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John Stoszkowski and Dave Collins

Heutagogy is the focus on self-determined learning by the learner. In a recent Insights paper, Stoszkowski and Collins offered a critical overview of heutagogy, highlighting the potential advantages for coaching and coach education, as well as some concerns with its use. The aim of the present study was to offer insight into student-coaches’ experiences on a sports coaching bachelor degree module that was underpinned by a heutagogical approach to learning. Twenty-six student-coaches (6 females and 20 males) took part in semi-structured group interviews, 19 of whom had completed an end of module survey. Data were analyzed inductively and findings revealed that performance on, and perceptions of, the module showed the approach was differentially effective, with three higher order themes representing the student-coaches’ articulation of their experiences: (a) attitudinal disposition, (b) knowledge and experience, and (c) skill set. Although the findings of present study suggest heutagogy is a potentially useful method in coach education, we also highlight some potentially essential caveats to the use of the method.

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Stacy Winter and Dave Collins

Priming has recently emerged in the literature as offering advantages in the preparation for skilled performance. Accordingly, the current study tested the efficacy of imagery against a priming paradigm as a means of enhancing motor performance: in essence, contrasting a preparation technique primarily under the conscious control of the performer to an unconscious technique promoting automaticity. The imagery intervention was guided by the PETTLEP model, while the priming intervention took the form of a scrambled sentence task. Eighteen skilled field-hockey players performed a dribbling task under imagery, priming, skill-focus, and control conditions. Results revealed a significant improvement in speed and technical accuracy for the imagery condition as opposed to the skill-focus, control, and priming conditions. In addition, there were no significant differences in performance times or technical accuracy between the priming and control conditions. The study provides further support for the efficacy of imagery to elicit enhanced motor skill performance but questions the emerging emphasis on priming as an effective tool in preparation for physical tasks.

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Jamie Taylor and Dave Collins

Given the nonlinear nature of talent development, there is a lack of research investigating those who do not “make it.” Therefore, the purpose of this investigation was to explore the reasons that performers of high potential did not meet their expected performance level. Participants, who were experienced talent developers in high-level academies from football and rugby, identified 5 broad reasons for these failures: lack of mental skills, serendipity, pathway-based failures, maladaptive family input, and lack of physical skills. Using a 3-part focus derived from the data, the authors suggest ways that talent pathways can optimize their output and prevent these failures.

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Dave Smith and Dave Collins

The aim of these two studies was to examine the application of Lang’s (1979, 1985) bioinformational theory to the mental practice (MP) of a strength task, the maximal voluntary contraction of the abductor digiti minimi, and the MP of a computerized barrier knockdown task. Study 1 divided 18 males into three groups: a physical practice (PP) group; a stimulus and response proposition mental practice (SRP) group; and a stimulus proposition mental practice (SP) group. Each participant either physically or mentally practiced 40 contractions twice a week for 3 weeks, and electroencephalograms (EEGs) were recorded during testing sessions. All three groups significantly increased abduction strength, but there were no significant between-group differences in the magnitude of the improvements. In addition, late contingent negative variation (CNV) waves were apparent prior to both real and imagined movements in all conditions. Study 2 allocated 24 participants to PP, SRP, SP, and control groups. Participants performed 120 imaginary or actual barrier knockdown trials, with EEGs recorded as in Study 1. A Group × Test ANOVA for movement time revealed that the PP and SRP groups improved to a significantly greater degree than the SP and control groups. Also, the late CNV was observed prior to real and imagined movement in the SRP group, but not prior to imagined movement in the SP group. These results support bioinformational theory with respect to cognitively oriented motor tasks, but not strength tasks.

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Loel Collins, Howie J. Carson and Dave Collins

Previous research has emphasised the dynamic nature of coaching practice and the need to consider both individual performer needs and necessary contextual trade-offs in providing optimum solutions. In this regard, a Professional Judgment and Decision Making framework has been suggested to facilitate an optimum blend of actions against these complex and dynamic demands. Accordingly, we extend this work and address recent calls for greater focus on expertise-oriented assessments, by postulating on the aspirant/developing coach’s capacity for and development of metacognition (i.e., active control over cognitive processes) as a ‘tool’ within the reflective process. Specifically, we propose that metacognition enables essential active cognitive processing for deep learning and impactful application, together with construction and refinement of useable knowledge to inform coaching decisions. Metacognition, therefore, helps to contextualise knowledge provided in training, further optimising the experience, particularly before certification. Finally, we exemplify how metacognition can be developed in coaches through the use of cognitive apprenticeships and decision training tools; and evaluated via a series of observed coaching episodes, with reasoning articulated through pre and postsession interview. Despite challenging traditional competency-based approaches to coach education, we believe that a considered mixed approach represents a vital next step in further professionalising sports coaching.

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Scott Simon, Loel Collins and Dave Collins

Observation of performance forms a critical part of the complex coaching process. A professional judgment and decision making (PJDM) framework enables optimum decisions to be made under time pressure and with limited information that derive from that observation. Observation and the associated decision making can be particularly affected by heuristic bias. We extend the work on PJDM via a greater focus on its relationship with observation within the coaching process. After revisiting PJDM and observation, we introduce and explore heuristics as a “tool” within the observation process. Specifically, we propose that observation is prone to heuristics built on a coach’s experience and understanding. We report on a small scale preliminary investigation with a group of high-level paddle sport coaches. We identify heuristics that both restrict and enhance the effectiveness of the observation in an effort to promote discussion and further research.

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Andy Hill, Áine MacNamara and Dave Collins

Talent development (TD) is widely recognized as a nonlinear and dynamic process, with psychology a key determinant of long-term success in sport. However, given the role that positive characteristics play in the TD process, there is a relative dearth of research examining the psychological characteristics that may derail development. A retrospective qualitative investigation was conducted with academy coaches and directors within rugby union (n = 15), representing nine different elite English rugby union academies, to identify both positive and negative issues that influenced TD. Comprehensive support was found for existing positive constructs as facilitators of effective development. A range of inappropriately applied ‘positive’ characteristics were identified as having a negative impact on development. Potential clinical issues were also recognized by coaches as talent derailers. It is proposed that by incorporating these potentially negative factors into existing formative assessment tools, a more effective development process can be achieved.

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Thomas Davies, Dave Collins and Andrew Cruickshank

Despite substantial research in golf on preshot routines, our understanding of what elite golfers are or potentially should be focusing on beyond this phase of performance is limited. Accordingly, interviews were conducted with elite-level golfers and support practitioners to explore what golfers are and should be attending to before competition and between shots and holes. Results pointed to a number of important and novel processes for use at macro (i.e., precompetition) and meso (i.e., between shots and holes) levels, including the role of shared mental models across team members.

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Thomas Davies, Andrew Cruickshank and Dave Collins

Recent retrospective research has identified effective meso-level thoughts and behaviors for high level golfers (i.e., those deployed between shots and holes). However, how such thoughts and behaviors are actually used during this phase of performance and, or if, they vary in different contexts is unknown. Accordingly, real-time observations followed by stimulated recall interviews were used to examine the meso-level processes used by high-level golfers during competition. Results indicated use of the same pre2- and post-shot routines identified in prior retrospective research but with key differences in the content and application of some of their stages relative to shot outcome. These similarities and differences are discussed along with implications for practitioners: including the importance of developing metacognitive skills, and prioritizing the development of performance expertise over performance competencies for high-level golfers at the meso-level of performance.

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Martin Eubank, Dave Collins and Nick Smith

In the presence of anxiety, threatening stimuli are allocated greater processing priority by high-trait-anxious individuals (Mathews, 1993). As anxiety direction (Jones, 1995) might best account for individual differences, this investigation aimed to establish whether or not such processing priority is a function of anxiety interpretation. Anxiety facilitators and debilitators performed a modified Stroop test (Stroop, 1935) by reacting to neutral, positive, and negative word types in neutral, positive, and negative mood conditions. A significant 3-way interaction, F(4,80) = 3.95, p < .05, was evident, with facilitators exhibiting a processing bias toward positive words in positive mood conditions. The data support the contention that anxiety interpretation is an important distinguishing variable in accounting for processing bias and support the potential contribution of cognitive restructuring practices to athletic performance.