difficult to imagine yourself performing successfully in your mind, so work on controlling your thoughts and always finishing with a successful imagery performance. Imagining past negative situations or future failures can be destructive to your sub-conscious psyche.
3. Self-Awareness – try to pick out characteristics of your performance that you did well so as to focus on those instead of any negative actions or bad habits you may have in your sport.
4. Practice – imagery is invaluable because you can literally practice it anywhere and anytime (i.e.2 minutes in bed before you fall asleep). Physically, I may only be able hit 20 shots in practice, but I coan hit another 100 in my mind - effectively doubling the amount of practice. As long as you take the imagery you do seriously, you can multiply the amount of repetitions, enhancing your imagery skill-level and building your confidence and ability in your sport in the process.
Arousal in sports refers to the energy level of an athlete. People experience arousal on a continuum that ranges from deep sleep to intense excitement. Arousal is important because it affects the psychological and physiological components of performance. For example, the Inverted-U Hypothesis proposes that arousal and performance have a curvilinear relationship. Therefore, if an athlete is under-aroused they will most likely lack the energy to perform at their maximum level. The reverse could be said when the athlete is over-aroused because the athlete could then experience muscle tension, increased heart rate or even clammy hands. The key is to help the athlete find their individual optimal level of arousal so that they are more likely to perform their best, In order for an athlete to control their arousal they must first build a self-awareness of their arousal on and off the field in best and worst competitions.
High levels of arousal can often time lead to anxiety. In sports, there are two components of anxiety that can be conveyed during performance; somatic (physical) and/or cognitive (thought) and or emotional (joy). Somatic anxiety is the degree of physical activation that is perceived whereas cognitive anxiety is the degree to which one worries or has negative thoughts. Thoughts in turn affect your emotions and then your behaviour on the field of play. For example, a hockey player may feel extra pressure when taking a penalty shot. What does this mean? This means that if a player begins to experience a cluster of negative thoughts (cognitive anxiety) it can cause them to worry and increase their heart rate (somatic anxiety) and feel (emotion) nervous/worried about missing the shot (sport behaviour). If their heart rate increases then their muscle tension may increase as well. This increased intensity in their psychophysiological state can lead to tight hands/forearms and as a result cause a player to miss the game-winning penalty shot.
The technique of centering was originally developed as a martial arts procedure which emphasized thought control, muscle relaxation, and a particular way of breathing. This technique has been adapted for sports, and involves mentally focusing your attention on one point while also physically grounding yourself using your center of gravity. Properly centering yourself allows you to be quiet your mind and control anxiety. For example, a diver before his/her dive can center themselves while preparing for their next dive. Also, like any other skill, it takes practice to develop your own individual style of centering for your particular sport situations. Here is an example of centering combined with mental rehearsal:
1. Begin with a clear intention in your mind (e.g., mental rehearsal, no-mind, physical action, etc.)
2. Stand with your feet about shoulder-distance apart, one foot slightly forward, and knees slightly bent (position of greatest stability). Pick a focus point - select a focus point lower than eye level before closing your eyes.
3. Inhale deeply through your nose, mouth and abdominals while mentally scanning your body for any physical tension, then consciously try to relax those muscles utilizing diaphragmatic breathing during the exhalation phase.
4. While exhaling, scan for muscle tension - check your key muscle group one at a time, breathe out tension and feel your muscles relax.
5. For the next minute, be mindful of your Center. Be at your Centre point - focus down to your Centre (two inches below your belly bottom)
6. Repeat your process cue, then choose an appropriate process cue like “soft hands” or “explode”and say it to yourself while still centered (seeing, feeling it, and hearing it).
7. Choose a physical reference point in the stadium that you are competing like the first block, goal post, finishline or target and connect with that visual point in a multisensory way.
8. Imagine yourself in an Optimal Performance state. Try to hear, see and feel yourself performing well with a “Go for it” Attitude!
As stated before, this is a technique that will take some practice and experimentation with to find what is most comfortable for you. Eventually, the centering process should be able to be done in about 1-2 seconds time and should be done as part of your mental rehearsal for your pre-shot routine or timed directly before you take a foul shot. When practicing this technique, think about what type of mental state you would like to be in when you were highly successful. Trust it and have a “Go for it” Attitude!
What are PSYCHOLOGICAL STRATEGIES FOR PEAK PERFORMANCE?
Psychological strategies consist of the application of several psychological skills within a specific mental preparation routine or game plan. Several psychological strategies have been identified by researchers that include the following: performance routines, automaticity of performances, performance simulation , association/dissociation strategies, mental preparation routines, self-talk, injury coping, performance attributions, performance accomplishments, quality training/over training, motivational climate, social support, team building, etc. For example, a golfer may utilize several psychological skills (imagery, confidence and progress goals), combined within a particular psychological strategy (e.g., pre-shot routine) for optimal execution of a putt in golf. Recent research in sports psychology shows that athletes learn to develop consistent, highly systematic preparatory routines utilizing a preplanned sequence of psychological skills and strategies for peak performance in sports.
What are the key components in mental skills training for sport?
• Develop Your Peak Performance State
• Pre-Performance Routine
• Pre-and Game-day Routines
• Game Plans for Competition
• Distraction Control Strategies
• Planning for Critical Situation
• Performance Profiling
• Confidence Training
• Attention Control Training
• Visualization Control Training
• Goal Setting
Competition Planning & Preparation:
• Maintaining Confidence at and during competition
• Utilizing Imagery, Goal Setting at Competition
• Arousal & Relaxation at Competition
• Meta-motivational States for Competition
• Post Competition Evaluation
• Reassessment of Goals and Plans
How does stress affect sport performance?
Stress is the response our bodies and mind experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment; it has physical, emotional and mental effects on us that can result in positive or negative effects on performance. As a positive influence - stress can significantly enhance our performance; while as a negative influence, it can result in negative feelings, loss of concentration, poor decision-making - resulting in some cases as severe choking under pressure. In other words, stress will help us or hinder us depending how we react to it.
Can We Eliminate Stress?
As we have seen, positive stress adds adrenaline and focused concentration, which can enhance performance. On the other hand, pressure, high expectations, evaluative judging situations, etc., can negatively affect our performance response. What we need to do is find our individual zone of optimal stress, which will personally motivate us towards optimal performance but not overwhelm us in pressure situations.
What is Pressure?
Pressure is a feeling that is linked with an intense desire to be or do something at a high level of performance, accompanied by the uncertainty of fear that we may not succeed. It is also about wanting to make something happen, without certainty of outcome. It may also involve meeting expectations of others. It is about struggling to avoid fear, pain and disappointment linked with performance failure. It occurs when we get close to our goals and what drains our confidence and distracts us at the same time.
How Can I Manage Stress Better?
- Become aware of your sources of stress and your emotional/physical reactions
- Recognize what you can control and what are uncontrollable factors
- Manage your intensity of your emotional responses to stress by learning mental techniques to maintain your focus in the present
- Learn to moderate your physical reactions to stress by learning relaxation techniques to maintain your Ideal Performance State through biofeedback training
- Build your physical and emotional coping toolbox to maintain perspective and empower you to effectively deal with critical situations.
What Relaxation Techniques Could You Learn to Remain Focused Under Pressure?
- Mental Imagery and Visualization
- 5-minute Breathing and Centering
- Utilizing Music and Relaxation tapes
- Utilizing Yoga Techniques
- Progressive Muscular Relaxation
- Autogenic Training
- Biofeedback Training
- EEG or Neuro-Feedback Training
- Attentional Control Training
- Automatic Processing
- Cognitive and Somatic Activation & Arousal Training
- Simulation Training
- Competition Plans
- Performance Routines
- Utilizing Process Goals for Task Focus
- Trust Pyramid Training
- Associative vs. Dissociative Attentional Strategies for Pain and Focus Control
- Problem and Emotion Focused Coping Strategies