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Sports Are 80 Percent Mental

10 Posts tagged with the sport_skills tag

!http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SkqEvfk0KYI/AAAAAAAAA0M/18lBPJOEQcE/s320/youth_baseball_pitcher.jpg|src=http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SkqEvfk0KYI/AAAAAAAAA0M/18lBPJOEQcE/s320/youth_baseball_pitcher.jpg|border=0!</div>

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 ...


 


!http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SkqDClk4uAI/AAAAAAAAA0E/zHa7Uy4vcec/s320/51SsSOYomOL._SL160_.jpg|src=http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SkqDClk4uAI/AAAAAAAAA0E/zHa7Uy4vcec/s320/51SsSOYomOL._SL160_.jpg|border=0!</div>

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>

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



!http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SV1bdmTOovI/AAAAAAAAAgQ/cPNSNk-wD4s/s320/genetic_swab_test_athlete.jpg|src=http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SV1bdmTOovI/AAAAAAAAAgQ/cPNSNk-wD4s/s320/genetic_swab_test_athlete.jpg|border=0!




As first seen on Livescience.com.</b>

 

Of all of the decisions parents face regarding their children's future, choosing between shoulder pads or running shoes for their Christmas present seems trivial. Well, according to Kevin Reilly, president of Atlas Sports Genetics , this is a decision you should not take lightly. 

"If you wait until high school or college to find out if you have a good athlete on your hands, by then it will be too late," he said in a recent New York Times interview . "We need to identify these kids from 1 and up, so we can give the parents some guidelines on where to go from there."

 

Earlier this month, Reilly's company began marketing a $149 saliva swab test for kids, aged 1 to 8, to determine which variant of the gene ACTN3 is in their DNA. According to a 2003 Australian study , ACTN3 was shown to be a marker for two different types of athletic prowess, explosive power or long endurance. While everyone carries the gene, the combination of variants inherited, one from each parent, differs.

 

Science of success

The R variant of ACTN3 signals the body to produce a protein, alpha-actinin-3, which is found exclusively in fast-twitch muscles. The X variant prohibits this production. So, athletes inheriting two R variants may have a genetic advantage in sports requiring quick, powerful muscle contractions from their fast-twitch muscle fibers.

 

In the ACTN3 study, Dr. Kathryn North and her lab at the Institute for Neuromuscular Research of the University of Sydney looked at 429 internationally ranked Australian athletes and found significant correlation between power sport athletes and the presence of the R variant. All of the female sprint athletes had at least one R variant, as did the male power-sport athletes. In fact, 50 percent of the 107 sprinters had two copies of the R variant.

 

!http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SV1byaOov2I/AAAAAAAAAgY/-H4pw7JYiGQ/s320/baby_athlete|src=http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SV1byaOov2I/AAAAAAAAAgY/-H4pw7JYiGQ/s320/baby_athlete|border=0! What about those aspiring athletes that were not fortunate enough to inherit the R variant and its protein producing qualities?

 

North's team also noted that the elite endurance athletes seemed to be linked to the XX variation, although only significantly in the female sample. In 2007, her team pursued this link by developing a strain of mice that was completely deficient in the alpha-actinin-3 protein similar to an athlete with an XX allele. They found the muscle metabolism of the mice without the protein was more efficient. Amazingly, the mice were able to run 33 percent farther than mice with the normal ACTN3 gene.

 

 

Cloudy future

Additional research is showing mixed results, however. 

 

In 2007, South African researchers found no significant correlation between 457 Ironman triathletes, known for their endurance, and the XX combination. This year, Russian researchers at the St. Petersburg Research Institute of Physical Culture also failed to establish the XX-endurance performance link among 456 elite rowers but did find the RR connection among a sample of Russian power sports athletes.

 

So, can we at least find the next Usain Bolt among our kids?

 

"Everybody wants to predict future athletic success based on present achievement or physical makeup. But predicting success is much more difficult than most people think," Robert Singer, professor and chair of the department of exercise and sport sciences at the University of Florida warns in the book "Sports Talent" (Human Kinetics Publishers, 2001) by Jim Brown.

 

"There are too many variables, even if certain athletes have a combination of genes that favors long-range talent," Singer said. "A person's genetic makeup can be expressed in many different ways, depending on environmental and situational opportunities. Variables such as motivation, coachability, and opportunity can't be predicted."

 

Destiny?

Just as we assume that kids that are at the 99 percent percentile in height are destiny-bound for basketball or volleyball, having this peek into their genome may tempt parents to limit the sports choices for their son or daughter.

 

Even Mr. Reilly expressed his concern in the Times article: "I'm nervous about people who get back results that don't match their expectations," he said. "What will they do if their son would not be good at football? How will they mentally and emotionally deal with that?"

 

!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/Finger_Length.jpg|height=200|width=80|src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/Finger_Length.jpg|border=0! For those parents that are just not ready to discover the sports destiny of their child, or just want to save the $150, there is a much simpler alternative. Hold your son or daughter's hand, palm up. Measure the lengths of their index finger and their ring finger. Divide the former by the latter. According to John Manning, professor of psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, if the ratio is closer to .90 than 1.0, you may have a budding superstar.

 

Manning explains in his aptly named new book, "The Finger Book" (Faber and Faber, 2008),that the amount of a fetus' exposure to testosterone in the womb determines the length of the ring finger, while estrogen levels are expressed in the length of the index finger. According to Manning's theory, more testosterone means more physical and motor skill ability.

 

The digit ratio theory, as it is known, has been the subject of more than 120 studies to find its effect on athletic, musical and even lovemaking aptitude.

 

Don't worry if the ratio is closer to 1.0, which is by far the norm. Plus, you will be able to relax, enjoy your kids' sports events and only worry about their genetic disposition to being happy.

677 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: sports_science, sport_skills, youth_sports, sports_parents, actn3, athletic_gene, digit_ratio_theory


!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/BrandonSutterhit|height=256|width=420|src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/BrandonSutterhit|border=0!


http://draft.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=5873119327808729601http://draft.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=5873119327808729601As first seen on LiveScience.com and Sports Are 80 Percent Mental 

One painful lesson every National Hockey League rookie learns is to keep your head up when skating through the neutral zone. If you don't, you will not see the 4700 joules of kinetic energy skating at you with bad intentions.


During an October 25th game, Brandon Sutter, rookie center for the Carolina Hurricanes, never saw Doug Weight, veteran center of the New York Islanders, sizing him up for a hit that resulted in a concussion and an overnight stay in the hospital.  Hockey purists will say that it was a "clean hit" and Weight was not penalized.










Six days before that incident, the Phoenix Coyotes' Kurt Sauer smashed Andrei Kostitsyn of the Montreal Canadiens into the sideboards. Kostitsyn had to be stretchered off of the ice and missed two weeks of games with his concussion. Sauer skated away unhurt and unpenalized. [See video here | http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gc_Mk9fSI8c].

Big hits have always been part of hockey, but the price paid in injuries is on the rise. According to data released last month at the National Academy of Neuropsychology's Sports Concussion Symposium in New York, 759 NHL players have been diagnosed with a concussion since 1997. For the ten seasons studied, that works out to about 76 players per season and 31 concussions per 1,000 hockey games. During the 2006-07 season, that resulted in 760 games missed by those injured players, an increase of 41% from 2005-06. Researchers have found two reasons for the jump in severity, the physics of motion and the ever-expanding hockey player.



http://draft.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=5873119327808729601In his book, The Physics of Hockey, Alain Haché, professor of physics at Canada's University of Moncton, aligns the concepts of energy, momentum and the force of impact to explain the power of mid-ice and board collisions.


As a player skates from a stop to full speed, his mass accelerates at an increasing velocity. The work his muscles contribute is transferred into kinetic energy which can and will be transferred or dissipated when the player stops, either through heat from the friction of his skates on the ice, or through a transfer of energy to whatever he collides with, either the boards or another player.



The formula for kinetic energy, K = (1/2)mass x velocity, represents the greater impact that a skater's speed (velocity) has on the energy produced. It is this speed that makes hockey a more dangerous sport than other contact sports, like football, where average player sizes are larger but they are moving at slower speeds (an average of 23 mph for hockey players in full stride compared to about 16 mph for an average running back in the open field).



http://draft.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=5873119327808729601So, when two players collide, where does all of that kinetic energy go? First, let's look at two billiard balls, with the exact same mass, shape and rigid structure. When two balls collide on the table, we can ignore the mass variable and just look at velocity. If the ball in motion hits another ball that is stationary, then the ball at rest will receive more kinetic energy from the moving ball so that the total energy is conserved. This will send the stationary ball rolling across the table while the first ball almost comes to a stop as it has transferred almost all of its stored energy.


Unfortunately, when human bodies collide, they don't just bounce off of each other. This "inelastic" collision results in the transfer of kinetic energy being absorbed by bones, tissues and organs. The player with the least stored energy will suffer the most damage from the hit, especially if that player has less "body cushion" to absorb the impact.



To calculate your own real world energy loss scenario, visit the Exploratorium's ["Science of Hockey" calculator | http://www.exploratorium.edu/hockey/checking2.html]. For both Sutter and Kostitsyn, they received checks from players who outweighed them by 20 pounds and were skating faster.



http://draft.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=5873119327808729601The average mass and acceleration variables are also growing as today's NHL players are getting bigger and faster. In a [study | http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/nrc/apnm/2008/00000033/00000004/art00014] released in September, Art Quinney and colleagues at the University of Alberta tracked the physiological changes of a single NHL team over 26 years, representing 703 players. Not surprisingly, they found that defensemen are now taller and heavier with higher aerobic capacity while forwards were younger and faster. Goaltenders were actually smaller with less body mass but had better flexibility. However, the increase in physical size and fitness did not correspond with team success on the ice. But the checks sure hurt a lot more now.

630 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: hockey, concussion, sport_science, sports_cognition, sports_science, sport_skills, hockey_physics

!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>

650 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.



!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/AdairSwing.jpg|height=232|width=420|src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/AdairSwing.jpg|border=0!
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>

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

!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/RedSoxlogo.jpg|alt= |src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/RedSoxlogo.jpg|mce_src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/RedSoxlogo.jpg!!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/Rayslogo.jpg|alt= |src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/Rayslogo.jpg|mce_src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/Rayslogo.jpg!!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/Phillieslogo.jpg|alt= |src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/Phillieslogo.jpg|mce_src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/Phillieslogo.jpg!!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/Dodgerslogo.jpg|alt= |src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/Dodgerslogo.jpg|mce_src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/Dodgerslogo.jpg!


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.

611 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

!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!


!http://www.researchblogging.org/public/citation_icons/rb2_large_gray.png|style=border: 0pt none;|alt=ResearchBlogging.org|src=http://www.researchblogging.org/public/citation_icons/rb2_large_gray.png!

<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

549 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 !



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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=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>

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

!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.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

emotions are skills that should easily transfer from one sport to

another. That leaves the development of tactical decision making

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

field tactics, positional play and pattern recognition from playing

only their chosen sport or from playing multiple related sports?

 

 

 

 

Researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia

learned from previous studies that for national team caliber players

there is a correlation between the breadth of sport experiences they

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph Baker and Jean Cote designed an experiment to observe and

measure if there was indeed a transfer of pattern recognition ability

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

sports experiences as children and experienced but not expert level

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

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

netball, it is basically basketball with no backboards and few

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The expectation of the researchers was that the netball players would

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

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

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

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

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

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

well in their chosen sport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

that there was some generic learning of pattern recognition in team

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

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

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

future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, go ahead and let your kids play as many

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

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

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

talents and their favorite sport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

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