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Martin Eubank, Dave Collins and Nick Smith

Beck’s (1976) theoretical account of emotional vulnerability predicts that individuals who are vulnerable to anxiety will exhibit a cognitive processing bias for the threatening interpretation of ambiguous information. As anxiety direction (Jones, 1995) may best account for individual differences, the aim of this study was to establish whether such processing bias is a function of anxiety interpretation. Anxiety facilitators and debilitators underwent a modified Stroop test by reacting to neutral and ambiguous word types in neutral, positive, and negative mood conditions. A significant 3-way interaction, F(4, 60) = 3.02, p < .05, was evident, with the reaction time of facilitators being slowest for ambiguous words in the positive mood condition and debilitators being slowest for ambiguous words in the negative mood condition. The findings illustrate the important role that anxiety interpretation plays in the mechanism involved in the processing of ambiguous information.

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Dave Collins, Calvin Morriss and John Trower

Execution of the optimum technique is the basis of high-level performance in sport. Unfortunately, however, even well-established technique can be unintentionally lost, with disastrous results for achievement. The present case study describes the design, execution, and evaluation of an intervention to aid the recovery of optimum technique in an elite javelin thrower. Using contrast style drills, in association with mental skills to promote effective learning, the intervention worked on critical performance factors identified through three-dimensional kinematic analyses. Analysis of the performer’s technique at a recent major championship provided a comparison of these performance factors and, therefore, an evaluation of the effectiveness of the intervention.

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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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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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Andrew Cruickshank, Dave Collins and Sue Minten

Stimulated by growing interest in the organizational and performance leadership components of Olympic success, sport psychology researchers have identified performance director–led culture change as a process of particular theoretical and applied significance. To build on initial work in this area and develop practically meaningful understanding, a pragmatic research philosophy and grounded theory methodology were engaged to uncover culture change best practice from the perspective of newly appointed performance directors. Delivered in complex and contested settings, results revealed that the optimal change process consisted of an initial evaluation, planning, and impact phase adjoined to the immediate and enduring management of a multidirectional perception- and power-based social system. As the first inquiry of its kind, these findings provide a foundation for the continued theoretical development of culture change in Olympic sport performance teams and a first model on which applied practice can be based.

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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.

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

To identify a framework for referee training and selection, based on the key areas of effective performance, we conducted content analyses on Rugby Football Union referee assessor reports, referee training materials, performance profiles from a group of English premier league referees, and a review of published research on sports officiating. The Cornerstones Performance Model of Refereeing emerged, overarched by the psychological characteristics of excellence (see McCaffrey & Orlick, 1989) and featuring four key areas: (a) knowledge and application of the law; (b) contextual judgment; (c) personality and management skills; and (d) fitness, positioning, and mechanics. Focus group interviews confirmed the usefulness of the model as an assessment and training tool, which the RFU now use to develop referees throughout England.

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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.