Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Busy, Busy

I've been busy lately caring for my thrashed big toenail, trying to finish my summer class (which ends next week) and preparing to teach (which begins next week). As a result, I haven't done much in the way of original thinking.

I did, however, run across sport psychology again making headlines. Monday’s Washington Post had an article about applying the insights of psychology and psychiatry to sports.

Some of the highlights of the piece:

Researchers have suspected that athletes under stress fail to perform their best because they are focused on the wrong things. For instance, a quarterback under stress may focus on where his receiver is supposed to be rather than what coverage he is facing, or the U.S. World Cup captain may try to dribble out of trouble rather than clearing the ball out of danger. From the article:

Using an infrared camera that picked up eye movements, Hunfalvay found that a college tennis player who was phenomenal at returning serves in practice but dreadful in competition was focused -- in the heat of competition -- on the back fence, the trees and the net post. By learning to look at particular aspects of the opposing player's stance and racquet motion as he went through his usual footwork routine, Hunfalvay said, the player quickly turned into a star in competition.

Also from the article:

In one experiment, Smith and other researchers hooked 16 golfers up to devices that measured heart rate, levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol and grip force, and then simulated a high-pressure competitive environment. As measured stress levels rose, many of the golfers faltered.


Hap Davis, a sport psychologist who has worked with the Canadian national swim team, found that when athletes who didn't make that country's Olympic team were shown videos of their losing races, the grief they felt was so acute that their brain images resembled those of people suffering from major depression.

"Following a major setback, this may be why many people will come back to the top but never really become champions again," Davis said in an interview.

I wonder if anyone has mentioned this idea to Brad Lidge. I’m positive he is still wallowing over the Pujols shot from last year.

Davis tested a psychological technique known as cognitive behavior therapy. Rather than wallow in their emotional response to the loss, the swimmers were encouraged to watch the videos again, this time with a view to identifying mistakes and asking how they would do particular things differently.

Davis said most athletes understandably want to remember the performances that went well, not the ones that went badly. But after the experiment, which led to some of the swimmers setting Canadian records, the psychologist said it was clear that defeat could be very instructive.


Blogger oldtennisbum said...

If defeat is instructive.....I should be All World by now. Curious as to what could be done to improve my game. Be kind.

6/27/2006 12:17 PM  
Blogger Amy P said...

In mentioning your toe nail... I request pictures, as you can see by my blog, I am a visual person. Otherwise I may think it's all hype and you just broke your nail. LOL

6/28/2006 1:56 PM  

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