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Sports Are 80 Percent Mental

17 Posts tagged with the evidence_based_coaching tag

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After an hour of sweating on the treadmill or pumping iron, most of us look forward to the extra post-exercise "afterburn" of fat cells that has been promised to us by fitness pundits. This 24-hour period of altered metabolism is supposed to help with our overall weight loss. 

Unfortunately, a recent study found this to be a myth for moderate exercisers.

 

The new research clarifies a misunderstanding that exercisers can ignore their diet after a workout because their metabolism is in this super active state.

 

"It's not that exercise doesn't burn fat," said Edward Melanson, associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, "It's just that we replace the calories. People think they have a license to eat whatever they want, and our research shows that is definitely not the case. You can easily undo what you set out to do.”

 

The findings were detailed in the April edition of Exercise and Sport Sciences Review.

 

What does happen


Melanson and his team set out to measure whether people were able to burn more calories for the 24 hours after a workout compared to a day with no exercise. Their test groups, totaling 65 volunteers, included a mix of lean vs. obese and active vs. sedentary people.

On exercise days, they rode stationary bikes until they had burned 400 calories. Their pre and post exercise diet was controlled.

Throughout the groups, there was no difference in the amount of fat burned in the 24-hour period either with or without exercise.  Of course, during the exercise plenty of calories were being burned and that's the formula that Melanson would like us to remember.  "If you are using exercise to lose body weight or body fat, you have to consider how many calories you are expending and how many you are taking in," Melanson recently told WebMd. The daily energy balance or "calories in vs. calories out" is the most reliable equation for long-term weight loss.

While the current research focused on the moderate activity levels of most people, the researchers admitted they still need to examine the effect of higher intensity workouts and multiple consecutive days of exercise.

They are clear on their current message. "We suggest that it is time to put the myth that low intensity exercise promotes a greater fat burn to rest," Melanson writes. "Clearly, exercise intensity does not have an effect on daily fat balance, if intake is unchanged."

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Type of workout

So, how about a weight resistance training program mixed in with cardio work?  Another fitness industry claim is that more muscle mass on your frame will raise your metabolism rate, even while sitting on the couch.

 

The same study, using the same test groups, found the post-exercise rate of calorie burn did not change on days of lifting versus no lifting. It is true that a pound of muscle burns seven to ten calories per day versus only two calories per day for a pound of fat. However, the average adult just doesn't put on enough lean muscle mass to make this difference significant.

 

While this research dispels one myth about exercise, there is still overwhelming evidence of the benefits of movement when combined with your eating habits. So, before eating that double cheeseburger and fries, you might want to do some math to figure out how many stairs you'll have to climb to break even.

 

 

Please visit my other sports science articles at Sports Are 80 Percent Mental </b>

391 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, fitness, evidence_based_coaching, sports_science

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At a recent baseball game, the 12-year-old second baseman on my son's team had a ground ball take a nasty hop, hitting him just next to his right eye. He was down on the field for several minutes and was later diagnosed at the hospital with a concussion.

 

Thankfully, acute baseball injuries like this are on the decline, according to a new report. However, several leading physicians say overuse injuries of young players caused by too much baseball show no signs of slowing down.

 

Our unlucky infielder's hospital injury report may become part of a national database called the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), part of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. It monitors 98 hospitals across the country for reports on all types of injuries.

 

Bradley Lawson, Dawn Comstock and Gary Smith of Ohio State University filtered this data to find just baseball-related injuries to kids under 18 from 1994-2006.

 

During that period, they found that more than 1.5 million young players were treated in hospital emergency rooms, with the most common injury being, you guessed it, being hit by the ball, and typically in the face.

 

The good news is that the annual number of baseball injuries has decreased by 24.9 percent over those 13 years. The researchers credit the decline to the increased use of protective equipment.

 

"Safety equipment such as age-appropriate breakaway bases, helmets with properly-fitted face shields, mouth guards and reduced-impact safety baseballs have all been shown to reduce injuries," Smith said. "As more youth leagues, coaches and parents ensure the use of these types of safety equipment in both practices and games, the number of baseball-related injuries should continue to decrease. Mouth guards, in particular, should be more widely used in youth baseball."

 

Their research is detailed in the latest edition of the journal Pediatrics.

 

The bad news is ...


 


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While accident-related injuries are down, preventable injuries from overuse still seem to be a problem, according to author Mark Hyman. In his recent book, "Until It Hurts," Hyman admits his own mistakes in pressuring his 14-year-old son to continue pitching with a sore arm, causing further injury.

 

Surprised by his own unwillingness to listen to reason, Hyman, a long-time journalist, researched the growing trend of high-pressure parents pushing their young athletes too far, too fast.

 

"Many of the physicians I spoke with told me of a spike in overuse injuries they had witnessed," Hyman told Livescience. "As youth sports become increasingly competitive — climbing a ladder to elite teams, college scholarships, parental prestige and so on — children are engaging in a range of risky behaviors."

 

One expert he consulted was Dr. Lyle Micheli, founder of one of the country's first pediatric sports medicine clinics at Children's Hospital in Boston. Micheli estimates that 75 percent of the young patients he sees are suffering from some sort of overuse injury, versus 20 percent back in the 1990s.

 

"As a medical society, we've been pretty ineffective dealing with this," Micheli said. "Nothing seems to be working."

 

Young surgeries

 

In severe overuse cases for baseball pitchers, the end result may be ulnar collateral ligament surgery, better known as "Tommy John" surgery. Dr. James Andrews, known for performing this surgery on many professional players, has noticed an alarming trend in his practice. Andrews told The Oregonian last month that more than one-quarter of his 853 patients in the past six years were at the high school level or younger, including one 7-year-old.

 

Last spring, Andrews and his colleagues conducted a study comparing 95 high-school pitchers who required surgical repair of either their elbow or shoulder with 45 pitchers that did not suffer injury.

 

They found that those who pitched for more than eight months per year were 500 percent more likely to be injured, while those who pitched more than 80 pitches per game increased their injury risk by 400 percent.  Pitchers who continued pitching despite having arm fatigue were an incredible 3,600 percent more likely to do serious damage to their arm.

 

Hyman encourages parents to keep youth sports in perspective. "I think that, generally, parents view sports as a healthy and wholesome activity. That's a positive. But, we live in hyper-competitive culture, and parents like to see their kids competing," he said. "It's not only sports. It's ballet and violin and SAT scores and a host of other things.  It's in our DNA."

 

 

Please visit my other sports science articles at Sports are 80 Percent Mental.</b>

525 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: coaching, baseball, evidence_based_coaching, sports_science, sport_skills, youth_sports

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As usual, your Mom was right. When she told you to get outside and play, she instinctively knew that would be good for you.

 

Researchers at the University of Exeter have found that kids' natural short bursts of play energy contribute just as much to a healthy lifestyle as longer bouts of organized exercise, such as gym class.

As of 2008, 32 percent of U.S. children were overweight or obese, as measured by their body mass index. While many organized programs have studied this epidemic, the prescription remains the same: less food, more exercise.

 

In fact, a previous study of 133 children found that the physical activity of the obese children over a three-week period was 35 prcent less during school days and 65 percent less on weekends compared to the children who were within accepted healthy weight norms.

 

In the new study, Michelle Stone and Roger Eston of Exeter's School of Sport and Health Sciences measured the activity level of 47 boys aged between 8 and 10 over seven days using an accelerometer strapped to each boy's hip (similar to the one inside your iPhone or Wii controller that senses motion).

The key was to find a model that would record the shortest bursts of energy, sometimes less than 2 seconds. As any boy's parents know, those spurts can happen all afternoon, whether it be chasing the dog, throwing rocks in the lake or climbing a tree.

 

The researchers also measured waist circumference, aerobic fitness and blood pressure of each boy. They found that even though their activity levels came in many short chunks, their health indicators were all in the normal range.

 

Stone explains their conclusion, "Our study suggests that physical activity is associated with health, irrespective of whether it is accumulated in short bursts or long bouts. Previous research has shown that children are more naturally inclined to engage in short bursts of running, jumping and playing with a ball, and do not tend to sustain bouts of exercise lasting five or more minutes. This is especially true for activities that are more vigorous in nature.

 

Their findings are in the April edition of the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity.

 

The researchers admit that more research is needed to measure long-term effects on health.  Establishing activity guidelines for parents and schools will help the kids plan time to move each day.

 

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The National Football League has even started a program called NFL Play 60 that encourages kids to move for at least 60 minutes each day.  "Our players know the importance of staying healthy and it’s important that young fans also understand the value of exercise," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "Play 60 is an important tool in ensuring children get their necessary daily physical activity as recommended by health and fitness experts."

 

So, more recess and less physical education in our schools? Maybe, according to Stone, "If future research backs up our findings, we would do better to encourage young children to do what they do naturally, rather than trying to enforce long exercise sessions on them. This could be a useful way of improving enjoyment and sustainability of healthy physical activity levels in childhood."

 

Please visit my other sports science articles at Sports Are 80 Percent Mental

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!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/TheCatch.jpg|src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/TheCatch.jpg|border=0!From: Sports Are 80 Percent Mental

With the crack of the bat, the ball sails deep into the outfield. The center-fielder starts his run back and to the right, trying to keep his eyes on the ball through its flight path. His pace quickens initially, then slows down as the ball approaches. He arrives just in time to make the catch.  What just happened? How did he know where to run and at what speed so that he and the ball intersected at the same exact spot on the field. Why didn't he sprint to the landing spot and then wait for the ball to drop, instead of his controlled speed to arrive just when the ball did? What visual cues did he use to track the ball's flight?  Did Willie Mays make the most famous catch in baseball history because he is one of the greatest players of all-time with years of practice? Maybe, but now take a look at this "Web Gems" highlight video of 12 and 13 year-olds from last year's Little League World Series :

Just like we learned in pitching and hitting, fielding requires extensive mental abilities involving eyes, brain, and body movements to accomplish the task. Some physical skills, such as speed, do play a part in catching, but its the calculations and estimating that our brain has to compute that we often take for granted. The fact that fielders are not perfect in this skill, (there are dropped fly balls, or bad judgments of ball flight), begs the question of how to improve? As we saw with pitching and hitting (and most sports skills), practice does improve performance. But, if we understand what our brains are trying to accomplish, we can hopefully design more productive training routines to use in practice.

Once more, we turn to Mike Stadler , associate professor of psychology at University of Missouri, who provides a great overview of current fielding research in his book, "The Psychology of Baseball".

One organization that does not take this skill for granted is NASA. The interception of a ballistic object in mid-flight can describe a left fielder's job or an anti-missile defense system or how a pilot maneuvers a spacecraft through a three dimensional space. In fact, Michael McBeath , a former post doctoral fellow at the NASA Ames Research Center , (now an associate professor at Arizona State University), has been studying fly ball catching since 1995, beginning with his research study, "[How baseball outfielders determine where to run to catch fly ball | http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/268/5210/569]". 

!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/McBeathLOT.jpg|height=200|width=147|src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/McBeathLOT.jpg|border=0! His team developed a rocket-science like theory named Linear Optical Trajectory to describe the process that a fielder uses to follow the path of a batted ball. LOT says the fielder will adjust his movement towards the ball so that its trajectory follows a straight line through his field of vision. Rather than compute the landing point of the ball, racing to that spot and waiting, the fielder uses the information provided by the path of the ball to constantly adjust his path so that they intersect at the right time and place.

The LOT theory is an evolution from an earlier theory called Optical Acceleration Cancellation (OAC) that had the same idea but only explained the fielder's tracking behavior in the vertical dimension. In other words, as the ball leaves the bat the fielder watches the ball rise in his field of vision. If he were to stand still and the ball was hit hard enough to land behind him, his eyes would track the ball up and over his head, or at a 90 degree angle. If the ball landed in front of him, he would see the ball rise and fall but his viewing angle may not rise above 45 degrees. LOT and OAC argue that the fielder repositions himself throughout the flight of the ball to keep this viewing angle between 0 and 90 degrees. If its rising too fast, he needs to turn and run backwards. If the viewing angle is low, then the fielder needs to move forward so that the ball doesn't land in front of him. He can't always make to the landing spot in time, but keeping the ball at about a 45 degree angle by moving will help ensure that he gets there in time. While OAC explained balls hit directly at a fielder, LOT helps add the side-to-side dimension, as in our example of above of a ball hit to the right of the fielder.  More recently, McBeath has successfully defended his LOT theory here and here .

The OAC and LOT theories do agree on a fundamental cognitive science debate. There are two theories of how we perceive the world and then react to it. First, the Information Processing (IP) theory likens our brain to a computer in that we have inputs, our senses that gather information about the world, a memory system that stores all of our past experiences and lessons learned, and a "CPU" or main processor that combines our input with our memory and computes the best answer for the given problem. So, IP would say that the fielder sees the fly ball and offers it to the brain as input, the brain then pulls from memory all of the hundreds or thousands of fly ball flight paths that have been experienced, and then computes the best path to the ball's landing point based on what it has "learned" through practice. McBeath's research and observations of fielders has shown that the processing time to accomplish this task would be too great for the player to react.

OAC and LOT subscribe to the alternate theory of human perception, Ecological Psychology (EP) . EP eliminates the call to memory from the processing and argues that the fielder observes the flight path of the ball and can react using the angle monitoring system. This is still up for debate as the IPers would argue "learned facts" like what pitch was thrown, how a certain batter hits those pitches, how the prevailing wind will affect the ball, etc. And, with EP, how can the skill differences between a young ballplayer and an experienced major leaguer be accounted for? What is the point of practice, if the trials and errors are not stored/accessed in memory?

Of course, we haven't mentioned ground balls and their behavior, due to the lack of research out there. The reaction time for a third baseman to snare a hot one-hopper down the line is much shorter. This would also argue in favor of EP, but what other systems are involved?

Arguing about which theory explains a fielder's actions is only productive if we can apply the research to create better drills and practices for our players. The LOT theory seems to be  getting there as an explanation, but there is still debate over EP vs. IP . So many sport skills rely on some of these foundations, that this type of research will continue to be relevant.  As with pitching and hitting, fielding seems to improve with practice.

And then there's the ultimate catch of all-time, that baseball fans have long been buzzing about.  Your reward for getting to the end of this article is this little piece of history...








You were looking for Willie Mays and "The Catch", weren't you?  This ball girl would own the best all-time fielding achievement... if it were real .  But no, just another digital editing marvel.  This was going to be a commercial for Gatorade, then it was put on the shelf.  After it was leaked onto YouTube, the video hoax became a viral hit.  So much so, that Gatorade left it on YouTube and did make a commercial out of it for the 2008 All-Star game.  But, you don't need to tell your Little Leaguers.  Let them dream...</span>

667 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: coaching, baseball, sport_science, evidence_based_coaching, sports_cognition, sports_science, vision_and_perception, sport_skills, sport_psychology, youth_sports

!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/TedWilliams.jpg|src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/TedWilliams.jpg|border=0![Ted Williams | http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Williams], arguably the greatest baseball hitter of all-time, once said, "I think without question the hardest single thing to do in sport is to hit a baseball". Williams was the last major league player to hit .400 for an entire season and that was back in 1941, 67 years ago!  In the 2008 Major League Baseball season that just ended, the league batting average for all players was .264, while the strikeout percentage was just under 20%. So, in ten average at-bats, a professional ballplayer, paid millions of dollars per year, gets a hit less than 3 times but fails to even put the ball in play 2 times. So, why is hitting a baseball so difficult? What visual, cognitive and motor skills do we need to make contact with an object moving at 70-100 mph?

In the second of three posts in the Baseball Brains series, we'll take a quick look at some of the theory behind this complicated skill. Once again, we turn to [Professor Mike Stadler | http://honors.missouri.edu/staff/#stadler] and his book "The Psychology of Baseball" for the answers.  First, here's the "Splendid Splinter" in action:







A key concept of pitching and hitting in baseball was summed up long ago by Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn, when he said, “Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.” To sync up the swing of the bat with the exact time and location of the ball's arrival is the challenge that each hitter faces.  If the intersection is off by even tenths of a second, the ball will be missed. Just as  pitchers need to manage their targeting, the hitter must master the same two dimensions, horizontal and vertical. The aim of the pitch will affect the horizontal dimension while the speed of the pitch will affect the vertical dimension. The hitter's job is to time the arrival of the pitch based on the estimated speed of the ball while determining where, horizontally, it will cross the plate. The shape of the bat helps the batter in the horizontal space as its length compensates for more error, right to left. However, the narrow 3-4" barrel does not cover alot of vertical ground, forcing the hitter to be more accurate judging the vertical height of a pitch than the horizontal location. So, if a pitcher can vary the speed of his pitches, the hitter will have a harder time judging the vertical distance that the ball will drop as it arrives, and swing either over the top or under the ball.A common coach's tip to hitters is to "keep your eye on the ball" or "watch the ball hit the bat". As Stadler points out, doing both of these things is nearly impossible due to the concept known as "[angular velocity | http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angular_velocity]". Imagine you are standing on the side of freeway with cars coming towards you. Off in the distance, you are able to watch the cars approaching your position with relative ease, as they seem to be moving at a slower speed. As the cars come closer and pass about a 45 degree angle and then zoom past your position, they seem to "speed up" and you have to turn your eyes/head quickly to watch them. While the car is going at a constant speed, its angular velocity increases making it difficult to track.



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This same concept applies to the hitter. As the graphic above shows (click to enlarge), the first few feet that a baseball travels when it leaves a pitcher's hand is the most important to the hitter, as the ball can be tracked by the hitter's eyes. As the ball approaches past a 45 degree angle, it is more difficult to "keep your eye on the ball" as your eyes need to shift through many more degrees of movement. Research reported by Stadler shows that hitters cannot watch the entire flight of the ball, so they employ two tactics.

First, they might follow the path of the ball for 70-80% of its flight, but then their eyes can't keep up and they estimate or extrapolate the remaining path and make a guess as to where they need to swing to have the bat meet the ball. In this case, they don't actually "see" the bat hit the ball. Second, they might follow the initial flight of the ball, estimate its path, then shift their eyes to the anticipated point where the ball crosses the plate to, hopefully, see their bat hit the ball. This inability to see the entire flight of the ball to contact point is what gives the pitcher the opportunity to fool the batter with the speed of the pitch. If a hitter is thinking "fast ball", their brain will be biased towards completing the estimated path across the plate at a higher elevation and they will aim their swing there. If the pitcher actually throws a curve or change-up, the speed will be slower and the path of the ball will result in a lower elevation when it crosses the plate, thus fooling the hitter.As in pitching, the eyes and brain determine much of the success for hitters. The same concepts apply to hitting any moving object in sports; tennis, hockey, soccer, etc.  Over time, repeated practice may be the only way to achieve the type of reaction speed that is necessary, but even for athletes who have spent their whole lives swinging a bat, there seems to be human limitation to success.  Tracking a moving object through space also applies to catching a ball, which we'll look at next time.</span>

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With the MLB League Championship Series' beginning this week,  Twenty-six teams are wondering what it takes to reach the "final four" of baseball which leads to the World Series.  The Red Sox, Rays, Phillies and Dodgers understand its not just money and luck.  Over 162 games, it usually comes down to the fundamentals of baseball: pitching, hitting and catching.  That sounds simple enough.  So, why can't everyone execute those skills consistently?  Why do pitchers struggle with their control?  Why do batters strike out?  Why do fielders commit errors?  It turns out Yogi Berra was right when he said, "Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical."  In this three part series, each skill will be broken down into its cognitive sub-tasks and you may be surprised at the complexity that such a simple game requires of our brains.

First up, pitching or even throwing a baseball seems effortless until the pressure is on and the aim goes awry.  Pitching a 3" diameter baseball 60 feet, 6 inches over a target that is 8 inches wide requires an accuracy of 1/2 to 1 degree. Throwing it fast, with the pressure of a game situation makes this task one of the hardest in sports. In addition, a fielder throwing to another fielder from 40, 60 or 150 feet away, sometimes off balance or on the run, tests the brain-body connection for accuracy. So, how do we do it? And how can we learn to do it more consistently?  In his book, The Psychology of Baseball , Mike Stadler , professor of psychology at the University of Missouri,addresses each of these questions.

There are two dimensions to think about when throwing an object at a target: vertical and horizontal. The vertical dimension is a function of the distance of the throw and the effect of gravity on the object. So the thrower's estimate of distance between himself and the target will determine the accuracy of the throw vertically. Basically, if the distance is underestimated, the required strength of the throw will be underestimated and will lose the battle with gravity, resulting in a throw that will be either too low or will bounce before reaching the target. An example of this is a fast ball which is thrown with more velocity, so will reach its target before gravity has a path-changing effect on it. On the other hand, a curve ball or change-up may seem to curve downward, partly because of the spin put on the ball affecting its aerodynamics, but also because these pitches are thrown with less force, allowing gravity to pull the ball down. In the horizontal dimension, the "right-left" accuracy is related to more to the "aim" of the throw and the ability of the thrower to adjust hand-eye coordination along with finger, arm, shoulder angles and the release of the ball to send the ball in the intended direction.So, how do we improve accuracy in both dimensions? Prof. Stadler points out that research shows that skill in the vertical/distance estimating dimension is more genetically determined, while skill horizontally can be better improved with practice. Remember those spatial organization tests that we took that show a set of connected blocks in a certain shape and then show you four more sets of conected blocks? The question is which of the four sets could result from rotating the first set of blocks. Research has shown that athletes that are good at these spatial relations tests are also accurate throwers in the vertical dimension. Why? The thought is that those athletes are better able to judge the movement of objects through space and can better estimate distance in 3D space. Pitchers are able to improve this to an extent as the distance to the target is fixed. A fielder, however, starts his throw from many different positions on the field and has more targets (bases and cut-off men) to choose from, making his learning curve a bit longer.If a throw or pitch is off-target, then what went wrong?  Research has shown that despite all of the combinations of fingers, hand, arm, shoulder and body movements, it seems to all boil down to the timing of the finger release of the ball. In other words, when the pitcher's hand comes forward and the fingers start opening to allow the ball to leave. The timing of this release can vary by hundredths of a second but has significant impact on the accuracy of the throw. But, its also been shown that the throwing action happens so fast, that the brain could not consciously adjust or control that release in real-time. This points to the throwing action being controlled by what psychologists call an automated "motor program" that is created through many repeated practice throws. But, if a "release point" is incorrect, how does a pitcher correct that if they can't do so in real-time? It seems they need to change the embedded program by more practice.Another component of "off-target" pitching or throwing is the psychological side of a player's mental state/attitude. Stadler identifies research that these motor programs can be called up by the brain by current thoughts. There seems to be "good" programs and "bad" programs, meaning the brain has learned how to throw a strike and learned many programs that will not throw a strike. By "seeding" the recall with positive or negative thoughts, the "strike" program may be run, but so to can the "ball" program. So, if a pitcher thinks to himself, "don't walk this guy", he may be subconsciously calling up the "ball" program and it will result in a pitch called as a ball. So, this is why sports pscyhologists stress the need to "think positively", not just for warm and fuzzy feelings, but the brain may be listening and will instruct your body what to do.


So, assuming Josh Beckett of the Red Sox is getting the ball across the plate, will the Rays hit it? That is the topic for next time when we look at hitting an object that is moving at 97 MPH and reaches you in less than half a second.

626 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: coaching, baseball, pitching, sport_science, evidence_based_coaching, sports_cognition, vision_and_perception, sport_skills, sport_psychology, youth_sports, science_in_sports, pitching_tips




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A player can feel it during a game when they hit a game-changing home run or when they go 0 for 4 at the plate.  A team can feel it when they come back from a deficit late in the game or when their lead in the division vanishes.  A fan can feel it as their team "catches fire" or goes "as cold as ice".  And, play-by-play announcers love to talk about it.  We know it as the "Big Mo", the "Hot Hand", and being "In The Zone" while the psychologists call it Psychological Momentum.  But, does it really exist?  Is it just a temporary shift in confidence and mood or does it actually change the outcome of a game or a season?  As expected, there are lots of opinions available.

 

The Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science defines psychological momentum as, "the positive or negative change in cognition, affect, physiology, and behavior caused by an event or series of events that affects either the perceptions of the competitors or, perhaps, the quality of performance and the outcome of the competition. Positive momentum is associated with periods of competition, such as a winning streak, in which everything seems to ‘go right’ for the competitors. In contrast, negative momentum is associated with periods, such as a losing streak, when everything seems to ‘go wrong’."  The interesting phrase in this definition is that Psychological Momentum (PM) "affects either the perceptions of the competitors or, perhaps</b>, the quality of performance and the outcome of the competition."  Most of the analyses on PM focus on the quantitative side to try to prove or disprove PM's affect on individual stats or team wins and losses.

 

Regarding PM in baseball, a Wall St. Journal article looked at last year's MLB playoffs, only to conclude there was no affect on postseason play coming from team momentum at the end of the regular season.  More recently, Another Cubs Blog also looked at momentum into this year's playoffs including opinion from baseball stats guru, Bill James, another PM buster.  For basketball, Thomas Gilovich's 1985 research into streaky, "hot hand" NBA shooting is the foundation for most of today's arguments against the existence of PM, or at least its affect on outcomes.

 

This view that if we can't see it in the numbers, more than would be expected, then PM does not exist may not capture the whole picture.  Lee Crust and Mark Nesti have recommended that researchers look at psychological momentum more from the qualitative side .  Maybe there are more subjective measures of athlete or team confidence that contribute to success that don't show up in individual stats or account for teams wins and losses.  As Jeff Greenwaldput it in his article, Riding the Wave of Momentum , "The reason momentum is so powerful is because of                the heightened sense of confidence it gives us -- the most important                aspect of peak performance. There is a term in sport psychology                known as self-efficacy, which is simply a player's belief in his/her                ability to perform a specific task or shot. Typically, a player’s                success depends on this efficacy. During a momentum shift, self-efficacy                is very high and players have immediate proof their ability matches                the challenge. As stated earlier, they then experience subsequent                increases in energy and motivation, and gain a feeling of control.                In addition, during a positive momentum shift, a player’s self-image                also changes. He/she feels invincible and this takes the "performer                self" to a higher level."

 

There would seem to be three distinct areas of focus for PM; an individual's performance within a game, a team's performance within a game and a team's performance across a series of games.  So, what are the relationships between these three scenarios?  Does one player's scoring streak or key play lift the team's PM, or does a close, hard-fought team win rally the players' morale and confidence for the next game?  Seeing the need for a conceptual framework to cover all of these bases, Jim Taylor and Andrew Demick created their Multidimensional Model of Momentum in Sports , which is still the most widely cited model for PM.  Their definition of PM, "a positive or negative change in cognition, affect, physiology, and behavior caused by an event or series of events that will result in a commensurate shift in performance and competitive outcome", leads to the six key elements to what they call the "momentum chain".

 

First, momentum shifts begin with a "precipitating event", like an interception or fumble recovery in football or a dramatic 3-point shot in basketball.  The effect that this event has on each athlete varies depending on their own perception of the game situation, their self-confidence and level of self-efficacy to control the situation.

 

Second, this event leads to "changes in cognition, physiology, and affect."  Again, depending on the athlete, his or her base confidence will determine how strongly they react to the events, to the point of having physiological changes like tightness and panic in negative situations or a feeling of renewed energy after positive events.

 

Third, a "change in behavior" would come from all of these internal perceptions.  Coaches and fans would be able to see real changes in the style of play from the players as they react to the positive or negative momentum chain.

 

Fourth, the next logical step after behavior changes is to notice a "change in performance."  Taylor and Demick note that momentum is the exception not the norm during a game.  Without the precipitating event, there should not be noticeable momentum shifts.

 

Fifth, for sports with head to head competition, momentum is a two-way street and needs a "contiguous and opposing change for the opponent."  So, if after a goal, the attacking team celebrates some increased PM, but the defending team does not experience an equal negative PM, then the immediate flow of the game should remain the same.  Its only when the balance of momentum shifts from one team to the other.  Levels of experience in athletes has been shown to mitigate the effects of momentum, as veteran players can handle the ups and downs of a game better than novices.

 

Finally, at the end of the chain, if momentum makes it that far, there should be an immediate outcome change.  When the pressure of a precipitating event occurs against a team, the players may begin to get out of their normal, confident flow and start to overanalyze their own performance and skills.  We saw this in Dr. Sian Beilock's research in our article, Putt With Your Brain - Part 2.  As an athlete's skills improve they don't need to consciously focus on them during a game.  But pressure brought on by a negative event can take them out of this "automatic" mode as they start to focus on their mechanics to fix or reverse the problem.  As Patrick Cohn , a sport psychologist, pointed out in a recent USA Today article on momentum,  "You stop playing the game you played to be in that position. And the moment you switch to trying not to screw up, you go from a very offensive mind-set to a very defensive mind-set. If you're focusing too much on the outcome, it's difficult to play freely.  And now they're worried more about the consequences and what's going to happen than what they need to do right now."

 



There is no doubt that we will continue to hear references to momentum swings during games. When you do, you can conduct your own mini experiment and watch the reactions of the players and the teams over the next section of the game to see if that "precipitating event" actually leads to a game-changing moment.



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<span style="font-size: 130%;" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.jtitle=JournalofAppliedSportPsychology&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/10.1080%2F10413209408406465&amp;rft.atitle=Amultidimensionalmodelofmomentuminsports&amp;rft.date=1994&amp;rft.volume=6&amp;rft.issue=1&amp;rft.spage=51&amp;rft.epage=70&amp;rft.artnum=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.informaworld.com%2Fopenurl%3Fgenre%3Darticle%26doi%3D10.1080%2F10413209408406465%26magic%3Dcrossref%7C%7CD404A21C5BB053405B1A640AFFD44AE3&amp;rft.au=JimTaylor&amp;rft.au=AndrewDemick&amp;bpr3.included=1&amp;bpr3.tags=Psychology%2CHealth%2CCognitivePsychology%2CKinesiology">Jim Taylor, Andrew Demick (1994). A multidimensional model of momentum in sports Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 6 (1), 51-70 DOI: 10.1080/10413209408406465 </span>

803 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: basketball, coaching, baseball, motivation, evidence_based_coaching, sports_cognition, sport_psychology, science_in_sports, momentum, in_the_zone, hot_hand

!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/golfputt.jpg|src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/golfputt.jpg|border=0!If there is a poster child sport for our favorite phrase, "[Sports Are 80 Percent Mental | http://blog.80percentmental.com/]", it must be golf.  Maybe its the slow pace of play that gives us plenty of time to think between shots.  Maybe its the "on stage" performance feeling we get when we step up to that first tee in front of our friends (or strangers!)  Maybe its the "high" of an amazing approach shot that lands 3 feet from the cup followed by the "low" of missing the birdie putt.   From any angle, a golf course is the sport psychologist's laboratory to study the mix of emotions, confidence, skill execution and internal cognitive processes that are needed to avoid buying rounds at the 19th hole.  Last time, we looked at some of the recent research on putting mechanics, but, as promised, we now turn to the mental side of putting.  Sian Beilock and her team at the University of Chicago's Human Performance Lab recently released the latest of a string of research studies on sports performance, or more specifically, how not to choke under pressure.  Lucky for us, they chose putting as their sport skill of choice.  This ties in with Dr. Beilock's theory of embodied cognition that we featured in Watching Sports Is Good For Your Brain.

 

An underlying theme to this work is the concept of automaticity , or the ability to carry out sport skills without consciously thinking about them.  Performing below expectations (i.e. choking) starts when we allow our minds to step out of this automatic mode and start thinking about the steps to our putting stroke and all of those "swing thoughts" that come with it ("keep your elbows in", "head down", "straight back").  Our brain over analyzes and second-guesses the motor skills we have learned from hundreds of practice putts.  Previously, we looked at automaticity in other sports.   Of course, a key distinction to the definition of choking is that you are playing "well below expectations".  If you normally shoot par, but now start missing easy putts, then there may be distractions that are taking you out of your normal flow.  Choking implies a temporary and abnormal event.  Automaticity theory would claim that it is these distractions from some perceived pressure to perform that are affecting your game.

 

Most research into sport skill performance divides the world into two groups, novices and experts.  Most sports have their own measures of where the dividing line is between these groups.  Expertise would imply performance results not just experience.  So, a golfer who has been hacking away for 20 years but still can't break 100 would still be put in the "novice" category.  Sport scientists design experiments that compare performance between the groups given some variables, and then hypothesize on the reason for the observed differences.  Beilock, et al have looked at golf putting from several different angles over the years.  Their research builds on itself, so let's review in reverse chronological order.

 

Back in 2001, they began by comparing the two competing theories of choking, distraction theory vs. explicit monitoring theory, and designed a putting experiment to find the better explanation.  Distraction theory explains choking by assuming that the task of putting requires your direct attention and that high pressure situations will cause you to perform dual tasks - focus on your putting but also think about the pressure.  This theory assumes there is no automaticity in skill learning and that we have to focus our attention on the skill every time.  Explicit monitoring theory claims that over time, as we practice a skill to the point of becoming an "expert", we proceduralize the task so that it becomes "automatic".  Then, during a high pressure situation, our brain becomes so concerned about performance that it takes us out of automatic mode and tries to focus on each step of the task.  The research supported the explicit monitoring theory as it was shown that the golf putting task was affected by distractions and pressure for the experts but not the novice putters.

 

So, how do we block out the pressure, so that our automaticity can kick in?  Another 2001 study by Beilock looked at mental imagery during putting.  Using the same explicit monitoring theory, should we try to think positive thoughts, like "this ball is going in the hole" or "I have made this putt many times"?  Also, what happens if a stray negative thought, "don't miss this one!" enters our brain?  Should we try to suppress it and replace it with happy self-talk?  She set up four groups, one receiving positive comments, one receiving negative comments, one receiving negative comments followed by positive comments and one receiving none as a control group.  As expected, the happy people did improve their putting over the course of the trials, while the negative imagery hurt performance.  But, the negative replaced with positive thought group did not show any more improvement over the control group.  So, when faced with a high pressure, stressful situation ripe with the possibilities of choking, try to repeat positive thoughts, but don't worry too much if the occasional doubt creeps in.

 

Our strategy towards putting should also vary depending on our current skill level.  While learning the intricacies of putting, novices should use different methods than experts, according to a 2004 study by Beilock, et al .  Novice golfers need to pay attention to the step by step components of their swing, and they perform better when they do focus on the declarative knowledge required.  Expert golfers, however, have practiced their swing or putt so often that it has become "second nature" to the point that if they are told to focus on the individual components of their swing, they perform poorly.  The experiment asked both novices and expert golfers to first focus on their actual putting stroke by saying the word "straight" when hitting the ball and to notice the alignment of the putter face with the ball.  Next, they were asked to putt while also listening for a certain tone played in the background.  When they heard the tone they were to call it out while putting.  The first scenario, known as "skill-focused", caused the novices to putt more accurately but the experts to struggle.  The second scenario, called "dual-task", distracted the novices enough to affect their putts, while the experts were not bothered and their putting accuracy was better.  Beilock showed that novices need the task focus to succeed while they are learning to putt, while experts have internalized the putting stroke so that even when asked to do two things, the putting stroke can be put on "auto-pilot".

 

Finally, in 2008, Beilock's team added one more twist to this debate.  Does a stress factor even affect a golfer's performance in their mind before they putt?  This time, golfers, divided into the usual novice and expert groups, were asked to first imagine or "image execute" themselves making a putt followed by an actual putt.  The stress factor was to perform one trial under a normal, "take all the time you need" time scenario and then another under a speeded or time-limited scenario.  The novices performed better under the non-hurried scenario in imagining the putt first followed by the actual putt.  The experts, however, actually did better in the hurried scenario and worse in the relaxed setting.  Again, the automaticity factor explains the differences between the groups.

 

The bottom line throughout all of these studies is that if you're learning to play golf, which includes putting, you should focus on your swing/stroke but beware of the distractions which will take away your concentration.  That seems pretty logical, but for those that normally putt very well, if you feel stress to sink that birdie putt, don't try to focus in on the mechanics of your stroke.  Trust the years of experience that has taught your brain the combination of sensorimotor skills of putting.

 

!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/TyWebb.jpg|style=cursor: pointer; float: left; height: 123px; margin: 0pt 10px 10px 0pt; width: 164px;|alt=|src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/TyWebb.jpg|border=0!Just remember the Chevy Chase/Ty Webb philosophy ; "I'm going to give you a little advice. There's a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball....  Nah-na-na-na, Ma-na-na-na...."

 

 

!http://www.researchblogging.org/public/citation_icons/rb2_mid.png|style=border: 0pt none;|alt=ResearchBlogging.org|src=http://www.researchblogging.org/public/citation_icons/rb2_mid.png!</span><span style="font-size: 130%;" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.jtitle=JournalofExperimentalPsychology%3AGeneral&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/10.1037%2F%2F0096-3445.130.4.701&amp;rft.atitle=Onthefragilityofskilledperformance%3AWhatgovernschokingunderpressure%3F&amp;rft.date=2001&amp;rft.volume=130&amp;rft.issue=4&amp;rft.spage=701&amp;rft.epage=725&amp;rft.artnum=http%3A%2F%2Fdoi.apa.org%2Fgetdoi.cfm%3Fdoi%3D10.1037%2F0096-3445.130.4.701&amp;rft.au=SianL.Beilock&amp;rft.au=ThomasH.Carr&amp;bpr3.included=1&amp;bpr3.tags=Psychology%2CHealth%2CCognitivePsychology%2CKinesiology">Sian L. Beilock, Thomas H. Carr (2001). On the fragility of skilled performance: What governs choking under pressure? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130 (4), 701-725 DOI: 10.1037//0096-3445.130.4.701

<span style="font-size: 130%;" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.jtitle=JournalofSportandExercisePsychology&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/&amp;rft.atitle=%22Don%27tMiss%21%22TheDebilitatingEffectsofSuppressiveImageryonGolfPuttingPerformance&amp;rft.date=2001&amp;rft.volume=23&amp;rft.issue=3&amp;rft.spage=&amp;rft.epage=&amp;rft.artnum=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.humankinetics.com%2FJSEP%2Fviewarticle.cfm%3Fjid%3D6jc24CqQ6na88Frw6rx62r6s6wh42uf66kn8628B6ht23%26aid%3D1102%26site%3D6jc24CqQ6na88Frw6rx62r6s6wh42uf66kn8628B6ht23&amp;rft.au=SianL.Beilock%3BJamesA.Afremow%3BAmyL.Rabe%3BThomasH.Carr&amp;bpr3.included=1&amp;bpr3.tags=Psychology%2CHealth%2CCognitivePsychology%2C+Kinesiology">Sian L. Beilock; James A. Afremow; Amy L. Rabe; Thomas H. Carr (2001). "Don't Miss!" The Debilitating Effects of Suppressive Imagery on Golf Putting Performance Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 23 (3)

<span style="font-size: 130%;" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.jtitle=PsychonomicBulletin%26Review&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/&amp;rft.atitle=Hastedoesnotalwaysmakewaste%3AExpertise%2Cdirectionofattention%2Candspeedversusaccuracyinperformingsensorimotorskills&amp;rft.date=2004&amp;rft.volume=11&amp;rft.issue=2&amp;rft.spage=373&amp;rft.epage=379&amp;rft.artnum=http%3A%2F%2Fhpl.uchicago.edu%2FPublications%2Fpapers_reprints%2FPBR2004.pdf&amp;rft.au=BeilockS.L.%3BBertenthalB.I.%3BMcCoyA.M.%3BCarrT.H.&amp;bpr3.included=1&amp;bpr3.tags=Psychology%2CHealth%2CCognitivePsychology%2CKinesiology">Beilock S.L.; Bertenthal B.I.; McCoy A.M.; Carr T.H. (2004). Haste does not always make waste: Expertise, direction of attention, and speed versus accuracy in performing sensorimotor skills  Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 11 (2), 373-379

<span style="font-size: 130%;" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.jtitle=TheQuarterlyJournalofExperimentalPsychology&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/10.1080%2F17470210701625626&amp;rft.atitle=Puttinginthemindversusputtingonthegreen%3AExpertise%2Cperformancetime%2Candthelinkingofimageryandaction&amp;rft.date=2008&amp;rft.volume=61&amp;rft.issue=6&amp;rft.spage=920&amp;rft.epage=932&amp;rft.artnum=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.informaworld.com%2Fopenurl%3Fgenre%3Darticle%26doi%3D10.1080%2F17470210701625626%26magic%3Dcrossref%7C%7CD404A21C5BB053405B1A640AFFD44AE3&amp;rft.au=SianBeilock&amp;rft.au=SaraGonso&amp;bpr3.included=1&amp;bpr3.tags=Psychology%2CHealth%2CCognitivePsychology%2C+Kinesiology">Sian Beilock, Sara Gonso (2008). Putting in the mind versus putting on the green: Expertise, performance time, and the linking of imagery and action The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 61 (6), 920-932 DOI: 10.1080/17470210701625626 </span>

698 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: golf, sport_science, evidence_based_coaching, sports_cognition, sport_psychology, sian_beilock, putting, putt, golf_tips, golf_skills

!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/hockeyscanner.jpg|height=147|width=200|src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/hockeyscanner.jpg|border=0!When was the last time you listened to a sporting event on the radio?  If given a choice between watching the game on a big screen plasma in HD or turning on the AM radio, most of us would probably choose the visual sensation of television.  But, for a moment, think about the active attention you need in order to listen to a radio broadcast and interpret the play-by-play announcer's descriptions.  As you hear the words, your "mind's eye" paints the picture of the action so you can imagine the scene and situations.  Your knowledge of the game, either from playing it or watching it for years helps you understand the narrative, the terms and the game's "lingo".


Now, imagine that you are listening to a broadcast about a sport you know nothing about.  Hearing Bob Uecker or Vin Scully say, "With two out in the ninth, the bases are loaded and the Brewers' RBI leader has two strikes.  The infield is in as the pitcher delivers.  Its a hard grounder to third that he takes on the short hop and fires a bullet to first for the final out."  If you have no baseball-specific knowledge, those sentences are meaningless.  However, for those of us that have grown up with baseball, that description makes perfect sense and our mind's eye helped us picture the scene.  That last sentence about the "hard grounder" and the thrown "bullet" may have even triggered some unconscious physical movements by you as your brain interpreted those action phrases.  That sensorimotor reaction is at the base of what is called "[embodied cognition | http://www.iep.utm.edu/e/embodcog.htm]".  Sian Beilock , associate professor of psychology and leader of the Human Performance Lab at the University of Chicago , defined the term this way:  "In contrast to traditional views of the mind as an abstract information processor, recent work suggests that our representations of objects and events are grounded in action. That is, our knowledge is embodied, in the sense that it consists of sensorimotor information about potential interactions that objects or events may allow."  She cites a more complete definition of the concept in Six Views of Embodied Cognition by Margaret Wilson .  Another terrific overview of the concept is provided by science writer Drake Bennet of the Boston Globe in his article earlier this year, "[Don't Just Stand There, Think | http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/01/13/dont_just_stand_there_think/?page=1]".


In a study released yesterday, "Sports Experience Changes the Neural Processing of Action Language", Dr. Beilock's team continued their research into the link between our learned motor skills and our language comprehension about those motor skills.  Since embodied cognition connects the body with our cognition, the sports domain provides a logical domain to study it.


Their initial look at this concept was in a 2006 study titled, "Expertise and its embodiment: Examining the impact of sensorimotor skill expertise on the representation of action-related text", where the team designed an experiment to compare the knowledge representation skill of experienced hockey players and novices.  Each group first read sentences describing both hockey-related action and common, "every-day" action, (i.e. "the referee saw the hockey helmet on the bench" vs. "the child saw the balloon in the air").  They were then shown pictures of the object mentioned in the sentences and were asked if the picture matched the action in the sentence they read.  Both groups, the athletes and the novices, responded equally in terms of accuracy and response time to the everyday sentences and pictures, but the athletes responded significantly faster to the hockey-specific sentences and pictures.  The conclusion is that those with the sensorimotor experience of sport give them an advantage of processing time over those that have not had that same experience.


Now, you may be saying, "Ya' think!?" to this somewhat obvious statement that people who have played hockey will respond faster to sentence/picture relationships about hockey than non-hockey players. Stay with us here for a minute, as the 2006 study set the groundwork for Beilock's team to take the next step with the question, "is there any evidence that the athletes are using different parts of their brain when processing these match or no match decisions?"  The link between our physical skill memory and our language comprehension would be at the base of the embodied cognition theory.  So, in the latest research, the HPL team kept the same basic experimental design, but now wanted to watch the participants' brain activity using fMRI scanning .  This time, there were three groups, hockey players, avid fans of hockey and novices who had no playing or viewing experience with hockey at all.  First, all groups passively listened to sentences about hockey actions and also sentences about everyday actions while being monitored by fMRI.   Second, outside of the fMRI scanner, they again listened to hockey-related and everyday-related action sentences and then were shown pictures of hockey or every day action and asked if there was a match or mis-match between the sentence and the picture.


This comprehension test showed similar results as in 2006, but now the team could try to match the relative skill in comprehension to the neural activity shown in the fMRI scans when listening.  Both the players and the fans showed increased activity in the left dorsal premotor cortex, a region thought to support the selection of well-learned action plans and procedures.  You might be surprised that the fans' brains showed activity in the same regions as the athletes.  We saw this effect in a previous post, "Does Practice Make Perfect", where those that practiced a new dance routine and those that only watched it showed similar brain area activity.  On the other side, the total novices showed activity in the bilateral primary sensory-motor cortex, an area typically known for carrying out step by step instructions for new or novel tasks.  So, the interesting finding here is that those with experience, either playing or watching, are actually calling on additional neural networks in their brains to help their normal language comprehension abilities.  In other words, the memories of learned actions are linked and assist other cognitive tasks.  That sounds pretty much like the definition of embodied cognition and Dr. Beilock's research has helped that theory take another step forward.  In her words, "Experience playing and watching sports has enduring effects on language understanding by changing the neural networks that support comprehension to incorporate areas active in performing sports skills."


So, take pride in your own brain the next time you hear, "Kobe dribbles the ball to the top of the key, crosses over, drives the lane, and finger rolls over Duncan for two." If you can picture that play in your mind, your left dorsal premotor cortex just kicked into gear!


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<span style="font-size: small;" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.jtitle=ProceedingsoftheNationalAcademyofSciences&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/10.1073%2Fpnas.0803424105&amp;rft.atitle=Sportsexperiencechangestheneuralprocessingofactionlanguage&amp;rft.date=2008&amp;rft.volume=&amp;rft.issue=&amp;rft.spage=&amp;rft.epage=&amp;rft.artnum=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pnas.org%2Fcgi%2Fdoi%2F10.1073%2Fpnas.0803424105&amp;rft.au=S.L.Beilock&amp;rft.au=I.M.Lyons&amp;rft.au=A.Mattarella-Micke&amp;rft.au=H.C.Nusbaum&amp;rft.au=S.L.Small&amp;bpr3.included=1&amp;bpr3.tags=Psychology%2CNeuroscience%2CCognitiveNeuroscience%2CCognitivePsychology%2C+Learning">

 

 

 

S. L. Beilock, I. M. Lyons, A. Mattarella-Micke, H. C. Nusbaum, S. L. Small (2008). Sports experience changes the neural processing of action language Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0803424105

<span style="font-size: small;" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.jtitle=PsychonomicBulletin%26Review&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/17201372&amp;rft.atitle=Expertiseanditsembodiment%3AExaminingthe%0D%0Aimpactofsensorimotorskillexpertiseonthe%0D%0Arepresentationofaction-relatedtext&amp;rft.date=2006&amp;rft.volume=13&amp;rft.issue=4&amp;rft.spage=694&amp;rft.epage=701&amp;rft.artnum=http%3A%2F%2Fhpl.uchicago.edu%2FPublications%2Fpapers_reprints%2FHolt_Beilock_PBR2006.pdf&amp;rft.au=LaurenE.Holt&amp;rft.au=SianL.Beilock&amp;bpr3.included=1&amp;bpr3.tags=Psychology%2CLearning%2CCognitive+Psychology">Lauren E. Holt, Sian L. Beilock (2006). Expertise and its embodiment: Examining the impact of sensorimotor skill expertise on the representation of action-related text Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 13 (4), 694-701 PMID: 17201372

562 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: sport_science, evidence_based_coaching, sports_cognition, sport_skills, youth_sports, sian_beilock, cognitive_science, science_in_sports

 

!http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SJ39bdJ06LI/AAAAAAAAAZU/4DN1--2fQ-4/s200-R/GoldMedal.jpg|style=border: 0pt none ;|src=http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SJ39bdJ06LI/AAAAAAAAAZU/4DN1--2fQ-4/s200-R/GoldMedal.jpg!Imagine winning a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics .  No really, go ahead, close your eyes and visualize it.  What did you see?  Were you standing on the medal platform looking out at the crowd, waving and taking in the scene through your own eyes, or were you a spectator in the crowd watching yourself getting the medal put around your neck?  This choice between "first-person" or "third-person" visualization actually makes a difference on our motivation to achieve a future goal.


Noelia A. Vasquez, at York University and Roger Buehler, at Wilfrid Laurier University wanted to see if there was a link between our visualization perspective and our motivation level to achieve the imagined goal.  They asked 47 university students to imagine the successful completion of a performance task that was in their near future, whether it be a speech in a class or an upcoming athletic competition.  They were also asked to assume that the task went extremely well.  One group of students were asked to imagine this scene "through their own eyes" seeing the environment as they would actually experience it.  The second group was told to use the third-person perspective, pretending they were "in the crowd" watching themselves as others would see them achieving this goal.  Next, they were given a survey that asked each group how motivated they were to now go make this successful scene a reality. 




As hypothesized, the group that saw the scene through their audience's eyes (third-person) ranked their motivation to now succeed significantly higher than those that imagined it through their own eye (first-person).  The authors' explanation for this is the perceived additional importance attached to the task when we consider other peoples' opinion of us and our natural desire to increase our status in our peer group.  Seeing this newly elevated social acceptance and approval of ourselves from the eyes of our peers motivates us even more to reach for our goals.




The road to achievements like an Olympic gold medal is a long one with many steps along the way.  Over the years, as athletes maintain their training regimen, they can keep imagining the future goal, but they may need to also look back and recognize the improvements they have made over time.  This "progress to date" assessment will also provide motivation to keep going once they realize the hard work is actually having the desired effect and moving them along the desired path.  So, as they review their past to present progress, does the first or third person perspective make a difference there as well?




Researchers from Cornell, Yale and Ohio State, led by Thomas Gilovich , professor of psychology at Cornell, designed an experiment to find out.  They recruited a group of university students who had described their high-school years as "socially awkward" to now recall those years and compare them with their social skill in college.  The first group was asked to recall the past from a first-person perspective, just as their memories would provide them.  The second group was asked to remember themselves through the perspective of their classmates (third-person).  Next, each group was asked to assess the personal change they had accomplished since then.




As predicted, the group that had recalled their former selves in the third person reported greater progress and change towards a more social and accepted person in college than the group that remembered in the first-person.  "We have found that perspective can influence your interpretation of past events. In a situation in which change is likely, we find that observing yourself as a third person -- looking at yourself from an outside observer's perspective -- can help accentuate the changes you've made more than using a first-person perspective," says Gilovich.  "When participants recalled past awkwardness from a third-person perspective, they felt they had changed and were now more socially skilled," said Lisa K. Libby, an assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University. "That led them to behave more sociably and appear more socially skilled to the research assistant."




So, whether looking forward or backward, seeing yourself through other's eyes seems to provide more motivation to not only continue the road to success, but to appreciate the progress you have made. 




Then the actual day of competition arrives.  It is one hour before you take your position on the starting blocks at the "Bird's Nest" stadium in Beijing or on the mat at the National Indoor Stadium for the gymnastics final.  Should you be imagining the medal ceremony and listening to your country's national anthem at that point?  In a recent Denver Post article , Peter Haberl, senior sports psychologist for the U.S. Olympic Committee says, "It takes a great deal of ability and skill to stay focused on the task at hand."  He distinguishes between an "outcome" goal, (receiving the medal) and "performance" (improving scores/times) and "process" (improving technique) goals.  "The difference is that these types of goals are much more under the control of the athlete," explains Haberl. "The process goal, in particular, directs attention to the here and now, which allows the athlete to totally focus on the doing of the activity; this is key to performing well.  This sounds simple but it really is quite difficult because the mind takes you to the past and the future all the time, particularly in the Olympic environment with its plethora of distractions and enticing rewards." 




Mental imagery is a well-known tool for every athlete to make distant and difficult goals seem attainable.  By seeing your future accomplishments through the eyes of others, you can attach more importance and reward to achieving them.  Just imagine yourself in London in 2012 !



<span 5px;
\="" left;="" padding:="" style="">!http://www.researchblogging.org/images/rbicons/ResearchBlogging-Medium-White.png|height=50|alt=ResearchBlogging.org|width=80|src=http://www.researchblogging.org/images/rbicons/ResearchBlogging-Medium-White.png!
<span class="Z3988" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.aulast=Vasquez&amp;rft.aufirst=Noelia&amp;rft.aumiddle=A&amp;rft.au=Noelia+ Vasquez&amp;rft.title=PersonalityandSocialPsychologyBulletin&amp;rft.atitle=SeeingFutureSuccess%3ADoesImageryPerspectiveInfluenceAchievementMotivation%3F&amp;rft.date=2007&amp;rft.volume=33&amp;rft.issue=10&amp;rft.spage=1392&amp;rft.epage=1405&amp;rft.genre=article&amp;rft.id=http%3A%2F%2Fpsp.sagepub.com%2Fcgi%2Fcontent%2Fabstract%2F33%2F10%2F1392&amp;rft.id=info:PMID/17933735">Vasquez, N.A. (2007). Seeing Future Success: Does Imagery Perspective Influence Achievement Motivation?. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(10), 1392-1405.




<span class="Z3988" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.aulast=Libby&amp;rft.aufirst=Lisa&amp;rft.aumiddle=K&amp;rft.au=Lisa+ Libby&amp;rft.au=RichardPEibach&amp;rft.au=Thomas+Gilovich&amp;rft.title=JournalofPersonalityandSocialPsychology&amp;rft.atitle=Here%27sLookingatMe%3ATheEffectofMemoryPerspectiveonAssessmentsofPersonal+Change.&amp;rft.date=2005&amp;rft.volume=88&amp;rft.issue=1&amp;rft.spage=50&amp;rft.epage=62&amp;rft.genre=article&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/10.1037%2F0022-3514.88.1.50">Libby, L.K., Eibach, R.P., Gilovich, T. (2005). Here's Looking at Me: The Effect of Memory Perspective on Assessments of Personal Change.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88(1), 50-62. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.88.1.50</font>

600 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, olympics, coaching, evidence_based_coaching, sports_cognition, sports_science, sport_skills, mental_imagery

!http://bp2.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SJPuI716v-I/AAAAAAAAAYs/G_VFex594Dk/s320-R/hockeyconcussion.jpg|style=border: 0pt none ;|src=http://bp2.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SJPuI716v-I/AAAAAAAAAYs/G_VFex594Dk/s320-R/hockeyconcussion.jpg!As the puck was cleared to the other end of the ice, my 9-year old son's hockey teammates raced after it.  Then, I saw him.  He was lying motionless and face down at the blue line.  He had slid headfirst into the boards to make a play. By the time our coach made it over to him, he had started to move.  After a few minutes, they both skated to the bench where I saw the two talking.  Coach looked up at me in the stands with a grim look and motioned for me to come down.  The next four hours were my introduction to sports concussions.




!http://bp1.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SJPuvHHw3uI/AAAAAAAAAY8/9sLtbEgDty0/s320-R/SportsInjuriesKidsStats.gif|style=border: 0pt none ;|src=http://bp1.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SJPuvHHw3uI/AAAAAAAAAY8/9sLtbEgDty0/s320-R/SportsInjuriesKidsStats.gif!A concussion, clinically known as a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI), is one of the most common yet least understood sports injuries.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are as many as 300,000 sports and recreation-related concussions each year in the U.S., yet the diagnosis, immediate treatment and long-term effects are still a mystery to most coaches, parents and even some clinicians.  The injury can be deceiving as there is rarely any obvious signs of trauma.  If the head is not bleeding and the player either does not lose consciouness or regains it after a brief lapse, the potential damage is hidden and the usual "tough guy" mentality is to "shake it off" and get back in the game.




[Leigh Steinberg | http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leigh_Steinberg], agent and representative to some of the top professional athletes in the world (including NFL QBs Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Leinart), is tired of this ignorance and attitude.  "My clients, from the day they played Pop Warner football, are taught to believe ignoring pain, playing with pain and being part of the playing unit was the most important value," Steinberg said, "I was terrified at the understanding of how tender and narrow that bond was between cognition and consciousness and dementia and confusion".  Which is why he was the keynote speaker at last week's "New Developments in Sports-Related Concussions" conference hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Medical College Sport Medicine Department in Pittsburgh.  Leading researchers gathered to discuss the latest research on sports-related concussions, their diagnosis and treatment.  "There's been huge advancement in this area," said Dr. Micky Collins, the assistant director for the UPMC Sports Medicine Program. "We've learned more in the past five years than the previous 50 combined."




 

!http://bp1.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SJPvB6f16FI/AAAAAAAAAZE/lNTbf_nb268/s320-R/concussion.jpg|style=border: 0pt none ;|src=http://bp1.blogger.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SJPvB6f16FI/AAAAAAAAAZE/lNTbf_nb268/s320-R/concussion.jpg!

So, what is a concussion?  The CDC defines a concussion as "a complex pathophysiologic process affecting the brain, induced by traumatic biomechanical forces secondary to direct or indirect forces to the head."  Being a "mild" form of traumatic brain injury, it is generally believed that there is no actual structural damage to the brain from a concussion, but more a disruption in the biochemistry and electrical processes between neurons.  The brain is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid, which is supposed to provide some protection from minor blows to the head.  However, a harder hit can cause rotational forces that affect a wide area of the brain, but most importantly the mid-brain and the reticular activating system which may explain the loss of consciousness in some cases.




In my son's case, he regained consciousness on the ice, but was in a very confused and dazed state for several hours.  He could not tell us his name, his teammates names, or even his brothers' names.  His expression was blank and he kept asking the same questions, "why are we here?" and "what happened"?   The local hospital performed a CT scan to look for any bleeding or skull fracture.  Seeing none, the diagnosis was an MTBI and that he would recover over time.  After four hours, his memory and personality did slowly return.  For some athletes, the concussion symptoms take longer to disappear in what is known as post-concussion syndrome.  It is not known whether this is from some hidden structural damage or more permanent disruption to neuronal activity.  Repeated concussions over time can lead to a condition known as dementia pugilistica , with long-term impairments to speech, memory and mental processing.




After the initial concussion, returning to the field before symptoms clear raises the risk of second impact syndrome, which can cause more serious, long-term effects.  As part of their "Heads Up" concussion awareness campaign, the CDC offers this video story of Brandon Schultz , a high school football player, who was not properly diagnosed after an initial concussion and suffered a second hit the following week, which permanently changed his life.  Without some clinical help, the player, parents and coach can only rely on the lack of obvious symptoms before declaring a concussion "healed".  However, making this "return to play" decision is now getting some help from some new post-concussion tests.  The first is a neurological skills test called ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion and Cognitive Testing) created by the same researchers at UPMC.  It is an online test given to athletes after a concussion to measure their performance in attention span, working memory, sustained and selective attention time, response variability, problem solving and reaction time.  Comparing a "concussed" athlete's performance on the test with a baseline measurement will help the physician decide if the brain has healed sufficiently.




However, Dr. Collins and his team wanted to add physiological data to the psychological testing to see if there was a match between brain activity, skill testing and reported symptoms after a concussion.  In a study released last year in the journal Neurosugery, they performed functional MRI (fMRI) brain imaging studies on 28 concussed high-school athletes while they performed certain working memory tasks to see if there was a significant link between performance on the tests and changes in brain activation.  They were tested about one week after injury and again after the normal clinical recovery period.“In our study, using fMRI, we demonstrate that the functioning of a network of brain regions is significantly associated with both the severity of concussion symptoms and time to recover,” said Jamie Pardini, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist on the clinical and research staff of the UPMC concussion program and co-author of the study.  “We identified networks of brain regions where changes in functional activation were associated with performance on computerized neurocognitive testing and certain post-concussion symptoms,” Dr. Pardini added. "Also, our study confirms previous research suggesting that there are neurophysiological abnormalities that can be measured even after a seemingly mild concussion.” 




Putting better assessment tools in the hands of athletic trainers and coaches will provide evidence-based coaching decisions that are best for the athlete's health.  Better decisions will also ease the minds of parents knowing their child has fully recovered from their "invisible" injury.

!http://www.researchblogging.org/images/rbicons/ResearchBlogging-Medium-White.png|height=50|alt=ResearchBlogging.org|width=80|src=http://www.researchblogging.org/images/rbicons/ResearchBlogging-Medium-White.png!


<span class="Z3988" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.aulast=Lovell&amp;rft.aufirst=Mark&amp;rft.aumiddle=R&amp;rft.au=Mark+ Lovell&amp;rft.au=JamieEPardini&amp;rft.au=Joel+Welling&amp;rft.au=MichaelWCollins&amp;rft.au=JenniferBakal&amp;rft.au=NicoleLazar&amp;rft.au=RebeccaRoush&amp;rft.au=WilliamFEddy&amp;rft.au=JamesTBecker&amp;rft.title=Neurosurgery&amp;rft.atitle=FUNCTIONALBRAINABNORMALITIESARERELATEDTOCLINICALRECOVERYANDTIMETORETURN-TO-PLAYINATHLETES&amp;rft.date=2007&amp;rft.volume=61&amp;rft.issue=2&amp;rft.spage=352&amp;rft.epage=360&amp;rft.genre=article&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/10.1227%2F01.NEU.0000279985.94168.7F">Lovell, M.R., Pardini, J.E., Welling, J., Collins, M.W., Bakal, J., Lazar, N., Roush, R., Eddy, W.F., Becker, J.T. (2007). FUNCTIONAL BRAIN ABNORMALITIES ARE RELATED TO CLINICAL RECOVERY AND TIME TO RETURN-TO-PLAY IN ATHLETES. Neurosurgery, 61(2), 352-360. DOI: 10.1227/01.NEU.0000279985.94168.7F </font>

737 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: football, soccer, concussion, sport_science, evidence_based_coaching, youth_sports, mtbi, head_injury

!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.


 

601 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.

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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.

565 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

860 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: coaching, sport_science, evidence_based_coaching, sports_cognition, vision_and_perception, decision_theory_in_sports, youth_sports
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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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