Monday, September 27, 2010

Chapter 11: Fighting Breast Cancer

When dealing with people that have been through something as emotional draining as fighting cancer, it is important to keep in mind their mental state as much as their physical one.  It is not in our power to reverse what the cancer has done physically, but we do have the ability to help them with their emotions through various wellness programs.

Keinginna and Kleinginna’s (1981) definition of emotion states that; “Emotion is a complex set of interactions among subjective and objective factors, mediated by neural/hormonal systems, which can give rise to affective experiences such as feelings of arousal, pleasure/displeasure; generate cognitive processes; activate widespread physiological adjustments to the arousing conditions; and lead to behavior that is often, but not always, expressive, goal-directed, and adaptive.

“Quality of life is a broad, integrative construct, comprising the person’s perceived physical, social and psychological well-being.” (Gill & Williams, 2008, p.177)  With that said I believe quality of life and emotion are obviously intertwined.  Emotion is a complex set of interactions among subjective and objective factors; these factors contribute to the perceived physical, social and psychological well-being of a particular person.  Therefore as the director of the wellness program I believe it’s important to balance mental exercises as well as physical one’s when dealing with breast cancer patients that are looking to improve their quality of life.

First priority for myself as the director of the program is to make sure everyone is comfortable.  Being a class of all cancer survivors, I believe it’s important to let them know they’re not alone.  Everyone in this class has been through a similar situation and with all of them having that unique bond; the class itself may act as their personal support group. Taking part in group activities will increase enjoyment because of interactions and feedback from their peers. (Gill & Williams, 2008)  The next step would be to improve physical and emotional well-being through physical activity.  Since not all of the participants would be at the same level physically, it is difficult to determine the level of intensity that would be best for everyone.  Experiencing flow is the ideal state in sports and exercise.  “Flow occurs when the performer is totally connected to the performance in a situation in which skills equal the challenge.“  (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990)  Yoga and Tai Chi are unique programs that both beginners and experts can experience flow.  Flow is about matching skills to equal the challenge and Yoga provides various positions ranging from beginners to advanced.  This allows for the participants to be challenged according to their skill set.  If a challenge is too difficult for someone, they will feel overwhelmed and become even more stressed out or give up all together.  Same can be said if the challenge is too easy; someone may get bored with the exercise and become frustrated that they aren’t being adequately challenged.  That is why it is our job as program directors to help put the participants in a position to be able to experience flow. 

Cognitive development is also vital when dealing with a healing process.  These cancer survivors’ are healing from the long battle with cancer physically and mentally.  Positive self talk and positive reinforcement can be used to improve their self esteems.  You could also use goal setting as a motivation tool.  Some of these cancer survivors may not have been concerned with their physical health before and therefore need something to motivate them to stick with the program; and setting goals is the perfect way to motivate them and have them aim towards something specific.

Since improving their quality of life is the ultimate goal, we must provide the participants with attainable goals that when completed will give them a sense of pride and accomplishment.  They have already been through a difficult situation and as the program director if I make the activities too demanding, I will have done more harm than good psychologically.  And that is not what we’re striving for in our field of work.


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York:
Harper and Row.

    Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd
Ed.)  Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chapter 5: Jamie the Star

In sports athletes and coaches are always thinking of ways of getting ahead of the competition.  Same can be said about the medical side of sports.  Athletic trainers are always looking into alternative ways of helping athletes recover quicker from major injuries such as an ACL tear.
Jamie, the star center of the volleyball team tore her ACL and needs to come back stronger than before so she can help her team win nationals.  As her athletic trainer, I need to come up with routines to help her do just that.  I have chosen to use attentional control and goal setting techniques.
As mentioned in the reading, goals are very common in sports, but they are equally common within the rehabilitation realm.  Having torn my ACL and going through the rehabilitation process, I have first-hand knowledge of setting goals for my recovery.  Upon meeting Jamie I would run her through various exercises to see where she is at physically.  Once completed, I would ask her what she hopes to get out of the rehab process and then together; formulate goals and exercise stages in which we would complete and like to be at during her 8 weeks with me.  Goal setting also provides motivation for the athlete to get through the rehabilitation session,  even through the difficult times. (Thelwell, 2008, p.48)  I used this technique during my rehabilitation so that I could focus on short-term goals rather than the big picture/entire process.  This helped me not to feel overwhelmed by the long recovery process and will help Jamie as well.  Goals are complex and should push athletes to their limits without feeling impossible.  The goals that I would set for Jamie would be certain exercises from basic biking, to strength training, to balancing exercises.  Goals should act as stairs towards the ultimate goal of playing volleyball again and winning nationals.  Each goal, once attained should allow Jamie to have enough physical strength and coordination to attain the next goal, and so on until full recovery.  But attaining goals aren’t always easy to do, and that is why I would use attentional control to assist the goal setting process.
I would utilize the association technique for Jamie’s recovery process.  Associative strategy would have Jamie focus on each exercise, each muscle being used and to help her monitor her level of exertion so that she wouldn’t overextend herself to the point of doing more harm than good. (Gill, 2008)  This is a good technique because she would be internally focuses, in tune with her body and better understand what needs to be done in order to complete her goals.  Many runners use associative strategies to help improve endurance and focus, and I believe that this strategy would benefit Jamie’s endurance by focusing her on completing each exercise and motivating her to give it her all.  It would be my job to make sure that she understands the three attentional categories.  Attentional selectivity to help her understand what cues to focus on, thus helping her get the most out of each exercise.  Attentional capacity to make sure she isn’t overloaded with information that may cause her to lose focus; and finally attentional alertness to make sure she is ready and receptive to these cues.
In conclusion, using cognitive skills in sports and for recovering from injuries is very beneficial and widely used.  I have seen first-hand its positive benefits and how it helps focus someone on the task at hand. (Recovering from and ACL tear)

    Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.)                                 Champaign, IL:
Human Kinetics.
Thelwell, R.C., Weston, N.J., Greenlees, I.A., & Hutchings, N.V. (2008). A qualitative exploration of
             psychological-skills use in coaches. The Sports Psychologist, 22, 38-53.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Chapter 4: My Trait or Yours?

The issues that I will be addressing in this case study include whether or not to use personality traits in sports, whether or not psychological skill are important factors in sports and one’s ability to excel in sports and if self-reports are more useful or more harmful to a player’s psyche.
The first question mentioned in this case study is whether a basketball coach should use a Basketball Personality Scale (BPS) that accesses characteristics matching successful professional athletes.  My advice for any basketball coach would be to have each player take the BPS, but not use it as the only deciding factor on whether or not a player is psychologically ready to play or what role they should play with the team.  By using the BPS or similar tests, coaches can get a better understanding of their different player’s personality’s, thus allowing them to better understand a player’s psychological skills.  In terms of psychological skills having an impact on how players react in sport situations or whether or not they are relevant to sports at all, I consider them very important.  In my personal experience I found that concentration, confidence and motivation are the most meaningful.  In fact I believe that they are all interwoven in some way.  If an athlete has complete concentration on the task at hand, their confidence in themselves and in their skills should rise drastically.  With that said, an athlete with uninterrupted confidence in themselves should have an increased “drive” or motivation to win or excel in what they’re doing.  But there are outside factors that affect personality and those should be factored in as well.  McAdams and Pals believe that biological and social perspectives/factors affect personality and I tend to agree with that.  They say “Personality is conceived as an individual’s unique variation on the general evolutionary design for human nature, expressed as a developing pattern of dispositional traits, characteristic adaptation and self-defining life narratives, complexly and differentially situated in culture and social context. (McAdams, 2006, p.204)  Personality has very much to do with our biological make-up, but it would an injustice if we didn’t factor in life experiences and how they helped shape our personality.  I personally have been through situations that have changed my outlook on things and my personality directly.  Whether positive or negative, life narratives have a lasting effect of our personality and who we are as people.
With that said, as a coach you should understand there is nothing or no one that is perfect or without imperfections/weaknesses.  Therefore in the sports world we should focus on our player’s strengths, not their weaknesses.  If a player has strong communication and leadership skills, you should embrace that and insert them into vocal leadership roles.  Likewise with psychological skills, if a player has a strong emphasis on team, you should focus on team oriented and team building drills.  This re-enforces their belief in the idea of a team.
In terms of self-report surveys such as the ACSI-28 and TOPS being more useful or more harmful in sports, I would say it depends on the situation.  I don’t think you can argue that there isn’t something to self-report’s, but does that mean it should always be used?  I say no, I wouldn’t use these assessments unless used as a last resort.  Assessments like these can cause a lot of problems for teams and players.  If a player takes this assessment and doesn’t agree with what it says about them, they could become very upset and may negatively affect their play.  For another point, players may look too much into these findings and attempt to following along with the findings at the risk of identity loss or identity confusion.  Test’s like these have a place in sports, but only if nothing else has helped and this is a last resort.
In conclusion I believe that using psychology to determine player personality traits can be beneficial if used in the right way and at the right time.  It shouldn’t be used to determine whether a player has the right traits to play a certain role on a team, but instead used to gain a better understanding of who a player really is and to help predict how a player might react to certain types of criticism or praise.

    Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.)                                 Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 

    McAdams, D.P., & Pals, J.L. (2006). A new big five :Fundamental principles for an     
          integrative science of personality. American Psychologist, 204-217.