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Technique change : how practitioners intervene in high-performance sport Vecchione, Joseph


Changing technique, whereby a permanent strategy is adopted to improve performance or reduce injury risk, is a common practice among sport practitioners. Although the empirical literature is lacking quality evidence and consensus regarding best methods, there are several models and methods suggested; including the Five-A model, error amplification, and continual contrasting of the “old” technique with a new one. My aims with this thesis were to review the technique change literature to help identify commonalities and differences across methods and evaluate if and how these methods are being applied in high-performance sport across a range of practitioner groups and sports. In Study 1, I interviewed fifteen practitioners and in Study 2, I developed an online survey that was completed by thirty-six practitioners, all highly experienced and many working at the highest level of sport. Three practitioner groups were targeted including sport coaches, therapists and strength & conditioning (S&C) coaches and sixteen different sports. In general, there were more similarities than differences across groups; coaches and S&Cs intervened to improve performance, whereas therapists, as well as S&C coaches, intervened to reduce injury risk or regain technique post injury. When intervening, S&Cs and therapists would focus on physical assessments and modifications, often working outside the sport context, then back into it. Coaches would remain within the sport context, though scale back the task difficulty to encourage change. There was little evidence that exaggerating errors, or contrasting between old and new ways, was used to change technique, but practitioners did use error awareness, technique-focused feedback (directing attention both internally and externally) and direct-instruction regarding a desired technique. Despite practitioners reporting that they spent ~55% of their time changing technique, with a success rate of ~60%, many noted challenges associated with technique interventions. There are gaps in knowledge about current evidence-recommended methods, particularly the need to train and evaluate the new technique in competition-like situations. As such, greater efforts should be made by academics to engage in knowledge translation activities to aid practitioner awareness of the various tools that could improve the efficiency and efficacy of technique change interventions.

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