WILKES-BARRE — You can tell which fist is about to come at you by watching a boxer’s eyes, Carl Charnetski says.
If you were close enough and fast enough, you could tell which way a soccer player is about to kick, or a hockey skater is about to deke.
That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to ways sports psychology is poised to boom, the Wilkes University psychology professor said — which is why Wilkes is introducing the study as a minor this fall.
“It’s exploding,” Charnetski said. “When one team does it, every team in that sport has to do it to stay competitive.”
He rattles off how a person trained in sports psychology can help a team or a player succeed. The boxing thing, for example, comes from the fact that your left brain controls your right body and the other way around. Eye movements can, in turn, predict body movement.
This bit is a favorite for Charnetski, who says he originally was training in New Jersey to become a professional boxer before opting for a psychology degree and a life in that field. At the age of 69, he still does some daily training that is equal to “going three rounds.”
There are techniques that can find how your mind is firing when your body is performing at peak — tossing the perfect football pass, swinging a baseball bat just right — and ways to train you to make your brain fire that way just as you are about to do that task.
“Wilkes is uniquely positioned to do that with our neurosciecne lab,” Charnetski said.
The lab can be used to provide feedback that trains a person to recreate the brain patterns, and that training can be recreated out on the court or field.
There are also techniques for reducing stress and anxiety — and for telling when those conditions are impacting specific efforts.
“When a quarterback throws high — overthrows — that’s usually stress,” he said.
The minor can be taken by any student in any program. It requires 22 credits, and the school has and is building an array of internship opportunities in the real world of sports.
And while it may sound like a lot of the focus is suitable for a person actually working with an athlete, the skills apply to a wide range of fields, Charnetski said: physical therapist, occupational therapist, sports analyst, coach, athletic trainer and even sports writers.
The field is diverse and growing, as are the opportunities, he added. “There are a lot of little things that contribute to sports psychology that people don’t think about.”