Although it is commonly believed that focusing too much attention on the injured body area impairs recovery in sports, this has not been directly assessed. The present study investigated attentional focus following sports injury. Experienced baseball position players recovering from knee surgery (Expt 1) and baseball pitchers recovering from elbow surgery (Expt 2) performed simulated batting and pitching respectively. They also performed three different secondary tasks: leg angle judgments, arm angle judgments, and judgments about the ball leaving their bat/hand. Injured athletes were compared with expert and novice control groups. Performance on the secondary tasks indicated that the injured batters had an internal focus of attention localized on the area of the injury resulting in significantly poorer batting performance as compared with the expert controls. Injured pitchers had a diffuse, internal attentional focus similar to that of novices resulting in poorer pitching performance as compared with the expert controls.
Rob Gray and Jonathan Allsop
How is performance under pressure influenced by the history of events that precede it, and how does the pressure outcome influence the series of events that follow? A baseball batting simulation was used with college players to investigate these questions. In Experiment 1, the difficulty of the simulation was first adaptively adjusted to equate performance level. Batters next completed 20 at-bats used to classify them into one of three performance groups (normal, cold streak, or hot streak) followed by a one at-bat pressure condition. Finally, performance was evaluated over a period of 20 postpressure at-bats. In Experiment 2, a series of secondary tasks were added to assess attentional focus. In both experiments, whether batters succeeded or failed under pressure was significantly related to their performance history immediately before the pressure event, with the normal group having the poorest pressure performance. Performance postpressure was significantly related to both the pressure outcome and prepressure performance. These performance effects were related to changes in the batter’s attentional focus as shown by changes in secondary task accuracy.
Brooke Castaneda and Rob Gray
This study addressed the question, what should baseball players focus their attention on while batting? Less-skilled and highly skilled (college) baseball players participated in four dual-task conditions in a baseball batting simulation: two that directed attention to skill execution (skill/internal [movement of the hands] and skill/external [movement of the bat]) and two that directed attention to the environment (environmental/irrelevant [auditory tones] and environmental/external [the ball leaving the bat]). Batting performance for highly skilled players was best in the environmental/external condition and worst in the skill/internal condition. Performance of less-skilled batters was significantly better in the two skill conditions than in either of the two environmental conditions. We conclude that the optimal focus of attention for highly skilled batters is one that does not disrupt proceduralized knowledge and permits attention to the perceptual effect of the action, whereas the optimal focus of attention for less-skilled batters is one that allows attention to the step-by-step execution of the swing.
Rob Gray, Anders Orn and Tim Woodman
Are pressure-induced performance errors in experts associated with novice-like skill execution (as predicted by reinvestment/conscious processing theories) or expert execution toward a result that the performer typically intends to avoid (as predicted by ironic processes theory)? The present study directly compared these predictions using a baseball pitching task with two groups of experienced pitchers. One group was shown only their target, while the other group was shown the target and an ironic (avoid) zone. Both groups demonstrated significantly fewer target hits under pressure. For the target-only group, this was accompanied by significant changes in expertise-related kinematic variables. In the ironic group, the number of pitches thrown in the ironic zone was significantly higher under pressure, and there were no significant changes in kinematics. These results suggest that information about an opponent can influence the mechanisms underlying pressure-induced performance errors.
Pradeep Vanguri and Rob Gray
Leanne Liggett, Andrew Gray, Winsome Parnell, Rob McGee and Yvette McKenzie
Objective measures, such as accelerometers, are increasingly being used to measure physical activity (PA) levels in children, and the use of validated and reliable instruments is desirable when measuring the effectiveness of programs. The purpose of this study was to determine the validity and reliability of the New Lifestyles NL-1000 accelerometer among preschoolers using a modified version of the Children’s Activity Rating Scale (CARS).
Fourteen preschoolers wore the NL-1000 at their waist while the device measured activity levels [in seconds of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA)]. They were also videoed for approximately 12 minutes while participating in normal activities at an early childhood center. At approximately 2-minute intervals, activity level readings derived from the NL-1000 were recorded. The video footage was analyzed using a modified CARS technique and the CARS scores compared with data obtained from the accelerometer.
Within subject reliability was measured using intraclass correlation coefficients (0.58 for CARS and 0.59 for NL-1000). Furthermore, 95% of the variation in CARS could be explained by variation in the accelerometer counts, with 2.4% of the variation being participant-specific.
The NL-1000 is a sufficiently reliable and valid tool for assessing MVPA in preschoolers.