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Amanda Martindale and Dave Collins

This case study of an elite judo player recovering from injury provides an exemplification of a practitioner’s Professional Judgment and Decision Making (PJDM) using a ‘reflection-in-action research’ methodology. The process of “reflection-in-action” Schön (1991) and in particular the concept of ‘framing’ offer insight into how professionals think in action. These concepts assisted the practitioner in organizing, clarifying and conceptualizing the client’s issues and forming intentions for impact. This case study exemplifies the influence of practitioner PJDM on implementation at multiple levels of practice including planning the overall program of support, designing specific interventions to aid client recovery and moment-to-moment in-situ decision making session-by session. It is suggested that consideration of practitioner PJDM should be a strong feature of case study reporting and that this approach carries the potential to extend our use of case studies within applied sport psychology practice.

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Amanda Martindale and Dave Collins

This paper establishes current theoretical understanding on the development of professional judgment and decision-making (PJDM) expertise within applied sport psychology (ASP). Traditional and naturalistic paradigms of decision making are contrasted and the resulting blending of systematic analysis and intuition most appropriate for applied practice is explained through the concept of skilled intuition (Kahneman & Klein, 2009). Conditions for the development of skilled intuition are considered alongside recognition of the fragility of human judgment and the subtleties of the ASP environment. Key messages from cognitive psychology literature on the development of PJDM expertise are offered and recommendations made to facilitate the acquisition of decision-making expertise in ASP.

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Áine MacNamara and Dave Collins

The importance of psychological characteristics as positive precursors of talent development is acknowledged in literature. Unfortunately, there has been little consideration of the “darker” side of the human psyche. It may be that an inappropriate emphasis on positive characteristics may limit progress. Negative characteristics may also imply derailment or the potential for problems. A comprehensive evaluation of developing performers should cater for positive dual effect and negative characteristics so that these may be exploited and moderated appropriately. An integrated and dynamic system, with a holistic integration of clinical and sport psychology, is offered as an essential element of development systems.

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Amanda Martindale and Dave Collins

On the basis of anecdotal evidence and media interest, the public profile of applied sport psychology is ever increasing in terms of its perceived impact on the performance of elite athletes and teams. In the profession, however, there is some concern over whether we are managing to concurrently match this pace empirically, through the evolution of scientific methods and mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness of practice. This article considers requirements of the current evaluation climate and provides an overview of existing formal evaluation procedures. It is suggested that the evolving intricacies and complexities of applied sport psychology practice are neither fully captured nor represented by these procedures. Consequently, a framework of professional judgment and decision making (PJDM) is proposed from which to consider the evaluation of practice. In addition, methods and mechanisms for enhancing and building on our current evaluation procedures are offered.

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Amanda Martindale and Dave Collins

The article “What works when working with athletes” by Fifer, Henschen, Gould, and Ravizza (2008) offers an interesting array of information and insights used by three highly experienced applied sport psychology consultants. This response article, however, contends that it may be possible to glean a further, and crucial, level of understanding by exploring the metacognition behind the selection of such courses of action. This may be provided through applied cognitive task analysis (ACTA) techniques to access the cognitive mechanisms underpinning professional practice. A suggested research direction is to use ACTA techniques such as in-depth interviews and cognitive mapping with highly experienced applied sport psychology consultants. Specifically, these techniques would enable readers to access judgments and decisions, attentional demands, critical cues and patterns, and problem solving strategies (Gore & McAndrew, 2009). This level of understanding may help to establish how these cognitive processes impact on the support provided to clients, and in turn, assist in developing more conceptually rigorous training methods.

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Amanda Martindale and Dave Collins

The field of applied sport psychology has recognized the growing consensus that professional autonomy and discretion brings with it the need to train, regulate, and evaluate practice (Evetts, 2001). However, research into how practitioners’ professional judgment is formed and the decision-making processes involved has not received concurrent attention. This paper illustrates some of the possible outcomes and implications for applied sport psychologists from consideration of Professional Judgment and Decision Making (PJDM) research in other fields such as medicine and teaching and in parallel disciplines such as clinical and counseling psychology. Investigation into the nature of decision content and how the crucial “intention for impact” (Hill, 1992) is formulated carries implications for the assessment, reflective practice, and professional development and training of applied sport psychologists. Future directions in PJDM research are suggested and a call is made for practitioners to be open to involvement in research of this nature.

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Mary McClung and Dave Collins

In the perpetual quest for better performance, athletes are using an increasingly diverse range of ergogenic aids. Some are permitted; however, this “drug” use is often seen as an ethically questionable behavior. A variety of research suggests that much of the impact of such aids may be due to expectancy—the belief that the substance will aid performance. It would be useful to demonstrate this to athletes considering such usage, especially as a pillar of antidrug education. Accordingly, this investigation used sodium bicarbonate and placebo additives in a double disassociation design, with athletes completing a series of 1,000-m time trials. Results showed that believing one had taken the substance resulted in times almost as fast as those associated with consuming the drug itself. In contrast, taking the drug without knowledge yielded no significant performance increment. Results are discussed against the backdrop of applying expectancy effects in high-performance sport, including dissuading athletes from using illegal aids.

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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.