Sport Psychology To Boost Your Performance

Can a particular mood influence physical strength or endurance? What helps a team to overcome significant failures? How do you prevent sportsmen from doping? Sport Psychology provides answers to a variety of such questions. On 4th and 5th December 2015, the Sixth International Conference on Sport Psychology in Prague will present the latest developments in this interdisciplinary science.

The motto of this conference is a different point of view,” announces Veronika Baláková, the organizer of the event and a university teacher. “First, it should bring useful information from psychology practitioners to sportsmen, instructors, and the public.

Interactive lectures will include individual case studies. Second, the conference will bring together international guests from countries with a long tradition in this discipline. And third – quite innovative topics will be discussed. For example biofeedback.

When using this method, an athlete monitors his or her bio-functions such as heartbeat, blood pressure, or muscle tension during the real-time performance and tries to influence them.

The origins of another unorthodox method that will be discussed can be traced to Buddhist philosophy. It is called mindfulness and consists of an intentional focus on and acceptance of one’s emotions and feelings at a particular moment.”


From Olympics and Neuro-stimuli to Kids’ Training

The conference is being organized by the Czech Association of Sport Psychologists together with the Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague. It will introduce lecturers like Gregor Kuhn, an advisor to the German Olympic Committee, or Daniel Birrer, a lecturer at Swiss Olympic Education, who will investigate the relationship between mood, overtraining, performance, and mental preparation.

Neuro- and cognitive scientist Mauro Murgia from the University of Cagliari will suggest how to use sound incentives and train the sense of hearing to achieve better sports results. Michal Šafář, chairman of the Czech Association of Sport Psychologists, will focus on the education of future athletes in a lecture titled Parents, children, and top-level sport: Psychological risks of sports talent “development”.

“The lecturers were chosen according to three criteria – they must actively practice sport psychology, be good speakers, and come up with an original topic. The featured guest of this conference will be Ross Hall from the University of South Whales. Mr. Hall led the wheelchair rugby players who won the award for the best team in Europe in 2008,” explains Veronika Baláková. Further details on the speakers and conference are available here.


Taking it Sportingly

Today, professional training in various sports often includes psychological preparation. Trap shooters admit that they gradually increase mental resilience to avoid panic when they miss a target on their first shot. Research has proven that gender plays a significant role in coaching professional swimmers.

And equestrians must gain sufficient self-confidence to be able to command their horse. “Since 2013, the Conference on Sport Psychology has always introduced an important personality who has benefitted from psychological preparation in his or her career,” adds Veronika Baláková. “Last year it was Czech tennis player and double Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitová. This year it will be professional Slovak golf player Zuzana Kamasová.”


Different Mental Playgrounds

Individual techniques in psychological preparation depend on the type of sport and the challenge that the particular sportsman must address. While a football player faces an aggressive crowd of screaming fans when he performs a penalty kick, a gymnast has to concentrate months of training into seconds at an exhibition.

Sport psychology can help everybody to identify useful and harmful mental factors that influence results. No factor is predominantly good or bad. The sportsmen must discover what is going on in their heads during training and competition. Once they explore it, they can work through it – with methods such as goal setting, inner self-talk or positive imagery providing a way to benefit from the available helpful factors and even convert mental weaknesses like fear to strengths like motivation.

Sport psychology also offers a useful toolkit for leisure time sportsmen, even those who will never participate in the high-profile competition.

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