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André Roca, Paul R. Ford, Allistair P. McRobert, and A. Mark Williams

The ability to anticipate and to make decisions is crucial to skilled performance in many sports. We examined the role of and interaction between the different perceptual-cognitive skills underlying anticipation and decision making. Skilled and less skilled players interacted as defenders with life-size film sequences of 11 versus 11 soccer situations. Participants were presented with task conditions in which the ball was located in the offensive or defensive half of the pitch (far vs. near conditions). Participants’ eye movements and verbal reports of thinking were recorded across two experiments. Skilled players reported more accurate anticipation and decision making than less skilled players, with their superior performance being underpinned by differences in task-specific search behaviors and thought processes. The perceptual-cognitive skills underpinning superior anticipation and decision making were shown to differ in importance across the two task constraints. Findings have significant implications for those interested in capturing and enhancing perceptual-cognitive skill in sport and other domains.

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Paul R. Ford, Jeffrey Low, Allistair P. McRobert, and A. Mark Williams

We examined the developmental activities that contribute to the development of superior anticipation skill among elite cricket batters. The batters viewed 36 video clips involving deliveries from bowlers that were occluded at ball release and were required to predict delivery type. Accuracy scores were used to create two subgroups: high-performing and low-performing anticipators. Questionnaires were used to record the participation history profiles of the groups. In the early stages of development, hours accumulated in cricket and other sports, as well as milestones achieved, did not differentiate groups. Significant between-group differences in activity profiles were found between 13 and 15 years of age, with high-performing anticipators accumulating more hours in structured cricket activity, and specifically in batting, compared with their low-performing counterparts.

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Matthew Andrew, Paul R. Ford, Matthew T. Miller, Allistair P. McRobert, Nathan C. Foster, Guido Seerden, Martin Littlewood, and Spencer J. Hayes

We examined whether practice activities adopted by professional youth soccer coaches are modulated through the implementation of and engagement with cocreative evidence-based programs. Across two experiments, we used systematic observation to identify the practice activities of seven coaches across 134 sessions. In Experiment A, drill-based and games-based activities were recorded and quantified. To encourage behaviour change across the study, the systematic observation data were compared with skill acquisition literature to provide coaches with quantitative feedback and recommendations during workshops. Postworkshop systematic observation data indicated that practice activities used by coaches changed in accordance with the evidenced-based information (increase in games-based activities) delivered within the workshop. Interview data indicated that coaches typically stated that the workshop was a key reason for behaviour change. In a follow-up Experiment B, feedback and recommendations were delivered using an interactive video-based workshop. The systematic observation data indicated that coaches increased the use of soccer activities that contained active decision making with coaches citing the workshop as a key reason for behaviour change. These findings indicate that coaching practice activities can be supported and shaped through the implementation of cocreated workshops wherein coaches collaborate with sport scientists and researchers to bridge the gap between science and application.