Immersed in Momentum

I have had opportunities to meet up with some coaches during my trip to England. Some of our conversations have involved questions about ‘momentum’.

One of them asked if I could write up some notes that he could use. I have set up a Google Doc to do this and drafted a short summary for him. It is a partial bibliography.

I did not go back to primary sources such as Ivan PavlovEdward Thorndike, and Burrhus Frederic Skinner. My search started in the 1970s with Tony Nevin and extended to Walid Briki and Keith Markman’s (2018) paper on the phenomenology of goal pursuit.

The review gave me the opportunity to reflect on coaching applications of psychological momentum and behavioural momentum ideas notwithstanding the existential dilemma about whether ‘momentum’ exists or whether it can be defined.

A number of sport specific papers helped me focus my attention for my coaching friends:

Peter Adler and Patricia Adler (1978), The role of momentum in sport

Seppo Iso-Ahola and Ken Mobily (1980), Psychological momentum: A phenomenon and an empirical (unobtrusive) validation of its influence in a competitive sport tournament

Charles Mace, Joseph Lalli, Michael Shea, and John Nevin (1992), Behavioral momentum in college basketball

Jim Taylor and Andrew Demick (1994), A multidimensional model of momentum in sports

Judith Smith (2000), Psychological momentum in elite athletes

Alistair Higham, Chris Harwood, and Andrew Cale (2005), Momentum in soccer: Controlling the game

Lee Crust and Mark Nesti (2006), A review of psychological momentum in sports: Why qualitative research is needed

Martin Jones and Chris Harwood (2008), Psychological momentum within competitive soccer: Players’ perspectives

Joseph Wanzek, Daniel Houlihan, and Kendra Homan (2012), An Examination of Behavioral Momentum in Girl’s High School Volleyball

Walid Briki et al. (2012), A qualitative exploration of the psychological contents and dynamics of momentum in sport.

Philip Mortimer and Edward Burt (2014), Does momentum exist in elite handball?

Carsten Larsen and Kristoffer Henriksen (2015), Psychological momentum in team sport: An intervention program in professional soccer

Rafael Barragán (2015), Quantitative and qualitative analysis of the critical moments in basketball

Seppo Iso-Ahola and Charles Dotson (2017), Momentum and elite performance

Walid Briki (2017), Rethinking the relationship between momentum and sport performance: toward an integrative perspective

There are numerous other papers with a sport specific focus. I will need to return to some of these but have become acquainted with them through the meta-analysis in the papers listed here.

I did pursue the psychology literature too and was delighted to learn more about: momentum as a metaphor; discriminated operants; resistance; behavioural dynamics; reinforcement; compliance; naive beliefs; triggers; amplification; perception; and incentives.

I was keen to find papers my coaching colleagues could read and I decided I would recommend Philip Mortimer and Edward Burt’s (2014), Does momentum exist in elite handball? and Carsten Larsen and Kristoffer Henriksen’s (2015), Psychological momentum in team sport: An intervention program in professional soccer.

Philip and Edward share some excellent visualisations of momentum shifts in game state (that reminded me of other conversations with coaches about T-patterns). Carsten and Kristoffer shared an example of working with young football players “to increase the players’ awareness of triggers, of cognitive, affective, and behavioral changes associated with PM, and of how players may control perceptions of PM during training and in matches”. I thought this example from Denmark resonated with work shared by Alistair Higham, Chris Harwood, and Andrew Cale (2005), Lee Crust and Mark Nesti (2006), and Martin Jones and Chris Harwood (2008). I felt very comfortable with the qualitative tenor of this work and thought coaches would be very comfortable in 1:1 conversations with players.

Amidst all this reading and reflection, I was delighted to find Walid Briki and Keith Markman’s (2018) discussion of prospection and the situation of pre-experience in training environments and simulations. This speaks to my fascination with feedforward and my growing interest in consequences in training contexts. It gave me a new reference: Daniel Gilbert and Timothy Wilson (2007) and their exploration of the mechanisms of prospection:

Mental simulation is the means by which the brain discovers what it already knows. When faced with decisions about future events, the cortex generates simulations, briefly tricking subcortical systems into believing that those events are unfolding in the present and then taking note of the feelings these systems produce.

Which seems to me to be the start of a whole lot of new conversations about learning design and guided discovery with coaches.

Photo Credits

Photo of person throwing white fish net on body of water by David Clode on  Unsplash
Rugby photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Coaching Ideas

Two fragments came together yesterday and sent me off thinking about coaching.

The first came in an email message from Jo Gibson. She is writing up her PhD at the moment and we have been discussing narrative forms. In her email, Jo shared a description of a short story as:

something glimpsed from the corner of the eye, in passing. An illuminated moment … a glimpse of truth, about which you have forgotten to ask.

When I read that I thought that it was a powerful description of coaches’ experiences as they try to extend their practice. I particularly like the “forgotten to ask” part.

In my own coaching, the forgotten parts emerge through reflection and become part of the next short story, sometimes made explicit, but often left unsaid, embedded in the guided discovery I have planned.

The second fragment also came in the form an email. A friend had seen the first episode of Monty Don’s Paradise Gardens programs. In that program, Monty visits Isfahan, Kashnan, Shiraz and Pasargadae in Iran. There is archeological evidence of a garden at the heart of Cyrus’s 6th century palace at Pasargadae. The program note observes:

When the Arabs invaded Persia in the 6th century, it was these Zoroastrian gardens that influenced their ideas not only of what a garden should be, but of paradise itself.

What struck me about this was that our gardens today are connected to this garden. Our practices have their roots (literally and metaphorically) in Persia.

These two fragments came together in my thinking about how we learn to be coaches and develop our own sense of coaching.

In our coaching, I believe we glimpse the coaching of others who preceded us. On some days, the way a coaching session evolves gives us a taste of ‘paradise’ … in Iranian, a word that describes an enclosed space.

At such moments, our coaching is connected with the ideas that have been explored in other places and are realised in our own design.

Photo Credits

Grenada in 2D (Alexander Savin, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Wrestler and his coach (Michael Heiniger, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A Ron Smith guest post: On The Bench


I have invited Ron Smith to write a post about the International Football Association Board’s (IFAB) decision to “use of electronic and communication equipment in the technical area”.

Ron has been involved in football for fifty years and has integrated technology into his coaching from his early days use of film loops to share technical and tactical insights with players and coaches.

On The Bench

Simon Austin noted earlier this month:

IFAB, which decides the rules of the game, has announced that “small, hand-held electronic or communication devices will be allowed in the technical area “if used for coaching/ tactics or player welfare. This can include items as large as laptops.

It took years before approval was given for GPS systems to be worn during matches, so the introduction of devices for tactical and coaching information to be received on the bench, in whatever format, is not surprising.

The terms of reference are broad enough for anything to be relayed to the coaching staff so the relevant information will be determined by what the coach wants to know or see during the game.

Physical data could be useful if the weather conditions are different to what the players normally experience, but I would expect the coaches and physiologists to know each players’ physiological capacities and limitations.

Pre-World Cup warm up games could be used to simulate expected adverse weather conditions and identify players, if any, who may have problems.

With regards to the technical /tactical information a coach might want to receive on the bench during the game, I suggest the most useful would be of a quantitative nature rather than qualitative.

The coaches will be watching the game from the touchline and will know what is going on but the benefit of observations made by a colleague watching from an elevated position can be an advantage.

The qualitative information I would like to receive on the bench would relate to how well the team is carrying out our game plans in attack and defence, and if it is not happening to my satisfaction I would like the observations of a trusted colleague who has an aerial view. I would also have the opinion of other coaches on the bench to cross reference these observations.

It is difficult to make adjustments to the team performance during the game so whatever information I receive ought to confirm no change in the chosen strategy or lead to a change in strategy. A change would lead to implementation of Plan B or Plan C, which the players would have had to practice and be able to apply. This approach to adjusting tactics and / or team shape, or a player’s role would come from what I call ‘What If’ training based on game scenarios during the long-term preparation of the team. This is difficult but not impossible to achieve within the infrequent gatherings and constantly changing environment of international football.

I think quantitative data during the game would be limited to precise performance indicators such as attempts to play behind from specific areas of the pitch, which research has shown to have a profound effect on scoring opportunities.

I do not envisage a Head Coach watching replays of events on the bench while the game is in progress but selected passages might be viewed during stoppages in play.  The use of selected clips at half time would enable the coach to communicate visually with the players what he wants them to focus on in the second half, which he cannot do during the game.

Many sports have regulations about ‘time outs’. The availability of augmented information raises some important questions about how the IFAB decision might affect the flow of games. In women’s tennis, the WTA has permitted coaches:

to enter the court to provide tactical advice and support … armed with analytical evidence of what is unfolding on court, delivered via mobile applications supplied by the tour’s software analytics partner.

In IPL cricket,  there are four strategic time outs, each of two and a half minutes: the bowling side can ask for a break between overs 6 and 9 while the batting team can opt for the same anytime between 13 and 16 overs

I wonder if some form of time out will be the next initiative IFAB discusses.

The 2018 World Cup gives us a great opportunity to see how the availability of touch line technology works.

Photo Credit

Chertsey Town v Banstean Athletic (Chris Turner, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Substitutions (Ronnie MacDonald, CC BY 2.0)