(July 5, 2018) -- William Land, assistant professor of kinesiology in the College of Education and Human Development (COEHD), is an expert in sport psychology.
In the UTSA Human Performance Laboratory, Land and his students research the cognitive and psychological factors that influence movement and motor skill acquisition in athletes.
Land studies how attention influences sport performance, the role of perceptual feedback during motor learning and how to prevent choking under pressure.
We recently asked Land about his research and the impact he hopes it will have.
Talk about the research you have underway. Why did you decide to focus on sport psychology?
My area of research deals with understanding the psychological and mental factors that help support elite athletic performance. Some of my earlier work investigated the mechanisms and strategies to prevent choking under pressure in athletes. Specifically, we saw that under performance pressure, athletes tend to change what they focus on, which negatively impacts performance. We also found that we could greatly reduce the effects of pressure by helping athletes learn to control their focus of attention.
My interest in sport psychology, and the mental side of sports, stems from my own background playing collegiate golf. Like many athletes, I was frustrated by the tendency to play well in practice but falter during the pressure moments. This life experience led me to pursue a master’s and Ph.D. in Sport Psychology from Florida State University.
Many athletes don’t realize that you can practice and develop mental skills just like you can practice and develop your physical skills. Our field of work can help athletes develop the mental skillsets needed to perform up to their highest capability.
More recently, my research has begun to focus on the use of mental skills within a law enforcement population. Interestingly, the same mental strategies that have been developed for elite athletes can also be beneficial to police officers to help manage high stress situations. This work can not only help officers perform better while on duty, but also reduce the negative effects of systematic stress on health-related factors.
What impact do you hope your research will have?
Ultimately, if I can help athletes train and perform better, then this will hopefully result in increased sport enjoyment. Now more than ever, there is increased pressure on youth athletes to perform at high levels, and this pressure can cause athletes to underperform and burn out of sports. High rates of dropout in sports is problematic given the prevalence of obesity in our society. I see my research as helping to support performance but ultimately also helping to enhance enjoyment and engagement in sports.
Tell us about the most important thing going on in your field that people aren’t talking about.
One point that I consistently make with my students is that although the field is called “sport psychology”, the relevance of this work goes far beyond the baseball diamond or golf course. Our field of study applies to all types of human performance whether that be law enforcement work, military or academic. Perhaps most critical is to recognize that our work on mental toughness, dealing with failure and how to handle stress are important lessons for our youth in general, and not just those in sports. I believe that our field could do more to bridge the gap in applying our work with elite athletes to the everyday youth population.
What advice do you share with students who are interested in entering your field?
Most students who want to become sport psychologists do so because they want to work with professional athletes. While most professional teams have sport psychologists on staff, the number of these positions are limited. However, there are growing opportunities for someone trained in sport psychology to work with other populations such as collegiate and youth athletes, military personnel and law enforcement.
What makes your department at UTSA unique?
The Department of Kinesiology, Health and Nutrition is comprised of faculty with a diverse set of expertise and backgrounds. This diversity in expertise allows our department to tackle difficult questions from multiple scientific perspectives (e.g., physical, mental, nutritional and lifestyle) to gain a better understanding of the factors that influence health, performance and quality of life.
Learn more about William Land.
Learn more about UTSA Department of Kinesiology, Health, and Nutrition.
Learn more about UTSA College of Education and Human Development.
All UTSA faculty, staff and students are invited to attend open forums featuring finalist candidates for the position of vice provost and dean of the UTSA Graduate School.Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
The Roadrunners close out the regular season at home against North Texas.Alamodome, 100 Montana St., San Antonio
This event showcases innovative student projects and research performed across multiple disciplines. The symposium is designed to provide a public venue where UTSA senior engineering students to present advances achieved in their design projects.H-E-B Student Union Ballroom (HSU 1.104/1.106), Main Campus
Join the Office of Information Technology for the grand opening of the Digital Experience Lab (DEx Lab). The DEx Lab is open to the entire UTSA community and contains innovative learning tools and serves as a virtual reality lab.Applied Engineering and Technology Building (AET 0.202), Main Campus
The College of Education and Human Development’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) program will celebrate its 25thanniversary with a special celebration on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. at the UTSA Downtown Campus. The event is free and open to the public.Buena Vista Street Building Theater (BVB 1.326), Downtown Campus
The students will perform in a showcase of modern, jazz, and ballet dances choreographed by Megan Rulewicz, Randi Miles and Michelle Pietri. Tickets are $10. Parking is free in the Cattleman's Square Lot.Buena Vista Street Building Theater (BVB 1.326), Downtown Campus
The last concert in the annual holiday music series will feature the UTSA Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band and University band. Open to the public; admission $10.Arts Building Recital Hall (ARTS 2.03.02), Main Campus
One of UTSA’s most memorable traditions when hundreds of Roadrunners will receive their class rings. Before the rings arrive at UTSA, however, they make a special stop to spend a night in Texas’ most iconic landmark, the Alamo.H-E-B Student Union Ballrooms (HSU 1.104/1.106), Main Campus