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«Developing the Potential of Young People in Sport A report for sportscotland by The University of Edinburgh Developing the Potential of Young People ...»

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Clearly, multiple determinants of performance exist and a combination of anthropometric, physical and psychological factors will likely influence the sporting performance of an athlete. However, traditionally TID models have focused on physical and anthropometric indicators of talent, with the result that psychological determinants of talent have been under-represented. Consequently, the DPYPS programme places far more emphasis on psychological behaviours than any other programme, which research suggests is highly amenable to specialised training. Psychomotor Capacities which Enable Elite Performance

It is well accepted that fundamental movement skills (e.g., catching, throwing, running) are prerequisites or “building blocks” for participation in popular forms of sports and games (Payne & Isaacs, 1995; Okley, Booth & Patterson, 2001). If young athletes fail to develop fundamental skills (i.e., a motor literacy) before becoming involved in sport specific practices, they may well become frustrated and drop out of the long road to success. In this regard, Starkes and Allard (1993) have highlighted the frustration felt by young basketball players, whose cognitive capacity to ‘read’ a game was ahead of their motor capacity to implement their intentions.

In attempting to identify the necessary components of this motor literacy, we were led to consider the motor development literature, specifically focusing on movement taxonomies which offer a comprehensive ‘list’ of the basic moves which serve as ‘building blocks’ for all other specialised movements (Gallahue 1982; Gallahue & Ozmun, 2002). In fact, such taxonomies have already been used as the basis for the design of new primary physical education (PE) programmes (Jess, Collins, & Burwitz, 2002). Providing for learning experiences in fundamental components such as jumping, running, hopping and balance, offers young children the basic skills that they appear to need for successful early experiences and subsequent development in sport, be it at elite levels or just as health related physical activity. Accordingly, it seems that young athletes will require a basic ‘movement vocabulary’, which they can use as the basis for subsequent sport-specific development.

Once children have acquired these ‘building blocks’ they can then learn to combine these skills in order to build the coordinative structures required within different activities (Bernstein, 1967); for example, the ability to combine the movement of running, catching and throwing. Clearly, children would also need to be able to adapt these coordinative structures depending on the context in which they are performing.

For example, catching a ball by trapping with two hands can be adapted to carrying out a successful movement in cricket which requires the body to be oriented to enable the ball to be caught with one hand and to adapt to variations in ball trajectory. A considerable literature supports this approach to motor development (e.g., Newell, 1985; Haywood & Getchell, 2001; Thelen, 1995).

Research evidence suggests that early diversification facilitates this ability to match ‘coordinative structures’ with specific situations (Baker, 2003) due to the existence of ‘identical movement elements’ between tasks (Schmidt & Wrisberg, 2000). To put it simply, involvement in a range of activities requires fine adjustment to be made to coordinative structures and therefore encourages adaptability. Such diversified activities, as well as facilitating the ability to transfer skills effectively from one task to another, may also facilitate adaptations required within a sport. For example, European golfers often find it hard to adapt to the very quick greens in America.

Whilst UK golfers typically spend hours carrying out putting drills on UK greens, this does not develop their ability to adapt to different paced greens. American golfers typically have similar problems adapting to UK greens. Therefore, more diverse preparative activities (e.g., putting on different surfaces) are likely to facilitate this ability to adapt.

As well as the motor skills required to excel within a sport, a considerable literature attests to the superior perceptual cognitive skills (e.g., decision making skills) displayed by elite athletes. For example, consistent differences emerge between skilled and less skilled players on their anticipation and decision making skills (Williams & Davids, 1995). Differences are thought to be a reflection of their better knowledge developed as a result of practice and instruction, as opposed to any initial differences in visual skills such as acuity, colour vision or depth perception. Again, research suggests that, due to the existence of identical perceptual and conceptual elements between tasks (Schmidt & Wrisberg, 2000), diversification is likely to facilitate this learning process. Perceptual elements refer to environmental information that individuals interpret to make performance-related decisions. For instance, field hockey and soccer both require participants to interpret accurately the actions of their opponents. Conceptual elements refer to strategies, guidelines, and rules regarding performance. Gymnastics and diving share conceptual elements (e.g.

similar rules), as do basketball and netball (e.g. similar strategies). Therefore, involvement in diversified activities at younger ages is likely to facilitate the development of ‘identical conceptual and perceptual elements’ and therefore, the ability of individuals to adapt their knowledge to different contexts.

The concept of promoting a ‘generic understanding of team games’ is not new. For several years, PE specialists have utilised attractive but relatively atheoretical methods such as ‘Teaching Games for Understanding’ (Bunker & Thorpe, 1982) in an attempt to build childrens’ generic capacity to understand, and thus get involved in, team games. Such approaches implicitly acknowledge the role of knowledge structures as essential components of preparation for effective play. Recent research has highlighted the mechanisms through which this ‘declarative’ knowledge (cf.

Anderson, 1983, 1993) can be developed (e.g., Rovegno, Nevett, Brock, & Babiarz,

2001) and the apparent generic benefits which accrue in a child’s decision-making style. Once again, varied experiences offer the best medium to develop this declarative knowledge base, providing games players with the capacity to be more innovative and creative in their (eventually) selected sport.

An additional consideration supports our contention that broad-generic rather than narrow-specific preparative activities must predominate at younger ages. Research has shown that elite sports people have often transferred from another sport in their late adolescence (Moore et al., 1998). In short, many elites have started life as preelites in other areas. Following from our earlier arguments, it seems reasonable to suggest that they change, often because they become more suited to another sport as they mature. Thus, for example, three current British world-class 400M runners started life as junior internationals in BMX riding, gymnastics and trampolining – sports whose differences reflect the early physical profiles and experiences of the three individuals. Early specialisation that leads to the development of sport specific skills is likely to hamper this ability of individuals to make later transfers, and hence limit this important cross fertilisation of talent estimated as typifying over 44% of senior internationals in the UK (Moore et al., 1998). In this regard, in a recent study of expert decision makers from the sports of basketball, netball, and field hockey, Baker, Cote and Abernethy (2003) indicated that participation in other relevant activities (e.g., other sports where dynamic decision-making is necessary) during early phases of development augmented the physical and cognitive skills necessary in their primary sport. Stevenson (1990) also found that diversified early involvement did not disadvantage elite field hockey, rugby and water polo players. Interactions between Psychomotor and Psycho-behavioural Elements

It is worth stressing that both early perceived success and subsequent effective development are essential for initiating and maintaining the levels of involvement necessary for eventual performance. Modern motivational research stresses the importance of perceived competence in an individual’s decision to initiate and maintain an activity (Klint & Weiss, 1987; Whitehead & Corbin, 1997; Carroll & Loumidis, 2001). In the elite sport parallel, the intense levels of commitment eventually required by sport training make a certain level of security in one’s ability all the more desirable as a protection against the inevitable setbacks which will occur.

Consequently, both psychomotor and psycho-behavioural elements are important.

Psychomotor factors are crucial in the early stages, offering a basis for subsequent development but, perhaps more importantly, the successful experiences which serve to initiate participation in sport. It is true that, to date at any rate, research on the role of positive physical self-perceptions as a precursor of physical activity involvement has been equivocal (Fox, 2000). However, given the common acknowledgement of self-efficacy as an essential feature of successful performance (and performers), it seems tenable that perceived ability may play a more consistently important role in determining uptake and maintenance of participation in sport. In short, without early success, any child will require special and additional encouragement to get involved in sport and physical activity. Additionally however, without the necessary basic skills, even enthusiastic involvement will offer little positive feedback and will be hard to maintain.

DPYPS: Acknowledging the role of psychomotor and psycho-behaviours in the physical development and performance of children Instead of quantifying the existing set of attributes of an individual and viewing them as a basis for predicting children’s subsequent sporting performance, the design of the DPYPS programme was based on the notion of facilitating a child towards their potential by promoting those skills that if absent may limit their development. Therefore, the DPYPS programme was designed to develop both psycho-behaviours and psychomotors. With regards to psycho-behaviours, children were taught strategies that have been shown to facilitate learning and performance across all sporting domains (and indeed beyond the sporting context, e.g., academia, acting, public speaking etc.). The behaviours promoted within

DPYPS were:

• Goal Setting

• Imagery

• Realistic Performance Evaluation

• Self Awareness

• Focus and Distraction Control

• Planning

• Etc.

The psychomotor activities within DPYPS were designed initially to promote a basic moves vocabulary (e.g., the ability to catch) before encouraging the combining of basic moves into increasingly complex coordinative structures (e.g., the ability to run, catch and throw a ball). Subsequently, involvement in diversified activities aimed to encourage individuals to adapt coordinative structures to various conceptual and perceptual demands. By providing for learning experiences in fundamental components such as jumping, running, hopping and balance, it was hoped that DPYPS would offer young children the basic skills they need for successful early experiences and subsequent development in sport, be it at elite levels or as health related physical activity.

2.1.2 The Developmental Pathway. Different Emphases Necessary at DifferentLevels

As well as acknowledging that psycho-behaviours and psychomotor factors facilitate learning and performance, DPYPS also acknowledges the role of these variables for successfully negotiating pathways to excellence in sport. Multiple pathways to excellence can emerge within any sport. These pathways are typically complex, where athletes’ requirements adjust as they progress through various stages of development (Tebbenham, 1998). For example, Bloom (1985) identified three key stages (initiation, development and mastery) that athletes pass through on the path to obtaining excellence. More recently, Cote (1999) formulated the ‘stages of sport participation’ model which looked at involvement in sport up to the age of 18 years.

Although the stages of development are similar to Bloom and colleagues (1985), the stages were elicited specific to sport and “are anchored in the theoretical concepts of deliberate play and deliberate practice” (Cote, 1999, p.412). Cote named the three

progressive stages the ‘sampling’, the ‘specialising’, and the ‘investment’ years:

“In general, the sampling years are characterized by a lower frequency of deliberate practice and a higher frequency of deliberate play; the specializing years are marked by more equal amounts of deliberate play and deliberate practice; and the investment years are characterized by a higher frequency of deliberate practice” (Cote, 1999, p. 413) Cote also highlighted that there was likely to be a fourth stage of participation marked by the maintenance and perfection of skills. Kreiner-Phillips and Orlick (1992) have highlighted this distinction between ‘getting there’ (producing a world-class performance) and ‘staying there’ (consistently producing world class performances).

Accordingly, Durand-Bush (2000) introduced a fourth stage that he called the ‘maintenance years’. This stage emphasised the need for increased quality of training and avoidance of ‘being copied by competitors’ as well as the need for more expert and emotional support to deal with the additional pressures of elite competitive sport.

Although further research is required to establish the generality of these four stages of development, the important message is that unique favourable environmental conditions will exist and required support will differ as athletes progress through the various stages of development. Additionally, whilst athletes would appear to progress through at least four macro stages of development, the successful athlete will also encounter many micro and meso stages of development (e.g., coping with injury or a technique change) making development and the support required highly idiosyncratic (Ollis, 2002).

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