Biofeedback: A Practitioner's Guide

By Mark S. Schwartz; Frank Andrasik | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 25
Sports Psychology
Applications of Biofeedback
and Neurofeedback

WESLEY SIME

Psychological and physiological preparation for sport competition is the focus of intense study and highly publicized scrutiny. Physiological testing and training have evolved over the years into a sophisticated science featuring strength, conditioning, and flexibility. For each sport, there are unique training methods having direct impact upon either aerobic or anaerobic capacity (e.g., long-distance vs. sprinting events in running and swimming). There is ongoing controversy over the best methods of training to achieve an "edge" among various competitors in power sports (football, wrestling, etc.) versus graceful, aesthetically pleasing sports (gymnastics, diving, etc.). In seeking an "edge" in performance, athletes are encouraged to pursue sound nutritional and psychological approaches. The use of biofeedback, neurofeedback, and stress management in concert with sport psychology consultation can enhance healthy and safe sport performance, while also increasing an athlete's competitive advantage (Sime, 1985).

Psychological preparation of athletes for sport performance is more of an art than a science. Some coaches consider their motivational speeches and "field marshal" disciplinary strategies sufficient to inspire a psychological advantage among their athletes. However, many self-proclaimed sport "gurus" (as well as those legitimately trained and certified in the field) provide services to both individual athletes and teams, using a wide variety of methods unrelated to biofeedback. Experts come and go, but some enduring resources exist in baseball (Dorfman & Kuell, 1995; Ravizza & Hanson, 1995) and in virtually all of the Olympic sports (Thompson, Vernacchia, & Moore, 1998). The Olympic training centers in Colorado Springs and San Diego have full-time staffs of clinical psychologists, who help athletes and coaches to endure grueling training regimens and highly stressful international competition, as well as to deal with common life adjustments (leaving home, relationships, career decisions, anxiety and depression, etc.).

There is unanimous agreement among coaches, athletes, and sport psychologists that manifestations of stress and tension before and/or during competition are major threats to the success of any athlete. Logically, the prevention and treatment of stress symptoms are high priorities. However, there is very little agreement among the primary practitioners in

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