Program Evaluation in Sport

April 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Supplemental material for this presentation can be accessed by clicking the link below.  At this link, you will find a full list of references used in the preparation of this systematic review.  In the same file, you will find a two-page chart that breaks down each of the 31 articles included in the systematic review.

Feel free to click through these slides if there if something you have missed.

Mastery vs. caring climate in youth sport – room for both?

March 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

What are the essential components of an ideal youth sport climate? Should the coach focus on teaching athletes the fundamental skills needed for the sport, focusing on the individual mastery for each player? Should the coach focus on building a caring climate for the players so that they feel like they are a part of the team, and that they are able to take calculated risks to improve their skills?

At the 2012 conference for the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, these questions arose several times for myself and my colleagues. Based on my coaching experience, I firmly believe that a coach should focus on mastery of fundamental sport skills. In swimming, this meant mastering each of the four strokes in a way that did not produce injury. I felt that if a swimmer could improve his or her skills, this would lead to higher motivation and a sense of self-accomplishment.

But what about the sport climate? Is promoting mastery part of building a caring climate? What about intensive sport experiences, such as training camps? If the training camp creates a challenging (maybe even threatening) environment that enables athletes to reach new levels of skill mastery, how would athletes rank how “caring” this climate was? For instance, “tough love” can get results, and athletes can perceive the coach’s tough love as his way of showing that he cares. This stands in contrast to a climate to one where the coach provides a non-threatening atmosphere, but never pushes athletes to improve.

Like so many cases in sport, much lies in the perception that the athlete has. A mastery-oriented athlete might perceive challenge as an opportunity to improve, while an ego-oriented athlete might perceive challenge as a threat that could show his weakness as an athlete. If a coach builds a sport climate that values mastery, that will involve challenging the athletes. How will his athletes perceive these challenges?

Sport psychology researchers will need to clarify what a caring climate looks like at each stage of athlete development, and clarify the best ways to push athletes to improve within this climate. I don’t think these two concepts mutually exclude each other. Indeed, when we look at surveys for why children play youth sports, they report they want to be with their friends and have fun, and at the same time, they want to improve their skills.

To borrow a thought I have heard Dan Gould use many times, we need to figure out how to “dose adversity” so that we get the best response from the athlete. What’s appropriate at each stage of athlete development? What might be an appropriate dose for one 16 year-old but not for another 16 year-old? And how can we make this process simpler, so that coaches – new coaches, especially – can actually apply these scientific principles in their daily work with youth athletes?

Bad Design – The Redevelopment Zone Hotel Tube

November 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Covered walkway, Lansing, Michigan. This walkway connects the Radisson (Ottawa & Grand Streets) with a parking garage, and the convention center on the east bank of the Grand River.

Covered walkways appear to solve a problem of human movement in a busy, wintry, urban climate. They stretch from one building to the next, delivering humans unscathed from point A to point B. They seem to appear in places that undergo sudden redevelopment, almost as a precondition for a large hotel chain agreeing to build a branch in a city that is trying to build its convention industry. What else do they communicate about the surrounding environment? These “hotel tubes” can deliver a hotel guest to a convention without the guest ever once having to interact with the citizens of the town holding the convention. The hotel tube also tells would-be users that it is a place for hotel guests, a private space that bypasses the public space of the sidewalk. This hotel tube says more of the developer’s view of the social environment of Lansing than it says about the developer’s view of Lansing weather. What fails is that the walkway traps its user and shuttles him quickly. There is no opportunity to embrace the outdoor environment – you never leave the air-conditioning.

Quick fix: tear the roof off. Compare this design to NYC’s High Line project, which exposes an elevated walkway to the elements, which makes the walkway all that more inviting.

NYC High Line. Formerly a train line, it now snakes one mile through the southwest end of Manhattan.


NYC High Line in Winter. Even during cold months, the high line provides a means of egress from stale buildings and busy, slush-filled streets.

Bikes: Essential Nuisance

October 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

What is it about bikes at MSU? Here’s a look at the relation between people, bikes, and the environment they inhabit – and create – at MSU.

LINK –> Essential Nuisance (iPad optimized PDF document)

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Flat-pack couch

September 13, 2012 § Leave a comment


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I thought Ian Cowburn was joking about a flat-pack couch, but apparently Ikea sells them.  2 weeks later, it’s part of the living room.

I like the design constraints of flat-pack furniture, although at 17″ x 36″ x 78″ – you already need a truck to bring this piece of furniture home. Assembly is the part that runs smoothly with most Ikea pieces – it is generally idiot proof, and this couch proved no exception.

I have always enjoyed the feeling you get when the plastic bag of screws and bolts has no left-overs.  Some furniture has add-ons, options – which you might decide not to use, and so there are left-over screws and bolts.  But the designer of this couch intended for it to be used exactly as it was designed.  No options, and therefore, no left-over hardware.

There are no easy fourteeners

August 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

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My parents have recently retired to Colorado, which makes for a great hiking opportunity each time I visit.  My father (Steve) and I climbed Quandary Peak, at 14,265 feet.  Hiking guides call Quandary an “easy” fourteener, but as the title implies, and a trail sign implored, “there are no easy fourteeners.”

The trail begins with a moderate climb through sub-alpine spruce forest, with a comfortable dirt trail.  At this point, I asked to try my dad’s new trekking poles, but when I adjusted them, a hinge pin fell into the grass, not to be recovered.  My dad – MacGuyver – had a paper clip in his backpack, which we used to replace the hinge pin.  This has only reinforced his pack-rat tendencies!  Once you break above tree-line (roughly 11,700 ft.), the trail immediately gets rocky.  On the way up, I didn’t notice how rocky it was… hiking back down was another story.

There is a lengthy shoulder before climbing the peak.  As the air thinned, I quickly developed a migraine headache, for which my prescription Imitrex did very little.  There was a family of mountain goats hanging out near the trail, very photogenic.  They seemed accustomed to humans, which seemed surreal to me… I’ve always been taught to give wild animals a wide berth.

I reached the summit, and spent nearly 45 minutes there… probably way too long.  I ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich, which didn’t sit well with the migraine-induced nausea.  Until I reached tree-line on the way down, I didn’t feel well, and wasn’t able to eat.  Finally, my headache eased up and when I reached the car, where I enjoyed the best Shasta lemon-lime soda that I have ever had.

So why all this headache misery to achieve a peak over 14,000 feet?  One hell of a climb.  I have never been up so high, and the view was spectacular.  Next time I climb up this high, I will have to acclimatize a little more before hand.  But this was a great way to see some of the beauty of Colorado’s interior high points.

Better pedestrian walkways at MSU

June 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

If you have ever been nearly hit by a texting driver that is drag-racing around Circle Drive, you might get to breathe a little easier when you walk around the MSU campus from now on.

After tearing up Beal Street and Circle Drive for improvements to the campus-wide steam heating system, construction crews have made a few major changes to the roads and sidewalks.  Most notably, the sidewalk which runs on the south side of Beal Street, high above a bank on the Red Cedar River, now only extends from the IM Circle building to the intersection with Circle Drive.  Probably a good idea to remove that sidewalk, as it was slowly sliding down the bank towards the river.  The new sidewalk now gives a pedestrian crosswalk to the north side of the street.  Note to MSU, it would be good to install a traffic sign for eastbound traffic on Beal Street at this crossing.

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