An external focus of attention, as opposed to an internal focus of attention, has been shown to increase performance and enhance learning. However, little research has examined whether these findings have been integrated into collegiate coaching and adopted by student-athlete performers. The purpose of this study was to examine the verbal instructions and instructional feedback provided by NCAA division 1 collegiate coaches during practice and how it influenced student-athletes’ focus of attention during competition. Thirty-one student-athletes completed a questionnaire that inquired about coaches’ verbal instructions and instructional feedback during practice and student-athletes’ focus of attention during competition. Fifty percent of participants reported that their coaches instructed them to focus their attention internally and only four participants reported that their coaches instructed them to focus externally. Our results also showed that coaches provided an equal amount of internal and external instructional feedback. During competition, however, the majority of participants reported statements that fell under the category of “winning and strategy.” These results suggest that the beneficial effects of an external focus of attention have not been integrated into NCAA division 1 collegiate coaching and the focus of attention adopted by student-athletes may be more complex than what is studied in laboratory research.
Jed A. Diekfuss and Louisa D. Raisbeck
Louisa D. Raisbeck and Jed A. Diekfuss
Performance benefits exist for an external focus of attention compared with an internal focus of attention for performance and learning (Wulf, 2013). It is unknown, however, if varying the number of verbal cues affects learning and performance. Focus of attention and the number of verbal cues were manipulated during a simulated handgun-shooting task. For the internal focus conditions, participants were told to focus on their hand, arm, and wrist, whereas the external focus instructions were to focus on the gun, gun barrel, and gun stock. To manipulate the number of verbal cues, participants received instruction to focus on a single verbal cue or multiple verbal cues. Shooting performance was assessed at baseline, acquisition, and at two separate retention phases (immediate, delayed) that included transfer tests. Participants completed the NASA—Task Load Index to assess workload following all trials. Participants who received one verbal cue performed significantly better during immediate retention than those who received three verbal cues. Participants who used external focus of attention instructions had higher performance and reported less workload at delayed retention compared to those who used internal focus instructions. This research provides further support for the benefits of an external focus and highlights the importance of minimizing the number of verbal cues.
Jed A. Diekfuss and Louisa D. Raisbeck
The primary purpose of this study was to describe the focus of attention NCAA Division 1 golfers use during practice and competition. A secondary purpose was to determine who was most influential in the focus of attention strategies adopted by NCAA Division 1 golfers. We collected observational data by attending practice sessions, conducting semistructured interviews, and administering guided focus groups. Results revealed two major themes pertaining to the focus of attention adopted by our sample of NCAA Division 1 golfers: situational focus and reactivity focus. Situational focus refers to the focus used within a specific context, and reactivity focus refers to the focus golfers adopt because of a psychological state. Further, our results revealed the importance of esteemed individuals’ instruction on the development of attentional focus strategies. Parents, coaches, and popular media were highly influential in our sample of NCAA Division 1 golfers’ selection of attentional focus strategies.
Moslem Bahmani, Jed A. Diekfuss, Robabeh Rostami, Nasim Ataee and Farhad Ghadiri
Enhanced expectancies are an important component of OPTIMAL theory and are thought to contribute to motor performance and learning. There is limited information, however, on the generalizability of OPTIMAL theory to highly skilled individuals. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of visual illusions, specifically an Ebbinghaus illusion, on the performance and learning of an aiming task using highly skilled 10-m rifle and pistol shooters. Two groups of shooters with international experience were recruited and practiced with perceived larger and smaller targets. Our results indicated that participants who perceived the target larger reported higher self-efficacy immediately after practice. In addition, these participants had higher shooting performance during practice. Our retention test (24 hours later), however, did not produce differences in self-efficacy or shooting performance. Our data suggests that visual illusions are beneficial for motor performance in highly skilled shooters, but may not affect learning in those who are in the latter stages of learning. Further studies should continue examining the role of visual illusions for enhancing expectancies in highly skilled and experienced performers.