Associate Professor Daniel Gucciardi
“Seeing people make the most of what they have” is something that Daniel cites as being one of the most rewarding aspects of his job as a researcher in exercise science and physiotherapy at Curtin University. His areas of interest include performance psychology, human behaviour, resilience, motivation and mental toughness in a sporting environment. So what led to such an interesting career choice? “I love sport- watching it, playing it, and psychology always interested me” says Daniel. “Part of this interest in psychology when it comes to sport”, he mentions, “is that you see teammates that have incredible physical skills but don’t apply them, and others that have limited skills but perform really well. Watching people who play sport and their individual differences in what they do with what they have is really interesting.”
“Basically, we are asking the question - how do people get the most out of their psychology to perform the way they want to perform?”
Daniel’s current area of research is resilience and how that plays a role in human performance. For example, how would you feel if you lost your teammate to injury when playing sport? Would that put pressure on you to perform better, and how would you handle that pressure? What if you yourself got an injury? Daniel’s research specifically looks into the stress that athletes go through when facing such an event, and how they are able to bounce back from it. “Basically, we are asking the question-how do people get the most out of their psychology to perform the way they want to perform?” Human behaviour can be quite complex and dynamic and can change at a moments notice, so it is really important that the information gathered is in real time and appropriate to the current situation.
Technology plays a massive part in capturing that information. Biomarkers are an example of that. A biomarker is a biological indicator that we can measure that tells us information about a certain condition, very consistently and accurately. To measure stress, researchers like Daniel use a biomarker called cortisol, which is a hormone that is produced more as stress levels increase. Cortisol is often produced in hair, so samples are taken from athletes hair to monitor their stress. There are many technologies that also record data on physical activity and even sleep patterns.
Three potential problems
- How can we improve psychological resilience?
- How can we change people mindsets about stress, form a negative concept, to one we can learn from and use to help each other?
- How can we best improve recovery after physical activity?
Tips and tricks for problem solving
- Make sure that you understand the problem, think to yourself, what are you really trying to solve?
- Sometimes it’s a good thing to step away from the problem and try to see it from different vantage point.
- See what resources you have available to you to solve the problem and think how best you can use those resources.
- Remember that, if you can, its always good to work together in a team towards a common goal. You don’t have to work alone.