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Technological advances in sport psychology

This is an excerpt from Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology 7th Edition With Web Study Guide by Robert Weinberg & Daniel Gould.

Technology has taken sports by storm. There are metrics and statistics for every imaginable happening, and sport technology has become increasingly important for recording, analyzing, and optimizing athletic performance (Fuss, Subic, Strangwood, & Metha, 2013). Sport psychology is participating in this technological revolution, and Schack, Bertollo, Koester, Maycock, and Essig (2014) highlight some of the useful applications in sport psychology of technology.

One technique that has been embraced in sport is virtual reality (VR). In VR, the environment can be a simulation of the real world or an imaginary world, providing an interactive experience between the athlete and the environment he sees on the athletic field. For example, athletes could immerse themselves on the soccer field and experience where players are and where the ball is so they could make appropriate reactions. Schack and colleagues (2014) noted that VR offers several advantages over traditional video presentations:

  • Allows users to watch and manipulate simulated environments similarly to how they would normally act in the real world
  • Allows for complete control and fine-tuning of factors that affect a player's judgment, ensuring reproducibility and ecological validity
  • Allows players to interact with one another while displayed information is carefully controlled and modified
  • Provides an enhanced sense of presence for players by way of tracking head movements and updating information in real time

A second technique that has proved useful to sport psychology consultants is eye tracking,which focuses on the process of monitoring and recording athletes' gaze positions when they look at 2D and 3D stimuli. This technology allows researchers to determine exact gaze patterns and then spatial-temporal scan paths. This is especially important in dynamic environments such as sports and is accomplished by use of a head-and-eye camera attached to a bicycle helmet. For example tennis players receiving serve, who look (gaze) at different parts of the serve (e.g., ball toss, angle of the racquet, bend of the back) will move in different ways to return the ball. Focusing on the most appropriate spot, which would provide information about where the serve will be hit (placement) and the type of serve (spin or flat) can be helped with eye tracking.