Purpose: To report the changes in the training characteristics, performance, and heart-rate variability (HRV) of the world’s most successful male biathlete of the last decade. Method: During the analyzed 11-year (2009–2019) period, the participant won 7 big crystal globes, corresponding to the winner of the International Biathlon Union World Cup. The training characteristics are reported as yearly volume (in hours) of low-intensity training (LIT), moderate- and high-intensity training, and speed and strength training. Performance was quantified by the number of World Cup top-3 positions per season. HRV was expressed as low- and high-frequency spectral power (in milliseconds squared), root-mean-square difference of successive R–R interval (in milliseconds), and heart rate (in beats per minute). Results: The training volume increased from 530 to ∼700 hours per year in 2009–2019, with a large polarization in training intensity distribution (ie, LIT 86.3% [2.9%]; moderate-intensity training 3.4% [1.5%]; high-intensity training 4.0% [0.7%]; strength 6.3% [1.6%]). The number of top-3 positions increased from 2 to 24–26 in 2009–2018 but decreased to 6 in 2019. The mean supine values in the root-mean-square difference of successive R–R interval and high-frequency spectral power divided by heart rate increased until 2015, which were stable over 2016–2018 but decreased in 2019. The number of top-3 positions was related to the total (r = .66, P = .02) and LIT (r = .92, P < .001) volume and to several markers of supine parasympathetic activity. Conclusion: The improvement in performance of the participant was mainly determined by the progressive increase in training volume, especially performed at low intensity, and was correlated to parasympathetic activity markers. This case study confirms the effectiveness of the training method, with a large amount of LIT in an elite endurance athlete, and of regular HRV monitoring.
Laurent Schmitt, Stéphane Bouthiaux and Grégoire P. Millet
Mental toughness is a factor related to performance, better coping, and increased confidence. There has been a growing trend toward assessing mental toughness behaviorally. The purpose of this paper was to develop a behavioral assessment of mental toughness in volleyball. Following a five-stage process to develop a systematic observation instrument, the current study identified 10 mental toughness behaviors in volleyball, specifically, six behaviors occurring during a play and four behaviors after a play (i.e., when a point is scored from the opposing team). Furthermore, eight behaviors represent mentally tough actions, while two behaviors represent mentally weak actions. The results indicate that the behavioral checklist is a reliable systematic observation instrument. Coaches and certified mental performance consultants can benefit from using this checklist by discussing mental toughness and behaviors corresponding to mental toughness during game play, and then have a quantifiable way to track behaviors with individuals and volleyball teams.
Rachel A. Van Woezik, Alex J. Benson and Mark W. Bruner
Injuries are commonplace in high-intensity sport, and research has explored how athletes are psychologically affected by such events. As injuries carry implications for the group environment in sport teams, the authors explored what occurs within a team during a time period of injury from a coach perspective and how high-performance coaches manage a group at this time. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 10 Canadian university basketball head coaches. Thematic analysis revealed four high-order themes in relation to how coaches managed group dynamics from the moment of the injury event to an athlete’s reintegration into the lineup. Strategies to mitigate the negative effects of injury on the group environment while prioritizing athlete well-being involved remaining stoic at the time of an injury event, maintaining the injured athlete’s sense of connection to the team, and coordinating with support staff throughout the recovery and reintegration process.
Jordan D. Herbison, Terry W. Cowan, Luc J. Martin, Zach Root and Mark W. Bruner
This study sought to examine coaches’ perceptions of social identity among their athletes and explore the ways that they may attempt to influence its development. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 12 head coaches (M age = 49.25 years; SD = 6.5 years; M experience = 15.75 years; SD = 7.66 years; n female = 1) of male (n = 8) and female (n = 4) competitive youth ice hockey teams. Three main themes were identified through our analysis. First, the coaches’ perceptions of athletes’ social identities were described through examples of peer connection and similarity (i.e., in-group ties), athletes’ experience of positive affect (i.e., in-group affect), and athletes demonstrating the meaning and value that they attribute to team membership (i.e., cognitive centrality). Second, the coaches discussed a variety of ways that they sought to develop and reinforce a shared social identity within their teams. These behaviors aligned with principles advanced within the social identity leadership literature—namely, the coaches acted as in-group prototypes, in-group champions, entrepreneurs of identity, and embedders of identity. Finally, the coaches identified parents and cliques as key social agents with the ability to undermine social identity development. The findings are discussed in relation to both their theoretical and practical implications.
Maja Gunhild Olsen, Jan Arvid Haugan, Maria Hrozanova and Frode Moen
The current study presents a systematic review of six empirical research studies that have explored coping amongst elite-level sport coaches. The study was carried out employing Fletcher et al.’s meta-model of stress, emotions, and performance as a basis for the review. The present results clearly revealed that, despite being an important aspect of coaches’ functioning, coping is almost never researched in its full complexity, and scarce attention is given to cognitive appraisals and long-term outcomes. To our knowledge, current research has so far been limited to the perceived stressors and employed coping strategies. Compared with problem-focused coping, emotion-focused coping is less frequently reported. Emotion-focused coping also has some limitations regarding occurrence and diversity in reported strategies. The reasons for this are not well-known due to the lack of comprehensiveness in the research. Hence, researchers are encouraged to further investigate coping amongst elite-level coaches and to do so by treating it as a concept affected by appraisals and personal and situational characteristics that exist in the context of a larger stress process.
Matteo Bonato, Antonio La Torre, Marina Saresella, Ivana Marventano, Giampiero Merati, Giuseppe Banfi and Jacopo A. Vitale
Purpose: The authors compared sleep quality and salivary cortisol concentration after high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and small-sided games (SSGs) performed at the habitual training time in nonprofessional male soccer players. Methods: A total of 32 players (age = 24  y, height = 1.77 [0.06] m, and body mass = 75  kg) were randomized into an HIIT group or an SSG group. Actual sleep time, sleep efficiency (SE), sleep latency, immobility time (IT), moving time (MT), and fragmentation index were monitored using actigraphy before (PRE) and 2 nights after (POST 1 and POST 2) the training session. Salivary cortisol levels were measured before (PRE) and after (POST) training. Cortisol awakening response was evaluated. Results: Significant intragroup differences in the HIIT group were noted for actual sleep time (P < .0001), SE (P < .0001), sleep latency (P = .047), IT (P < .0001), MT (P < .0001), and fragmentation index (P < .0001) between PRE and POST 1 and for SE (P = .035), IT (P = .004), MT (P = .006), and fragmentation index (P = .048) between PRE and POST 2. Intergroup differences for actual sleep time (P = .014), SE (P = .048), IT (P < .0001), and MT (P = .046) were observed between the HIIT and the SSGs group at POST 1 were detected. Significant intragroup variations were observed in PRE and POST salivary cortisol levels (P < .0001 for HIIT; P = .0003 for SSGs) and cortisol awakening response (P < .0001 for HIIT; P < .0001 for SSGs). Significant intergroup differences between the HIIT and the SSGs group were found at POST (P < .0001) and in cortisol awakening response (P = .017). Conclusions: Changes in actigraphy-based sleep parameters and salivary cortisol levels were greater after an acute session of HIIT than SSGs in this sample of nonprofessional male soccer players.
Piia Kaikkonen, Esa Hynynen, Arto Hautala and Juha P. Ahtiainen
Purpose: It is known that modifying the endurance-type training load of athletes may result in altered cardiac autonomic modulation that may be estimated with heart rate variability (HRV). However, the specific effects of intensive resistance-type training remain unclear. The main aim of this study was to find out whether an intensive 2-wk resistance training period affects the nocturnal HRV and strength performance of healthy participants. Methods: Young healthy men (N = 13, age 24  y) performed 2-wk baseline training, 2-wk intensive training, and a 9-d tapering periods, with 2, 5, and 2 hypertrophic whole-body resistance exercise sessions per week, respectively. Maximal isometric and dynamic strength were tested at the end of these training periods. Nocturnal HRV was also analyzed at the end of these training periods. Results: As a main finding, the nocturnal root mean square of differences of successive R-R intervals decreased (P = .004; from 49  to 43  ms; 95% CI, 2.4–10.4; effect size = 0.97) during the 2-wk intensive resistance training period. In addition, maximal isometric strength improved slightly (P = .045; from 3933  to 4138  N; 95% CI, 5.4–404; effect size = 0.60). No changes were found in 1-repetition-maximum leg press or leg press repetitions at 80% 1-repetition maximum. Conclusions: The present data suggest that increased training load due to a short-term intensive resistance training period can be detected by nocturnal HRV. However, despite short-term accumulated physiological stress, a tendency of improvement in strength performance was detected.
Ewan R. Williams, James McKendry, Paul T. Morgan and Leigh Breen
Purpose: Compression garments are widely used as a tool to accelerate recovery from intense exercise and have also gained traction as a performance aid, particularly during periods of limited recovery. This study tested the hypothesis that increased pressure levels applied via high-pressure compression garments would enhance “multiday” exercise performance. Methods: A single-blind crossover design, incorporating 3 experimental conditions—loose-fitting gym attire (CON), low-compression (LC), and high-compression (HC) garments—was adopted. A total of 10 trained male cyclists reported to the laboratory on 6 occasions, collated into 3 blocks of 2 consecutive visits. Each “block” consisted of 3 parts, an initial high-intensity protocol, a 24-hour period of controlled rest while wearing the applied condition/garment (CON, LC, and HC), and a subsequent 8-km cycling time trial, while wearing the respective garment. Subjective discomfort questionnaires and blood pressure were assessed prior to each exercise bout. Power output, oxygen consumption, and heart rate were continuously measured throughout exercise, with plasma lactate, creatine kinase, and myoglobin concentrations assessed at baseline and the end of exercise, as well as 30 and 60 minutes postexercise. Results: Time-trial performance was significantly improved during HC compared with both CON and LC (HC = 277 , CON = 266 , and LC = 265  W; P < .05). In addition, plasma lactate was significantly lower at 30 and 60 minutes postexercise on day 1 in HC compared with CON. No significant differences were observed for oxygen consumption, heart rate, creatine kinase, or subjective markers of discomfort. Conclusion: The pressure levels exerted via lower-limb compression garments influence their effectiveness for cycling performance, particularly in the face of limited recovery.