Joe Vecchione MSc Thesis Defense on Technique Change

Posted 29 Mar 2023

Joe will be defending his Master's thesis on March 30th.

"Tecnique Change: How Practitioners Intervene in High-Performance Sport"

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Nicola Hodges
Committee members: Dr. Andrea Bundon, Dr. Cate Madill, Dr. Ben Sporer
Defence Chair: Dr. Desmond McEwan

Abstract: Changing technique, whereby a permanent strategy is adopted to improve performance or reduce injury risk, is a common practice among sport practitioners. Although the empirical literature is lacking quality evidence and consensus regarding best methods, there are several models and methods suggested; including the Five-A model, error amplification, and continual contrasting of the “old” technique with a new one. My aims with this thesis were to review the technique change literature to help identify commonalities and differences in elements across methods and evaluate if and how these methods are being applied in high-performance sport. In Study 1, I interviewed fifteen practitioners and in Study 2, I developed an online survey that was completed by thirty-six practitioners, all highly experienced and many working at the highest level of their sport. Three practitioner groups were targeted including sport coaches, therapists and strength & conditioning (S&C) coaches. In general, there were more similarities than differences across groups, although coaches and S&Cs intervened more to improve performance and make subtle changes to technique, whereas therapists and to a degree, S&C coaches, intervened primarily to reduce injury risk and regain technique post injury. When intervening, S&Cs and therapists would focus on physical assessments and modifications, often working outside the sport context and back into it, whereas coaches would remain in a sport context, though scale back the task difficulty and then increase it when changing technique. There were some common elements reported that matched some of the recommended methods, these included: raising awareness to the error or undesired technique, technique-focused feedback (directing attention both internally and externally) and direct-instruction regarding a desired technique. Practitioners often reported using video feedback, part-practice and slowing the movement down when changing technique. There was little evidence that practicing or exaggerating errors, or contrasting between old and new ways, was used to change technique. Despite practitioners reporting that they spent ~45-65% of their time changing technique, with a success rate of ~60%, many noted challenges associated with technique interventions. There are gaps in knowledge about current evidence-recommended methods, particularly the need to train and evaluate the new technique in competition-like situations. As such, greater efforts should be made by academics to engage in knowledge translation activities to aid practitioner awareness of the various tools that could improve the efficiency and efficacy of technique change intervention