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  • Author: Dave Collins x
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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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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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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.

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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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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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Bruce Hale, Paul Holmes, Dave Smith, Neil Fowler and Dave Collins

Several years ago Collins and Hale (1997) commented on nonrigorous experimental designs and procedures which typified published research examining the psychophysiology of the imagery process. Conceptual, methodological, and analytical guidelines were offered to improve the quality of future research undertakings. While Slade, Landers, and Martin (2002) have followed some of these suggestions, their recent imagery study examining the “mirror hypothesis” and a theory-expectancy hypothesis with EMG recordings still appears to have some conceptual inconsistencies, methodological flaws, and analytical weaknesses that make their conclusions ambiguous. These concerns are identified, and more suggestions for improved designs are given, in another attempt to improve the quality of the scientific research undertaken in sport psychophysiology.

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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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Jonathan Leo Ng, Chris Button, Dave Collins, Susan Giblin and Gavin Kennedy

Validated assessment tools for movement competence typically involve the isolation and reproduction of specific movement forms, which arguably neglects individuals’ ability to combine and adapt movements to overcome constraints within a dynamic environment. A new movement assessment tool, the General Movement Competence Assessment (GMCA), was developed for this study using Microsoft Kinect. Movement competence of 83 children (36 boys and 47 girls), aged 8–10 years (9.06 ± 0.75 years) was measured using the GMCA. An exploratory approach was undertaken to examine the internal consistency reliability (McDonald’s omega coefficient) and factorial structure of the GMCA for the study sample. Factorial structure was determined using exploratory factor analysis by principal component analysis with varimax rotation. For the sample data, reliability for the GMCA games were acceptable (ω = 0.53–0.89) and indicated that combinations of movement attributes were measured by GMCA games. Factorial analysis extracted four movement constructs accounting for 71.31% of variance. Dexterity was tentatively identified as a new independent construct alongside currently accepted movement constructs (i.e., locomotion, object-control, stability). While further development of the GMCA is still required, initial results are encouraging in view of an objective and theoretically informed approach to assess general movement competence in children.