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You’re On! Consulting for Peak Performance

Craig A. Wrisberg

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An Interview with Pat Head Summitt

Craig A. Wrisberg

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A Field Test of the Effect of Contextual Variety during Skill Acquisition

Craig A. Wrisberg

Laboratory research in motor behavior has consistently demonstrated higher transfer when practice occurs under conditions of high contextual interference/variety (e.g., Lee & Magill, 1983; Shea & Morgan, 1979). In the present study, an attempt was made to determine whether contextual variety could be easily incorporated into a physical education class setting and whether it produced a significant influence on final skills-test performance. Four practice schedules differing in the amount of contextual variety were administered during a regular college physical education class. Beginning badminton students were matched for skill level and practiced the long and short serves according to their respective conditions at the beginning of each of six class periods. Students monitored each other’s practice sessions without significant alterations in normal class procedures. Conventional skills tests administered at the end of the semester revealed that the shortserve performance of the group receiving the highest level of contextual variety during practice was significantly superior to that of two of the other three conditions. The results are discussed in terms of possible theoretical significance for contextual-interference theory and practical relevance for physical education teachers.

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The Use of a Performance Profiling Technique in a Team Setting: Getting the Athletes and Coach on the “Same Page”

Gregory A. Dale and Craig A. Wrisberg

Both experimental and anecdotal data suggest that athletes of various ages, abilities, ethnic backgrounds, and gender desire open two-way communication with their coaches (Chelladurai, 1980; Danielson, Zelhart, & Drake 1975; Hendry, 1969; Masimo, 1980). In this paper we describe how performance profiling procedures (Butler, 1989) may be used with teams to create a more open atmosphere for coach/athlete communication and to facilitate team goal setting. Specifically, a case study with a Division I women’s volleyball team is presented to illustrate the effectiveness of this procedure in profiling individual athletes, the team, and the coach. Profiles were conducted 1 week into the practice season, at the midpoint of the competitive season, and at the end of the competitive season. Significant improvements were made on one or more characteristics by each athlete, the team, and the coach. As a result of participating in this process, both the athletes and the coach agreed that there was a more open atmosphere for communication. And, the athletes expressed sincere appreciation for the increased input they had in determining the nature of their training program and their goals for competition.

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The Effect of Cognitive Strategies on the Free Throw Shooting Performance of Young Athletes

Craig A. Wrisberg and Mark H. Anshel

This study examined the relative effectiveness of various cognitive techniques on the basketball free throw shooting performance of young athletes. Forty boys (ages 10.2–12.4 years) who were subjectively rated as good free throw shooters by staff members at a 6-week summer sports camp were randomly assigned to one of four training conditions. All initially performed 20 baseline trials of the free throw shot with a 45-sec intershot interval. After the last baseline trial the boys in each group received instructions and practiced their respective preshot techniques. The next day they received a second instructional period followed by a series of 10 free throws. During the last 15 seconds of the 45-sec intershot interval on these trials, subjects engaged in their respective preshot activity. An analysis of covariance was used to determine group differences in free throw percentage during the test trials, with free throw percentage during baseline trials used as the covariate. The results suggested that mental imagery combined with arousal adjustment is a useful preshot cognitive strategy that young athletes may use to enhance their free throw shooting performance.

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A Phenomenological Investigation of Gymnasts’ Lived Experience of Imagery

Phillip G. Post and Craig A. Wrisberg

The authors would like to extend their gratitude to the ten gymnasts participating in this study. Their willingness to share their time and experiences made this research project possible.

Phenomenological interviews were conducted with ten female collegiate gymnasts (M age = 22.2; SD = 1.68 yr) to determine their lived experience of sport imagery. Qualitative analysis of the interview data revealed a total of 693 meaning units and produced a final thematic structure consisting of five major dimensions: preparing for movement; mentally preparing; feeling the skill; controlling perspective/speed/effort; and time and place. Among the results not reported in previous studies were athletes’ manipulations of imagery speed for various purposes, the incorporation of abbreviated body movements during imagery to accentuate the feel of the action, correcting inadvertent mistakes in an imaged performance, and the imaging of upcoming segments of a serial skill during execution. The findings extend previous sport imagery research and provide suggestions for sport psychology consultants working with elite gymnasts.

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The Preshot Interval and Free Throw Shooting Accuracy: An Exploratory Investigation

Craig A. Wrisberg and Richard L. Pein

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between preperformance behavior and performance accuracy within the context of a competitive sporting event. Data were collected during varsity and intramural basketball games at a NCAA Division I university. The measures included length of the preshot interval and the number of free throws attempted and made by each player. From these data, the mean and within-subject standard deviation of preshot interval scores and free throw percentages were derived, and pairwise correlations among the measures were calculated. One-way MANOVA tests were performed to determine whether selected individual-difference and situational variables significantly influenced any of the measures. Of primary importance was the finding of a significant negative correlation between standard deviation of preshot interval and free throw percentage, indicating that higher percentage shooters maintained a higher level of temporal consistency in executing their preshot routines than did lower percentage shooters. Implications for the use of preshot interval data in research and intervention by sport psychology consultants are discussed.

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Effective Coaching in Action: Observations of Legendary Collegiate Basketball Coach Pat Summitt

Andrea J. Becker and Craig A. Wrisberg

The purpose of this study was to systematically examine the practice behaviors of Pat Summitt, the winningest collegiate basketball coach in NCAA Division I history. Throughout the 2004–05 season, Summitt’s verbal and nonverbal behaviors were video recorded during six practices. A total of 3,296 behaviors were observed and coded using the Arizona State University Observation Instrument (Lacy & Darst, 1984). Results indicated that 55% (n = 1810) of Summitt’s behaviors were directed toward the team, whereas 45% (n = 1,486) were directed toward individual players. The most frequent behavior was instruction (48%, n = 1,586) followed by praise (14.5%, n = 478) and hustle (10.7%, n = 351). Contrary to predictions, no differences were found in the quantity or quality of the coaching behaviors that Summitt directed toward high and low expectancy players.

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Phenomenological Consulting: Long-Term Mental Training With an Elite College Football Place Kicker

Craig A. Wrisberg and Johannes Raabe

This case study depicts the approach taken by a sport psychology consultant who worked with an elite college football place kicker from the beginning of the individual’s freshman year to the end of his senior competitive season. The player expressed an interest in adding mental training to his conventional practice habits to manage the mental and emotional demands he expected to face throughout his career at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I level. The consultant used an approach rooted in the philosophy of existential phenomenology, referred to as phenomenological consulting. The effectiveness of interventions was determined by the player’s description of his experience and reflections of the consultant. The present study represents an example of the benefits athletes might derive from a phenomenological approach to long-term performance consulting.

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Reducing Warm-up Decrement in the Performance of the Tennis Serve

Mark H. Anshel and Craig A. Wrisberg

In the present study an attempt was made to determine the relative effectiveness of various warm-up activities in eliminating postrest warm-up decrement (WUD) in the tennis serve. Seventy highly-skilled players hit 20 serves, rested for either 5 or 15 min, and then attempted 4 final serves. During the last 2 min of the rest period, players continued to rest, ran in place, engaged in mental imagery, performed practice swings, or repeatedly hit the ball against the ground and caught it. In addition to estimates of serving accuracy, measures of somatic and cognitive arousal were obtained at the beginning and end of the rest interval. Multiple regression procedures revealed that reductions in WUD were significantly related to the restoration of prerest arousal levels. Between-group comparisons indicated that practice swings were the most effective warm-up activity for restoring somatic and cognitive arousal to prerest levels and for eliminating WUD. Theoretical discussion centered on possible applications of Nacson and Schmidt's (1971) activity-set hypothesis to the tennis serve.