Virtual Reality's Enhancement in Sports Psychology

Virtual Reality's Enhancement in Sports Psychology

VR is invading all aspects of life for the better.

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Athletes spend countless hours perfecting their skills to perform to the best of their ability. They push through exhaustion and pain, stressing their limits both physically and mentally. As their athletic prowess grows and competition becomes more stressful, they must increase their mental strength and stamina to accommodate.

Sports psychologists help athletes cope with the tremendous pressures that come with competition and extreme training. They want athletes to avoid mental lapses and physical injury. Maintaining a healthy physical and mental balance is crucial for competitive athletes—and sports psychologist are using new technologies such as virtual reality to realize that balance.

What is Sports Psychology?

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Sports psychology is a science dedicated to helping athletes train and prepare for competition. Coping with competitive stress isn't easy. It takes strong mental fortitude. Athletes who perform at high competitive levels are naturally more susceptible to injury and emotional trauma. Through the application of sports psychology, athletes can learn how to handle the pressures that are associated with competition.

Competitive pressures include more than the game or event itself. There are external factors that can be challenging to replicate on the practice field. Factors such as a sports venue's unique environment, crowds, and noise may not be truly experienced by an athlete until actual game time. This can have an adverse affect. Fortunately, sports psychologists have been utilizing virtual reality as a platform to introduce these 'game time' factors in a healthy and safe way.

What is Virtual Reality?

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Virtual reality is a three-dimensional world created by a computer that can be explored from a first person point of view. In short, it is an immersive computer-generated environment that a user can experience and marginally control. With virtual reality, people can now experience environments and events as never before. These experiences can be used for entertainment or as a medical tool.

In the case of sports psychology, virtual reality offers brand new possibilities to both professional and amateur athletes. Sports psychologists can simulate situations, completely control the athlete's environment, and replay simulations so the athlete can observe their reactions first hand.

Simulation and Control

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Virtual reality simulators come in different shapes and sizes. They can be as large as an immersive room, or as small as wearable headgear. Both can provide imagery that is realistic, or more computerized in nature, depending on the need. The benefit of simulation technology lies in the psychologist's ability to create or recreate environments, instead of merely relying on the athlete's imagination.

Psychologists can build environments that are unique to the athlete's sport, and that mimic external game time factors. Distractions such as crowds, lights, and high noise levels are known to increase pressure on athletes. These and other factors can all be regulated to better train and prepare athletes. Through simulations, psychologists can also repeat one action, one event, or one situation multiple times, enabling athletes to hone their response. Furthermore, virtual reality simulation can provide psychologists the chance to observe specific techniques and performances an athlete needs to improve.

Simulation Replay

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Another important asset that virtual reality brings to sports psychology is the ability to replay. Whether using a first person viewer or a computer monitor, sports performers can visit and revisit situations or movements with accuracy and precision. Virtual reality is taking the guesswork out of sports actions and replacing it with exact measurements.

Visualization is a valuable tool in sports, and virtual reality can greatly enhance it. Athletes and coaches can now precisely observe an athlete's performance from past games or augmented simulations. During repeated observation, coaches can compare the movements of multiple athletes against one another to find weaknesses or strengths to acknowledge. Additionally, they can adapt new techniques to gameplay situations that were previously unobserved because of their sporadicity.

Virtual reality provides the viewer with the opportunity to visualize 'outside of themselves' and make corrections from a different point of view. Thanks to repeated simulation replay, athletes can identify their performance comfort zone; the performance level at which their bodies are most effective and efficient. Like most people, athletes can be told what to improve and how to improve it—but actually seeing what needs to be changed makes all the difference.

Sports Simulators for All

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Virtual reality systems can be used for all types of sports and games: soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey, and beyond. Some simulators are used for entertainment, providing people with the ability to virtually ski, bike, drive race cars, fly airplanes, and participate in any number of activities. Although these simulators are not often used for psychological purposes, they have grown to accommodate a wide variety of needs.

The virtual reality equipment that is employed by sports psychologists is specifically pointed toward scientific research and helping athletes build their mental toughness. These technologies may be entertaining to use, but their true purpose is to sense, measure, and analyze data meant to improve an athlete's overall performance. Whether it's use is for physical training, psychological purposes, or simply entertainment, virtual reality is becoming more prominent than ever before in athletics.

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The Top 20 Hottest NHL Players

Hockey players are so much more than toothless, scarred beasts.
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As a lifelong fan of the NHL, I've grown up watching the tough and rugged players on the ice. I have learned to appreciate their ice presence when they're playing and now I can appreciate how well they clean up off ice. I believe hockey players are some of the most underrated athletes in America. They're more than just scarred up, toothless beasts. These ice gods heat up the ice with not only their talent, but with their looks as well.

Since the hockey season is in full swing, I felt it was an appropriate time to recognize their attractiveness along with their talent. So without further ado, here are the hottest male professional hockey players in the league as of today.

20. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

This studly player is impressive at every angle. He is second in the league only to Alex Ovechkin for most goals scored this season. That, along with sex appeal such as his, makes him a major cause of racing hearts and swooning.

19. Andrew Ference, Edmonton Oilers

Captain of the Oilers and environmental extraordinaire, he has skills on the ice that pertain to more than just good stats and records. His care for the environment, smoking hot looks, and performance on ice are three reasons why he is featured here.

18. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

While being one of the best goalies in the league, Carey Price is one foxy man. He has hockey in his blood: his father played for the Philadelphia Flyers. That explains his incredible talent which led him and his Canadian team to win the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

He does, however, have a wife. I can only hope I become as lucky as her and all of the other NHL wives.

17. Chris Higgins, Vancouver Canucks

Chris Higgins? More like Prince Charming. His swoon-worthy charm and sweet persona draw attention to him. That, and his incredible abilities as a hockey player. He is one of the most respectful players in the league, making him a man no one can hate.

16. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

This hunk has everything going for him: a second-to-none defenseman rating, long and luscious hair, and those muscles. He's just 25 years old and has been playing for seven seasons. I wouldn't mind being able to meet him and see if those muscles really are bigger than my head.

15. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

This man has made himself a household name along with being extraordinarily good looking. As the captain of the Penguins, he is incredibly skilled on and off the ice. It's approximated that he earns $8.7 million per year. If he's getting paid that much for less than perfect puck handling, it must mean he's good.

14. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins

This beauty is a defenseman with one Stanley Cup win under his belt. He's even won gold medals at back-to-back at the World Junior Championships. He has all that plus looks; what a catch. However, he's got a son that means the world to him, along with a very lucky wife.

13. Beau Bennett, Pittsburgh Penguins

Beau is 6'2" of pure handsome. His boyish charm and potential star athlete are hard features to overlook. He is working his way up to making a name for himself, as he is just 24 years old. Ladies, get a hold of him while you still can.

12. Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks

This proud papa is a ten year veteran defenseman. His looks aren't the only thing he excels in. Without him, Chicago's defense would be missing a key part of their team.

11. Jeff Carter, LA Kings

While he is a two time Stanley Cup winner, Carter is a beautiful man as well. He's a ten year veteran. Surprising, right?

This romantic proposed to his girlfriend just days after winning his second Stanley Cup. So, sorry ladies, he's happily married.

10. Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings

His veteran status at age 35 seems like a fictional statement. He does not look 35 whatsoever. My theory is that he's a vampire. Or maybe he just ages well.

In his career, he has scored 308 goals as a left winger for the Red Wings. He's got the looks and the talent, as do most of the men on this list.

9. Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers

As captain of the Rangers, McDonagh is a renowned defenseman. His grace on the ice makes him a key player in the Rangers' lineup. Injuries have plagued him this season, but his skills have yet to falter.

8. TJ Oshie, Washington Capitals

For those of you who love men with long hair, TJ Oshie is your guy. He's got the flow not only with his luscious locks, but with his hockey skills as well. He's a veteran winger that is as good on the ice as he is in looks.

7. Alex Wennberg, Columbus Blue Jackets

This Swed has only been in the league for 2 years, so he's a pretty new face to the NHL community. So, look out for him in the next few years, ladies. This 21-year-old is a promising athlete and exceptionally gifted in the looks department.

6. Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings

This Canadian defenseman is a key player on the ice for the Red Wings. He is a well-suited veteran, playing in the league for 10 years. Despite his veteran status, his looks have been constant through the years.

His muscular build is necessary during games and greatly appreciated when the pads come off. I'm sure those muscles are bigger than my head.

5. Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks

This veteran has been in the league for 13 seasons, but has not lost his charm. He has been with the Canucks for 11 of those seasons; he was traded to the Ducks only two years ago. His talent goes past his hockey skills as he released his own clothing line, "RK17."

He is married and a father of three beautiful children. Sorry ladies, but there are more men to choose from on this list that are just as attractive.

4. Derick Brassard, New York Rangers

Tall, dark, and handsome. Standing at 6'1", this center has made a name for himself throughout his eight years in the league. Originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets, he was later traded to the Rangers, where he has been a star. As a Rangers' fan, I am not complaining whatsoever. He has netted 122 goals throughout his career and his on-ice presence is essential to the Rangers' playmaking abilities.

He is, unfortunately, taken by former figure skater Terra Findlay. She's a lucky lady to be with such a talented, good looking man.

3. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars

I would do anything to see him riding the zamboni as he's pictured above at intermission. This 24-year-old Canadian was drafted in the first round, second overall. He's netted 32 goals this season already, which is tied for third in the NHL behind Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Kane.

Along with his impressive on-ice skills, he is unbelievably attractive. Look how toned his legs are! To my knowledge, he is single as a Pringle. I just wish he would mingle somewhere near me.

2. Marcus Foligno, Buffalo Sabres

This 24-year-old has been in the league for four years and I only just discovered him during my quest for attractive hockey players. He's not a very well-known player, but he's incredibly talented and single. Go get him ladies!

1. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Number 30 on the ice and number 1 in my heart. I may be a bit biased, being a Rangers fan and all, but there is no doubt that Henrik is the most attractive player in the league thus far. He's also one of the best goaltenders to ever grace the ice. Recently -- February 25, 2016, to be exact -- he passed Mike Richter for most saves in the Rangers' franchise history in their win against the Blues.

Sorry ladies, this Swed is married happily and has a young son. Therese Andersson is one lucky lady.

Now, I can only hope that I am lucky enough to marry an NHL star. It's my goal in life to score one of these extraordinarily attractive men. (Bad pun? Sorry.) A girl can dream, can't she?

Cover Image Credit: askmen.com

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Giannis Antetokounmpo And Christian Yelich Have Put Milwaukee Back On The Map

Two small market teams making sure the world knows who they are

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"MVP" is currently being chanted around the city of Milwaukee and the people of Milwaukee aren't just talking about one person. Giannis Antetokounmpo, a forward for the Milwaukee Bucks and Christian Yelich, an outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers. Giannis is on the path to winning this year's NBA MVP and Yelich, who happened to win the NL MVP last year, is showing no doubts on potentially becoming this year's MVP as well.

Both the Bucks and the Brewers have struggled in the past few years. The Bucks finished their 2013-2014 season with a record of 15-67. On top of that, they have been playing in the BMO Harris Bradley Center for the past couple of decades. The Bradley Center was intentionally built for hockey and not basketball so attending games for the Bucks sometimes had you in the nosebleeds barely seeing what was going on on the court. The Bucks struggled after their 2013-2014 season with records of 41-41 (2014-2015) and 33-49 (2015-2016). Now, the Bucks have recently finished their regular season and moved to the playoffs. From 15-67 just five years ago, to now 60-22 which gave them the best record in the NBA, the number one seed in the East and home-court advantage, Giannis has proved himself as potentially one of the greatest players the NBA and the Bucks franchise will ever see.

The Bucks now have a new arena that opened this season, Fiserv Forum, which is built specifically for the Bucks (and Marquette) instead of hockey. Looking back on the Bucks in their previous years compared to now, the Bucks have sold out every single game this season. Something Milwaukee never thought they would see from being a small market team. From my experience, while working for the Bucks, you can see the difference in the crowd and feel their enthusiasm and excitement radiating off of the fans. And this is all thanks to Mr. Antetokounmpo who is making his mark here in Milwaukee. Giannis has won Eastern Conference Player of the Month for October/November, December, February and March/April and even earned his spot as Eastern Conference captain for the All-Star game this year. Giannis may be considered in his prime right now, but he is only 24-years-old which means he has plenty of time to only make himself better.

The Brewers had won the NL Central Divison back in 2011 but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. After that, they struggled a bit and haven't won the title since until last year in 2018. He brought the Brewers to the NLCS last season, but unfortunately, they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yelich had 36 home runs last season and already has eight (as of 4/16/19) this season. He happens to be a great right fielder as well. In last night's (4/15/19) game against the Cardinals, Yelich alone scored three home runs.

Miller Park has been filling up more and more each game of Brewers fans. Being a small market team like their cross-city friends, the Bucks, bringing home an MVP title as well as a division title, it makes everyone aware of their greatness and dedication. The season may have just started back up again, but there is no doubt, if Yelich and his teammates keep playing like they are right now, they will have another shot of making it to the World Series.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Christian Yelich have brought and will continue to bring excitement and greatness to Milwaukee which is something the city hasn't seen in a while. This era of sports will surely be remembered for a long time by the people of Milwaukee and Wisconsin.

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