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Jürgen Beckmann and Michael Kellmann

In this paper we discuss some of the factors sport psychologists should consider before administering questionnaires or other formal assessment instruments to athletes. To be used effectively, assessment instruments need to be (a) reliable and valid for the individual athlete or sport group in question, (b) seen as useful by the athlete(s) completing the instrument, and be (c) completed honestly by the athlete(s). Additional objectives sport psychologists should strive to achieve include a clear identification of the purpose of the assessment instrument, the commitment of athlete and coach to the assessment process, and the maintenance of a clear channel of communication with coaches and athletes throughout the period of psychological assessment, training, feedback, evaluation, and adjustment.

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John Hennings, Tristan Wallhead and Mark Byra

Peer-assisted learning (PAL) strategies, such as the reciprocal style of teaching, have been shown to be effective in developing motor skills. Despite this research, little is currently understood of how PAL strategies influence the teaching-learning process. The purpose of this study was to use a didactic methodology (Amade-Escot, 2005) to examine the content taught and learned by two pairs of undergraduate students participating in reciprocal style (Mosston & Ashworth, 2002) episodes of indoor climbing. The didactic protocol included collecting data regarding student intentions, actions and interpretations of content, and the identification of problematic episodes in the teaching-learning process or Critical Didactic Incidents. The participants’ improved their knowledge and performance of lower complexity climbing skills. Participants’ failure to construct more sophisticated climbing content was as a result of deficiencies in the peer observer’s in-task error diagnosis feedback and teaching style imposed constraints on teacher intervention.

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Jean Côté

The purpose of the present study was to describe patterns in the dynamics of families of talented athletes throughout their development in sport. Four families, including three families of elite rowers and one family of an elite tennis player were examined. The framework provided by Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Römer (1993) to explain expert performance served as the theoretical basis for the study. Ericsson et al. suggested that the acquisition of expert performance involves operating within three types of constraints: motivational, effort, and resource. In-depth interviews were conducted with each athlete, parent, and sibling to explore how they have dealt with these three constraints. A total of 15 individual interviews were conducted. Results permitted the identification of three phases of participation from early childhood to late adolescence: the sampling years, the specializing years, and the investment years. The dynamics of the family in each of these phases of development is discussed.

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Graham Jones, Sheldon Hanton and Declan Connaughton

The authors conducted an investigation of mental toughness in a sample population of athletes who have achieved ultimate sporting success. Eight Olympic or world champions, 3 coaches, and 4 sport psychologists agreed to participate. Qualitative methods addressed 3 fundamental issues: the definition of mental toughness, the identification of its essential attributes, and the development of a framework of mental toughness. Results verified the authors’ earlier definition of mental toughness and identified 30 attributes that were essential to being mentally tough. These attributes clustered under 4 separate dimensions (attitude/mindset, training, competition, postcompetition) within an overall framework of mental toughness. Practical implications and future avenues of research involving the development of mental toughness and measurement issues are discussed.

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Sabrina Skorski, Oliver Faude, Chris R. Abbiss, Seraina Caviezel, Nina Wengert and Tim Meyer

Purpose:

To date, there has been limited research examining the influence of pacing pattern (PP) on middle-distance swimming performance. As such, the purpose of the current study was to examine the influence of PP manipulation on 400-m freestyle swimming performance.

Methods:

15 front-crawl swimmers (5 female, 10 male; age 18 ± 2 y) performed 3 simulated 400-m swimming events. The initial trial was self-selected pacing (PPSS). The following 2 trials were performed in a counterbalanced order and required participants to complete the first 100 m more slowly (PPSLOW: 4.5% ± 2.2%) or quickly (PPFAST: 2.4% ± 1.6%) than the PPSS trial. 50-m split times were recorded during each trial.

Results:

Overall performance time was faster in PPSS (275.0 ± 15.9 s) than in PPFAST (278.5 ± 16.4 s, P = .05) but not significantly different from PPSLOW (277.5 ± 16.2 s, P = .22). However, analysis for practical relevance revealed that pacing manipulation resulted in a “likely” (>88.2%) decrease in performance compared with PPSS.

Conclusion:

Moderate manipulation of the starting speed during simulated 400-m freestyle races seems to affect overall performance. The observed results indicate that PPSS is optimal in most individuals, yet it seems to fail in some swimmers. Future research should focus on the identification of athletes possibly profiting from manipulations.

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Elaine M. Blinde and James E. Tierney III

This study explored in depth the process by which sport psychology ideas and techniques are diffused into elite-level swimming programs in the United States. Three stages in the diffusion process were examined: initial exposure, degree of receptivity, and rate of implementation. A questionnaire designed to measure this diffusion process was mailed to the 165 Level 5 coaches in the U.S. Sources through which coaches are exposed to sport psychology were identified, as well as factors influencing levels of receptivity and implementation. Intercorrelations among initial exposure, receptivity, and implementation were also examined and factors were identified that may reduce levels of receptivity and implementation. Findings suggest that despite only a moderate degree of exposure, coaches are generally receptive and willing to implement sport psychology into their programs. Major obstacles to both receptivity and implementation were generally related to structural aspects of amateur swimming in the U.S. or the sport psychology community. Identification of such factors can help the sport psychology community improve the process by which its knowledge base is diffused into the sporting community.

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Simon A. Worsnop

The purpose of this article is to examine the application of talent development principles to the coaching of rugby. It will consider the generic and sport specific problems of talent identification and selection, particularly the danger of early selection that poses the dual problems of early disengagement on the one hand and over specialization on the other. The paper will touch upon the various proposed models of athlete development and discuss the ways in which a national governing body of sport can influence player development along the age continuum. The role of the individual coach in developing young players and the importance of coach development and education will also be considered. Understanding the needs of players at different times in their development, and having a clear knowledge of how to improve performance in an efficient, time restrained but also enjoyable manner is a key skill for any coach. However, this skill requires time to grow and many coach education systems do not provide the ongoing support mechanisms that will enable a coach to grow and flourish, resulting in a less than optimal coaching environment.

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Federico Y. Fontana, Alessandro Colosio, Gabriela F. De Roia, Giorgio Da Lozzo and Silvia Pogliaghi

Anthropometric evaluation of athletes is necessary to optimize talent identification and player development.

Objectives:

To provide a specific anthropometric reference database of senior male rugby players competing at different levels in the southern European region.

Design:

Cross-sectional.

Methods:

In 362 professional players (25 ± 4 y; 138 Italian national team, 97 first-division, and 127 second-division national championships) the authors measured mass, stature, and percentage body fat (plicometry). Mean, SD, and coefficient of variation were calculated for forwards and backs and for positional subgroups. Binomial logistic regression and receiver-operating-characteristic curve were performed to assess which variables best predicted level assignment (international vs national level).

Results:

For all competitive levels forwards were significantly heavier and taller and had a larger percentage body fat and fat-free mass than backs. The lower the competitive level, the higher the within-role variability observed; furthermore, players in a specific positional subgroup were lighter, shorter, and fatter and had less fat-free mass. Fat-free mass is the variable that best predicts the likelihood of being classified as an international or national player (cutoff value 79.54 kg).

Conclusions:

The data confirm the specificity in the physical requirements of rugby in individual playing positions at all competitive levels and document significant differences among elite and 1st- and 2nd-division players in the same positional role. These differences may reflect the variable technical abilities, selection, training practices, and requirements of the game among these categories.

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Michael Wilkinson, Damon Leedale-Brown and Edward M. Winter

Purpose:

We examined the validity and reproducibility of a squash-specifc test designed to assess change-of-direction speed.

Methods:

10 male squash and 10 male association-football and rugby-union players completed the Illinois agility run (IAR) and a squash change-of-direction-speed test (SCODS) on separate days. Tests were repeated after 24 h to assess reproducibility. The best time from three attempts was recorded in each trial.

Results:

Performance times on the IAR (TE 0.27 s, 1.8%, 90% CI 0.21 to 0.37 s; LOA -0.12 s ± 0.74; LPR slope 1, intercept -2.8) and SCODS (TE 0.18 s, 1.5%, 90% CI 0.14 to 0.24 s; LOA 0.05 s ± 0.49; LPR slope 0.95, intercept 0.5) were reproducible. There were no statistically significant differences in performance time between squash (14.75 ± 0.66 s) and nonsquash players (14.79 ± 0.41 s) on the IAR. Squash players (10.90 ± 0.44 s) outperformed nonsquash players (12.20 ± 0.34 s) on the SCODS (P < .01). Squash player rank significantly correlated with SCODS performance time (Spearman’s ρ = 0.77, P < .01), but not IAR performance time (Spearman’s ρ = 0.43, P = .21).

Conclusions:

The results suggest that the SCODS test is a better measure of sport-specific capability than an equivalent nonspecific field test and that it is a valid and reliable tool for talent identification and athlete tracking.

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Gregory R. Cox, Iñigo Mujika and Cees-Rein van den Hoogenband

Water polo is an aquatic team sport that requires endurance, strength, power, swimming speed, agility, tactical awareness, and specific technical skills, including ball control. Unlike other team sports, few researchers have examined the nutritional habits of water polo athletes or potential dietary strategies that improve performance in water polo match play. Water polo players are typically well muscled, taller athletes; female players display higher levels of adiposity compared with their male counterparts. Positional differences exist: Center players are heavier and have higher body fat levels compared with perimeter players. Knowledge of the physical differences that exist among water polo players offers the advantage of player identification as well as individualizing nutrition strategies to optimize desired physique goals. Individual dietary counseling is warranted to ensure dietary adequacy, and in cases of physique manipulation. Performance in games and during quality workouts is likely to improve by adopting strategies that promote high carbohydrate availability, although research specific to water polo is lacking. A planned approach incorporating strategies to facilitate muscle glycogen refueling and muscle protein synthesis should be implemented following intensified training sessions and matches, particularly when short recovery times are scheduled. Although sweat losses of water polo players are less than what is reported for land-based athletes, specific knowledge allows for appropriate planning of carbohydrate intake strategies for match play and training. Postgame strategies to manage alcohol intake should be developed with input from the senior player group to minimize the negative consequences on recovery and player welfare.