Priority inclusive practices to improve paralympians’ self-regulation abilities

Dr. Sc. Psych., Professor A.A. Baranov1
Dr. Hab., Professor V.P. Ovechkin1
PhD, Associate Professor A.S. Suntsova1
1Udmurt State University, Izhevsk

Keywords: self-regulation, Paralympic sports, inclusive practices.

Background. The Paralympian movement has evolved into a highly popular sport system with the growing competitiveness for the last decade and, hence, a high demand for the individual determination and resource [3], with the mental fitness being commonly ranked among the top priority qualities of the athletes as underlined by many researchers including the national ones (V.A. Ivanov, A.V. Morozov, A.A. Banayan, I.N. Voroshin, A.G. Abalyan, S.A. Babchenko, V.D. Yemelyanov et al.).

Modern mental conditioning systems normally offer special mental control perfection trainings to improve the individual stress tolerance and resource mobilization qualities, step up the willpower, physicality and the ability to effectively recover after high-intensity sport-specific stresses. Progress in the mental self-regulation abilities will be secured both by the situational stress tolerance improvements in the training and competitive process and the personality development components focused on the individual motivations, self-ratings, social settings, emotional and volitional qualities and control etc. [1]. That is why the mental conditioning component of an athletic training system shall be designed on an uninterrupted basis and offer a variety of high-intensity focused training models and tools (applicable in the precompetitive periods) and maintenance training cycles in the interim periods. The modern Paralympian movement tends to make a growing emphasis on its socializing and rehabilitative missions and components. The core idea of these missions is that the sports improve the living standards of the disabled people and help them reinstate themselves and cope with the inferiority complexes [2], with these socializing abilities secured rather by the determined and optimistic social standings than the competitive accomplishments as such. A modern record holder in a Paralympic sport is expected to act as an ambassador for the sport and his/her social group to help the socially disadvantaged groups being fully acknowledged by communities to facilitate the sport movement being increasingly appreciated as the field for self-assertion and fulfillment by many other people with health disabilities and limitations. Modern inclusive approach in this context may be interpreted as the variety of social inclusion prioritizing practices fostering high compassion and cooperation of the athletes and offering multiple mutual benefits for the process participants.

Objective of the study was to rate benefits of the new inclusive mental training practices to improve the self-regulation qualities and abilities of the Paralympians with musculoskeletal disorders.

Methods and structure of the study. The training model piloting experiment was designed to include the following two modules: Module 1 of combined mental training practices to improve the energy resource and stress tolerance in the precompetitive training periods; and Module 2 dominated by inclusive off-sport socializing practices with a special priority to the individual mental controls and personality progress.

Most of the study was run during the education/ training cycles of elite national cross-country skiers and biathletes in the precompetitive periods prior to the Russian Championships. Sampled for the study were athletes with musculoskeletal impairments (n=14, including 6 females and 8 males). The experimental data were mined and the training process records with instructions from the team psychologists were collected and processed by V.A. Lekomtsev, Honorary Master of Sport of Russia, two-times Paralympic (2014) Champion and three-times World Champion in cross-country ski races and biathlon, under supervision from Associate Professor A.S. Suntsova. The mental training system offered combined autogenic trainings, suggested relaxation, mental conditioning with audio records by P.V. Bundzen and V.I. Balandin; plus visual-auditory stimulations. The mental control excelling course was geared to attain the following goals: correct/ mitigate negative mental/ emotional conditions; improve the stress tolerance; master rehabilitation practices applicable after hard trainings; and step up the individual motivations for progress.

In the training process the sample was tested by computerized Bio-Well Test System to rate the mental/ physical statuses based on the energy resource and background stress test rates; and MINDSKIN Test System to rate the mental/ emotional stress levels by the galvanic skin response (GSR) tests; with the mental training process assisted by MIRAGE training machine to train the cerebral functions and improve the mental/ emotional condition using the visual-auditory stimulation. Training progress (improvement in the individual mental control abilities) was rated on a daily basis by the following formula by A.K. Drozdovsky [4]: TP= (GSR1- GSR2)/ (GSR1+ GSR2) x 100 (%), with GSR1 and GSR2 meaning the galvanic skin response rates prior to and after each training session. The individual mental control ability was rated by the practical shooting tests in the precompetitive biathlon trainings. The experimental data were processed by SPSS statistical software tools.

Subject to Module 2 of the study were 6 athletes. The off-training socializing events organized and hosted by V.A. Lekomtsev included meetings of the Paralympians at inclusive education schools for disabled and healthy children. Each of the social events was designed to spur up the individual sport motivations, mitigate the mental/ emotional stressors, improve the socializing skills and social wellbeing of the athletes and broader engage them in the socializing practices. The study was designed to outline the field for analysis, formulate the hypothetic health benefits of the inclusive practices and test them by an experiment.

Study findings and discussion. The energy resource and background stress were tested to rate the individual mental control progress on a daily basis during four education/ training cycles. Given on Figures 1 and 2 hereunder are the averaged energy resource (ER) and background stress (BS) rates of the sample.

Figure 1. Averaged energy resource rates of the sample in the first (ER1) and fourth (ER2) training cycles: ER (conventional units) on the vertical axis; and training days on the horizontal axis

Figure 2. Averaged background stress rates of the sample in the first (BS1) and fourth (BS2) training cycles: BS (conventional units) on the vertical axis; and training days on the horizontal axis

The energy resource rates on Figure 1 show the persistent growth of the energy resource in the sample from the first to fourth education/ training cycle; whilst the BS rates in the period may be interpreted as indicative of the relative stabilization of the mental/ emotional conditions for the experimental period. Some of the athletes, however, were tested with relatively high individual BS rates for the whole training period that may be interpreted as indicative of the individual sensitivity that requires a special attention to the post-training rehabilitation practices. The individual mental control skills were tested under the study by practical biathlon shooting practices [3]: see Table 1 hereunder.

Table 1. Average mental control test rates of the sample and shooting scores in the Training Cycles (TC) 3 and 4 and Russian Championship of 21.01-24.01.2017

 

Mental control test rate

Russian Championship: shooting score

TC 3 shooting score

TC 4 shooting score

1

33,3

78

93

88

2

21,8

72

85

89

3

20,3

90

88

90

4

9,1

70

79

85

5

38,5

98

91

94

6

54,1

93

95

97

7

33,8

86

89

96

8

17,6

82

85

93

9

19,0

78

88

86

10

41,4

87

89

90

The test data correlation analysis found meaningful direct correlations between the individual mental control test rates and the shooting scores in the Training Cycles (TC) 3 and 4 and  Russian Championship: r=0.863 with р<0.01; r=0.695 with р<0.05; and r=0.698 with р<0.05, respectively. Shooting accuracy in biathlon is well known to be in a close correlation with the individual mental control skills and, hence, the test data may be interpreted as indicative of the practical benefits of the new mental training model in the precompetitive training process.

Module 2 of the experiment included 3-4 meetings of each athlete with the university students and schoolchildren to facilitate the socializing process. At this juncture, success of Module 2 may be rated by the athletes’ feedbacks; albeit further studies are recommended to obtain sound additional empirical evidence of the Module benefits for the individual mental control skills. It should be mentioned in this context that the Paralympians’ socializing practices were piloted after the Russian Championship and prior to Training Cycle 4. The Table data show progress of the sample on the way from the Russian Championship to Training Cycle 4, with the progress provisionally attributable to the socializing Module. On the whole, the athletes actively engaged in such socializing practices tend to consider them an integral part of their sport careers and appreciate their benefits, particularly the impetus and ‘energy charge’ from the contacts with children and university students. Such meetings and discussions have helped them compose and reinforce their own sport motivations, living styles, life situations, achievements and promises. A special emphasis deserves to be made on the Paralympians’ willingness to communicate and train with their healthy peers to share their practical training, living and competitive experiences. Regretfully, these aspects of the athletes’ lives and sport careers are still beyond the focus of the modern research in sport psychology despite the fact that they are critical for their progress, rehabilitation and competitive successes.

Conclusion. The study data and analyses showed benefits of the new mental conditioning inclusive practices as verified by the group progress in the mental and physical control skills; shooting accuracy in the biathlon subgroup; and the growing appreciation of the inclusive practices (communication with healthy athletes to share experiences, meetings with university students and schoolchildren with possible advisory and assistance service to beginners from the sport celebrities) by the group recognizing their socializing, motivational and mental conditioning effects for the athletes with health impairments. We recommend the inclusive practices as a promising resource for the Paralympic sports facilitation and promotions purposes, to prevent and mitigate its potential isolation and social segregation effects on the sporting people with health impairments regardless of their competitive accomplishments.

References

  1. Baranov A.A Razvitie professionalnykh kompetentsiy u fizkulturnykh kadrov v usloviyakh realizatsii sub'ekt-sub'ektnoy obrazovatelnoy paradigmy [Physical education professional competences building within implementation of subject-subject educational paradigm]. Sovershenstvovanie sistemy professionalnogo fizkulturnogo obrazovaniya i povyshenie kvalifikatsii spetsialistov po fizicheskoy kulture i sportu v ramkakh realizatsii federalnoy tselevoy programmy razvitiya obrazovaniya na 2016-2020 gody [Improving vocational physical education system and advanced training of physical education and sports specialists within implementation of the federal target program for development of education for 2016-2020] Proc. nat. res.-prac. Conf.. October 19-21 2016, Izhevsk, 2016, pp. 15-18
  2. Evseev S.P., Abalyan A.G. Sport kak faktor samorealizatsii i povysheniya kachestva zhizni lits s ogranichennymi vozmozhnostyami [Sport as a factor of self-realization and improving quality of life of people with impairments]. Vestnik sportivnoy nauki, 2016, no. 2, pp. 49-51.
  3. Morozov A.V. Psikhologicheskie problemy rossiyskogo sporta (navstrechu XXXI Letnim Olimpiyskim igram v Rio-de-Zhaneyro)[Psychological problems of Russian sports (towards the XXXI Summer Olympic Games in Rio)]. Natsionalny psikhologicheskiy zhurnal, 2015, no. 3 (19), pp. 81-90.
  4. Drozdovski A.K., Rorotkov K.G. Express-evaluation of the psycho-physiological  condition of Paralimpic atletes. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, 2012, no.3, pp 215-222.

Corresponding author: st.ped@mail.ru

Abstract

Objective of the study was to rate benefits of the new mental training and inclusive practices to improve the Paralympians’ self-regulation abilities. The elite Paralympians with musculoskeletal system impairments qualified for the Russian national skiing and biathlon teams were sampled for the study purposes. The new inclusive training model piloting experiment was designed to offer a combined mental control training (autogenic trainings, suggested relaxation, mental conditioning plus visual-auditory stimulations) and inclusive practices with meetings of the Paralympians, university students and schoolchildren. The sample was tested by the computerized Bio-Well Test System to rate the energy resource and background stress levels; and MINDSKIN Test System to rate the mental/ emotional stress levels by the galvanic skin response (GSR) tests. The study data and analyses showed benefits of the new mental conditioning inclusive practices as verified by the group progress in the mental and physical control abilities; shooting accuracy in biathlon subgroup; and the growing appreciation of the inclusive practices by the group recognizing their socializing, motivational and mental control improvement effects for the athletes with health impairments. We recommend the inclusive practices as a promising resource for the Paralympic sports facilitation purposes that needs to be addressed by further research.