Optimizing External Focus of Attention Instructions: The Role of Attainability

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Cheryl Coker Plymouth State University

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This study examined the effect of individually tailoring an external focus reference point in line with ability on standing long jump (SLJ) performance. Twenty-one female Division III hockey players (ages 18–23 years) performed two SLJs under 4 attentional focus conditions: (a) no focus provided (control), (b) focused on rapid knee extension (internal); (c) focused on jumping as close as possible to a cone placed at 3 m (external far), and (d) focused on jumping as far as possible past a cone placed, unbeknownst to them, at the maximum distance achieved on their last SLJ test, recorded during team testing at an earlier date (attainable). Findings were consistent with the literataure in that instructions that induced an external versus internal focus of attention resulted in significantly longer jumping distances. In addition, horizontal displacement was significantly longer when participants adopted an external focus of attention toward an attainable distance goal versus all other conditions. Results suggest that for goal-oriented movements that require maximum effort, individualizing the distance of an external focus of attention according to capability enhances its effect.

Cheryl Coker is with the Department of Health and Human Performance, Plymouth State University, Plymouth, NH.

Address author correspondence to Cheryl Coker at cacoker@plymouth.edu.
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