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Pay attention! The influence of coach-, content-, and player-related factors on focus of attention statements during tennis training.

This study on youth tennis players delved into the pivotal role of coach communication in shaping the attentional focus of athletes during training sessions across diverse sports. A detailed analysis encompassing 10 coaches engaged with youth athletes was conducted to understand the prevalence and influencers of attentional focus induced by coach communication. While prior research advocates for an external focus (EF) in enhancing performance, this study aimed to explore how coach-, content-, and player-related factors influence the attentional focus induced during sports training sessions. The findings shed light on the prevalent induction of EF in coaching across various sports, emphasizing the need for adaptable communication strategies aligned with athletes’ skill levels for optimized training outcomes.

Coaching Focus in Sports Training: A comprehensive study observed 10 coaches across various sports training sessions involving youth athletes to examine the impact of coach communication on attentional focus. Findings revealed a prevalent induction of external focus (EF) (45.1%) over internal focus (IF) or neutral conditions (33.1%). This preference might be influenced by sports with clear external targets, contributing to a higher occurrence of EF instructions.

Differences in Instruction and Feedback: Distinctions emerged between instruction and feedback modes, highlighting significant variances in induced attentional focus. While instructions predominantly emphasized EF (59%), feedback statements leaned more towards IF or “best place to hit the ball.” This distinction underscores the influence of timing and content on the communicated focus of attention.

Factors Influencing Coaching Focus: Analysis of stroke types, coach qualifications, and player proficiency showcased their distinct influence on attentional focus. Certain strokes induced higher EF frequencies due to specific movement emphasis, indicating that the nature of the skill impacted the induced focus. Coaches also tailored their communication based on player proficiency, using more EF statements with skilled athletes.

Practical Implications for Coaching: This study advocates for adaptable communication aligned with player proficiency across sports. While EF prevailed in coaching, acknowledging the need for flexible attentional focus induction proves essential. Coaches are encouraged to adapt communication styles to effectively engage athletes across various skill levels, facilitating optimal learning outcomes.