Self-Regulation Helps Create Elite Athletes

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A recent study in the newest issue of Biofeedback examined world-class skiers to assess how self-regulation affected their performance. The authors studied whether psychophysiological variables such as respiration rate, heart rate, and temperature correlated with the athletes' rankings.

Biofeedback
Volume 43 Issue 2

Examining the relationship between performance and an athlete’s ability to physiologically self-regulate, provides a significant step forward in our understanding of the variables that contribute to optimal performance in sport.

Biofeedback – In the world of high-performance sport, “get your game face on” is not just a casual comment made between teammates. In order to excel as a professional or Olympic athlete, self-regulation in both practice and especially on “game day” is critical. The ability to maintain physical and mental composure is what separates good athletes from great athletes.

A recent study examined world-class skiers to assess how self-regulation affected their performance. The article, “A Preliminary Study on the Relationship Between Athletes’ Ability to Self-Regulate and World Ranking,” in the journal Biofeedback, discusses the relationship of self-regulation to athletes’ rankings in freestyle skiing. The authors also studied whether psychophysiological variables (e.g., respiration rate, heart rate, temperature, skin conductance, and electromyography-Trapezius or EMG-Frontalis) correlated with the athletes’ ranking.

The authors reported a significant correlation between elite athletes’ overall self-regulation ability and their ranking at the world level, meaning that the better the overall self-regulation ability of the athlete the better the world ranking. In addition, a multiple regression analysis indicated that self-regulation accounted for 76% of the variance in world ranking.

When the 15 elite athletes (seven women and eight men) underwent a series of stress-tests, it was found that the athletes who had a more difficult time returning to baseline after stress was induced had lower world rankings overall. The study also showed that an athlete’s ability to specifically regulate electromyography (the activation of muscles), heart rate, and skin conductance had a positive effect on ranking.

Overall, the authors recommend that self-regulation techniques be taught to athletes at all levels of competitive sport in order to help them reach their full potential. The authors also suggest that determining an athlete’s stress patterns and developing an individualized self-regulation training program would be important. Author Penny Werthner stated “this research, examining the relationship between performance and an athlete’s ability to physiologically self-regulate, provides a significant step forward in our understanding of the variables that contribute to optimal performance in sport. As well, this research now provides practitioners and clinicians with the evidence needed to strongly encourage coaches, athletes, and other performers to begin to develop these skills.” Although this study is a great step forward, further research is necessary. The limitations of the study include the small sample size (15 athletes), one winter sport versus multiple sports, and testing in a lab setting rather than on the field of play.

Full text of the article, “A Preliminary Study on the Relationship Between Athletes’ Ability to Self-Regulate and World Ranking,” Biofeedback, Vol. 43, No. 2, 2015, is now available.

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About Biofeedback
Biofeedback is published four times per year and distributed by the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. AAPB’s mission is to advance the development, dissemination, and utilization of knowledge about applied psychophysiology and biofeedback to improve health and the quality of life through research, education, and practice. For more information about the Association, see http://www.aapb.org.

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Jason Snell
Allen Press, Inc.
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