UTSA Human Performance Laboratory helps athletes reach peak performance
(Nov. 14, 2016) -- Action: The athlete swings his golf club. Effect: A golf ball rolls to one end of the room. In the seconds before and after the action and its effect, six specialized cameras capture the motions of the athlete, the club and the ball.
Nearby, William Land, assistant professor of kinesiology at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) watches as real-time, three-dimensional representations of each appear on his computer monitors and on the large projection wall at the back of the laboratory.
This is the UTSA Human Performance Laboratory. In it, Land and his graduate student assistants are working on understanding the cognitive and psychological factors that influence human movement, athleticism and–as the name suggests—performance.
"Fundamentally, humans move to bring about desired effects and outcomes in the environment. Athletes in particular train very hard to ensure their movements produce consistent effects,” said Land, who is an expert in sports psychology, attention and focus, and athletes choking under pressure.
According to Land, professional athletes excel at developing cognitive techniques for producing consistent motion such as anticipating the desired effects and outcomes of a skill. After extensive practice, the movements to produce those effects, like scoring a basket or pitching a ball, become almost automatic and require significantly less mental effort to do correctly.
Currently, Land is engaged in two ongoing research studies with a group of UTSA graduate students who assist him in the laboratory. The first project deals with figuring out how the relationships between a subject’s actions and its consequences can be used to improve learning and performance. The second study aims to understand how what someone is thinking about, also known as “attentional focusing,” can translate into greater accuracy during movement and performance.
In order to better understand and visualize these concepts, the UTSA laboratory is home to a variety of specialized equipment designed to assist in Land’s research. The technology includes motion capture equipment and cameras, Doppler software and hardware that can track movement in the air, and visual occlusion glasses that can manipulate a subject’s vision at the researchers’ wills.
“Through our state-of-the-art equipment and set-up, we can manipulate everything from visual to aural feedback and see in real-time the changes in subjects’ performances,” said Land. “It really helps us get a sense of how human cognition drives the body in performing actions, and this knowledge is important for facilitating training and learning of motor skills.”
Though Land and his assistants conduct their research using athletic performance as their main frame of reference, Land imagines their findings and research can be translated into other contexts, too.
“Every day, we’re finding new applications for our work,” said Land. “I can easily see our work being used to help in physical therapy and rehabilitation to improve patients’ motions, for example, and we are beginning to make exploratory efforts into seeing the applications available there.”
UTSA is ranked among the top 400 universities in the world and among the top 100 in the nation, according to Times Higher Education.
This high school student exhibit features images, videos, interviews and writings that the students learned about while participating in "The Will to Adorn: African American Dress and the Aesthetics of Identity."Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
UTSA has a greater focus in 2018 to serve the local community. Learn the many opportunities you can get involved.Student Union, 1st floor corridor, Main Campus
Dr. Ricky Jones, professor and chair of the Department of Pan-African studies at the University of Louisville. He will share his expertise on the impact of African American history on today’s society.Student Union, Retama Auditorium (UC 2.02.02), Main Campus
Come meet STEM recruiters in person from companies across the nation that have full-time, part-time and/or internship opportunities.Convocation Center, Main Campus
The summit is an opportunity to create an open forum for the community to share ideas and perspectives on civic engagement.H-E-B University Center Ballroom (HUC 1.104), Main Campus
Meet recruiters in person from companies across the nation that have full-time and/or internship opportunities. Professional dress required.Convocation Center, Main Campus
New exhibit of Latino and Latina artists is curated by Arturo Infante Almeida, art specialist and curator for the UTSA Art Collection. Opening Reception is Feb. 8; exhibit runs through June 10.Centro de Artes Gallery, 102 S. Santa Rosa, San Antonio
The UTSA commnity is encouraged to get involved in this city-wide initiative to clean up the San Antonio area waterways. Roadsrunners will be cleaning up Maverick Creek on the west side of Main Campus.Maverick Creek, Main Campus