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Graduation stories - sport psychology at the Olympics

22 August 2014

Hungarian student Bela Havasreti graduated this summer with a first class degree in Psychology. 

During his time here at Abertay, he was involved in some of Dr Ken Scott-Brown’s pioneering eye-tracking research and shadowed the work of the Hungarian Olympic team's official sport psychologist at the 18th Diving World Cup.

He was also a sport psychologist intern in Budapest during the summer of 2012 before the Olympic Games began in London that same year.

Here he tells us how he got involved in these opportunities, his experience at Abertay over the past four years, and why he chose to study here.

Why Abertay?

“It all began in 2009 when I finished my sport science degree at the University of West Hungary. I was full of ambition and had a lot of motivation to pursue my dream subject - psychology - here in the UK.

“I chose Abertay because it was a relatively young university with passionate lecturers who had graduated from prestigious institutions from across Europe, and it was also ranked as Scotland's leading modern university for psychology research in 2008. It was the only university I applied to, so I was very lucky that I was taken.”

Eye-tracking research

“As part of your degree here, you can come up with your own research idea for your Honours project, which makes it truly a unique experience.

“My own project looked into using mobile video goggles and eye-tracker technology to improve golf performance.

“The eye-tracker is widely used by sport psychology practitioners, for instance for measuring a professional football player’s eye movements while keeping the ball for five seconds.

“Because I used to play football, I thought it would be great to carry out similar research testing football players’ eye movements during a penalty kick task, so I approached Dr Ken Scott-Brown - who is an expert in perception - and he thought this would be great.

“However, thinking about practicalities, we settled on something a bit smaller in scale so that we could use the excellent facilities Abertay has on campus.

“From Ken’s work using the eye-tracker, we had already established that teaching people the steady-eye technique improves their performance.

“So we set up a golf putting task in the HIVE - the Human Interactive Virtual Environment - and got our participants to putt whilst wearing mobile video goggles both before and after watching a golf putting instruction video, explaining what this is.

“This was the foundation of my study as I was measuring if video instruction would improve players’ golf putting performance.

“The results showed that those who received the video instruction performed significantly better than those who got the same instructions but in a written format.”

Why was this an important finding?

“Although just a small study, the results were interesting, because they show that the instruction video could be used in real life to help beginner golf players improve their game.

“It was a really exciting project to work on, because eye-tracking technology hasn’t really been looked at in this way with golf before and getting to work on something so new, using the state-of-the-art technology that Abertay has to carry out this research, was a great experience.

“Perception is a fascinating area of psychology, and I would love one day to be able to do the penalty shoot-outs work if we can get funding.”

The Diving World Cup

“In 2012, while I was in my second year here at Abertay, I phoned up Dr Agota Lenart, who has been the official sport psychologist of the Hungarian Olympic team for the last three Olympic Games.

“I had never spoken to her before, but I was really keen to get some work experience in the field, so eventually she offered me the opportunity to go down to London for the 18th Diving World Cup.

“It was a fantastic hands-on experience which was followed by a summer internship in Budapest right before the Olympics in the summer of 2012. During the internship I had the chance to do pre-interviews with the professional athletes. Under her supervision I learned some useful hints and tips which I could never learn from books. So I would definitely recommend that other students do something like that - if you are interested in something, take every opportunity to get experience in it that you can.”

What’s so good about Abertay?

“The strength of Abertay is its incredibly passionate lecturers who will help you in any way they can. To prove the high quality teaching, some of my classmates have managed to secure a place at prestigious universities such as Kings College London or UCL.

“On the course at Abertay, they taught me how to think, how to be critical and how to question everything without just accepting things as they are. It makes me humble and no matter what profession I choose in the future, this philosophy will always be with me.

“I am going on to do a Masters in Health Psychology in September and, once I finish that, I have a number of options in my mind of what I will do. I'd like to follow a career in either health, clinical or sport psychology. Should any of these options work out I am going to be a happy person.

“Abertay has been an excellent place to study, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone.”

If you would like to find out more about this area of research, please visit our psychology course pages. We also have an interesting video, if you would like to find out more about Dr Ken Scott-Brown’s perception work and the eye-tracker. 

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