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David Bishop, Angus Burnett, Damian Farrow, Tim Gabbett, and Robert Newton

As sports scientists, we claim to make a significant contribution to the body of knowledge that influences athletic practice and performance. Is this the reality? At the inaugural congress of the Australian Association for Exercise and Sports Science, a panel of well-credentialed academic experts with experience in the applied environment debated the question, Does sports-science research influence practice? The first task was to define “sports-science research,” and it was generally agreed that it is concerned with providing evidence that improves sports performance. When practices are equally effective, sports scientists also have a role in identifying practices that are safer, more time efficient, and more enjoyable. There were varying views on the need for sports-science research to be immediately relevant to coaches or athletes. Most agreed on the importance of communicating the results of sports-science research, not only to the academic community but also to coaches and athletes, and the need to encourage both short- and long-term research. The panelists then listed examples of sports-science research that they believe have influenced practice, as well as strategies to ensure that sports-science research better influences practice.

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Daniel J. Hornery, Damian Farrow, Iñigo Mujika, and Warren B. Young

Purpose:

To determine the effects of prolonged simulated tennis on performance and the ergogenic potential of caffeine, carbohydrates, and cooling.

Methods:

Twelve highly trained male tennis players (age 18.3 ± 3.0 y, height 178.8 ± 8.5 cm, body mass 73.95 ± 12.30 kg, mean ± SD) performed 4 simulated matches (2 h 40 min) against a ball machine on an indoor hard court. The counterbalanced experimental trials involved caffeine supplementation (3 mg/kg), carbohydrate supplementation (6% solution), precooling and intermittent cooling, and placebo control. Physiological markers (core temperature, heart rate, blood lactate, and blood glucose), subjective responses (ratings of perceived exertion and thermal sensation), stroke velocity and accuracy, serve kinematics, and tennis-specific perceptual skill quantified the efficacy of interventions.

Results:

Significant effects of time (P < .01) reflected increased physiological demand, reduced serve velocity and ground-stroke velocity and accuracy, and a slowing of the serve racket-arm acceleration phase. Caffeine increased serve velocity (165 ± 15 km/h) in the final set of the match (P = .014) compared with placebo (159 ± 15 km/h, P = .008) and carbohydrate (158 ± 13 km/h, P = .001) conditions. Carbohydrate and cooling conditions afforded physiological advantage (increased blood glucose, P < .01, and reduced preexercise thermal sensation, P < .01) but did not affect performance relative to the placebo condition.

Conclusions:

Prolonged simulated tennis induced significant decrements in tennis skills. Caffeine supplementation partly attenuated the effects of fatigue and increased serve velocity. In contrast, carbohydrate and cooling strategies had little ergogenic effect on tennis performance.

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Michael J. Davies, Warren Young, Damian Farrow, and Andrew Bahnert

Purpose:

To compare the agility demands of 4 small-sided games (SSGs) and evaluate the variability in demands for elite Australian Football (AF).

Methods:

Fourteen male elite Australian Football League (AFL) players (mean ± SD; 21.7 ± 3.1 y, 189.6 ± 9.0 cm, 88.7 ± 10.0 kg, 39.4 ± 57.1 games) completed 4 SSGs of 3 × 45-s bouts each with modified designs. Video notational analysis, GPS at 5 Hz, and triaxial accelerometer data expressed the external player loads within games. Three comparisons were made using a paired t test (P < .05), and magnitudes of differences were reported with effect size (ES) statistics.

Results:

Reduced area per player (increased density) produced a small increase in total agility maneuvers (SSG1, 7.2 ± 1.3; SSG2, 8.8 ± 4.1), while a large 2D player load was accumulated (P < .05, ES = 1.22). A reduction in players produced a moderate (ES = 0.60) total number of agility maneuvers (SSG 3, 11.3 ± 6.1; SSG 2, 8.3 ± 3.6); however, a greater variability was found. The implementation of a 2-handed-tag rule resulted in a somewhat trivial decline (P > .05, ES = 0.16) in agility events compared with normal AFL tackling rules (SSG 2, 8.3 ± 3.6; SSG 4, 7.8 ± 2.6).

Conclusions:

SSG characteristics can influence agility-training demand, which can vary considerably for individuals. Coaches should carefully consider SSG design to maximize the potential to develop agility for all players.

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Iñigo Mujika, Shona Halson, Louise M. Burke, Gloria Balagué, and Damian Farrow

Sports periodization has traditionally focused on the exercise aspect of athletic preparation, while neglecting the integration of other elements that can impact an athlete’s readiness for peak competition performances. Integrated periodization allows the coordinated inclusion of multiple training components best suited for a given training phase into an athlete’s program. The aim of this article is to review the available evidence underpinning integrated periodization, focusing on exercise training, recovery, nutrition, psychological skills, and skill acquisition as key factors by which athletic preparation can be periodized. The periodization of heat and altitude adaptation, body composition, and physical therapy is also considered. Despite recent criticism, various methods of exercise training periodization can contribute to performance enhancement in a variety of elite individual and team sports, such as soccer. In the latter, both physical and strategic periodization are useful tools for managing the heavy travel schedule, fatigue, and injuries that occur throughout a competitive season. Recovery interventions should be periodized (ie, withheld or emphasized) to influence acute and chronic training adaptation and performance. Nutrient intake and timing in relation to exercise and as part of the periodization of an athlete’s training and competition calendar can also promote physiological adaptations and performance capacity. Psychological skills are a central component of athletic performance, and their periodization should cater to each athlete’s individual needs and the needs of the team. Skill acquisition can also be integrated into an athlete’s periodized training program to make a significant contribution to competition performance.