Sport Psychology Tech: Effectively Tapping Into the Psyche of an Athlete

Sports, whether eSports or the traditional real-world, is physically and mentally taxing. This is why proper rest and recovery is highly recommended. It also leads to a high demand in sports psychologists that even doctors and military personnel are tapping into them, according to the findings of the American Psychological Association. The Sports Techie community blog relates to the likes of Serena Williams who wrote a first person essay for Harpar’s Bazaar magazine published today. It covered her mental state of mind after before, during and after her melt down at the 2018 US Open women’s final over a chair umpire call that came at the expense of eventual champion Naomi Osaka, resulting in troubling feelings she needed professional help with overcoming. An interesting development is the combination of technology and the theories that support sports psychology. So in that vein, what technology or methodologies are used to effectively tap into the psyche of an athlete?

Pressure in sports can come from many factors

State-of-the-Art Electroencephalography

Sport is considered to be a 50% mental activity, according to Keith Kaufman, Ph.D. So any tech that can hone the mental state of the athlete is something that sport psychologists will use. One of the newer technologies they do use is called electroencephalography. Try using that word in a scrabble game. It refers to a method wherein the electrical activity of the athlete’s brain is recorded. Tied in with a mobile app and a headset—the combo is referred to as a Versus device that uses games to simulate high-pressure situations. The athlete will have to control their breathing or go into a state of acute focus and calm in order to meet the objectives of the games. I call it being in the ‘zone’ others may say it is a state of zen. This technology is used by the likes of NBA All-Star Kyle Korver and several others. 

Holistic Approach and Tech

A lot of athletes have reservations about signing up with a sport psychologist. They fear change and losing their sense of urgency, based on the findings of Bill Cole “The Mental Game Coach”. This is why non-invasive holistic methods combined with technology are highly popular. Holistic approaches include meditation, herbal medicines, and even massages. The greatest advantage of these methods is that they tend to focus on all-natural techniques like breathing exercises to center and calm those wrestling with anxiety or depression.

A good way to marry the holistic approach and sports psychology is through fitness tracker technology. A fitness tracker allows for real-time measurement and recording of the athlete’s breathing, heart rate, and other physical activities like sleep. When combined with holistic techniques or holistic-based apps, the sport psychologist and the athlete can identify any helpful impact that holistic methods have.

Virtual Reality and Eye Tracking

Since progress needs to be measured, sports psychologists have tapped into other helpful technology. One popular example of that tech would be VR or Virtual Reality. VR immerses the athlete in a digital world that simulates real-world situations. For team sports, virtual reality is helpful in allowing players to interact with each other as they would in an actual game. Virtual reality also allows coaches to view the simulation in real-time. It opens up the chance to provide immediate and result-based input after the session. Eye tracking software is also utilized to help athletes and is used to identify children on the autism spectrum. It aids mental coaches in finding out what distracts the athlete the most during performances and figure out ways to combat it.

The mind matters quite a bit when it comes to athletic performance. So it is interesting that athletes don’t only have to go for sports psychology—they can combine holistic techniques, too. This allows athletes to harness the strengths of both and maximize the positive impact and harness all the benefits that they can gain.

Sports Techie, golfers are constantly battling the mental side of the game and turning to any way possible to help both the brain and body stay calm, cool and collected during the physical and mental stresses that accompany playing in a four-day tournament, especially a Major. It could be as simple as waking up at 1 am and posting on the Nike Instagram Story to help simulate the 6 am start time at The Open Championship held at Royal Portrush this year as Tiger Woods did on Monday.

I am happy for Serena and Tiger but the real psychological key is they are happy with themselves. The fact is, therapy, social media and a digital alarm clock did the methodological and tech trick.

What ever it takes, eh.

See you later sportstechie in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world!

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