Researchers suggest that some athletes, such as soccer players or golfers, may be able to enhance their performance, while under pressure, simply by squeezing a ball with, or clenching, their left hand before the start of a competition.
Researchers from Germany carried out three experiments with experienced soccer and badminton players, and judo experts, to test the skill of the athletes during practice, and also during competitions carried out before large crowd or before the video camera. Needless to say, the latter was much more stressful!
AdvertisementDuring the experiments, the scientists found out that right-handed athletes, who squeezed a ball held in their left hand before a competition, did not succumb to pressure compared to right-handed players who squeezed a ball in their right hand.
For skilled, competent athletes, kicking a soccer ball or doing a judo kick is done automatically without any conscious thought. Lead researcher Juergen Beckmann, PhD, an expert in sport psychology at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, states that when these athletes are under pressure, they fail to perform well, perhaps as a result of concentrating far too much on their own movements rather than depending on their well-honed motor skills that have been sharply developed due to years of practice!
Earlier research has revealed that rumination is linked to the brain's left hemisphere, while superior performances in automated behaviors, such as those seen in some athletes, are linked to the right hemisphere. It is a fact that the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and the right side of the brain controls the left body side.
The scientists proposed a theory that squeezing a ball using the left hand or simply clenching the left hand would stimulate the right hemisphere of the brain, which would reduce the chances of the athlete succumbing to pressure.
The study focused exclusively on right-handed athletes because in left handed people, some links between parts of the brain are not clearly elucidated.
These findings may have significant implications beyond athletics. Elderly people are afraid of falling and tend to concentrate too much on their movements. Beckmann suggests that it would be helpful if right-handed elderly clutched with their left hand when they walked, or climbed stairs.
The researchers suggest that the ball-squeezing technique is likely to benefit those athletes whose performance is based on complex body movements and accuracy, such as golfers and soccer players, and not those whose performance is based on strength or stamina, such as weightlifters or marathon runners.
The present study has been published online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.