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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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This awareness of the complex pathway to excellence that athletes must negotiate also highlights that performers must make several transitions in their careers in order to progress to the highest standards. For example, for an individual to make the transition to the mastery stage of development, research has highlighted the importance of increased technical coaching and financial support (Bloom, 1985).

Therefore, the ability of an athlete to initiate and/or commit to these changes is key to his/her successful transition to the next stage of development. During the design of DPYPS, it was considered important to incorporate activities to develop the factors likely to impact on this transition process and these factors are discussed below. Successful Transition from One Stage of Development to Another Irrespective of the performance dispositions displayed and the environmental opportunities afforded, an individual only displays true potential when they are able to transfer successfully from one stage of development to another in order eventually to achieve consistent performance at the world-class level. Research has shown that this ability to transfer successfully between stages of development is facilitated, and indeed characterised, by an individual developing and applying a range of psychobehaviours. For example, psycho-behaviours (e.g., goal setting, imagery, self-talk) have been found to facilitate the ability to maintain focus whilst resisting the interference of distracting information (Moran, 1996). Previous research has also highlighted how psycho-behaviours (e.g., goal setting and imagery) can help an individual to progress through micro and meso stages of development (e.g., injury) (Ievleva & Orlick, 1991; Rose & Jevne, 1993).

Therefore, a key concept underpinning the design of DPYPS is that TID processes should place early and continual emphasis on the development and application of key psycho-behavioural strategies as not only will they facilitate learning and performance, they will also play a crucial role in facilitating the successful negotiation of developmental transitions (macro, meso and micro) (Ollis, 2002). Without this ability to negotiate successfully from one stage of development to the next, and to negotiate micro and meso transitions encountered within a development stage, an individual talent will at best remain a potential. Unfortunately however, TID models typically place minimal, if any, emphasis on psychological factors (Morris, 2000;

Abbott & Collins, 2002). Of course we are not saying that psychological factors are the only consideration since the capacity that an individual has to make the transition to the next stage of development may also be facilitated or inhibited by their motor, perceptual and physical performance dispositions. For instance, an individual who has an inadequate ratio of fast to slow twitch fibres will find it extremely difficult successfully to make the transitions to become a world class sprinter.

2.2 ‘Consumer’ Perceptions of the Philosophy DPYPS: Acknowledging the need for athletes to make successful developmental transitions DPYPS places considerable emphasis on the development of those psychological behaviours that have been shown not only to facilitate learning and development but also to facilitate the transition process from one stage of development to the next (e.g., goal setting, imagery, self-awareness). Initially, DPYPS provides activities at Level One which promote psycho-behaviours that can be transferred to any physical (and indeed non-physical) setting. This generic application encourages the children to adapt the psychological skills that they have acquired to various sporting and non sporting activities and is in keeping with the notion that an elite athlete must be able to make crucial adaptations within their sport (e.g., US and UK golfers). Further, as many elite athletes appear to excel in a sport other than the one they initially specialised in, DPYPS recognises that the ideal application of skills will vary from one sporting context to the next and the ability to adapt to meet the demands of differing contexts is a crucial one.

Therefore, coaches involved in sport specific development within the pilot clusters were provided with information regarding the generic psychomotors and psychobehaviours that were being developed through the school environment. These sport specific coaches were also provided with training and resources to enable them to facilitate an athlete’s ability to adapt the psycho-behaviours to meet the demands of their sport.

2.2.1 Overview of the Data Collection Procedure The interviews were conducted by the research team. Interviews lasted between 40 and 90 minutes (depending on depth of involvement with the programme), and all the interviews were completed within a one month period. No data were collected prior to establishing rapport and trust with the interviewees. This was accomplished by being candid with the interviewees and reassuring them that the purpose of the interview was not to evaluate their performance, but to gain an understanding of their perceptions of the DPYPS programme and how it could be improved. The interviews, which were semi-structured, were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim.

The numbers of participants interviewed from each category are summarised in Table 2.1.

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Table 2.1: Breakdown of Participants Interviewed/Surveyed Data Analysis Following the transcription of the interviews, the raw data for the three pilot clusters were arranged in text units, and were then analysed using qualitative inductive methods based on open codes, emerging themes, and emerging categories (Miles & Huberman, 1994).

The emerging codes were then arranged into themes that were based on the converging responses of a number of participants to minimise the effects of personality and other individual differences, thus leading to the identification of common patterns.

Presentation of the Data

For clarity, when key messages have consistently emerged, these messages are presented then supplemented by data-based support and discussion. When feedback data is more mixed, presentation style is adjusted to reflect this. The first two sections reflect data collected from two participants for each category.

Accordingly, quotes are not ascribed! Other sections reflect data from a larger number of participants, and therefore quotes are contextualised by anonymised labelling.

2.2.2 Local Authorities The DPYPS Philosophy is Sound Participants have extremely consistent and positive perceptions about the underpinning philosophy of the programme. To the representatives questioned, DPYPS makes sense, represents effective practice, and provides an educational and inclusive basis for children’s physical development. The Local Authorities feel that the explicit development of the physical and mental factors presented in DPYPS provides crucial aspects of effectively targeting children’s development and the promotion of lifelong participation in sport and activity.

The idea for me about looking at broad-based development, getting kids involved, covering good attitudes and values associated with participation is both fundamental to me educationally and from a sporting sense and coaching sense.

The one thing that was interesting about the programme was that it's developing the attitudinal aspects which is fundamentally different from some of the programmes that have potentially been available in the past and I think, for me, observing what's happening in schools and education, the whole idea of developing attitudes and a positive sense to learning and towards participation are really key to making progress.

And I don't think that's a physical activity or sport related idea or ideal.

I think that's what we really need to be working on.

When you think of other things that kids will encounter in their day-today life within school. I've limited it to that, you know, passing exams, you know? The psycho-behaviour, attitudinal changes, skills you give as well. It's not changing behaviour on its own. It's actually the skills to change the behaviour you're giving them as well. Kids who are into music, kids who are into art, all aspects. It's a general educational tool.

What's really good about it is it's focused on physical activity, which a lot of kids like.

The Local Authorities felt that these key factors were not just innate characteristics of some children but can be taught and learned by all youngsters. Through this physical and mental development, children are empowered to make more choices about participation, physical activity and sport. However, without the explicit promotion of such skills children’s development is left to chance. Participants felt that the philosophy underpinning DPYPS provides an explicit and systematic focus on inclusion, ongoing opportunities and the development within these key areas, something that is missing from much of our current practice.

Everyone can get better. Everybody can become more competent, which is important. People will participate in physical activity when they're confident in their own ability to do so. I think people develop at different times, different speeds and l think, lastly, basic skills and attitudes can be learned and have an impact on development and on participation. So, for me, that was my view of the underpinning philosophy and that's why we wanted to be involved in a research project, which was looking at an educationally sound programme.

The idea of an educational philosophy of learning to learn and being motivated to learn and if we don't actually do explicit activities that will encourage or develop that, then it's left to chance. So it's the same issue. I think the lifelong participation in physical activity is pretty much consistent with lifelong learning in terms of it's an attitudinal thing. If you're not predisposed by some influences to be like that, then how are you going to do it? You're not going to do it. And we've got to work at that. I think another issue for me is also the self esteem and confidence bit that kind of underpins that idea of self determination because that's a major issue in schools because if people think they've no control of what they're doing, then that's … it's a freedom in terms of your expression and potential because it does not matter what you did at school then. That's a personal development issue but it's a crucial one both in sport and in school performance and education.

The fact is that, you know, I'm an educationalist, I'm a physical educationalist and this is educationally sound. This includes everybody and it's about providing good quality experience to young people.

The Local Authorities appeared very comfortable with the philosophy. In their view, it provides a sound, educational, theoretical and empirically based way forward for talent development and physical activity promotion.

I'm very comfortable with the philosophy. And I'm not going to sit here and try and think something up. I don't have any problem with the philosophy. The philosophy is sound.

The Philosophy of Current practice – Where Are We?

The Local Authorities felt that current practice had shifted out of line with the philosophy required for optimum educational impact. This had occurred over time from a lack of understanding about what is required, through external influences and the need for many schools to take any sports opportunities that were presented, such as utilising development officers in primary schools.

I think that there has potentially been a shift in how things have gone over the last 15, 20 years from what was kind of general movement skills, activity based in physical education, to sport development, the swing of things in terms of emphasis and I think that's perhaps not been the best way to do it. People have taken up not necessarily explicitly but just influence. You know, if I give you an example of a primary class teacher, they're influenced by the media and others and there's this idea that because of maybe reduction in extra curricular activity had a big impact on sport development and the number of kids participating in physical activity and sport. So the response was to have more sport.

So in some ways what we are looking for is somebody to come along with that effective curriculum, right? This is a model that works.

More sport development and sport development officers working in schools and therefore their philosophy was adapted from that. So people think, well the answer is there's less activity, so we'll give more activity and sport was the bit that filled the gap. But they didn't have that underpinning basic movement skill so kids would maybe be taught sports as such rather than basic movements.

The Local Authorities felt that, as a general rule, the physical experiences of children throughout their school life are too sport specific from too early a stage. Current practice was seen as lacking the required focus on the fundamental skills needed for children to make progress, enjoy being active and be motivated to make the choice to participate more.

We're very sport specific focused. There isn't that generic development. And we will do the sport specific stuff a bit too early as well I think.

Participants also recognised that currently there is no explicit or systematic promotion of the mental aspects of development, and little attempt has been made to change the thinking of people involved. Mental and attitudinal development was seen as a crucial ‘partner’ to the promotion of fundamental skills in order to gain maximum value in our attempts to promote physical activity and talent development.

I think that's probably one of the most important things to come out of this. These two things (physical and mental skills) need to happen together to get maximum effect.

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