Talk Examines Mental Side of Sports

By Scott Craig   |   October 18, 2022
Tim Van Haitsma (center) conducts mental strength research at Westmont’s Human Performance Lab (photo by Brad Elliott)

Tim Van Haitsma, Westmont associate professor and chair of the kinesiology department, is a lifelong runner who will speak about mental strength training on Thursday, October 13, at 5:30 pm in the Santa Barbara Community Arts Workshop (CAW), 631 Garden Street, in downtown Santa Barbara.

Dr. Tim Van Haitsma (photo by Brad Elliott)

The Westmont Downtown Lecture, “Mental Training: Magic or Physiologic Reality,” is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. Free parking is available on the streets surrounding CAW or in nearby city parking lots. For more information, please call (805) 565-6051. 

“I’ll examine the role of mental training within sport performance, and how mental training may elicit these changes physiologically,” he says. “I will then expand the talk to performance outside the microcosm of sport to general performance within life, giving a brief overview of how to incorporate these mental skills into day-to-day life.”

Van Haitsma, a graduate of Calvin College, earned a Master of Science at Indiana University and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Exercise and Sports Science at the University of Utah. He has taught at Westmont since 2014.

He has conducted private research for HOKA shoes, was quoted in Outside Magazine this summer, and recently published a study, “A Comparison of Two Methods for Analyzing Time Trials to Exhaustion Following Mental Training.”

Van Haitsma’s research focuses on the sensation of perception of effort, pain, and fatigue in athletes and how mental training might alter the body and/or mind. “I’m trying to understand why mental training works in athletes,” he says. “What unlocks this improvement in performance with mental training? Why are athletes able to run faster or cycle longer with no improvement in physical fitness? There is a large community of athletes here who may be interested in and could benefit from these findings.”

The Westmont Foundation sponsors the talk, part of Westmont Downtown: Conversations about Things that Matter. The foundation and local businesses also sponsor the President’s Breakfast on Friday, March 3, 2023.


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