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Mind and Motion

April 7, 2019

Jacob Kluver's undergraduate research helps the track and field team succeed.

Jacob Kluver stands in front of a conference room table in the Sports and Health Center. His track and field teammates silently write out their goals for the upcoming meet and then they read them out loud. “I want to run nothing above a five flat,” says one. They go around the table spelling out specific steps to achieve their goals. “I’ll get eight hours of sleep every night before the meet,” says a second athlete. A third says he’ll drink two liters of water before every practice.

Jacob’s teammates are helping conduct an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Project (UROP) about the impact of goal setting and mental imagery on performance, anxiety levels, and perceived confidence levels. They met weekly in February and March of 2019, and this spring they’re putting their efforts to the test.

Members of the UMD track and field team work on setting goals for upcoming meets.
Members of the UMD track and field team work on setting goals for upcoming meets.

“We’re working on goal setting and visualization for UMD runners in hopes of increasing their perceived self confidence and decreasing their pre-competition anxiety,” Jacob says. “We hope that correlates with physical performance.”

Jacob, originally from Buffalo, Minn., has been running track since middle school. He’s a personal trainer at UMD, and he also competes through Bulldog Athletics. He’s on two UMD Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference teams: the cross country team and the track and field team, where he runs the 800 and 1500 meter races.

Jacob uses the tools himself. “Goal setting gives me something to have on my mind when I'm going through a hard workout, or when I’m sidelined because of an injury,” Jacob says. “Goals give me direction and keep me focused during the long track and field seasons. They provide checkpoints along the way to my end goal.”

UROP Showcase

Jacob is on the roster to present his research at the Spring UROP Showcase to be held Thursday, April 18, 2019. The program, which starts at 11 am and continues until 2 pm, will feature both poster and oral presentations. Poster presentations will be held in the Kirby Ballroom; the spoken presentations will be held in the Garden Room and Kirby 335.

The UROP project combines Jacob’s curiosity about sport psychology and his passion for racing.

UROP showcase infoWhen he started, he found there was insufficient research on track runners and mental imagery.

"I found a gap in the literature,” Jacob says. “There wasn't any research on track runners and mental imagery, but there is in other sports. I felt with my position on the team there was a perfect opportunity for a research project.”

Advice from the Expert

Dr. June (Jung Eun) Lee, Jacob’s faculty advisor on this project, has a background in sport and exercise psychology. Her research centers on the promotion of physical activity through enhancing psychological variables through various technology including, but not limited to, active video games (Wii), mobile apps, and virtual reality exercise equipment in children and college students.

Jacob and June have a great relationship. “June has been a great resource for me,” Jacob says. “I had no direction when I came to UMD, and she has helped me foster my knowledge and love of sport psychology throughout this research project. It has been a great experience, and I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity.”

Increasing the Wins

Jacob has seen how hard his teammates train. “I remember listening to all of their goals and then going to the meet and watching them compete,” Jacob says. “We measured their anxiety and confidence before hand and watching them race, it was amazing to see some of them actually meet some of their goals.”

At the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Indoor Championships at Mankato State University on February 22 and 23, only two weeks into the project, five of his teammates set lifetime best times in their races: Owen Smalley in the indoor 3k and 5k; Isaac Overmeyer in the 3k;  Noah Torvik in the indoor 600 meter; Jonathan Tostenson in the indoor 1000 meter; and Cole Fechner in the indoor 800m. At the March 31, 2019, outdoor opening meet at St. John’s University, Jacob won the 800 meter race (photo above by Rod Behm). His teammates won four different additional events and three placed second.

Jacob’s UROP project tests a common theory. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Sport Psychology program believes that having good goals is as important as having a good coach. Goals give direction, support, and feedback and show that focusing on smaller day-to-day activities lead to achieve bigger goals.

“I love the fact that running is so mental. The person next to you can be more physically in shape than you, but if they don't have mental training, they’ll have a hard time being successful,” Jacob says.

After graduation, Jacob wants to work in sport psychology to mentally train collegiate or professional athletes.

“I am open to working with any sport and not just track,” Jacob says. “I think these skills are applicable to any sport and other areas like business or acting, any venture. People need goals.”

Jacob recently received good news. He found out he has been accepted for a prestigious summer sports internship with Premier Sport Psychology in Edina, Minn.

About the Exercise Science program

About the Track and Field Team