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Joe Causer and A. Mark Williams

A number of novel manipulations to the design of playing uniforms were used to try to disguise the actions of penalty takers in soccer. Skilled and less-skilled soccer goalkeepers were required to anticipate penalty kick outcome while their opponent wore one of three different uniform designs that were intended to disguise the availability of potentially key information from the hip region. Variations of shapes/patterns were designed to conceal the actual alignment of the hips. Three occlusion points were used in the test film: −160 ms, −80 ms before, and at foot–ball contact. Skilled individuals reported higher accuracy scores than their less-skilled counterparts (p < .05). There were no performance decrements for the less-skilled group across the different uniform conditions (p > .05); however, the skilled group decreased their accuracy on the experimental conditions compared with the control (p < .05). Findings highlight the potential benefits of designing playing uniforms that facilitate disguise in sport.

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A. Mark Williams and Bradley Fawver

The authors review some of the most innovative and impactful developments in the field of motor behavior over the last 10–15 years, using citation reports from some of the most prominent journals in the field, as well as relying on subjective opinion from leading academic experts to identify notable contributions to knowledge generation in this broad and increasingly dynamic field of research. They delimit the scope of this task by focusing their efforts on three specific theme areas of study, notably, perceptual–cognitive expertise, motor learning, and motor control. In looking back over the last decade or so, they attempt to provide some direction by highlighting avenues for future research. Their hope is that over the next few decades these research theme areas will have even greater influence and translational impact on quality of life in many aspects of society, including sport and various clinical domains.

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Paul Ward and A. Mark Williams

This study examined the relative contribution of visual, perceptual, and cognitive skills to the development of expertise in soccer. Elite and sub-elite players, ranging in age from 9 to 17 years, were assessed using a multidimensional battery of tests. Four aspects of visual function were measured: static and dynamic visual acuity; stereoscopic depth sensitivity; and peripheral awareness. Perceptual and cognitive skills were assessed via the use of situational probabilities, as well as tests of anticipation and memory recall. Stepwise discriminant analyses revealed that the tests of visual function did not consistently discriminate between skill groups at any age. Tests of anticipatory performance and use of situational probabilities were the best in discriminating across skill groups. Memory recall of structured patterns of play was most predictive of age. As early as age 9, elite soccer players demonstrated superior perceptual and cognitive skills when compared to their sub-elite counterparts. Implications for training perceptual and cognitive skill in sport are discussed.

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A. Mark Williams and David Elliott

The effects of anxiety and expertise on visual search strategy in karate were examined. Expert and novice karate performers moved in response to taped karate offensive sequences presented under low (LA) and high anxiety (HA). Expert performers exhibited superior anticipation under LA and HA. No differences were observed between groups in number of fixations, mean fixation duration, or total number of fixation locations per trial. Participants displayed scan paths ascending and descending the centerline of the body, with primary fixations on head and chest regions. Participants demonstrated better performance under HA than under LA. Anxiety had a significant effect on search strategy, highlighted by changes in mean fixation duration and an increase in number of fixations and total number of fixation locations per trial. Increased search activity was more pronounced in novices, with fixations moving from central to peripheral body locations. These changes in search strategy with anxiety might be caused by peripheral narrowing or increased susceptibility to peripheral distractors.

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A. Mark Williams, Joan Vickers, and Sergio Rodrigues

Processing efficiency theory predicts that anxiety reduces the processing capacity of working memory and has detrimental effects on performance. When tasks place little demand on working memory, the negative effects of anxiety can be avoided by increasing effort. Although performance efficiency decreases, there is no change in performance effectiveness. When tasks impose a heavy demand on working memory, however, anxiety leads to decrements in efficiency and effectiveness. These presumptions were tested using a modified table tennis task that placed low (LWM) and high (HWM) demands on working memory. Cognitive anxiety was manipulated through a competitive ranking structure and prize money. Participants’ accuracy in hitting concentric circle targets in predetermined sequences was taken as a measure of performance effectiveness, while probe reaction time (PRT), perceived mental effort (RSME), visual search data, and arm kinematics were recorded as measures of efficiency. Anxiety had a negative effect on performance effectiveness in both LWM and HWM tasks. There was an increase in frequency of gaze and in PRT and RSME values in both tasks under high vs. low anxiety conditions, implying decrements in performance efficiency. However, participants spent more time tracking the ball in the HWM task and employed a shorter tau margin when anxious. Although anxiety impaired performance effectiveness and efficiency, decrements in efficiency were more pronounced in the HWM task than in the LWM task, providing support for processing efficiency theory.

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A. Mark Williams and K. Anders Ericsson

In this themed issue of the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, we bring together an eclectic mix of papers focusing on how expert performers learn the skills needed to compete at the highest level in sport. In the preface, we highlight the value of adopting the expert performance approach as a systematic framework for the evaluation and development of expertise and expert performance in sport. We then place each of the empirical papers published in this issue into context and briefly outline their unique contributions to knowledge in this area. Finally, we highlight several potential avenues for future research in the hope of encouraging others to scientifically study how experts acquire the mechanisms mediating superior performance in sport and how coaches can draw on this knowledge to guide their athletes toward the most effective training activities.

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Paul R. Ford and A. Mark Williams

The developmental model of sport participation (DMSP) was proposed by Côté (1999). First, we examined whether the participation profiles of two groups of professional soccer players in Ireland who either had or had not played Gaelic football to an elite level in adolescence provided support for this model. Both groups commenced participation in soccer around 6 years of age and on average participated in two other sports between 6 and 18 years of age, excluding soccer and Gaelic football. A reduction in the number of other sports and an increase in hours devoted to the primary sport were observed between 6 and 18 years of age, as per the predictions of the DMSP. Second, we examined whether players who demonstrated early diversification required fewer soccer-specific hours to achieve expert performance in that sport compared with players who demonstrated less diversification or did not participate in Gaelic football. No significant relationships or differences were reported, which did not provide support for the DMSP, possibly due to the low sample size employed in this study.

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Paul Ford, Nicola J. Hodges, Raoul Huys, and A. Mark Williams

The importance of action-effects for the performance of a soccer kick was examined. Novice, intermediate, and skilled players performed a soccer chip task with the intention of getting the ball over a height barrier to a near or far ground-level target under three conditions: full vision, no vision following ball contact with and without knowledge of results (KR). The removal of vision of the ball trajectory resulted in increased radial error, irrespective of the presence or absence of KR but in a skill-level and target dependent manner. At the near target, novice participants relied on ball trajectory information. Intermediate performers were affected by its removal across both target conditions, whereas skilled participants were not affected by the removal of ball vision. Variability in knee-ankle coordination significantly decreased when vision of the ball trajectory was removed, irrespective of KR and skill level. Although across skill level there was evidence that action-effects information is used to execute the action when it is available, only at the lower levels of skill did this information aid outcome attainment. There was no evidence to suggest that with increasing skill the dependence on this information increases.

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Edward K. Coughlan, A. Mark Williams, and Paul R. Ford

Deliberate practice is defined as an activity that is highly relevant to improving performance. It is effortful, challenging, not inherently enjoyable, or immediately rewarding and underpinned by advanced cognitive processing. The authors examine the effect of increasing cognitive processing during deliberate practice on skill learning in intermediate-level performers using a novel approach and quasi-experimental design. Two matched groups of intermediate-level Gaelic football players practiced a kick they identified as being most relevant to improving performance during an acquisition phase and pre-, post-, and retention tests. During acquisition, participants rated practice for cognitive effort and enjoyment. An intervention group engaged in structured cognitive processing before, during, and after the kicking practice sessions, whereas a control group did not. Both groups improved kicking accuracy across pre-, post-, and retention tests; however, the intervention group improved accuracy significantly more than the control group. The intervention group rated practice greater for mental effort compared with the control group, while both groups rated practice low for enjoyment. The intervention group increased reflection and evaluation to a greater degree following practice compared with the control group. Findings highlight the value of applying the principles of deliberate practice and increasing cognitive processing to expedite learning in intermediate-level performers, with implications for skill learning across many professional domains.

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Nicholas J. Smeeton, Matyas Varga, Joe Causer, and A. Mark Williams

The ability to disguise and deceive action outcomes was examined by manipulating sports garments. In Experiment 1, those with higher and lower skill levels in anticipation predicted the throw direction of an opponent who wore a garment designed to disguise kinetic-chain information. Higher skill anticipators were more adversely affected by the disguise garment than the lower skill anticipators, demonstrating that disguise removed the anticipation advantage. In Experiment 2, using the same occlusion methodology, the effect of deception was examined using 2 garments designed to create visual illusions of motion across the proximal-to-distal sequence of the thrower’s action and compared with a white-garment control. Performances for the deceptive garments were reduced relative to the control garment at the earliest occlusion points for the rightmost targets, but this effect was reversed for the leftmost targets at the earliest occlusion point, suggesting that the visual illusion garments were deceiving participants about motion information from the proximal-to-distal sequence of the action.