Females in Sport
There are two aspects crucial to sport performance: the body (physiology) and the mind (psychology). The combination of the two allows us to develop better training systems to achieve optimal athlete performance. However, such systems are often based on knowledge developed for male athletes as females athletes present unique challenges due to physiological changes experienced during menstrual cycle and restricted opportunities and societal stereotypes affecting their performance (i.e., psychological aspects). Our team is interested in investigating both.
During their reproductive years women are exposed to continuously changing female steroid hormone profiles throughout the menstrual cycle or through oral contraceptive use. These variations not only affect the reproductive system, but also cause many physiological changes. Dr. Xanne Janse de Jonge investigates if these hormone fluctuations affect exercise performance. She is also interested in assessing if the "trainability" of females is affected by these fluctuations in female steroid hormones. Current projects focus on body composition throughout the cycle and on periodisation of resistance training programs to female hormone fluctuations.
Mental preparation for male and female athletes is not different. All of us experience the same difficulties associated with performance: coping with training and competition pressure and failures, experiencing physical and mental fatigue on daily basis, or dealing with personal life stressors affecting performance. Nevertheless, female athletes often experience added pressures related to gender stereotypes created by our society. For instance, if a female athlete makes a sincere mistake, she is often judged by being a female rather than taking into consideration physiological and psychological aspects needed to execute a skill under pressure. Dr Fraser investigates how such stereotypes are affecting female athletes’ experiences in sport as well as perceived and actual performance (e.g. the mediator effect of attentional focus on performance). She is also interested in how we can promote female athletes’ development by challenging existing sports culture and creating pathways to elite sport suitable for both male and female athletes. Findings are then used to empirically support the benefits of various initiatives aimed at promoting the developed of female athletes. Such initiatives include both creation of extra opportunities as well as offering professional development for coaches and other support staff.