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Amanda Martindale and Dave Collins

On the basis of anecdotal evidence and media interest, the public profile of applied sport psychology is ever increasing in terms of its perceived impact on the performance of elite athletes and teams. In the profession, however, there is some concern over whether we are managing to concurrently match this pace empirically, through the evolution of scientific methods and mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness of practice. This article considers requirements of the current evaluation climate and provides an overview of existing formal evaluation procedures. It is suggested that the evolving intricacies and complexities of applied sport psychology practice are neither fully captured nor represented by these procedures. Consequently, a framework of professional judgment and decision making (PJDM) is proposed from which to consider the evaluation of practice. In addition, methods and mechanisms for enhancing and building on our current evaluation procedures are offered.

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Tom Willmott and Dave Collins

This study offered a first examination of skill development within freeskiing and snowboarding, using semistructured interviews to examine trick progression. Participants were purposefully recruited as performing at world top 8 level in 2014, the most recent Winter Olympic Games. A semi structured interview protocol, using a personalized progress chart, enabled the examination of trick progression across disciplines, with at least one participant from each of the events represented at the Games. Trick progression was achieved intermittently, moving through different stages during the year subject to experiencing the right conditions, training facilities, balancing time for progression with time for consolidation, competition periods and rehabilitating from injuries. There was high variance in the duration of trick progression between individuals and also high variance in the number of repetitions required to land a trick in competition. Imagery was a mental skill widely used and universally supported by our sample. Athletes and coaches should take directionality into consideration when planning their progression, ensuring all four directions are included and that prerequisite manoeuvres are included in an athlete’s training repertoire at the right stage to facilitate the learning of more complex manoeuvres at a later stage of development. Our data found a 60–40 balance between time-spent training on and off-snow, further research is required to determine the best combination of traditional strength and conditioning versus movement conditioning approaches, both from an injury prevention and a performance enhancement perspective.

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Jamie Taylor and Dave Collins

Given the nonlinear nature of talent development, there is a lack of research investigating those who do not “make it.” Therefore, the purpose of this investigation was to explore the reasons that performers of high potential did not meet their expected performance level. Participants, who were experienced talent developers in high-level academies from football and rugby, identified 5 broad reasons for these failures: lack of mental skills, serendipity, pathway-based failures, maladaptive family input, and lack of physical skills. Using a 3-part focus derived from the data, the authors suggest ways that talent pathways can optimize their output and prevent these failures.

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Amanda Martindale and Dave Collins

This case study of an elite judo player recovering from injury provides an exemplification of a practitioner’s Professional Judgment and Decision Making (PJDM) using a ‘reflection-in-action research’ methodology. The process of “reflection-in-action” Schön (1991) and in particular the concept of ‘framing’ offer insight into how professionals think in action. These concepts assisted the practitioner in organizing, clarifying and conceptualizing the client’s issues and forming intentions for impact. This case study exemplifies the influence of practitioner PJDM on implementation at multiple levels of practice including planning the overall program of support, designing specific interventions to aid client recovery and moment-to-moment in-situ decision making session-by session. It is suggested that consideration of practitioner PJDM should be a strong feature of case study reporting and that this approach carries the potential to extend our use of case studies within applied sport psychology practice.

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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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John Stoszkowski and Dave Collins

A reflective approach to practice is consistently espoused as a key tool for understanding and enhancing coach learning and raising the vocational standards of coaches. As such, there is a clear need for practical tools and processes that might facilitate the development and measurement of “appropriate” reflective skills. The aim of this preliminary study was to explore the use of online blogs as a tool to support refection and community of practice in a cohort of undergraduate sports coaching students. Twenty-six students (6 females, 20 males) reflected on their coaching practice via blogs created specifically for refection. Blogs were subjected to category and content analysis to identify the focus of entries and to determine both the emergent reflective quality of posts and the extent to which an online community of practice emerged. Findings revealed that descriptive refection exceeded that of a critical nature, however, bloggers exhibited a positive trajectory toward higher order thinking and blogs were an effective platform for supporting tutor-student interaction. Despite the peer discourse features of blogs, collaborative refection was conspicuous by its absence and an online community of practice did not emerge.

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Amanda Martindale and Dave Collins

This paper establishes current theoretical understanding on the development of professional judgment and decision-making (PJDM) expertise within applied sport psychology (ASP). Traditional and naturalistic paradigms of decision making are contrasted and the resulting blending of systematic analysis and intuition most appropriate for applied practice is explained through the concept of skilled intuition (Kahneman & Klein, 2009). Conditions for the development of skilled intuition are considered alongside recognition of the fragility of human judgment and the subtleties of the ASP environment. Key messages from cognitive psychology literature on the development of PJDM expertise are offered and recommendations made to facilitate the acquisition of decision-making expertise in ASP.

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Jamie Taylor and Dave Collins

There appears to be general agreement that interaction with significant challenge should be a central feature of the development pathways for future high performers. There is, however, far less clarity about how such programs should be designed and delivered against core psychological principles. Accordingly, the purpose of this paper is to offer guidelines for talent development practitioners seeking to offer athletes the opportunity to maximize their growth and development. The authors propose that genuinely developmental experiences will likely offer a level of emotional disturbance and, as a result, more fully engage performers, prompting self and other facilitated reflection, and motivate future action. Furthermore, there is a necessity for these experiences and their follow-up, to be managed in a coherent manner and integrated with existing skills, experience, and future performance aims. In highlighting these issues, the authors offer recommendations for talent development coaches, managers, psychologists, and parents of athletes.

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Áine MacNamara and Dave Collins

The importance of psychological characteristics as positive precursors of talent development is acknowledged in literature. Unfortunately, there has been little consideration of the “darker” side of the human psyche. It may be that an inappropriate emphasis on positive characteristics may limit progress. Negative characteristics may also imply derailment or the potential for problems. A comprehensive evaluation of developing performers should cater for positive dual effect and negative characteristics so that these may be exploited and moderated appropriately. An integrated and dynamic system, with a holistic integration of clinical and sport psychology, is offered as an essential element of development systems.

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Amanda Martindale and Dave Collins

The field of applied sport psychology has recognized the growing consensus that professional autonomy and discretion brings with it the need to train, regulate, and evaluate practice (Evetts, 2001). However, research into how practitioners’ professional judgment is formed and the decision-making processes involved has not received concurrent attention. This paper illustrates some of the possible outcomes and implications for applied sport psychologists from consideration of Professional Judgment and Decision Making (PJDM) research in other fields such as medicine and teaching and in parallel disciplines such as clinical and counseling psychology. Investigation into the nature of decision content and how the crucial “intention for impact” (Hill, 1992) is formulated carries implications for the assessment, reflective practice, and professional development and training of applied sport psychologists. Future directions in PJDM research are suggested and a call is made for practitioners to be open to involvement in research of this nature.