Mindset recent motor behavior research applied to volleyball
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Mindset: Recent motor behavior research applied to volleyball. Nels Rydberg, MS Assistant Coach University of Portland. Preview. Background Information Motor Behavior Research Focus of Attention Choose your words carefully Observational Learning Two for the price of one Mindset

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Mindset recent motor behavior research applied to volleyball

Mindset: Recent motor behavior research applied to volleyball

Nels Rydberg, MS

Assistant Coach

University of Portland



  • Background Information

    • Motor Behavior Research

  • Focus of Attention

    • Choose your words carefully

  • Observational Learning

    • Two for the price of one

  • Mindset

    • What are they thinking?

  • Ideas and Questions

Background information

Background Information

  • Motor behavior research

    • Learning vs performance

      • Retention test

    • Open vs closed skills

      • Generalizability

      • Transfer test

        • Volleyball skills

Focus of attention

Focus of Attention

  • Internal focus: on body movements

  • External focus: on the movement effect

    • Not related to visual focus

      Wulf, G. (2013). Attentional focus and motor learning: a review of 15 years. International Review of Sportand Exercise Psychology, 6(1), 77-104.

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

Focus of attention1

Focus of Attention

  • Initial findings

    Wulf, G., Höß, M., & Prinz, W. (1998). Instructions for motor learning: Differential effects of internal versus external focus of attention. Journal of Motor Behavior, 30, 169-179.

    • Pressure exerted on platform vs feet exerting the pressure

    • Markers on board horizontal rather than feet horizontal

      • Retention (and later, transfer) had no instructions, internal or external

Focus of attention2

Focus of Attention

  • Movement effectiveness

    • Accuracy, consistency, balance

  • Movement efficiency

    • Muscular activity, force production, cardiovascular responses

      • Higher skill level is achieved sooner

      • Benefits performance and learning

Focus of attention3

Focus of Attention

  • Measurements

    • Balance, accuracy, muscular activity, maximum force production, speed and endurance, movement kinematics and kinetics (whole-body coordination patterns optimized)

  • Tasks

    • Golf shots, volleyball serve, kicks, free throws, weight lifting, throwing accuracy and form, jumping, sprinting, agility, swimming, rowing

Focus of attention4

Focus of Attention

  • “…even a single instructional cue can impact whole-body coordination” (Wulf, 2013, p. 78).

    • Why does this work?

      • “Self-invoking trigger”

      • Negative effects of self-consciousness

        • Mindset?

Focus of attention5

Focus of Attention

  • In your gym

    • Serving

      • Target, point of impact on the ball

    • Passing

      • Target, trajectory

    • Blocking

      • Attacker’s shoulders, points to reach for

    • Reading and external focus

Focus of attention6

Focus of Attention

Beckmann, J., Gröpel, P., & Ehrlenspiel, F. (2013). Preventing motor skill failure through hemisphere-specific priming: Cases from choking under pressure. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 142(3), 679-691.

  • In short

    • Right brain = automated behavior

    • Squeeze left hand to activate right hemisphere

Observational practice

Observational Practice

Shea, C. H., Wulf, G., & Whitacre, C. (1999). Enhancing training efficiency and effectiveness through the use of dyad training. Journal of Motor Behavior, 31, 119-125.

Shea, C. H., Wright, D. L., Wulf, G., & Whitacre, C. (2000). Physical and observational practice afford unique learning opportunities. Journal of Motor Behavior, 32(1), 27-36.

  • Form of mental training

    • Model does not have to be an expert

Observational practice1

Observational Practice

  • Experiment 1

    • Physical vs observational practice

      • Retention

        • physical > observational > control

      • Transfer

        • physical = observational > control

          • Better able to apply parameters and strategies

Observational practice2

Observational Practice

  • Experiment 2

    • Dyads: “…participants develop some form of interactive relationship during practice…” (Shea, et al., 2000, p. 34)

    • Physical vs combined (physical and observational) practice

      • Acquisition

        • Physical = combined

      • Retention

        • Physical = combined > control

Observational practice3

Observational Practice

  • Physical vs combined (cont.)

    • Transfer

      • Combined > physical > control

        • Physical deteriorated in transfer, combined did not

  • Possible explanations

    • What worked vs what did not

    • Mental processing that cannot be done during physical practice

    • Social interactions including motivation and social comparison

      • Mindset?

Observational practice4

Observational Practice

  • Benefits and application

    • Increased learning efficiency

      • Space, equipment, time

    • Decreased fatigue and chance of injury/overuse

      • Effective use of rest intervals

    • Teach your players to observe each other

    • Design drills that facilitate observational learning

Observational practice5

Observational Practice

Granados, C., & Wulf, G. (2007). Enhancing motor learning through dyad practice: Contributions of observation and dialogue. Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport, 78(3), 197-203.

  • Observational practice enhanced learning regardless of dialogue



  • More specifically

    • Enhanced expectancies

    • Conceptions of ability

    • Self-confidence

    • Social-cognitive

    • Positive affect

    • Intrinsic motivation



  • Self-Determination Theory (SDT)

    Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68-78.


    • Basic needs

      • Autonomy, competence, relatedness

        • Intrinsic motivation, positive affect



  • Feedback after successful trials

    • Increased intrinsic motivation and self-confidence

      • Catch someone doing something well and tell them about it

      • Trip on the curb, shank one pass

        Chiviacowsky, S., & Wulf, G. (2002). Self-controlled feedback: Does it enhance learning because performers get feedback when they need it? Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 73, 408-415.



Badami, R., VaezMousavi, M., Wulf, G., & Namazizadeh, M. (2011). Feedback after good trials enhances intrinsic motivation. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 82, 360-364.

Badami, R., VaezMousavi, M., Namazizadeh, M., & Wulf, G. (2012). Feedback after good versus poor trials: Differential effects on self-confidence and activation. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 83(2), 196-203.



  • Acquirable skill > inherent ability

    • Incremental theorists > entity theorists

      Wulf, G., & Lewthwaite, R. (2009). Conceptions of ability affect motor learning. Journal of Motor Behavior, 41(5), 461-467.

  • Normative feedback

    • “Above average” performance 

      Lewthwaite, R., & Wulf, G. (2010). Social-comparative feedback affects motor skill learning. QuarterlyJournal of Experimental Psychology, 63(4), 738-749.



  • Performance under pressure

    • Throwing accuracy

      McKay, B., Lewthwaite, R., & Wulf, G. (2012). Enhanced expectancies improve performance under pressure. Frontiers in Psychology, 3:8. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00008



Experienced, trained athletes

Increased physiological efficiency

Stoate, I., Wulf, G., & Lewthwaite, R. (2012). Enhanced expectancies improve movement efficiency in runners. Journal of Sports Sciences, 30(8), 815-823.



  • Why?

    • Automaticity vs conscious control processes

  • How?

    • Instructions or feedback should focus on learners’ improvements or effort invested in practice

  •  Ideas?

    • Feedback after good trials

    • Self-controlled feedback

      • Establish the proper mindset



  • Background Information

    • Motor Behavior Research

  • Focus of Attention

    • Choose your words carefully

  • Observational Learning

    • Two for the price of one

  • Mindset

    • What are they thinking?

  • Ideas and Questions



  • Sharing of ideas

    • Focus of attention

    • Observational practice

    • Mindset

  • Questions

Thank you

Thank you!

Nels Rydberg


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