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Sports Are 80 Percent Mental

July 2008

HGH - Human Growth Hoax?

Posted by Dan Peterson Jul 27, 2008

 

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Athletes, both professional and amateur, as well as the general public are convinced that human growth hormone (HGH) , Erythropoietin (EPO) and anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are all artificial and controversial paths to improved performance in sports.  The recent headlines that have included Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, Floyd Landis, Dwayne Chambers, Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi, Roger Clemens and many lesser known names (see the amazingly long list of doping cases in sport ) have referred to these three substances interchangeably leaving the public confused about who took what from whom.  With so many athletes willing to gamble with their futures, they must be confident that they will see significant short-term results.  So, is it worth the risk?  Two very interesting recent studies provide some answers on at least one of the substances, HGH. 




A team at the Stanford University School of Medicine, led by Hau Liu MD , recently reviewed 27 historical studies on the effects of HGH on athletic performance, dating back to 1966 (see reference below).  They wanted to see if there were any definitive links between HGH use and improved results.  In some of the studies, test volunteers who received HGH did develop more lean body mass, but also developed more lactate during aerobic testing which inhibited rather than helped performance.  While their muscle mass increased, other markers of athletic fitness, such as VO2max remained unchanged.  “The key takeaway is that we don’t have any good scientific evidence that growth hormone improves athletic performance,” said senior author Andrew Hoffman, MD , professor of endocrinology, gerontology and metabolism.




Both Liu and Hoffman cautioned that the amounts of HGH given to these test subjects may be much lower than the the purported levels claimed to be taken by professional athletes.  They also pointed out that at a professional level, a very slight improvement might be all that is necessary to get an edge of your opponent.  Hoffman also added an insightful comment, “So much of athletic performance at the professional level is psychological.”  If an athlete takes HGH, sees some muscle mass growth and isn't 100% sure of its performance capabilities, might he assume he now has other "Superman" powers?




That is exactly the premise that a research team from Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia used to find out if HGH users simply relied on a placebo effect.  Sixty-four participants, young adult recreational athletes, were divided into two groups of 32 and tested for a baseline of athletic ability in endurance, strength, power and sprinting.  One group received growth hormone and the other group received a simple placebo.  It was a "double-blind" study in that neither the participants nor the researchers knew during the testing which substance each group received.




At the end of the 8 week treatment, the athletes were asked if they thought they were in the HGH group or the placebo group.  Half of the group that had received the placebo incorrectly guessed that they were on HGH.  Not too surprisingly, the majority of the "incorrect guessers" were men.  Here's where it gets interesting.  The incorrect guessers also thought that their athletic abilities had improved over the 8 week period.  The team retested all of the placebo group and actually did find improvement across all of the tests, but only significantly in the high-jump test.
Jennifer Hansen, a nurse researcher and Dr. Ken Ho, head of the pituitary research unit at Garvan have not released the data on the group that did receive the HGH, but they will in their final report coming soon.




So, let's recap.  On the one hand, we have a research review that claims there is not yet any scientific evidence that HGH actually improves sports performance.  Yet, we have hundreds, if not thousands, of athletes illegally using HGH for performance gain.  Showing the effect of the "if its good enough for them, its good enough for me" beliefs of the public regarding professional athlete use of HGH, we now have research that shows even those who received a placebo, but believed they were taking HGH not only thought they were improving but actually did improve a little.  Once again, we see the power of our own natural, non-supplemented brain to convince (or fool) ourselves to perform at higher levels than we thought possible.




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<span class="Z3988" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.aulast=Liu&amp;rft.aufirst=H&amp;rft.au=H+ Liu&amp;rft.au=DBravata&amp;rft.au=IOlkin&amp;rft.au=AFriedlander&amp;rft.au=VLiu&amp;rft.au=BRoberts&amp;rft.au=EBendavid&amp;rft.au=OSaynina&amp;rft.au=SSalpeter&amp;rft.au=AGarber&amp;rft.title=AnnalsofInternalMedicine&amp;rft.atitle=Systematicreview%3Atheeffectsofgrowthhormoneonathletic+performance.&amp;rft.date=2008&amp;rft.volume=148&amp;rft.issue=10&amp;rft.spage=747&amp;rft.epage=758&amp;rft.genre=article&amp;rft.id=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.annals.org%2Fcgi%2Fcontent%2Fshort%2F148%2F10%2F747&amp;rft.id=info:PMID/18347346">Liu, H., Bravata, D.M., Olkin, I., Friedlander, A., Liu, V., Roberts, B., Bendavid, E., Saynina, O., Salpeter, S.R., Garber, A.M. (2008). Systematic review: the effects of growth hormone on athletic performance.. Annals of Internal Medicine, 148(10), 747-758.

666 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: sport, sport, sport, sports, olympics, baseball, floyd, landis, in, skills, human, doping, psychology, growth, hormone, science, barry, bonds, marion, jones, jason, giambi

Visit any youth soccer field, baseball diamond, basketball court or football field and you will likely see them:  parents behaving badly.  Take a look at this Good Morning America report:

These are the extremes, but at most games, you can find at least one adult making comments at the referee, shouting at their child, or having a verbal exchange with another parent.  Thankfully, these parents represent only a small percentage of those attending the game.  Does that mean the others don't become upset at something during the game?  Usually not, as there are lots of opportunities to dispute a bad call or observe rough play or react to one of these loud parents.  The difference is in our basic personality psyche, according to Jay Goldstein, a kinesiology doctoral student at the University of Maryland School of Public Health .  His thesis, recently published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology (see reference below), hypothesized that a parent with "control-oriented" personality would react to events at a game more than a parent with an "autonomy-oriented" personality.

 


According to Goldstein, defending our ego is what usually gets us in trouble when we feel insulted or take something personally.  At youth sports games, we transfer this pride to our kids, so if someone threatens their success on the field, we often take it personally.  The control-oriented parent is more likely to react with a verbal or sometimes physical response, while an autonomy-oriented parent is better able to internalize and maintain their emotions.  This "control" vs. "autonomy" comparison has also been seen in research on "road rage", when drivers react violently to another driver's actions.
Goldstein and his team focused their research on suburban Washington soccer parents back in 2004.  They designed a survey for parents to fill out prior to watching a youth soccer game that would help categorize them as control or autonomy-oriented.  Immediately after the game ended, another survey was given to the parents that asked about any incidents during the game that made them angry on a scale of 1, slightly angry, to 7, furious.  They were also asked what action they took when they were angry.  Choices included "did nothing" to more aggressive acts like walking towards the field and/or yelling or confronting either the referee, their own child, or another player/parent.  53% of the 340 parents surveyed reported getting angry at something during the game, while about 40% reported doing something about their anger.
There was a direct and significant correlation between control-oriented parents, as identified in the pre-game survey, and the level of angry actions they took during the game.  Autonomy-oriented parents still got mad, but reported less aggressive reactions.  As Goldstein notes, “Regardless of their personality type, all parents were susceptible to becoming more aggressive as a result of viewing actions on the field as affronts to them or their kids.  However, that being said, it took autonomy-oriented parents longer to get there as compared to the control-oriented parents.”
So, now that we know the rather obvious conclusion that parents who yell at other motorists are also likely to yell at referees, what can we do about it?  Goldstein sees this study as a first step.  He hopes to study a wider cross-section of sports and socio-economic populations.  Many youth sports organizations require parents to sign a pre-season "reminder" code of conduct, but those are often forgotten in the heat of the battle on the field.  Maybe by offering the same type of personality survey prior to the season, the "control-oriented" parents can be offered resources to help them manage their tempers and reactions during a game.  Since referees were the number one source of frustration reported by parents, two solutions are being explored by many organizations; more thorough referee training and quality control while also better training of parents on the rules of the game which often cause the confusion.
Sports contests will always be emotional, from kids' games all the way up to professionals.  Keeping the games in perspective and our reactions positive are tough things to do but when it comes to our kids, it is required.


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Goldstein, J.D., Iso-Ahola, S.E. (2008). Determinants of Parents' Sideline-Rage Emotions and Behaviors at Youth Soccer Games. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38(6), 1442-1462. DOI: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2008.00355.x</span>

751 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: basketball, coaching, soccer, baseball, relevant_research, sport_psychology, soccer_moms, sideline_rage

!http://bp1.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SHow_OmdEqI/AAAAAAAAAXU/0QZneKnbrAQ/s320-R/beane.jpg|style=border: 0pt none ;|src=http://bp1.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SHow_OmdEqI/AAAAAAAAAXU/0QZneKnbrAQ/s320-R/beane.jpg!Most baseball general managers live in obscurity most of their careers.  Its their first hire, the manager, that usually gets the red hot spotlight, after every win and loss, second-guessed by reporters with recorders and then later by fans.  The GM puts the players on the field and lets the manager and his coaches take it from there.  Billy Beane , Oakland A's general manager, could have also been an unknown, albeit interesting, name to the baseball audience if it were not for author Michael Lewis' 2003 book, Moneyball  .  Moneyball was a runaway hit (even today, 5 years later, it is #19 on Amazon's list of baseball books).  It has morphed into a full-fledged catchphrase philosophy used by everyone from Wall Street (where Beane borrowed the concept) to business consulting.  The general theme is to find undervalued assets (ballplayers) by focusing on statistics that your competition is ignoring.  Of course, you have to believe in your metrics and their predictive value for success (why has everyone else ignored these stats?)  The source of most of Beane's buried treasure of stats was Bill James and his Sabrmetrics.  Like picking undervalued stocks of soon to explode companies, Beane looked for the diamond in the dust (pun intended) and sign the player while no one was looking.  Constrained by his "small-market" team revenues, or maybe by his owners' crowbar-proof wallets, he needed to make the most from every dollar.

The combination of a GM's shrewd player selection and a manager who can develop that talent should reward the owner with the best of both worlds: an inexpensive team that wins.  This salary vs. performance metric is captured perfectly in this "real-time" graphic at BenFry.com .  It connects the updated win-loss record for each MLB team with its payroll to show the "bang for the buck" that the GMs/managers are getting from their players.  Compare the steep negative relationship for the Mets, Yankees, Tigers and Mariners with the amazing results of the Rays, Twins and Beane's own A's.  While the critics of Moneyball tactics would rightly point to the A's lack of a World Series win or even appearance, the "wins to wages" ratio has not only kept Beane in a job but given him part ownership in the A's and now the newly resurrected San Jose Earthquakes of soccer's MLS.  Beane believes the same search for meaningful and undiscovered metrics in soccer can give the Quakes the same arbitrage advantage.  In fact, there are rumours that he will focus full-time on conquering soccer as he knows there are much bigger opportunities worldwide if he can prove his methods within MLS.

In baseball, Beane relied on the uber-stat guru, Bill James, for creative and more relevant statistical slices of the game.  In soccer, he is working with some top clubs including his new favorite, Tottenham-Hotspur, of the English Premier League.  While he respects the history and tradition of the game, he is confident that his search for a competitive advantage will uncover hidden talents.  Analytical tools from companies such as Opta   in Europe and Match Analysis in the U.S. have combined video with detailed stat breakdowns of every touch of the ball for every player in each game.  Finding the right pattern and determinant of success has become the key, according to Match Analysis president Mark Brunkhart as quoted earlier this year ,
"You don't need statistics to spot the real great players or the really bad ones. The trick is to take the players between those two extremes and identify which are the best ones.  If all you do is buy the players that everyone else wants to buy then you will end up paying top dollar. But if you take Beane's approach - to use a disciplined statistical process to influence the selection of players who will bring the most value - then you are giving yourself the best chance of success. Who would not want to do that?"

Not to feel left out (or safe from scrutiny), the NBA now has its own sport-specific zealots.  The [Association for Professional Basketball Research (APBR) | http://apbr.org/] devotes its members time and research to finding the same type of meaningful stats that have been ignored by players, coaches and fans.  They, too, have their own Moneyball-bible, "The Wages of Wins " by David Berri, Martin Schmidt, and Stacey Brook.  David Berri's [WoW journal/blog | http://dberri.wordpress.com/] regularly posts updates and stories related to the current NBA season and some very intriguing analysis of its players and the value of their contributions.  None other than Malcolm Gladwell, of Tipping Point and Blink fame, provided the [review of Wages of Wins for the New Yorker | http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/05/29/060529crbo_books1].  One of the main stats used is something called a player's "Win Score" which attempts to measure the complete player, not just points, rebounds and assists.

 

Win Score (WS) = PTS + REB + STL + ½BLK + ½AST – FGA – ½FTA – TO – ½PF.   (Points, Rebounds, Steals, Blocked Shots, Assists, Field Goal Attempts, Free Throw Attempts, Turnovers, Personal Fouls)

 

WS is then adjusted for minutes played with the stat, WS48.  Of course, different player positions will have different responsibilities, so to compare players of different positions the Position Adjusted Win Score per 48 minutes or PAWS48 is calculated as: WS48 – Average WS48 at primary position played.  This allows an apples to apples comparison between players at a position, and a reasonable comparison of players' values across positions.  Berri's latest article looks at the fascination with Michael Beasley and some early comparisons in the Orlando Summer League. 

Will these statistics-based approaches to player evaluation be accepted by the "establishment"?  Judging by the growing number of young, MBA-educated GMs in sports, there is a movement towards more efficient and objective selection criteria.  Just as we saw in previous evidence-based coaching articles , the evidence-based general manager is here to stay.


 

589 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: nba, basketball, soccer, baseball, moneyball, sport_science, evidence_based_coaching, decision_theory_in_sports, billy_beane, bill_james, wages_of_wins

!http://bp1.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SHPW2TXf7bI/AAAAAAAAAXM/Ai7wkX-Ok1s/s320-R/golf.jpg|style=border: 0pt none ;|src=http://bp1.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SHPW2TXf7bI/AAAAAAAAAXM/Ai7wkX-Ok1s/s320-R/golf.jpg!Here are some quotes we have all heard (or said ourselves) on the golf course or at the ball diamond.

On a good day:

"It was like putting into the Grand Canyon"

"The baseball looked like a beach ball up there today"

On a bad day:

"The hole was as small as a thimble"

"I don't know, it looked like he was throwing marbles"

 

The baseball and the golf hole are the same size every day, so are these comments meaningless or do we really perceive these objects differently depending on the day's performance?  And, does our performance influence our perception or does our perception help our performance?

 

!http://bp3.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SHPWUztPsBI/AAAAAAAAAXE/RdKYh_ozFHQ/s200-R/witt-golfLO.jpg|style=border: 0pt none ;|src=http://bp3.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SHPWUztPsBI/AAAAAAAAAXE/RdKYh_ozFHQ/s200-R/witt-golfLO.jpg!Jessica Witt, an assistant professor of psychological science at the University of Virginia has made two attempts at the answer.  First, in a 2005 study, "See the Ball, Hit the Ball", her team studied softball players by designing an experiment that tried to correlate perceived softball size to performance.  She interviewed players immediately after a game and asked them to estimate the size of the softball by picking a circle off of a board that contained several different sizes.  She then found out how that player had done at the plate that day.  As expected, the players that were hitting well chose the larger sized circles to represent the ball size, while the underperforming hitters chose the smaller circles.  The team was not able to answer the question of causality, so they expanded the research to other sports.

 

Fast forward to July, 2008 and Witt and her team have just released a very similar study focused on golf, "[Putting to a bigger hole: Golf performance relates to perceived size | http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/psocpubs/pbr/2008/00000015/00000003/art00013]".  Using the same experiment format, players who had just finished a round of golf were asked to pick out the perceived size of the hole from a collection of holes that varied in diameter by a few centimeters.  Once again, the players who had scored well that day picked the larger holes and vice versa for that day's hackers.  So, the team came to the same conclusion that there is some relationship between perception and performance, but could not figure out the direction of the effect.  Ideally, a player could "imagine" a larger hole and then play better because of that visual cue. 

 

Researchers at Vanderbilt University may have the answer.  In a study, "[The Functional Impact of Mental Imagery on Conscious Perception | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2008.05.048]", the team led by Joel Pearson, wanted to see what influence our "Mind's Eye" has on our actual perception.  In their experiment, they asked volunteers to imagine simple patterns of vertical or horizontal stripes.  Then, they showed each person a pattern of green horizontal stripes in one eye and red vertical stripes in the other eye.  This would induce what is known as the "binocular rivalry" condition where each image would fight for control of perception and would appear to alternate from one to the other.  In this experiment, however, the subjects reported seeing the image they had first imagined more often.  So, if they had imagined vertical stripes originally, they would report seeing the red vertical stripes predominantly.

 

The team concluded that mental imagery does have an influence over what is later seen.  They also believe that the brain actually processes imagined mental images the same way it handles actual scenes.  "More recently, with advances in human brain imaging, we now know that when you imagine something parts of the visual brain do light up and you see activity there," Pearson says. "So there's more and more evidence suggesting that there is a huge overlap between mental imagery and seeing the same thing. Our work shows that not only are imagery and vision related, but imagery directly influences what we see."

 

So, back to our sports example, if we were able to imagine a large golf hole or a huge baseball, this might affect our actual perception of the real thing and increase our performance.  This link has not been tested, but its a step in the right direction.  Another open question is the effect that our emotions and confidence have on our perceived task.  That hole may look like the Grand Canyon, but the sand trap might look like the Sahara Desert!

 

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<span class="Z3988" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.aulast=Witt&amp;rft.aufirst=J&amp;rft.aumiddle=K&amp;rft.au=J+ Witt&amp;rft.title=PsychonomicBulletin%26Review&amp;rft.atitle=Puttingtoabiggerhole%3Agolfperformancerelatestoperceived+size&amp;rft.date=2008&amp;rft.volume=15&amp;rft.issue=3&amp;rft.spage=581&amp;rft.epage=585&amp;rft.genre=article&amp;rft.id=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ingentaconnect.com%2Fcontent%2Fpsocpubs%2Fpbr%2F2008%2F00000015%2F00000003%2Fart00013&amp;rft.id=info:PMID/18567258">Witt, J.K. (2008). Putting to a bigger hole: golf performance relates to perceived size. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15(3), 581-585.

481 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: coaching, golf, baseball, sport_science, evidence_based_coaching, vision_and_perception, sport_skills, sport_psychology

 

From:  Sports Are 80 Percent Mental - Getting Sport Science Out Of The Lab And Onto The Field

You are a coach, trying to juggle practice

plans, meetings, game prep and player issues while trying to stay

focused on the season's goals.  At the end of another long day, you see

this in your inbox:

 

MEMO

To:          All Head Coaches

From:      Athletic Director

Subject:  Monthly Reading List to Keep Up with Current Sport Science Research

  • Neuromuscular Activation of Triceps Surae Using Muscle Functional MRI and EMG

  • Positive effects of intermittent hypoxia (live high:train low) on

exercise performance are not mediated primarily by augmented red cell

volume

  • Physiologic Left Ventricular Cavity Dilatation in Elite Athletes

  • The Relationships of Perceived Motivational Climate to Cohesion and Collective Efficacy in Elite Female Teams

 

Just some light reading before bedtime...  This is an obvious

exaggeration (and weak attempt at humor) of the gap between sport

science researchers and practitioners.  While those are actual research

paper titles from the last few years under the heading of "sport

science", the intended audience was most likely not coaches or

athletes, but rather fellow academic peers.  The real question is

whether the important conclusions and knowledge captured in all of this

research is ever actually used to improve athletic performance?  How

can a coach or athlete understand, combine and transfer this

information into their game?

 

David Bishop of the Faculty of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Verona

has been looking at this issue for several years.  It started with a

roundtable discussion he had at the 2006 Congress of the Australian

Association for Exercise and Sports Science with several academic sport

scientists (see: Sports-Science Roundtable: Does Sports-Science Research Influence Practice?

)  He asked very direct questions regarding the definition of sport

science and whether the research always needs to be "applied" versus

establishing a "basic" foundation.  The most intriguing question was

whether there already is ample research that could applied, but it

suffered from the lack of a good translator to interpret and

communicate to the potential users - coaches and athletes.  The panel

agreed that was the missing piece, as most academic researchers just

don't have the time to deliver all of their findings directly to the

field.

 

In a follow-up to this discussion, Bishop recently published his proposed solution titled,  in Sports Medicine

(see citation below).  In it, he calls for a new framework for

researchers to follow when designing their studies so that there is

always a focus on how the results will directly improve athletic

performance.  He calls for a greater partnership role between

researchers and coaches to map out a useful agenda of real world

problems to examine.  He admits that this model, if implemented, will

only help increase the potential for applied sport science.  The

"middleman" role is still needed to bring this information to the front

lines of sports.

 

The solution for this "gathering place" community seems perfect for Web 2.0 technology.  One

specific example is an online community called iStadia.com.

Keith Irving and Rob Robson, two practicing sport science consultants,

created the site two years ago to fill this gap.  Today, with over 600

members, iStadia is approaching the type of critical mass that will be

necessary to bring all of the stakeholders together.  Of course, as

with any online community, the conversations there are only as good as

the participants want to make it.  But, with the pressure on coaches to

improve and the desire of sport scientists to produce relevant

knowledge, there is motivation to make the connection.

 

Another trend favoring more public awareness of sport science is the

additional, recent media attention, especially related to the upcoming

Beijing Olympics.  In an earlier post, Winning Olympic Gold With Sport Science, I highlighted a feature article from USA Today.  This month's Fast Company also picks up on this theme with their cover article, Innovation of Olympic Proportions,

describing several high-tech equipment innovations that will be used at

the Games.  Each article mentions the evolving trust and acceptance of

sport science research by coaches and athletes.  When they see actual

products, techniques and, most importantly, results come from the

research, they cannot deny its value.         

 

Source:

Bishop, D. (2008). An Applied Research Model for the Sport Sciences. Sports Medicine, 38(3), 253-263.

557 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: olympics, sport_science, evidence_based_coaching, relevant_research, sports_cognition, sports_science

From:  Sports Are 80 Percent Mental - Teaching Tactics and Techniques In Sports

You have probably seen both types of teams. Team A: players who are

evenly spaced, calling out plays, staying in their positions only to

watch them dribble the ball out of bounds, lose the pass, or shoot

wildly at the goal. Team B: amazing ball control, skillful shooting and

superior quickness, speed and agility but each player is a

"do-it-yourselfer" since no one can remember a formation, strategy or

position responsibility. Team A knows WHAT to do, but can't execute.

Team B knows HOW to do it, but struggles with making good team play

decisions. This is part of the ongoing balancing act of a coach. At the

youth level, teaching technique first has been the tradition, followed

by tactical training later and separately. More recently, there has

been research on the efficiency of learning in sports and whether there

is a third "mixed" option that yields better performance.

 

Earlier, we took an initial look at  as an introduction to this discussion.

In addition, Dr. Markus Raab of  the Institute for Movement Sciences and Sport, University of Flensburg, Germany,

(now of the Institute of Psychology, German Sport University in

Cologne), took a look at four major models of teaching sports skills

that agree that technical and tactical skills need to be combined for

more effective long-term learning.Each of the four models vary in their

treatment of learning along two different dimensions; implicit vs.

explicit learning and domain-specific vs. domain-general environments.

 

Types of Learning

 

Imagine two groups of boys playing baseball. The first group has gathered at

the local ball diamond at the park with their bats, balls and gloves.

No coaches, no parents, no umpires; just a group of friends playing an

informal "pick-up" game of baseball. They may play by strict baseball

rules, or they may improvise and make their own "home" rules, (no

called strikes, no stealing, etc.). In the past, they may have had more

formal coaching, but today is unstructured.

 

The second group is what we see much more often today. A team of players, wearing

their practice uniforms are driven by their parents to team practice at

a specific location and time to be handed off to the team coaches. The

coaches have planned a 90 minute session that includes structured

infield practice, then fly ball practice, then batting practice and

finally some situational scrimmages. Rules are followed and coaching

feedback is high. Both groups learn technical and tactical skills

during their afternoon of baseball. They differ in the type of learning

they experience. The first group uses "implicit" learning while the

second group uses "explicit" learning. Implicit learning is simply the

lack of explicit teaching. It is "accidental" or "incidental" learning

that soaks in during the course of our play. There is no coach teaching

the first group, but they learn by their own trial and error and

internalize the many if-then rules of technical and tactical skills.

Explicit learning, on the other hand, is directed instruction from an

expert who demonstrates proper technique or explains the tactic and the

logic behind it.

 

An interesting test of whether a specific skill or piece of knowledge has been

learned with implicit or explicit methods is to ask the athlete to describe or verbalize the

details of the skill or sub-skill. If they cannot verbalize how they

know what they know, it was most likely learned through implicit

learning. However, if they can explain the team's attacking strategy

for this game, for example, that most likely came from an explicit

learning session with their coach.

 

Types of Domains

 

The other dimension that coaches could use in choosing the best teaching

method is along the domain continuum. Some teaching methods work best

to teach a skill that is specific to that sport's domain and the level

of transferability to another sport is low. These methods are known as

domain-specific. For more general skills that can be useful in several

related sports, a method can be used known as domain-general. Why would

any coach choose a method that is not specific to their sport? There

has been evidence that teaching at a more abstract level, using both

implicit and explicit "play" can enhance future, more specific

coaching. Also, remember our discussion about kids playing multiple sports.

Based on these two dimensions, Dr. Raab looked at and summarized these four teaching models:

 

  • Teaching Games for Understanding (TGFU)

  • Decision Training (DT)

  • Ball School (Ball)

  • Situation Model of Anticipated Response consequences of Tactical training (SMART)

 

TGFU

 

The TGFU approach, (best described by Bunker, D.; Thorpe, R. (1982) A model for the

teaching of games in the secondary school, Bulletin of Physical Education, 10, 9–16), is known

for involving the athlete early in the "cognition" part of the game and

combining it with the technical aspect of the game. Rather than learn

"how-to" skills in a vacuum, TGFU argues that an athlete can tie the

technical skill with the appropriate time and place to use it and in

the context of a real game or a portion of the game. This method falls

into the explicit category of learning, as the purpose of the exercise

is explained. However, the exercises themselves stress a more

domain-general approach of more generic skills that can be transferred

between related sports such as "invasion games" (soccer, football,

rugby), "net games" (tennis, volleyball), "striking/fielding games"

(baseball, cricket) and "target games" (golf, target shooting).

 

Decision Training

 

The DT method, (best described by Vickers, J. N., Livingston, L. F.,

Umeris-Bohnert, S. & Holden, D. (1999) Decision training: the

effects of complex instruction, variable practice and reduced delayed

feedback on the acquisition and transfer of a motor skill, Journal of

Sports Sciences, 17, 357–367), uses an explicit learning style but with

a domain-specific approach. Please see my earlier post on Decision Training for

details of the approach.

 

Ball School

 

The Ball School approach, (best described by Kroger, C. & Roth, K.

(1999) Ballschule: ein ABC fur Spielanfanger [Ball school: an ABC for

game beginners] (Schorndorf, Hofmann), starts on the other end of both

spectrums, in that it teaches generic domain-general skills using

implicit learning. It emphasizes that training must be based on

ability, playfullness, and skill-based. Matching the games to the

group's abilities, while maintaining an unstructured "play" atmosphere

will help teach generic skills like "hitting a target" or "avoiding

defenders".

 

SMART

 

Dr. Raab's own SMART model, (best described in Raab, M. (2003) Decision making in

sports: implicit and explicit learning is affected by complexity of

situation, International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1,

406–433), blends implicit and explicit learning within a

domain-specific environment. The idea is that different sports'

environmental complexity may demand either an implicit or explicit

learning method. Raab had previously shown that skills learned

implicitly work best in sport enviroments with low complexity. Skills

learned explicitly will work best in highly complex environments.

Complexity is measured by the number of variables in the sport. So, a

soccer field has many moving parts, each with its own variables. So,

the bottom line is to use the learning strategy that fits the sport's

inherent difficulty. So, learning how to choose from many different

skill and tactical options would work best if matched with the right

domain-specific environment.

 

Bottom-Line for Coaches

 

What does all of this mean for the coach? That there are several different

models of instruction and that one size does not fit all situations.

Coaches need an arsenal of tools to use based on the specific goals of

the training session. In reality, most sports demand both implicit and

explicit learning, as well as skills that are specific to one domain,

and some that can transfer across several sport domains. Flexibility in

the approach taken goes back to the evidence based coaching example we gave last time.

Keeping an open mind about coaching methods and options will produce better prepared athletes.

 

(2007). Discussion. Physical Education & Sport Pedagogy, 12(1), 1-22. DOI: 10.1080/17408980601060184

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From:  Sports Are 80 Percent Mental - Winning Gold With Sport Science

Its something that every coach and every athlete of every sport is

searching for... the EDGE. That one training tip, equipment

improvement, mental preparation or tactical insight that will tip the

game towards them. The body of knowledge that exists today in each

sport is assumed, with each competitor expected to at least be aware of

the history, beliefs and traditions of their individual sport. But, if

each team is starting with the same set of information then the team

that takes the next step by applying new research and ideas will

capture the edge.

 

To me, that is what sport science is all about. The goal is to improve sports

performance by imagining, analyzing, experimenting, testing, documenting and

training new methods to coaches and athletes.

 

You might have seen a great article in the 6/23 edition of USA Today.

We meet Peter Vint, a "sport technologist" in the Performance Technology Division

of the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, whose job it is to find ways

to win more gold medals. From the article; "The next revolution, Vint says, is breaking

down the last secrets of elite athletes: response time, how they read

the field and other players — everything that goes into the vision,

perception and split-second decision-making of an athlete. 'We've

always looked at that as mysterious, something that's unmeasurable and

innate,' Vint says. 'But we think it can be taught.'"

 

Interestingly, Vint cites another pioneer in evidence-based sports coaching, Oakland

A's general manager, Billy Beane. "We're becoming progressively more

data-driven," Vint says of the center's training efforts. "We are

trying to pursue what Sabermetrics and Billy Beane did for baseball,

identifying factors that can truly influence performance." The radical

concept that Beane created, as documented in the bestseller, ,

is to stop searching for "the edge" in all the same places that

everyone else is looking. Instead, he started from scratch with new

logic about the objectives of the game of baseball itself and built

metrics that gave new insight into the types of players and skill sets

that he should acquire for his team.

 

If sport science is going to thrive and be accepted, it faces the challenge of inertia.

The ideas and techniques that are the product of sport science can also

be captured in the phrase, "evidence based coaching". Just as evidence

based medicine has slowly found its place in the physician's exam room,

the coaching profession is just beginning to trust the research.

Traditionally, "belief based coaching" has been the philosophy favored

in the clubhouse. Training drills, tactical plans, player selection and

player development has been guided by ideas and concepts that have been

handed down from one generation of coaches to the next. Most of these

beliefs are valid and have been proven on the field through many years

of trial and error. Subjecting these beliefs to scientific research may

not produce conclusions any different than what coaching lore tells us.

But, today's coaches and athletes see the competition creeping closer

to them in all aspects, so they are now willing to at least listen to

the scientists. Beane likens it to financial analysis and the stock

market. The assumption is that all information is known by all. But, if

someone can find a ratio or a statistic or make an industry insight

that no one has considered, then they own the competitive advantage; at

least until this new information is made public.

 

It takes time, though, to amass enough data to convince a head coach to

change years of habits for the unknown. Reputations and championships

are on the line, so the changes sometimes need to be implemented

slowly. Vint describes the gradual process of converting U.S. hurdler

Terrence Trammell and his coach to some of his ideas. "The relationship

between the athletes and sports scientist is critical," Vint says. "But

(for some), biomechanics has not yet provided useful enough

suggestions."

 

There still is debate on evidence based coaching vs. belief based coaching.

Robert Robson, sport psychologist and management consultant, stated,

"Sports coaching should absolutely be evidence-based, but any argument that places the

sole source of evidence in the realm of the scientific method is, I

would argue, naive and lacking in an understanding of the philosophical

underpinnings of science."  Looking forward, I will dig a little deeper into this topic in the next week, so

please check back or subscribe to Sports Are 80 Percent Mental.

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From: Sports Are 80 Percent Mental - Single Sport Kids - When To Specialize

So, your grade school son or daughter is a good athlete, playing

multiple sports and having fun at all of them. Then, you hear the usual

warning, either from coaches or other parents; "If you want your

daughter to go anywhere in this sport, then its time to let the other

sports go and commit her full-time to this one." The logic sounds

reasonable. The more time spent on one sport, the better she will be at

that sport, right? Well, when we look at the three pillars of our

Sports Cognition Framework, motor skill competence, decision making ability,

and positive mental state, the question becomes whether any of these would benefit from

playing multiple sports, at least in the early years of an athlete

(ages 3-12)? It seems obvious that specific technical motor skills,

(i.e. soccer free kicks, baseball bunting, basketball free throws) need

plenty of practice and that learning the skill of shooting free throws

will not directly make you a better bunter. On the other end, learning

how to maintain confidence, increase your focus, and manage your

emotions are skills that should easily transfer from one sport to

another. That leaves the development of tactical decision making

ability as the unknown variable. Will a young athlete learn more about

field tactics, positional play and pattern recognition from playing

only their chosen sport or from playing multiple related sports?

 

 

 

 

Researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia

learned from previous studies that for national team caliber players

there is a correlation between the breadth of sport experiences they

had as a child and the level of expertise they now have in a single

sport. In fact, these studies show that there is an inverse relation

between the amount of multi-sport exposure time and the additional

sport-specific training to reach expert status. In plain English, the

athletes that played several different (but related) sports as a child,

were able to reach national "expert" level status faster than those

that focused only one sport in grade school . Bruce Abernethy,

Joseph Baker and Jean Cote designed an experiment to observe and

measure if there was indeed a transfer of pattern recognition ability

between related sports (i.e. team sports based on putting an object in

a goal; hockey, soccer, basketball, etc.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

They recruited two group of athletes; nationally recognized experts in each

of three sports (netball, basketball and field hockey) who had broad

sports experiences as children and experienced but not expert level

players in the same sports whose grade school sports exposure was much

more limited (single sport athletes). (For those unfamiliar with

netball, it is basically basketball with no backboards and few

different rules.) The experiment showed each group a video segment of

an actual game in each of the sports. When the segment ended the groups

were asked to map out the positions and directions of each of the

players on the field, first offense and then defense, as best they

could remember from the video clip. The non-expert players were the

control group, while the expert players were the experimental groups.

First, all players were shown a netball clip and asked to respond.

Second, all were shown a basketball clip and finally the hockey clip.

The expectation of the researchers was that the netball players would

score the highest after watching the netball clip (no surprise there),

but also that the expert players of the other two sports would score

higher than the non-expert players. The reasoning behind their theory

was that since the expert players were exposed to many different sports

as a child, there might be a significant transfer effect between sports

in pattern recognition, and that this extra ability would serve them

well in their chosen sport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The results were as predicted. For each sport's test, the experts in that sport scored the

highest, followed by the experts in the other sports, with the

non-experts scoring the poorest in each sport. Their conclusion was

that there was some generic learning of pattern recognition in team

sports that was transferable. The takeaway from this study is that

there is benefit to having kids play multiple sports and that this may

shorten the time and training needed to excel in a single sport in the

future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, go ahead and let your kids play as many

sports as they want. Resist the temptation to "overtrain" in one sport

too soon. Playing several sports certainly will not hurt their future

development and will most likely give them time to find their true

talents and their favorite sport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abernethy, B., Baker, J., Côté, J. (2005). Transfer of pattern recall skills may

contribute to the development of sport expertise. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 19(6), 705-718. DOI: 10.1002/acp.1102 

 

 

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Dan Peterson

Dan Peterson

Member since: Oct 1, 2007

A Look Inside the Mind of the Athlete - You can find a mix of sport science, cognitive science, coaching and performance stories here as I focus on the "thinking" side of sports. My "home" is at http://blog.80percentmental.com. Thanks for stopping by!

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