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Sports Are 80 Percent Mental

7 Posts tagged with the vision_and_perception tag

!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>

644 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>

619 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.

606 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

Inside An Olympian's Brain

Posted by Dan Peterson Aug 25, 2008

!http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYZpzLgQCI/AAAAAAAAAZc/rtpQWpa3TXk/s320-R/phelps.jpg|src=http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYZpzLgQCI/AAAAAAAAAZc/rtpQWpa3TXk/s320-R/phelps.jpg|border=0!!http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYZv_ldbmI/AAAAAAAAAZs/ADQSC1YRVjU/s320-R/may.jpg|src=http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYZv_ldbmI/AAAAAAAAAZs/ADQSC1YRVjU/s320-R/may.jpg|border=0!!http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYan3gpoAI/AAAAAAAAAZ8/azuH_ryf_mQ/s320-R/Liukin.jpg|src=http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYan3gpoAI/AAAAAAAAAZ8/azuH_ryf_mQ/s320-R/Liukin.jpg|border=0!!http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYZzBUF6yI/AAAAAAAAAZ0/cqTNjX3gV88/s320-R/lindan.jpg|src=http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYZzBUF6yI/AAAAAAAAAZ0/cqTNjX3gV88/s320-R/lindan.jpg|border=0!
Michael Phelps, Nastia Liukin, Misty May-Treanor and Lin Dan are four Olympic athletes who have each spent most of their life learning the skills needed to reach the top of their respective sports, swimming, gymnastics, beach volleyball and badminton (you were wondering about Lin, weren't you...) Their physical skills are obvious and amazing to watch. For just a few minutes, instead of being a spectator, try to step inside the heads of each of them and try to imagine what their brains must accomplish when they are competing and how different the mental tasks are for each of their sports.


On a continuum from repetitive motion to reactive motion, these four sports each require a different level of brain signal to muscle movement.  Think of Phelps finishing off one more gold medal race in the last 50 meters.  His brain has one goal; repeat the same stroke cycle as quickly and as efficiently as possible until he touches the wall.  There isn't alot of strategy or novel movement based on his opponent's movements.  Its simply to be the first one to finish.  What is he consciously thinking about during a race?  In his post-race interviews, he says he notices the relative positions of other swimmers, his energy level and the overall effort required to win (and in at least one race, the level of water in his goggles.)  At his level, the concept of automaticity (as discussed in a previous post) has certainly been reached, where he doesn't have to consciously "think" about the components of his stroke.  In fact, research has shown that those who do start analyzing their body movements during competition are prone to errors as they take themselves out of their mental flow.


Moving up the continuum, think about gymnastics. Certainly, the skills to perform a balance beam routine are practiced to the point of fluency, but the skills themselves are not as strictly repetitive as swimming. There are finer points of each movement being judged so gymnasts keep several mental "notes" about the current performance so that they can "remember" to keep their head up or their toes pointed or to gather speed on the dismount. There also is an order of skills or routine that needs to be remembered and activated.


While swimming and gymnastics are battles against yourself and previously rehearsed movements, sports like beach volleyball and badminton require reactionary moves directly based on your opponents' movements. Rather than being "locked-in" to a stroke or practised routine, athletes in direct competition with their opponents must either anticipate or react to be successful.


!http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYi4C58yJI/AAAAAAAAAaE/Pv9HH8UEWWE/s200-R/motor-cortex.jpg|src=http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYi4C58yJI/AAAAAAAAAaE/Pv9HH8UEWWE/s200-R/motor-cortex.jpg|border=0!So, what is the brain's role in learning each of these varied sets of skills and what commands do our individual neurons control?  Whether we are doing a strictly repetitive movement like a swim stroke or a unique, "on the fly" move like a return of a serve, what instructions are sent from our brain to our muscles?  Do the neurons of the primary motor cortex (where movement is controlled in the brain) send out signals of both what to do and how to do it?

Researchers at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT led by Robert Ajemian designed an experiment to solve this "muscles or movement" question.  They trained adult monkeys to move a video game joystick so that a cursor on a screen would move towards a target.  While the monkeys learned the task, they measured brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare the actual movements of the joystick with the firing patterns of neurons.  The researchers then developed a model that allowed them to test hypotheses about the relationship between neuronal activity that they measured in the monkey's motor cortex and the resulting actions.  They concluded that neurons do send both the specific signals to the muscles to make the movement and a goal-oriented instruction set to monitor the success of the movement towards the goal.  Here is a video synopsis of a very similar experiment by Miguel Nicolelis , Professor of Neurobiology at Duke University:

http://www.youtube.com/v/7-cpcoIJbOU&hl=en&fs=1

To back this up, Andrew Schwartz , professor of neurobiology at the McGowan  Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and his team of researchers wanted to isolate the brain signals from the actual muscles and see if the neuron impulses on their own could produce both intent to move and the movement itself.  They taught adult monkeys to feed themselves using a robotic arm while the monkey's own arms were restrained.  Instead, tiny probes the width of a human hair were placed in the monkey's motor cortex to pick up the electrical impulses created by the monkey's neurons.  These signals were then evaluated by software controlling the robotic arm and the resulting movement instructions were carried out.  The monkeys were able to control the arm with their "thoughts" and feed themselves food.  Here is a video sample of the experiment :


"In our research, we've demonstrated a higher level of precision, skill and learning," explained Dr. Schwartz. "The monkey learns by first observing the movement, which activates his brain cells as if he were doing it. It's a lot like sports training, where trainers have athletes first imagine that they are performing the movements they desire."


It seems these "mental maps" of neurons in the motor cortex are the end goal for athletes to achieve the automaticity required to either repeat the same rehearsed motions (like Phelps and Liukin) or to react instantly to a new situation (like May-Treanor and Dan). Luckily, we can just practice our own automaticity of sitting on the couch and watching in a mesemerized state.

 

!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.jtitle=Neuron&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/10.1016%2Fj.neuron.2008.02.033&amp;rft.atitle=AssessingtheFunctionofMotorCortex%3ASingle-NeuronModelsofHowNeuralResponseIsModulatedbyLimbBiomechanics&amp;rft.date=2008&amp;rft.volume=58&amp;rft.issue=3&amp;rft.spage=414&amp;rft.epage=428&amp;rft.artnum=http%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0896627308002213&amp;rft.au=RAJEMIAN&amp;rft.au=AGREEN&amp;rft.au=DBULLOCK&amp;rft.au=LSERGIO&amp;rft.au=JKALASKA&amp;rft.au=SGROSSBERG&amp;bpr3.included=1&amp;bpr3.tags=Psychology%2CCognitive+Psychology">R AJEMIAN, A GREEN, D BULLOCK, L SERGIO, J KALASKA, S GROSSBERG (2008). Assessing the Function of Motor Cortex: Single-Neuron Models of How Neural Response Is Modulated by Limb Biomechanics Neuron, 58 (3), 414-428 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.02.033 </span>

 

<span class="Z3988" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.jtitle=Nature&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/10.1038%2Fnature06996&amp;rft.atitle=Corticalcontrolofaprostheticarmforself-feeding&amp;rft.date=2008&amp;rft.volume=453&amp;rft.issue=7198&amp;rft.spage=1098&amp;rft.epage=1101&amp;rft.artnum=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nature.com%2Fdoifinder%2F10.1038%2Fnature06996&amp;rft.au=MeelVelliste&amp;rft.au=SagiPerel&amp;rft.au=M.ChanceSpalding&amp;rft.au=AndrewS.Whitford&amp;rft.au=AndrewB.Schwartz&amp;bpr3.included=1&amp;bpr3.tags=Psychology%2COther%2CCognitivePsychology%2C+Kinesiology">Meel Velliste, Sagi Perel, M. Chance Spalding, Andrew S. Whitford, Andrew B. Schwartz (2008). Cortical control of a prosthetic arm for self-feeding Nature, 453 (7198), 1098-1101 DOI: 10.1038/nature06996 </span>

634 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: olympics, coaching, sport_science, sports_cognition, vision_and_perception, sport_psychology

!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 - Teaching Tactics and Techniques In Sports

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

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

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

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

superior quickness, speed and agility but each player is a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

treatment of learning along two different dimensions; implicit vs.

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

 

Types of Learning

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

formal coaching, but today is unstructured.

 

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

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

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

coaches have planned a 90 minute session that includes structured

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

finally some situational scrimmages. Rules are followed and coaching

feedback is high. Both groups learn technical and tactical skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

expert who demonstrates proper technique or explains the tactic and the

logic behind it.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

learning session with their coach.

 

Types of Domains

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

  • Teaching Games for Understanding (TGFU)

  • Decision Training (DT)

  • Ball School (Ball)

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

 

TGFU

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

is explained. However, the exercises themselves stress a more

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

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

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

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

 

Decision Training

 

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

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

effects of complex instruction, variable practice and reduced delayed

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

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

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

details of the approach.

 

Ball School

 

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

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

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

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

implicit learning. It emphasizes that training must be based on

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

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

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

defenders".

 

SMART

 

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

sports: implicit and explicit learning is affected by complexity of

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

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

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

environmental complexity may demand either an implicit or explicit

learning method. Raab had previously shown that skills learned

implicitly work best in sport enviroments with low complexity. Skills

learned explicitly will work best in highly complex environments.

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

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

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

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

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

domain-specific environment.

 

Bottom-Line for Coaches

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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From: Sports Are 80 Percent Mental - 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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