NOTE: This is the latest in a series of Q&A stories featuring Brock University faculty members who are integrating the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games into their research projects. For more information on Brock’s academic activities around the Games, visit brocku.ca/canada-games
Valdeep Saini is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Disability Studies. His primary research interest is in the translation of basic behaviour science to areas of social importance. Some applications of his research include clinical applications of behaviour analysis, quantitative analyses of behaviour, and factors that influence the generalization and maintenance of behavioural interventions.
Saini is one of 11 Brock researchers and scholars who received funding under the 2020-21 round of the VPR Canada Games Grant program. Here, he discusses his research project titled “Translating Behavioural Momentum to Athlete Performance.”
Please give a brief overview of your research project.
Most sports fans are probably familiar with the concept of team or player momentum: situations in which an athlete is more likely to perform strongly after scoring points or otherwise improving a team’s progress. Sports broadcasters often refer to this sequence of athlete success as a player “getting hot.” Our team is exploring the persistence of an athlete’s success in the presence of disruptions, for example, the opposing team calling a time out.
What do you expect will be the outcome of your research?
Athlete and team momentum, as a function of prior success, is generally unknown. However, the concept of momentum has been shown to be a robust phenomenon across basic, translational and applied studies of behaviour. Therefore, we suspect that our findings will be consistent with prior research in that momentum is a quantifiable aspect of sports. We will use quantitative models of behaviour to estimate exactly how well our expectations match outcomes.
How will this contribute to knowledge or understanding of the Canada Summer Games?
The outcome of this research could have meaningful impact on how teams and coaches attempt to disrupt an opponent’s momentum during sports. If experimental research on behavioural momentum holds true in athletic performance, coaches could develop novel defensive strategies to decrease opponents’ scoring or capitalize on an opponent’s mistake. Furthermore, this study would be one of the first to apply the conceptual metaphor of “behavioural momentum” to athletic performance.
How did you become interested in this research?
Our lab focuses on the translation of experimental analyses of behaviour to areas of social importance, including sports performance. The unifying theme of our research is a commitment to apply scientific methodologies to address the needs of the public interest. As a result, attempting to quantify the momentum aspect of a sports game is a logical extension of our existing studies on human behaviour.
How do you plan on sharing your research?
Our plan is to disseminate our findings to athletes and coaches, because they are the ones who can incorporate the findings into the larger discussion on momentum in sports and provide novel insights on understanding momentum during athletics. We also believe there will be interest from the community in learning how behavioural psychology can be leveraged to increase excellence in sport. Our findings will also be of interest to sports psychologists. Some of our dissemination activities include one-on-one meetings with athletes, video clips of momentum in action, and publishing and presenting our outcomes with the scientific community.
Do you have any advice or tips on how colleagues in your Faculty can incorporate the Canada Games into their research?
Behavioural science spans the broad spectrum from basic discoveries to practical solutions. Our research focuses on bridging the gap between these areas. There exists a robust literature base in behavioural science that suggests the best outcomes for human problems are a result of a bidirectional process in which applied technology is enhanced by advances in basic research. I suggest that faculty and students consider how concepts like momentum that originate in the basic laboratory can be used to solve real-world problems.