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Choosing Our Top 10 Issues

I'm sure we all have "stand out" memories from our time at university - those "ah ha!" moments that created insights that have stayed with us throughout our career. One of those for me came in a comment from Austin Faust-Adams, my honours research supervisor, somewhere back in 1860.

Coming from a senior lecturer at the Uni of NSW, a renowned rats & stats psychology school, it was not surprising that his comment strongly reflected a behaviourist approach typical of his colleagues. "If you can't measure it, you can't study it!" still rings in my ears. Back then, of course, we didn't have micro-electronics, wi-fi systems, video systems capable of carrying multi-level digital information, and the computing power to analyse it all.

Austin's areas were ergonomics, skill acquisition, and human factors. You can touch those things, quantify them, manipulate them, see a behavioural effect from their training, etc. This "reality trip" of course didn't stop me from attempting to systematically link movement cues / feelings with cause & effect systems I used each day on the golf course - it just made the formal attainment of "letters after the name" more challenging. Such is life.

These early influences have never dissuaded me from looking to quantify feels, thoughts, images, etc in supporting technique change work driven by elite coaches. Rather, I have enjoyed working with people like Philip Jackson and his SportsCode group, and more recently Rex Proctor and Angles, and with gear from groups such as Thought Technology and NeuroSky in attempting to find ways to squeeze numbers from "the otherwise unquantifiable".

You will see these "quantify & prove" drivers in the work I do in golf. I never have been a big one for the "publish or perish" life of the academic, and thank god, Jeff never tied me to that tree in Canberra. Every golf drill has a sliding scale of potential measurements. Without boring you with details, here is one of the most universally applied sets of drills used in our HP golf systems.

Built in here are simple "tick & flick" options that allow a basic approach at scoring the drill by the younger player / people not ready for / wanting nth degree detail. But also built in here are links to high end digital solutions that compliment the radar tracking systems we use and the other performance analysis systems our high end coaches utilise. I have published on the use of these metrics with digital video in differentiating cause & effect cues. There is an art form in pulling numbers out of activities and drills.

How do you build assessments into performance areas that don't necessarily come with an instruction manual? My first answer is to do a reductionist style analysis breaking the activity down to its essential human factors.

Within those human factors are measurable quantities that allow a progression to develop more "higher order factors". At the face value level, subtending factors such as reaction time, pattern recognition, memory, timing, balance can be measured. Self-belief is a different concept all together.

And so we come to pushing the boundaries of the CF2 paradigm. We could simply make some recommendations, provide some information, explain some principles, wrap it up in some code, and call it an app. I'm not sure that is what we are about. If you can't measure it, you can't feedback it, and its difficult to challenge a growth program - certainly during the life cycle of a typical sporting deployment (competition tour).

We want to compile, debate and assemble a set of issues that inform, guide, and support performance. We need to be able to quantify engagement, adherence, repetitions, improvement, achievements. We have the very real option of adopting existing technologies, such as one of the mindfulness apps Graham's crew is looking at, or incorporating products like the HRV Biofeedback app into recommended daily monitoring, and allocating a space in the app's "dashboard" to plot results.

We have some even "closer to home" options in accessing / adopting Murat Yucel's Brain Pack software or that of the Newcastle Uni program.

We also have the option of developing some creative solutions ourselves. Let's go back to the concept of "issues" that are to be allocated between the website and the app.

Are you ready to push the case of your version of the "Waiting Loop"? Do you have some insights into how we can build in that issue/solution/drill and quantify its impact, and also providing feedback to the user?

Consider this list of "issues". I would regard these concepts as "higher order" human factors worthy of consideration in being included in our "Go Bag". The question is "can they be quantified, recorded, turned into drills, even game-ified?". Are there better options? Should these be appearing just in the web site?

What have you got in terms of a sleep induction? Do you know of a behavioural program that guarantees to be soporific in noisy pre-competition, or long hall travel situations?

What have you got in terms of intensity endurance training? Do you know of any apps that are doing this well?

What about some scripted versions of progressive muscular relaxation that can be adapted for an app delivery (probably audio directed)? Do you have a program in mind that can be recorded and included in an app without copyright issues rearing their head? We could quantify a per input by simply counting the number of reps done in time period "x". W could use self-report checklists against at "level of relaxation achieved" scale. Can we do better than this?

Are we near any scripting for guided images / visualisations that have strong efficacy as a stand alone intervention?

As a starting point, it is always possible to goal set around a low-high or "pendulums" system for factors of this kind. For example, too fast - too slow (pendulum) in relation to breath pacing, but this requires some baseline number such as a metronome rhythm, song at a specific tempo, something to calibrate base speed against. Or, we could just direct people to the app "Breath Pacer" or "great ball", or "breathe" (etc!) and apply / suggest a recommended training program for specific situations. The downside of this is the criticism that comes with "in-app purchases". I do like the idea of incorporating a metronome in the app, and suspect we will be able to find a plug in that does not require new code to be written.

Such a plug in could be used for a number of applications, such as providing a timing pressure for a drill, or facilitating rhythm control in walking.

The "hills" concept is a "low - high", "poor - good" system that can have 1-5, percentages, or word descriptions attached to a scale of options.

Then there are slightly more complex systems, such as the one used by Lane 4 in this classic 2x2. This concept is allocating a notional 100% of focus or concern across one of 4 areas. We could use something like this in self-rating, such as say 4 optional versions of a self-belief concept, produce a weighted index, etc.

The questions are:

- what "candidate issues" do we have for inclusion in the app that come with measurable effects and associated programs that can drive improvement... that are also interesting & useful in deployment situations?

- what creativity can you bring to such "candidate issues" and with what degree of confidence are you recommending their adoption for our target market?

- what measurement systems do you like to incorporate in your goal setting / training / monitoring work with athletes that you believe have wider application to some of our "candidate issues"

Keep thinking.


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