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Constantinos N. Maganaris, Dave Collins and Martin Sharp

Although expectancy has been shown to play a role in the effect of Anabolic Steroids (AS) on behavior, little research has been completed on the potential for parallel effects on performance. This is an important area for investigation because if expectancy effects can be shown to operate by improvements in performance through the administration of a placebo, arguments against the use of AS may be more successfully advanced. Accordingly, the present investigation used the administration of a placebo (saccharine) with competitive power lifters, using false information about the nature of the drug to delineate expectancy effects. The pervasiveness of these effects was further examined by disclosing the true nature of the drug to half of the participants, midway through the investigation. Notable improvements in performance associated with the belief that AS had been administered largely dissipated when athletes were informed as to the true nature of the drug. Results indicated that expectancy played a notable role in performance enhancement. Implications for this work include more effective use of such investigations in the fight against doping in sport.

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Alan MacPherson, Dave Collins and Calvin Morriss

This article considers interesting differences between the mental focus employed by an elite athlete javelin thrower (E1) when contrasted with three international standard javelin throwers (I1, I2, I3). Athletes’ mental focus was recorded in both competition and training using self-report measures. In addition, kinematic analysis through point of release was examined for both categories of athlete. In both conditions, E1 demonstrated lower patterns of movement variability. Interestingly, a contrasting mental focus was recorded among athletes I1, I2, and I3 when compared with athlete E1. Tentative conclusions are drawn concerning the optimum sources of information for athletes before task execution in self-paced athletic events.

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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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Áine MacNamara, Angela Button and Dave Collins

Given the complexity of the talent development process, it seems likely that a range of psychological factors underpin an athlete’s ability to translate potential into top-class performance. Therefore, the purpose of part one of this two-part investigation was to explore the attributes that facilitate the successful development of athletes from initial involvement to achieving and maintaining world-class status. Seven elite athletes and a parent of each of these athletes were interviewed regarding their own (their son’s/daughter’s) development in sport. Data were content analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Although sporting achievement was conceptualized as being multidimensional, psychological factors were highlighted as the key determinants of those who emerged as talented and maintained excellence. Accordingly, we suggest that talent identification and development programs should place greater emphasis on the advancement and application of psychological behaviors at an early stage to optimize both the development and performance of athletes.

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Áine MacNamara, Angela Button and Dave Collins

MacNamara, Button, & Collins (under review) proposed that if individuals are to fulfill their potential they must possess and systematically develop a specific set of skills (termed Psychological Characteristics of Developing Excellence or PCDEs) that allow them to interact effectively with the developmental opportunities they are afforded. Given the complexity of the developmental pathway, it may well be that different skills are needed at different stages of development and across different performance domains. Twenty-four elite participants from team sports, individual sports, and music were purposefully sampled from different domains and interviewed on their experiences of their own pathways to excellence. Results suggested that although PCDEs were important throughout development, the manner by which they were deployed depended on stage, domain, and the characteristics of the individual performer. These findings support proposals to systematically incorporate PCDEs into TID practices because these may be the key feature in maintaining progress toward excellence.

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Amy Price, Dave Collins, John Stoszkowski and Shane Pill

A key feature of any coach’s role is to decide on the most appropriate approach to develop player learning and performance at any given time. When coaching games, these decisions are even more challenging due to the interactive nature of games themselves and, in team games, this interactivity is heightened. Therefore, proponents of various approaches to coaching games could do well to demonstrate how different approaches may compliment rather than oppose each other, to avoid a one-size-fits-all process of coaching. In this insights paper, we summarise some of the fundamental approaches used for coaching games, whilst clarifying and contrasting their theoretical and practical differences. In doing so, we propose that there is a space in the coach’s toolbox for a games approach that hones the metacognitive skills of players. We also suggest reasons why coaches might use metacognitive game design as a tool to develop players’ deep understanding of game play to support player learning and performance.

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Florence Lebrun, Áine MacNamara, Dave Collins and Sheelagh Rodgers

Little is known about the coping strategies used by elite athletes suffering from mental health issues. Therefore, this study examined coping strategies implemented by elite athletes facing clinical depression. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four elite athletes and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Results present a broad picture of how elite athletes tried to cope with depression using a range of coping strategies. Among the different strategies highlighted, talking, seeking professional help and social support were particularly emphasized by the participants. Surprisingly, however, only one participant reported transferring the skills and strategies learned on her way to the top to many other aspects of her everyday life such as coping with her depression. Findings, therefore, suggest that athletes should be encouraged to transfer and make the most of the skills learned throughout their sport career to deal with their daily life. Future research perspectives and implications are discussed.

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Duncan R.D. Mascarenhas, Dave Collins and Patrick Mortimer

Plessner and Betsch’s (2001) investigation into officiating behavior may be representative of a shift from stress-oriented research (Anshel & Weinberg, 1995; Rainey & Winterich, 1995; Stewart & Ellery. 1996) to consideration of decision-making (Craven, 1998; Ford. Gallagher, Lacy, et al., 1999; Oudejans. Verheijen, Bakker, et al., 2000), the primary function of referees in any sport. Commendably, Plessner and Betsch have investigated the most important focus of referee performance, the application of the rules (Anshel, 1995). However, methodological weaknesses, together with a fundamental error in the attribution of causation to the findings, significantly dilute the paper’s contribution to extending knowledge in this important area.