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Kendra Nelson Ferguson and Craig Hall

Biofeedback is among the various self-regulation techniques that mental performance consultants can utilize in their practice with athletes. Biofeedback produces psychophysiological assessments in real time to enhance awareness of thoughts and emotions. Quantitatively, research shows that biofeedback can facilitate self-regulation, allowing an athlete to gain control over psychophysiological responses that could be detrimental to performance. With technology becoming a widespread tool in monitoring psychophysiological states, an exploration of consultants’ use of biofeedback, their perceptions of effectiveness, and limitations of their use was warranted to qualitatively evaluate efficiency of the tool. A qualitative descriptive approach was taken through semistructured interviews with 10 mental performance consultants. Inductive reasoning uncovered three themes: positive implications, practical limitations, and equipment options. With biofeedback, athletes have the ability to develop a deeper level of self-awareness and thereby facilitate the use of self-regulation strategies intended for optimal performance states and outcomes.

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Dawn Scott, Dean Norris and Ric Lovell

Purpose: To examine the dose–response relationship between match-play high-speed running (HSR), very high-speed running (VHSR), and sprint (SPR) distances versus subsequent ratings of fatigue and soreness. Methods: Thirty-six outfield players competing in the professional National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL, United States) with a minimum of five 90-minute match observations were monitored during the 2016 and 2017 seasons (408 match observations, 11 [6]/player). HSR (≥3.47 m·s−1), VHSR (≥5.28 m·s−1), and SPR (≥6.25 m·s−1) were determined generically (GEN) in players using a 10-Hz global positioning system. HSR, VHSR, and SPR speed thresholds were also reconfigured according to player peak speed per se and in combination with the final velocity achieved in the 30:15 Intermittent Fitness Test (locomotor approach to establishing individual speed zones). On the morning following matches (match day [MD + 1]), players recorded subjective wellness ratings of fatigue and soreness using 7-point Likert scales. Results: Fatigue (−2.32; 95% CI, −2.60 to −2.03 au; P < .0001) and soreness (−2.05; 95% CI, −2.29 to −1.81; P < .0001) ratings worsened on MD + 1. Standardized unit changes in HSRGEN (fatigue: −0.05; 95% CI, −0.11 to 0.02 and soreness: −0.02, 95% CI, −0.07 to 0.04) and VHSRGEN (fatigue: −0.06; 95% CI, −0.12 to 0.00 and soreness: −0.04; 95% CI, −0.10 to 0.02) had no influence on wellness ratings at MD + 1. Individualized speed thresholds did not improve the model fit. Conclusions: Subjective ratings of fatigue and wellness are not sensitive to substantial within-player changes in match physical performance. HSR, VHSR, and SPR thresholds customized for individual players’ athletic qualities did not improve the dose–response relationship between external load and wellness ratings.

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Gianluca Vernillo, Adrien Mater, Gregory Doucende, Johan Cassirame and Laurent Mourot

Purpose: To study the consequences of a fatiguing ultratrail run of 6 hours on self-optimizing capability during uphill and downhill (DR) running. Methods: The authors collected temporal stride kinematics and metabolic data in 8 (experimental group) male runners before and after the ultratrail run and in 6 (control group) male ultramarathon runners who did not run but stayed awake and performed normal, daily physical activities avoiding strenuous exercises over the 6-hour period. For each subject, preferred and optimal stride frequencies were measured, where stride frequency was systematically varied above and below the preferred one (±4% and ±8%) while running 3 conditions on level, 5% uphill, or 5% DR in a randomized order. Results: Preferred and optimal stride frequencies across grade, group, and time showed no significant differences (P ≥ .184). Metabolic cost and the energetically optimum metabolic cost showed a grade × group × time interaction (P ≥ .011), with an ∼11% increase in the 2 variables only during the DR bouts (P ≥ .037). Conclusions: Despite maintaining similar dynamics of stride frequency adjustments during the DR bout, the experimental group was not able to optimize its gait. This suggests that the DR section of ultratrail runs can introduce a perturbing factor in the runners’ optimization process, highlighting the need for incorporating DR bouts in the training programs of ultratrail runners to minimize the deleterious effects of DR on the energetically optimal gait.

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Laurent Schmitt, Stéphane Bouthiaux and Grégoire P. Millet

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.

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Leilani Madrigal

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 [6] y, height = 1.77 [0.06] m, and body mass = 75 [12] 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.