Archive for the 'Stress' Category

ISSP Master Class: Paul Wylleman

Championing Wellbeing: The New and Crucial Role of Sport Psychologists 

as Welfare and Safeguard Officers at the Olympic Games 

DATE: Thursday, June 18th, 2024

Speakers: Prof. Paul Wylleman

Length of Session: 90 minutes (60-minute lecture, 30-minute Q&A)

Language: English (Translated live captioning available)

Time: 12:00 UTC (New York 8:00, Belo Horizonte, 9:00, Beijing 20:00, Seoul 21:00, Sydney 22:00)

Recordings: Available for 60 days after the lecture

Program Overview 

Over the past decade, the role of sport psychology has gained significance in the world of elite sport in general, and at the Olympic level in particular. During this presentation, Prof. Wylleman will provide insight into how athletes’ well-being became a clear point of focus and action for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), National Olympic Committees (NOC), and national elite sport organizations and how this impacted the role of sport psychologists during the Olympic Games. Reflecting on his role as the head psychologist of the Olympic Committee of the Netherlands and as the team psychologist for TeamNL at the 2016 Rio and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, Prof. Wylleman will illustrate how, from a psychological perspective, specific initiatives and actions were taken to support the well-being in general, and in particular the mental health of athletes, coaches and support staff. Contextualized in the role and competence of sport and clinical sport psychologist, Prof. Wylleman will offer an insight into the role, competence and implementation of the accredited position of the ‘NOC Welfare Officer’ and of the Safeguarding Officer in Olympic delegations. After its introduction at the 2022 Being Olympic Games, both functions will now be explicitly present at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. As sport psychologists are now being asked to take on the role of NOC Welfare Officer and/or Safeguarding Officer in their own national Olympic team, Prof. Wylleman will focus on the requirements, tasks and roles of both positions, as well as on the possible challenges faced by psychologists when taking on these roles. While illustrating Team Belgium’s approach in view of the forthcoming 2024 Paris Olympic Games, Prof. Wylleman will describe his role as team psychologist and NOC Welfare Officer, the strategies implemented to meet the role requirements and the potential challenges associated with the roles. In conclusion, Prof. Wylleman will formulate recommendations on how sport psychologists may optimize their functioning as NOC Welfare Officers or Safeguarding Officers, or on how they could effectively collaborate with one or both during the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Furthermore, looking forward to the 2026 Milano-Cortina and 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games, some reflections will be shared on how the emphasis on welfare and safeguarding at the Olympic level may impact the field of sport psychology in general and the development and functioning of sport psychologists in particular.

About the Speakers 

Paul Wylleman, Ph.D. Psychology, is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and full professor of Sport Psychology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. His teaching, research, and publications focus on a holistic and lifespan perspective on career development, psychological competencies, mental health and well-being, and interdisciplinary support provision in elite and Olympic sport. Prof. Wylleman heads the university’s dual career department Topsport and Study, the research group Sport Psychology and Mental Support as well as the Brussels Olympic Research and Education Centre (BOREC). Prof. Wylleman is past-President of the European Federation of Sport Psychology (FEPSAC; 2007-2015), the 2017 Distinguished International Scholar of the Applied Association of Sport Psychology (AASP, USA) and Visiting Professor at Loughborough University (UK). From 2014 to 2022, Prof. Wylleman was head psychologist of the Olympic Committee of the Netherlands (NOC*NSF) as well as team psychologist for TeamNL at the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Prof. Wylleman is now expert Psychology with the Belgian Interfederal and Olympic Committee (BOIC) and is team psychologist and Welfare Officer with Team Belgium at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Prof. Wylleman advises national Olympic Committees and national elite sport organizations on the role and functioning of psychologists and psychology-support provision in elite sport and at the Olympic Games.

Jannik Sinner: the meaning to be no.1

Starting from 1973, Jannik Sinner is the 29th tennis player to reach the top of the world rankings. In 50 years, before him, only 28 players have achieved this milestone.

Thus, not only is he currently the best, but he also belongs to an exclusive club of players who have managed this feat. His idol is Roger Federer, but he has studied Valentino Rossi and Alberto Tomba to understand how to achieve such top-level results. It’s like climbing Everest without oxygen; only a few can endure the challenges of this endeavor, turning doubts and fears into objects of their improvement rather than nightmares to escape from.

Sinner appears happy, and many wonder how he manages to stay so focused on learning and improving, as if this attitude were exaggerated. Positive psychology helps explain this approach, suggesting that one aspect of personal well-being involves leading an engaged life. It pertains to the well-being derived from engaging in rewarding activities and realizing personal potential. This means living experiences fully centered on the present, focused on what interests and pleases. Thinking about the immediate future does not generate negative tension since it accepts the fear of not succeeding. He has been injured and chose to skip the Italian Open to heal; he aimed to at least reach the finals at the French Open but didn’t make it. His secret is to think one step at a time, dream big like winning the Olympics, but think small, like the next tournament in Halle: “I have always thought one step at a time: I wanted the first point to enter the ATP rankings, then I imagined entering the top hundred and so on. I have always set a small goal to take a step forward. And this, in my opinion, has been the key to where we are today.”

Many tennis players, on the other hand, are dominated by another concept, positive for spending free time but hindering success in sports life. It’s the idea of wanting to lead a pleasant life, dominated by experiencing positive emotions and pleasant sensations. It’s the eternal struggle between the momentary well-being from achieving immediate results and the well-being obtained by pursuing a goal that goes beyond the individual, connecting them with all those who have walked the same path before them. To confirm this, the ATP has made a video in which previous number 1 players in tennis address Sinner not only to honor him but to thank him for what he does for tennis.

Mental fundamentals to become a champion

Coaches of team sports, despite their differences, share some common thoughts regarding the mental characteristics of their teams.

Desire to act and take risks – Dreams and goals are important, but without concrete actions, they remain empty. Having a vision and taking steps to achieve these goals will help you find success in everything you do. Many teams never develop their full potential. This gap is bridged when goals are pursued through appropriate actions. Even champions feel fear, but they stand out because they are willing to take risks and put themselves in the position to make the winning move. They are willing to challenge themselves, step out of their comfort zone, and see how much they can improve every day.

Always wanting to learn – Recently, I read a story about John Wooden, who in the later years of his life, as he was losing some of his physical and mental abilities, said: “I still enjoy reading and I will continue to learn and grow for as long as I live. Whatever my abilities are, I want to wake up every day and do my best. I can’t do that if I don’t continue to grow and learn.” Let’s learn from him to challenge ourselves to grow. If you are not improving, you are getting worse. You never just stand still. Champions are always learning and growing.

Accepting responsibility – Being able to accept responsibility for your own mistakes allows you to grow. Those who play the “blame game” will never reach the top and become true champions. Champions do not blame others – they understand that we all make mistakes, humbly accept them, and work to overcome them by improving themselves.

Live in the moment

Karch Kiraly the greatest volleyball player who ever lived was once asked by a fan “How did you prepare for the Olympic Gold Medal?”  Karch’s answer was beautiful.  He simply said,  “I did not prepare for the gold medal, I always prepared for the next point.”.  To become a champion in whatever you are doing you need to stay in the moment.  I once had an athlete that I coached a Pepperdine, who was one of the best pure athletes I have ever worked with.  He never really went as far as he could have gone as an athlete.  Why?

This particular player could not let go of the last play.  He would make a mistake and then he would be stuck thinking about the mistake (a bad pass, or a missed shot) and then this would impact the next play.  He would usually get worse and worse as the game went on.  He could not stay in the moment.  Do you carry baggage around from mistakes in the past?  Or have you learned to use those mistakes as learning opportunities that you can use in the present.  Staying in the moment will help you to become the champion that is inside you.

By Terry Schroeder,  Former USA water polo team coach

Starting from this point, repetition is essential to live in the moment establishing new habits. A crucial aspect of achieving goals is to include measurable behaviors, activities that can be performed daily. It is useful to adopt a simple performance evaluation system to verify the achievement of daily objectives.

These daily goals can include activities such as drinking a specific amount of water, doing a short yoga or mindfulness session every day, pushing past one’s limits when tired, or any other healthy habit.

Internet addiction change brain functions

Chang MLY, Lee IO (2024) Functional connectivity changes in the brain of adolescents with internet addiction: A systematic literature review of imaging studies. PLOS Ment Health 1(1): e0000022.

Internet usage has seen a stark global rise over the last few decades, particularly among adolescents and young people, who have also been diagnosed increasingly with internet addiction (IA).

IA impacts several neural networks that influence an adolescent’s behaviour and development. This article issued a literature review on the resting-state and task-based functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies to inspect the consequences of IA on the functional connectivity (FC) in the adolescent brain and its subsequent effects on their behaviour and development. A systematic search was conducted from two databases, PubMed and PsycINFO, to select eligible articles according to the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Eligibility criteria was especially stringent regarding the adolescent age range (10–19) and formal diagnosis of IA. Bias and quality of individual studies were evaluated.

The fMRI results from 12 articles demonstrated that the effects of IA were seen throughout multiple neural networks: a mix of increases/decreases in FC in the default mode network; an overall decrease in FC in the executive control network; and no clear increase or decrease in FC within the salience network and reward pathway. The FC changes led to addictive behaviour and tendencies in adolescents.

The subsequent behavioural changes are associated with the mechanisms relating to the areas of cognitive control, reward valuation, motor coordination, and the developing adolescent brain. Our results presented the FC alterations in numerous brain regions of adolescents with IA leading to the behavioural and developmental changes. Research on this topic had a low frequency with adolescent samples and were primarily produced in Asian countries. Future research studies of comparing results from Western adolescent samples provide more insight on therapeutic intervention.

Sinner has reduced the mobile uses, and you?

Today it is almost a duty to talk about Sinner, who has become the world number one in tennis.

Many things have been said about him, but I would like to focus on an apparently small change that he has declared to have made: “I use my phone less.”

In recent days, I have written about the negative change this had on a population in the Amazon. Instead, now we become aware that Sinner’s success, composed of a thousand details, is also due to this small change.

So let’s try to reflect on the influence of the smartphone in our daily lives; we certainly don’t need to aspire to be a champion to control its use and its relative frequency.

Let’s try to ask ourselves:

  • How much time do I spend using it each day?
  • What are the reasons I use it?
  • Do I use it for work or as a pastime?
  • What could I do instead of consulting the smartphone?
  • How long has it been since I last read a book?
  • When I am with others, do I keep consulting it?
  • What could I do instead of its frequent use?

Musk linked Amazzonie at internet

If one wanted to know what the effects of the use of smartphones might be on a population that had never used the Internet as a communication and new social life, Elon Musk did the perfect experiment, demonstrating that the negative effects that we are analyzing on young people can be produced within 12 months in a population that was completely outside of our system.

Elon Musk has decided to bring internet connection to the remote village of the Marubo, an isolated tribe living along the banks of the Ituì River that remained immune to civilization until the arrival of the Net.

As “The New York Times” explains, the Marubo number two thousand and have always lived in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, far from civilization. As of September 2023, their lives have completely changed thanks to the arrival of the Internet in their village

It did this through Starlink, the service of Space X, its space company. It launched 6,000 low-orbit satellites and connected remote areas in every corner of the Earth: from the Sahara, to the Mongolian grasslands, to the atolls of the Pacific. A leap into modernity. An opportunity for populations anchored in their eternal past.

After nine months, two New York Times reporters went to the Amazon to see how this technological revolution had been received and the effects it had produced on a pristine tribe. The experiment was positive, but destabilizing. “When the net arrived,” Tsainama Marubo, 73, one of the village elders, explained to the two reporters, “everyone was happy. There was novelty and a lot of curiosity. A world unknown to us was opening up from these screens. The Internet offered many obvious advantages. Like chats with distant loved ones and the ability to call for help in an emergency. But things have gotten worse now.” Tsainama looks around and with a wave of his hand points to the village bathed in unreal silence. “There,” he sojourns, “they are all there, focused on their phones. They have become lazy. They don’t talk, they don’t work, they don’t move. They are as if dumbfounded. They scroll through pictures, they read with the translator, they browse hours and hours immersed in a coma that frightens.”

Real Madrid mindset

These sentences help us to understand the Real Madrid mindset, and the reason it wins its 15° UEFA Champions League final at Wembley against Borussia Dortmund.

“You never get accustomed to this. It was very difficult, much more so than we thought it would be. First half, we had to suffer; second half, we lost the ball less, played better – but those are all trifling details now. We won. The dream continues!”

– Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti

“I don’t know what to say, just tremendous happiness. We knew it would be a tough game, and the first half they were very superior but we got out alive. But we knew our moment would come, and it did, and we have the 15th (Champions League title for Real Madrid).”

– Dani Carvajal, who scored Real Madrid’s first goal

“I have always dreamed of playing in these games.You go through life and there are so many people who say you cannot do things. I was alright until I’ve seen my mum and dad’s face there. My little brother is there and I’m trying to be a role model for him. I cannot put it into words. The best night of my life.”

– Real Madrid’s England international midfielder Jude Bellingham

“For now we are just disappointed, after such a match, after the chances that we had to score. It’s extremely disappointing. But in the end they showed their class. I’m proud of the whole team, we produced a great Champions League campaign, we’ve proved that we can play at the. highest level.”

– Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel after Dortmund spurned three early scoring chances

 

Children sedentarity life and TV

The signs of what might become a future lifestyle are already evident for many in the early years of life. In fact, in the United Kingdom, children aged 3-4 already spend an average of 2 hours a day in front of the TV, in the US 2.2 hours, and in Australia 1.5 hours.

Watching TV for children under 5 years old becomes the defining activity of a sedentary lifestyle. The family is obviously the primary responsible entity for children’s education; sedentary parents are more likely to pass on their way of spending time, just as parents who spend many hours in front of the TV do. Additionally, as with any other choice, the social and economic context represents another factor that can promote or inhibit a specific lifestyle. However, it is possible to intervene positively in these situations, even if they are widespread.

In this regard, a cross-sectional European study involving five countries (Belgium, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and Norway) and 3325 child/parent pairs reported that the presence of rules on how much time children could watch TV or use computers/game consoles is associated with a decrease in children’s screen time.

The results of another cross-sectional study showed that parental actions, from both mothers and fathers, similarly influence the amount of screen time in children aged 1.5 to 5 years. During weekdays, the habit of watching TV during meals was positively associated with children’s screen time, while limiting screen time had the opposite effect.

Furthermore, encouraging physical activity and active play at home reduces sedentary behavior linked to TV use. This proactive approach by parents is essential, as preschool children whose parents limit outdoor play tend to prefer sedentary activities over physical activity.

Mental health and wellbeing continue to be a relevant issue

Association for Applied Sport Psychology published this blog on mental health and wellbeing.

Participation in college athletics can be a wonderful pursuit. Various disciplines of research highlight the psychosocial benefits of sport participation. Research has also shown that exercise and physical movement can improve mental functioning (Sharma et al., 2006). However, sport participation can also be a significant source of stress for college student-athletes. On top of the psychosocial demands of pursuing a college degree, student-athletes are faced with additional sources of stress. Lu et al. (2012) identified eight broad categories of athlete-specific stressors: Sport injury, performance demands, coach-athlete relationship, training adaption and burnout, interpersonal relationships, family relationships, and academic requirements (e.g., to maintain eligibility). The research recognizes the subsequent impact on student-athletes’ wellness. According to the NCAA (2023), 35% of female student-athletes feel mentally exhausted, while 44% feel overwhelmed. Research has also shown concerns related to body image and disordered eating (Bar et al., 2016); roughly half of student-athletes experience sleep-related problems (IOC, 2021), and upwards of 33% of elite performers experience symptoms of depression and anxiety (IOC, 2021). Other clinically significant concerns include substance misuse and other addictive behaviors (e.g., gambling), ADHD, and self-harm. Given the stress and demands of being a student-athlete, “mental health” is identified as the number one reason for transferring from their current institution (NCAA, 2022).  Based on the research and subjective experiences of student-athletes, the importance of self-care and wellness becomes paramount. With that said, below are a few quick tips to boost wellness and psychological functioning.

Win the Off Days.
For most, the “relationship” with sport may be your longest relationship aside from that with your parent(s). Sport has inevitably become part of your personality. We also know sport-culture is full of mantras like “Give 110%” and “If you’re not working, somebody else is!” Together, it is easy to understand how some athletes report feelings of guilt and shame for engaging in “self-care” activities. However, the human brain needs variety. Burnout is inevitable if you spend every waking moment training for your sport. I have seen dozens of athletes improve their personal wellness and athletic performance by simply finding balance outside of their sport. You would be amazed at how engaging in a “non-sport” hobby can go! Or be intentional in finding so-called “NARP” (non-athlete real person) friend relationships away from your team. Win the off day! Find a hobby and cultivate your identity outside of the role as a “student-athlete.”

Don’t Sleep on Sleep.
Research has indicated that nearly half of student-athletes have sleep-related issues (IOC, 2021). This serves as a reminder of the importance of prioritizing healthy sleep habits. Early warning signs that you may have a sleep issue would include feeling tired throughout the day or having difficulty staying awake, using coffee and stimulants to stay awake in class, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or engaging in so-called “revenge insomnia” behaviors (e.g., scrolling on your phone at night instead of sleeping). Sound like you? If so, let’s focus on increasing the quality of your sleep by practicing healthy sleep behaviors. Restorative sleep habits include sticking to a regular sleep schedule, limiting caffeine before bedtime, avoiding daytime napping after 2:00 pm, lowering the air temperature of your bedroom(less than 68 degrees), and only using your bed for sleep and not as your spot to complete homework, eat snacks, etc. (NCAA, n.d.). To oversimplify a neuropsychology lesson, when you sleep, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flows through the brain, removing toxins that accumulate throughout the day. We literally need sleep to function at an optimal level. We also know poor sleep has been linked to an increased risk of injury. Change your thoughts about sleep and view sleep as part of your training. Your brain needs sleep to help you excel in the classroom and on the field.

Find and Follow Your Values.
In Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning” (1946), he states that people have a great capacity for resiliency. The catch is that people need to find meaning in the stress and stressors. Any student-athlete can attest to the multiple sources of stress that are associated with sport participation. It is vital to understand how your personal values are fulfilled by your athletic pursuits. Ask yourself “what do I value?” and be intentional in finding ways to express those values. For example, if you value “relationships” be mindful and pour into your relationships with your teammates. If you value “self-growth” lean into your training. Instead of focusing on the stress of 6:00 am workouts, view them as opportunities to grow and improve at your sport. Identify your values and find micro-ways daily to live and express the things you care about.

Use your support team. As we say at Mississippi State, “We are better together!” One of the perks of being a student-athlete is that you are surrounded by a support team. Most student-athletes have access to medical healthcare, nutrition services, strength & conditioning, mental health clinicians and mental performance coaches, and student-athlete development staff.  Be intentional and use the available resources! If you’re struggling to find a support team, you can find a Certified Mental Performance Consultant® (CMPC) on the AASP website to locate someone near you.

In summary, win the off days (find balance in your life and develop an identity outside of sport), practice healthy sleep and nutrition habits, and use your sport to find and express your personal values. Practice these wellness tips and seek personalized care on campus from your support team!