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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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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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John Stoszkowski and Dave Collins

Heutagogic learning is characterized by the notion of human agency. Power and autonomy are placed firmly in the hands of the learner, who takes responsibility for, and control of, what they will learn, when it will be learnt and how it will be learnt. As a result, if sufficiently reflexive, heutagogic learners are said to acquire both competencies (knowledge and skills) and capabilities (the capacity to appropriately and effectively apply one’s competence in novel and unanticipated situations). The complex and dynamic environment of sports coaching, coupled with coaches’ apparent preference for informal self-directed learning methods (as opposed to more formalised educational settings), would therefore seem perfect for its application. In this insights paper, we aim to stimulate debate by providing a critical overview of the heutagogic method and consider it against the nature of coaching skill. In tandem, we identify some essential preconditions that coaches might need to develop before heutagogic approaches might be deployed effectively in coach education.

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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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Amanda Martindale and Dave Collins

The article “What works when working with athletes” by Fifer, Henschen, Gould, and Ravizza (2008) offers an interesting array of information and insights used by three highly experienced applied sport psychology consultants. This response article, however, contends that it may be possible to glean a further, and crucial, level of understanding by exploring the metacognition behind the selection of such courses of action. This may be provided through applied cognitive task analysis (ACTA) techniques to access the cognitive mechanisms underpinning professional practice. A suggested research direction is to use ACTA techniques such as in-depth interviews and cognitive mapping with highly experienced applied sport psychology consultants. Specifically, these techniques would enable readers to access judgments and decisions, attentional demands, critical cues and patterns, and problem solving strategies (Gore & McAndrew, 2009). This level of understanding may help to establish how these cognitive processes impact on the support provided to clients, and in turn, assist in developing more conceptually rigorous training methods.

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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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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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John Stoszkowski and Dave Collins

Heutagogy is the focus on self-determined learning by the learner. In a recent Insights paper, Stoszkowski and Collins offered a critical overview of heutagogy, highlighting the potential advantages for coaching and coach education, as well as some concerns with its use. The aim of the present study was to offer insight into student-coaches’ experiences on a sports coaching bachelor degree module that was underpinned by a heutagogical approach to learning. Twenty-six student-coaches (6 females and 20 males) took part in semi-structured group interviews, 19 of whom had completed an end of module survey. Data were analyzed inductively and findings revealed that performance on, and perceptions of, the module showed the approach was differentially effective, with three higher order themes representing the student-coaches’ articulation of their experiences: (a) attitudinal disposition, (b) knowledge and experience, and (c) skill set. Although the findings of present study suggest heutagogy is a potentially useful method in coach education, we also highlight some potentially essential caveats to the use of the method.

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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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Mary McClung and Dave Collins

In the perpetual quest for better performance, athletes are using an increasingly diverse range of ergogenic aids. Some are permitted; however, this “drug” use is often seen as an ethically questionable behavior. A variety of research suggests that much of the impact of such aids may be due to expectancy—the belief that the substance will aid performance. It would be useful to demonstrate this to athletes considering such usage, especially as a pillar of antidrug education. Accordingly, this investigation used sodium bicarbonate and placebo additives in a double disassociation design, with athletes completing a series of 1,000-m time trials. Results showed that believing one had taken the substance resulted in times almost as fast as those associated with consuming the drug itself. In contrast, taking the drug without knowledge yielded no significant performance increment. Results are discussed against the backdrop of applying expectancy effects in high-performance sport, including dissuading athletes from using illegal aids.