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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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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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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.

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Sergio Lara-Bercial and Clifford J. Mallett

In 2011, the Innovation Group of Leading Agencies of the International Council for Coaching Excellence initiated a project aimed at supporting the identification and development of the next generation of high performance coaches. The project, entitled Serial Winning Coaches, studied the personalities, practices and developmental pathways of professional and Olympic coaches who had repeatedly achieved success at the highest level of sport. This paper is the third publication originating from this unique project. In the first paper, Mallett and Coulter (2016) focused on the development and testing of a novel multilayered methodology in understanding a person through a single case study of a successful Olympic coach. In the second, Mallett and Lara-Bercial (2016) applied this methodology to a large sample of Serial Winning Coaches and offered a composite account of their personality. In this third instalment, we turn the focus onto the actual practices and developmental pathways of these coaches. The composite profile of their practice emerging from the analysis revolves around four major themes: Philosophy, Vision, People and Environment. In addition, a summary of the developmental activities accessed by these coaches and their journey to success is also offered. Finally, we consider the overall findings of the project and propose the concept of Driven Benevolence as the overarching operational principle guiding the actions and behaviours of this group of Serial Winning Coaches.

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Alison Keogh, Barry Smyth, Brian Caulfield, Aonghus Lawlor, Jakim Berndsen and Cailbhe Doherty

Purpose: Despite the volume of available literature focusing on marathon running and the prediction of performance, no single prediction equations exists that is accurate for all runners of varying experiences and abilities. Indeed the relative merits and utility of the existing equations remain unclear. Thus, the aim of this study was to collate, characterize, compare, and contrast all available marathon prediction equations. Methods: A systematic review was conducted to identify observational research studies outlining any kind of prediction algorithm for marathon performance. Results: Thirty-six studies with 114 equations were identified. Sixty-one equations were based on training and anthropometric variables, whereas 53 equations included variables that required laboratory tests and equipment. The accuracy of these equations was denoted via a variety of metrics; r 2 values were provided for 68 equations (r 2 = .10–.99), and an SEE was provided for 19 equations (SEE 0.27–27.4 min). Conclusion: Heterogeneity of the data precludes the identification of a single “best” equation. Important variables such as course gradient, sex, and expected weather conditions were often not included, and some widely used equations did not report the r 2 value. Runners should therefore be wary of relying on a single equation to predict their performance.

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Helen T. Douda, Argyris G. Toubekis, Alexandra A. Avloniti and Savvas P. Tokmakidis

Purpose:

To identify the physiological and anthropometric predictors of rhythmic gymnastics performance, which was defined from the total ranking score of each athlete in a national competition.

Methods:

Thirty-four rhythmic gymnasts were divided into 2 groups, elite (n = 15) and nonelite (n = 19), and they underwent a battery of anthropometric, physical fitness, and physiological measurements. The principal-components analysis extracted 6 components: anthropometric, flexibility, explosive strength, aerobic capacity, body dimensions, and anaerobic metabolism. These were used in a simultaneous multiple-regression procedure to determine which best explain the variance in rhythmic gymnastics performance.

Results:

Based on the principal-component analysis, the anthropometric component explained 45% of the total variance, flexibility 12.1%, explosive strength 9.2%, aerobic capacity 7.4%, body dimensions 6.8%, and anaerobic metabolism 4.6%. Components of anthropometric (r = .50) and aerobic capacity (r = .49) were significantly correlated with performance (P < .01). When the multiple-regression model—y = 10.708 + (0.0005121 × VO2 max) + (0.157 × arm span) + (0.814 × midthigh circumference) - (0.293 × body mass)—was applied to elite gymnasts, 92.5% of the variation was explained by VO2max (58.9%), arm span (12%), midthigh circumference (13.1%), and body mass (8.5%).

Conclusion:

Selected anthropometric characteristics, aerobic power, flexibility, and explosive strength are important determinants of successful performance. These findings might have practical implications for both training and talent identification in rhythmic gymnastics.

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Sarah Kölling, Rob Duffield, Daniel Erlacher, Ranel Venter and Shona L. Halson

The body of research that reports the relevance of sleep in high-performance sports is growing steadily. While the identification of sleep cycles and diagnosis of sleep disorders are limited to lab-based assessment via polysomnography, the development of activity-based devices estimating sleep patterns provides greater insight into the sleep behavior of athletes in ecological settings. Generally, small sleep quantity and/or poor quality appears to exist in many athletic populations, although this may be related to training and competition context. Typical sleep-affecting factors are the scheduling of training sessions and competitions, as well as impaired sleep onset as a result of increased arousal prior to competition or due to the use of electronic devices before bedtime. Further challenges are travel demands, which may be accompanied by jet-lag symptoms and disruption of sleep habits. Promotion of sleep may be approached via behavioral strategies such as sleep hygiene, extending nighttime sleep, or daytime napping. Pharmacological interventions should be limited to clinically induced treatments, as evidence among healthy and athletic populations is lacking. To optimize and manage sleep in athletes, it is recommended to implement routine sleep monitoring on an individual basis.

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Nicola Furlan, Mark Waldron, Kathleen Shorter, Tim J. Gabbett, John Mitchell, Edward Fitzgerald, Mark A. Osborne and Adrian J. Gray

Purpose:

To investigate temporal variation in running intensity across and within halves and evaluate the agreement between match-analysis indices used to identify fluctuations in running intensity in rugby sevens.

Methods:

Data from a 15-Hz global positioning system (GPS) were collected from 12 elite rugby sevens players during the IRB World Sevens Series (N = 21 full games). Kinematic (eg, relative distance [RD]) and energetic (eg, metabolic power [MP]) match-analysis indices were determined from velocity–time curves and used to investigate between-halves variations. Mean MP and RD were used to identify peak 2-minute periods of play. Adjacent 2-minute periods (prepeak and postpeak) were compared with peak periods to identify changes in intensity. MP and RD were expressed relative to maximal oxygen uptake (V̇O2max) and speed at V̇O2max, respectively, and compared in their ability to describe the intensity of peak periods and their temporal occurrence.

Results:

Small to moderate reductions were present for kinematic (RD; 8.9%) and energetic (MP; 6%) indices between halves. Peak periods (RD = 130 m/min, MP =13 W/kg) were higher (P < .001) than the match average (RD = 94 m/min, MP = 9.5 W/kg) and the prepeak and postpeak periods (P < .001). RD underestimated the intensity of peak periods compared with MP (bias 16%, limits of agreement [LoA] ± 6%). Peak periods identified by RD and MP were temporally dissociated (bias 21 s, LoA ± 212 s).

Conclusions:

The findings suggest that running intensity varies between and within halves; however, the index used will influence both the magnitude and the temporal identification of peak periods.