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The Effect of Participation in Gaelic Football on the Development of Irish Professional Soccer Players

Paul R. Ford and A. Mark Williams

The developmental model of sport participation (DMSP) was proposed by Côté (1999). First, we examined whether the participation profiles of two groups of professional soccer players in Ireland who either had or had not played Gaelic football to an elite level in adolescence provided support for this model. Both groups commenced participation in soccer around 6 years of age and on average participated in two other sports between 6 and 18 years of age, excluding soccer and Gaelic football. A reduction in the number of other sports and an increase in hours devoted to the primary sport were observed between 6 and 18 years of age, as per the predictions of the DMSP. Second, we examined whether players who demonstrated early diversification required fewer soccer-specific hours to achieve expert performance in that sport compared with players who demonstrated less diversification or did not participate in Gaelic football. No significant relationships or differences were reported, which did not provide support for the DMSP, possibly due to the low sample size employed in this study.

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The Effects of High- and Low-Anxiety Training on the Anticipation Judgments of Elite Performers

David Alder, Paul R. Ford, Joe Causer, and A. Mark Williams

We examined the effects of high- versus low-anxiety conditions during video-based training of anticipation judgments using international-level badminton players facing serves and the transfer to high-anxiety and field-based conditions. Players were assigned to a high-anxiety training (HA), low-anxiety training (LA) or control group (CON) in a pretraining–posttest design. In the pre- and posttest, players anticipated serves from video and on court under high- and low-anxiety conditions. In the video-based high-anxiety pretest, anticipation response accuracy was lower and final fixations shorter when compared with the low-anxiety pretest. In the low-anxiety posttest, HA and LA demonstrated greater accuracy of judgments and longer final fixations compared with pretest and CON. In the high-anxiety posttest, HA maintained accuracy when compared with the low-anxiety posttest, whereas LA had lower accuracy. In the on-court posttest, the training groups demonstrated greater accuracy of judgments compared with the pretest and CON.

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Developmental Activities That Contribute to High or Low Performance by Elite Cricket Batters When Recognizing Type of Delivery From Bowlers’ Advanced Postural Cues

Paul R. Ford, Jeffrey Low, Allistair P. McRobert, and A. Mark Williams

We examined the developmental activities that contribute to the development of superior anticipation skill among elite cricket batters. The batters viewed 36 video clips involving deliveries from bowlers that were occluded at ball release and were required to predict delivery type. Accuracy scores were used to create two subgroups: high-performing and low-performing anticipators. Questionnaires were used to record the participation history profiles of the groups. In the early stages of development, hours accumulated in cricket and other sports, as well as milestones achieved, did not differentiate groups. Significant between-group differences in activity profiles were found between 13 and 15 years of age, with high-performing anticipators accumulating more hours in structured cricket activity, and specifically in batting, compared with their low-performing counterparts.

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Perceptual-Cognitive Skills and Their Interaction as a Function of Task Constraints in Soccer

André Roca, Paul R. Ford, Allistair P. McRobert, and A. Mark Williams

The ability to anticipate and to make decisions is crucial to skilled performance in many sports. We examined the role of and interaction between the different perceptual-cognitive skills underlying anticipation and decision making. Skilled and less skilled players interacted as defenders with life-size film sequences of 11 versus 11 soccer situations. Participants were presented with task conditions in which the ball was located in the offensive or defensive half of the pitch (far vs. near conditions). Participants’ eye movements and verbal reports of thinking were recorded across two experiments. Skilled players reported more accurate anticipation and decision making than less skilled players, with their superior performance being underpinned by differences in task-specific search behaviors and thought processes. The perceptual-cognitive skills underpinning superior anticipation and decision making were shown to differ in importance across the two task constraints. Findings have significant implications for those interested in capturing and enhancing perceptual-cognitive skill in sport and other domains.