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Spanish Soccer Champs to Get a Scientific Kick

Sports psychologists hook up with Real Madrid


Joseph Coughlin (from left), MIT AgeLab director, Valter di Salvo, Real Madrid High Performance Centre head, and Leonard Zaichkowsky, BU's director of sports psychology training. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

An unprecedented agreement among Boston University, MIT, and Real Madrid, Europe’s most successful soccer franchise, will soon provide aspiring sports psychologists the chance to work with some of the world’s finest athletes.

Facilitated by Leonard Zaichkowsky, a professor of counseling psychology at the School of Education and at the School of Medicine and director of sports psychology training at BU, the agreement’s aim is to propel researchers toward a better understanding of the role of motivation, nutrition, and exercise in improving athletic performance and in helping people age well.

From a BU perspective, the deal opens the door for students to work with the reigning Spanish champions, plus implement findings back home with the University’s own sports teams.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, is hoping to get a few more years out of its stars. Typically, a professional male soccer player’s career begins in his late teens and ends in his early 30s. Better nutrition, exercise routines, and injury prevention could extend that span.

For MIT, the agreement represents a complement to AgeLab, its research center whose mission is to help people live longer and better. In theory, if an athlete’s career can be lengthened through better physiological practices, so could a quality lifespan for the nonathlete.

BU Today asked representatives from each party how they expect the agreement to benefit their institutions.

Leonard Zaichkowsky, School of Education and School of Medicine professor: “For BU, it’s a win-win. Our graduate students will have the opportunity to spend a month or a semester observing and working with high performers in Spain. We can learn a lot from high-end athletes and how this generalizes to the general population.”

Joseph Coughlin, MIT AgeLab director: “We hope to take a systems perspective to leverage the technology we have in our labs and to work with colleagues in engineering and engineering systems. For example, a number of our colleagues are working on a spacesuit for the trip to Mars. That kind of technology could benefit some sports here on Earth as well as older adults.”

Valter di Salvo, Real Madrid High Performance Centre: “We have the know-how working with the football [soccer] players and other athletes, but the universities have great knowledge in terms of research and technology. We want to create synergy between BU, MIT, and Real Madrid that can help the students, but more importantly, the normal person will benefit because all these things we try with top-level athletes, we will then transfer. We want to move in this sense, to not only extend life, but the career of our players. If they know themselves better, follow a specific program, work on injury prevention, they can extend their careers, just like people extend their lives and improve their quality of life."

Edward A. Brown can be reached at ebrown@bu.edu.


8 Comments on Spanish Soccer Champs to Get a Scientific Kick

  • Anonymous on 04.02.2009 at 7:56 am

    Real and Barca are the best teams

    I think that Spanish Soccer Champs is the World’s best. Real and Barca are the best teams. I get updates and results on latestsports news portal ESPN

  • Anonymous on 04.02.2009 at 3:50 pm

    Hala Madrid! :)

  • Anonymous on 04.02.2009 at 7:30 pm

    Real Madrid needs all the help they can get after the good old hammering Liverpool gave ’em recently!!

  • Anonymous on 04.04.2009 at 1:36 pm

    Great job Len! As a resident of west campus I’m proud to be living under the same roof as a world class professor and professional.

  • Anonymous on 04.29.2009 at 10:31 am

    Great accomplishment. Real Madrid should also create an alliance with BU to scout and recruit some of the potential top soccer players BU has to offer.

  • Anonymous on 05.04.2009 at 10:22 am

    Madrid number 1!

    Hala Madrid!! Hala Madrid

  • Evening Dresses on 11.28.2009 at 6:02 am

    i like

  • hala madrid- kaka fan- Madrid #1 on 10.04.2010 at 5:54 pm

    i love you Madrid!

    i would honestly pay you 100,000,000,000 for those signed shirts! i mean all the best players in the world signatures’ on the GREATEST club side’s shirt in the world! IT IS PRICELESS! I HOPE THOSE PEOPLE KNOW THAT THEY ARE HOLDING THE GREATEST PIECES OF HISTORY IN THEIR HANDS! I MEAN IT IS MORE WONDERFUL THAN AN PICAS OR DI VINCI PAINTING!….LOVE U MADRID! WE HAVE THIS LA LIGA IN THE BAG!… FOREVER A KAKA , MADRID FAN! ………………….signed : forever Brazilian!

    @kaka_madrid_fan (twitter)

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