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Effects of Instructions on Attentional Focus and Subsequent Sprint Speed, Muscle Activation, Kinetics, Kinematics and RPE

How a coach verbally communicates with an athlete significantly effects how that athlete focuses her or his attention. This allocation of attentional resources consequently influences the athlete’s ability to acquire and perform motor skills. Attentional focus can be defined as directing the performer’s consciousness to specific features in a performance environment, or to action-preparation activities and does not refer to visual focus. The two main types of attentional focus researched are external focus of attention and internal focus of attention. External focus of attention directs a person’s conscious attention to outcome or performance results (i.e., movement effects) or specific environmental features (e.g., an implement or some external stimuli) during movement. Internal focus of attention directs a person’s conscious attention to the body’s movements or to specific body parts during movement. Numerous studies demonstrate the benefits of providing instructions to athletes and participants that emphasise the adoption of an external focus of attention rather than the adoption of an internal focus of attention or a control condition receiving neutral instructions over a variety of different skills including: throwing, running, sprinting and jumping. Additionally, benefits of instructional provision emphasising an external attentional focus have been reported in various skill levels and ages. However, the research is lacking in exploring the effects of verbal instructions on attentional focus and sprint performance.

Therefore, the purpose of this thesis will be to explore the acute and prolonged effects of the provision of verbal instructions on attentional focus and subsequent sprint performance.

Three studies will be performed for this thesis. Study one will consist of an online questionnaire that will be administered to track and field coaches of various levels to determine the current trends of instructional provision among such coaches. Study two will explore the effects of instructional provision on acute sprint performance, biomechanical, neuromuscular and psychological variables regarding sprinting. Study three will consist of an 8-week sprint-training program to investigate the prolonged effects of verbal instructions on sprint performance, retention, transfer, biomechanical, neuromuscular, and psychological variables.

Project duration



Dr Adam Benz
Dr Sophia Nimphius
Southern Illinois University (USA), Dr Jared Porter

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