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An external focus of attention, as opposed to an internal focus of attention, has been shown to increase performance and enhance learning. However, little research has examined whether these findings have been integrated into collegiate coaching and adopted by student-athlete performers. The purpose of this study was to examine the verbal instructions and instructional feedback provided by NCAA division 1 collegiate coaches during practice and how it influenced student-athletes’ focus of attention during competition. Thirty-one student-athletes completed a questionnaire that inquired about coaches’ verbal instructions and instructional feedback during practice and student-athletes’ focus of attention during competition. Fifty percent of participants reported that their coaches instructed them to focus their attention internally and only four participants reported that their coaches instructed them to focus externally. Our results also showed that coaches provided an equal amount of internal and external instructional feedback. During competition, however, the majority of participants reported statements that fell under the category of “winning and strategy.” These results suggest that the beneficial effects of an external focus of attention have not been integrated into NCAA division 1 collegiate coaching and the focus of attention adopted by student-athletes may be more complex than what is studied in laboratory research.
Diekfuss and Raisbeck are with the Dept. of Kinesiology, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC.