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Effects of Attentional Focusing Strategies on Muscular Power in Older Women

Hubert Makaruk, Jared M. Porter, Barbara Długołęcka, Urszula Parnicka, and Beata Makaruk

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of different foci of attention on parameters related to maximum muscular power in older women. Using a counterbalanced within-participant design, 23 physically active young-old women (age 59-69) completed a maximum effort cycle ergometer test following three types of verbal instructions. The external instruction (EXF) was designed to focus attention on moving the pedals as fast as possible, internal instruction (INF) directed attention toward moving the legs as fast as possible, and a control condition (CON) was created in which participants were instructed to perform the task to the best of their abilities. Results indicated that the EXF and CON conditions resulted in greater muscular power compared with the INF condition. Results also indicated that directing attention internally hindered muscular power performance in older women, which is consistent with the predictions of the constrained action hypothesis.

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No Fans, No Problem: An Investigation of Audience Effects on Shooting Performance in Professional Basketball

Logan T. Markwell, Andrew J. Strick, and Jared M. Porter

Sports, along with nearly all facets of life, have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Basketball Association quickly adopted a unique method to finish the 2019–2020 regular season and playoffs. The entire league quarantined for months in what was known as the “NBA bubble” where games were played in spectator-less arenas. During this time, increases in shooting accuracy were reported, suggesting that free throws and field goals were made at record-breaking levels. This study examined differences in free throw shooting accuracy with and without spectators. Archival data were retrieved and analyzed to evaluate the potential differences. Free throw shooting accuracy with and without spectators were examined in multiple analyses. Our examination revealed free throw percentages were significantly greater in spectator-less arenas compared with the 2018 and 2019 seasons with spectators. Changes of the environmental characteristics, due to spectator-less arenas, were likely contributors to the improved free throw phenomenon reported in this study.

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Directing Attention Externally and Self-Controlled Practice Have Similar Effects on Motor Skill Performance

Ayoub Asadi, Alireza Farsi, Behrouz Abdoli, Esmaeel Saemi, and Jared M. Porter

There were two aims to the present study. First, we sought to investigate how a form of self-controlled practice compared to a well-established strategy of explicitly directing a mover’s attention externally when performing the standing long jump. Those two forms of practice were also compared to conditions in which participants were instructed to focus their attention internally or neutrally (i.e., control condition). Second, we investigated if the skill level of the participants was a factor in the comparison of these two forms of training (i.e., directing attention externally and self-controlled practice). In the External condition, volunteers were told to focus on jumping toward a cone that was placed in front of them at a distance of 5-m. In the Internal condition, participants were told to focus on the extension of their knees. In the Self-control condition, volunteers were allowed to choose a distant target to focus their attention on while executing the jump. Participants also completed jumps in a Control condition in which no explicit instructions were provided. Results demonstrated that both skilled and low-skilled participants jumped significantly farther in the External and Self-control conditions compared to jumps completed in the Control and Internal conditions. The findings of this study demonstrate that providing instructions that direct attention externally, or allowing the participant to choose where to direct their attention, resulted in similar enhancements in jumping performance in both low- and high-skilled jumpers.

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Virtual Motivation: The Psychological and Transfer of Learning Effects of Immersive Virtual Reality Practice

Logan T. Markwell, Joei R. Velten, Julie A. Partridge, and Jared M. Porter

Previous research has shown practice within an immersive virtual reality (VR) environment improves performance in a physical environment. Increased user motivation is one possible advantage of practicing in VR. One recent study showed that an enriched gaming environment led to higher levels of engagement, resulting in a direct learning benefit. The purpose of this study was to compare the intrinsic motivation, engagement, and transfer of learning between VR practice and physical practice of the same motor skill. Participants (n = 61) were randomly assigned to a physical (n = 30) or a VR practice group (n = 31) in which they performed a golf putting task. Analyses showed VR practice led to a significantly greater increase in average intrinsic motivation inventory score than physical practice. Analyses for performance showed there was a significant (p < .001) improvement in accuracy (i.e., radial error) from pre- to posttest, but the two groups did not differ. Overall, these results partially support our hypotheses suggesting that VR practice led to a greater increase in motivation compared with physical practice. Additionally, these results suggest that VR practice was similarly effective at improving accuracy compared with physical practice. Future research directions are discussed.

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The Effects of Spectators on National Basketball Association Free Throw Performance

Logan T. Markwell, Harjiv Singh, Andrew J. Strick, and Jared M. Porter

Free throw shooting percentage has averaged around 75% for nearly five decades. However, free throw percentages significantly increased to 79% during the 2020 spectator-less National Basketball Association season. The current study investigated if the elevated free throw shooting percentage observed during the spectator-less season has returned to the 50-year average now that spectators have returned to National Basketball Association arenas. Moreover, home and away free throw percentages were examined to determine if a potential home-field advantage contributed to this phenomenon. Analyses revealed that the free throw shooting percentage from the spectator-less season was significantly higher than the two spectator-filled seasons preceding and following the spectator-less season. Furthermore, the analyses found no differences in free throw percentages between home and away games. While the free throw shooting percentage increased to 79% during the spectator-less season, the free throw shooting percentage returned to the 50-year average (i.e., ∼75%), following the spectator-less season. Additionally, it does not appear that a perceived home-field advantage influenced the increased free throw performance observed in the spectator-less season. Multiple factors likely contributed to this free throw phenomenon, including the environmental characteristics shaped by the lack of spectators.