Mind Over Body: Creating an External Focus for Sport Skills

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European Journal of Sport Science

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In a recent study examining the efficacy of different external foci (Singh and Wulf [2020]. The distance effect and level of expertise: Is the optimal external focus different for low-skilled and high-skilled performers? Human Movement Science, 73. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.humov.2020.102663), an external focus instruction referred to parts of the body (arms). Specifically, the image of a "platform" was used to describe the area between the wrists and elbows when passing a volleyball. The present study followed up on that study by addressing the question whether a focus on an image that represents a body part (platform) would be more effective than a focus on the body parts (arms) themselves (i.e. internal focus). In a within-participant design, novice volleyball players continuously passed a volleyball to a target on the wall. Participants completed eight 45-s trials under each of the external ("focus on your platform") and internal focus ("focus on your arms") conditions, performed in a counterbalanced order. The results showed that the total score (i.e. sum of scores over 45 s) was significantly higher when participants focused on the platform rather than their arms. Thus, invoking an image of an external object that "replaces" a body part can serve to promote an external focus that results in immediate performance advantages compared with an internal focus on the same body part. The findings suggest that instructors within a range of applied settings can creatively use such images to facilitate the performance of motor skills.


Attention focus; Volleyball; Coaching


Exercise Science | Kinesiology | Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences | Sports Sciences



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