Dr David Shearer, Reader in Sport Psychology, worked closely with Welsh athletes in preparation for The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow to provide them with bespoke biofeedback interventions. Analysing the data collected during training sessions, he was able to help them change their physiological response to pressure in order to gain greater control of their emotional states and subsequently achieve better performances during the competition time.
The project first engaged with the Welsh Target Shooting Federation as some practical restrictions of existing kit suggested that target sports were the most conceptually suited sport for the use of real-time biofeedback training. Building on this success, the project was later rolled out to other athletes, coaches and performance directors, helping them develop their emotional control in pressure situations .
The bespoke biofeedback was an integral part of the development pathway set up to help athlete address areas for development, and was equally valued by the athletes and the coaching teams and contributed to Wales returning with a record breaking 36 medals – including 5 gold medals – from the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Although this project allowed the team to successfully support athletes to improve their performances, it also brought to light the limitation of existing biofeedback technology in elite sports. Highlighting functionality that could enhance biofeedback provision, Dr Shearer has identified that further peripherals and third party software applications of relevance for the athletes could be developed in the future.
Dr David Shearer, who is leading the project at the University said: “Biofeedback is an arousal awareness intervention used in health, clinical and performance settings, to help users develop control of their emotional states, by providing immediate visual feedback of their physiological status. This project aimed to address specific shortcomings in the current technology that limits it application in sport, and deliver tangible performance benefits to the Welsh athletes involved in the project.”
The bespoke biofeedback developed for Sport Wales was an integral part of the development pathway set up to help athlete prepare for international competition. It successfully contributed to Wales winning a record breaking number of medals at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The partnership with Sport Wales created an opportunity to facilitate the recruitment of Mike Gross, a Research Assistant extending the already completed research on biofeedback in sport .
The partnership fostered the beginning of the Welsh Institute of Performance Science (WIPS), a hub that combines expertise from Sport Wales, academia and industry to provide Welsh athletes, coaches and practitioners with access to leading researchers and the latest research in the field of sporting performance
The project with Sports Wales brought to light the limitation of the existing biofeedback technology and gave the researcher an opportunity to devise new third party software of relevance for the athlete.
The University of South Wales has a strong tradition of health science education at all levels, from undergraduate training to postgraduate study and research.
By focusing on the workplace and preparation for practice, it allows specialist research units and centres to operate across the spectrum of health, education, sport and science.
Although staff members are aligned to one research area, the Faculty have adopted a holistic approach and collaboration across the different research units and groups is common. Researchers create links with health economics, social policy and psychology providing solutions to real-life problems.
Within health and social care, the Faculty have established units of national and international renown in learning disabilities, genetics education and public engagement, and health economics.