Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Sport Science Review

The Journal of National Institute for Sport Research

3 Issues per year

Open Access
Online
ISSN
2069-7244
See all formats and pricing
More options …

Focus of Attention and Verbal Instructions: Strategies of Elite Track and Field Coaches and Athletes

Jared Porter / Will Wu / Julie Partridge
Published Online: 2012-01-24 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10237-011-0018-7

Focus of Attention and Verbal Instructions: Strategies of Elite Track and Field Coaches and Athletes

It is well documented that directing attention externally enhances motor skill learning and performance under controlled experimental conditions. What is not well understood is how verbal instructions (VI) and feedback provided by coaches in authentic environments influences athletes' focus of attention. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate the type of VI and feedback provided by experienced coaches during practice, and how this information influenced elite athletes' focus of attention during competition. Participants were athletes competing at the USA Track and Field Outdoor National Championships. Participants completed a survey inquiring about the VI and feedback provided during practice and what they focused on while competing. The data revealed that 84.6% of the participants reported that coaches provided instructions during practice that promoted an internal focus of attention. Participants also reported they utilize internal focus cues 69% of the time during competition. These results suggest that this sample of coaches provided instructions that focused athletes' attention internally. This practice strategy is inconsistent with motor learning research, which shows learning and performance are enhanced when using an external focus of attention during motor skill execution. Recommendations are made to improve coaching education curriculums, bridging the gap between science and application.

Keywords: coaching; attention; verbal instructions track and field

  • Al-Abood, S. A., Bennett, S. J., Hernandez, F. M., Ashford, D., & Davids, K. (2002). Effects of verbal instructions and image size on visual search strategies in basketball free throw shooting. Journal of Sports Sciences, 20, 271-278.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bell, J. J. & Hardy, J. (2009). Effects of attentional focus on skilled performance in golf. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 21, 163-177.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bowerman, B., & Freeman, B. (2008). Bill bowerman's high performance training for track and field (3rd ed.). Monterey, CA: Coaches Choice.Google Scholar

  • Carr, G. (1999). Fundamentals of track and field (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.Google Scholar

  • Ericsson, K. A., & Williams, A. M. (2007). Capturing naturally-occurring superior performance in the laboratory: Translational research on expert performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 13, 115-123.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Guthrie, M. (2003). Coaching track & field successfully (1st ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.Google Scholar

  • Magill, R. A. (2001) Augmented feedback in motor skill acquisition. In R. N. Singer, H. A. Hausenblas, & C. M. Janelle (Eds.), Handbook of Sport Psychology, 2nd ed., pp. 86-114). New York: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar

  • Magill, R. A., (1992). Practice schedule considerations for enhancing human performance in sport. In R. W. Christina and H. M. Eckert (Eds.), The Academy papers, No. 25 Enhancing human performance in sport: New concepts and developments. Proceedings of the American Academy of Physical Education (pp. 38-50). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.Google Scholar

  • Porter, J. M., Ostrowski, E., Nolan, R., & Wu, F. W. (in press). Standing long jump performance is enhanced when using an external focus of attention. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Porter, J. M., Wulf, G., Nolan, R., & Ostrowski, E. (2010). Instructions that promote an external focus of attention benefit agility performance. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 32, S119-120.Google Scholar

  • USA Track and Field (1999). USA track & field coaching manual (1st ed.). Champaign, IL Human Kinetics.Google Scholar

  • Williams, A. M., & Ford, P. R. (2009). Promoting a skills-based agenda in Olympic sports: The role of skill-acquisition specialists. Journal of Sports Sciences, 27, 1381-1392.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Wulf, G. (2007a). Attentional focus and motor learning: A review of 10 years of research. In E.-J. Hossner & N. Wenderoth (Eds.), Gabriele Wulf on attentional focus and motor learning [Target article]. E-Journal Bewegung und Training, 1, 4-14. Retrieved from http://www.ejournal-but.de. http://www.ejournal-but.de

  • Wulf, G. (2007b). Attention and motor skill learning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.Google Scholar

  • Wulf, G., McConnel, N., Gärtner, M, & Schwarz, A. (2002). Enhancing the learning of sport skills through external-focus feedback. Journal of Motor Behavior, 34, 171-182.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Wulf, G., McNevin, N. H., & Shea, C. H. (2001). The automaticity of complex motor skill learning as a function of attentional focus. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 54A, 1143-1154.Google Scholar

  • Wulf, G., & Prinz, W. (2001). Directing attention to movement effects enhances learning: A review. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 8, 648-660.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Wulf, G., & Su, J. (2007). An external focus of attention enhances golf shot accuracy in beginners and experts. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 78, 384-389.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Wulf, G., Weigelt, M., Poulter, D. R., & McNevin, N. H. (2003). Attentional focus on super-postural tasks affects balance learning. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 56, 1191-1211.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Wulf, G., Zachry, T., Granados, C., & Dufek, J. S. (2007). Increases in jump-and-reach height through an external focus of attention. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 2, 275-284.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

About the article


Published Online: 2012-01-24

Published in Print: 2010-08-01


Citation Information: Sport Science Review, ISSN (Online) 2069-7244, ISSN (Print) 2066-8732, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10237-011-0018-7.

Export Citation

This content is open access.

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

[1]
Héctor Haney Aguirre Loaiza, Carlos Federico Ayala, and Santiago Ramos Bermúdez
Educación Física y Deporte, 2016, Volume 34, Number 2, Page 409
[2]
Philip E. Kearney, Howie J. Carson, and Dave Collins
Journal of Sports Sciences, 2017, Page 1
[3]
Giacomo Rossettini, Marco Testa, Marco Vicentini, and Paolo Manganotti
BioMed Research International, 2017, Volume 2017, Page 1
[5]
Howie J. Carson and Dave Collins
International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2016, Volume 9, Number 1, Page 1
[6]
Anne Ille, Ingrid Selin, Manh-Cuong Do, and Bernard Thon
Journal of Sports Sciences, 2013, Volume 31, Number 15, Page 1705

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in