Would cricketers benefit from visual information training?1 Opinion
To control a successful catching action it is essential cricketers obtain relevant information about the environment. The catcher must predict the direction in which the ball will travel in order to adapt general gross motor movements and ultimately adjust the fine alterations as the ball approaches grasping distance (Savelsberg, Whiting, Pijpers & van Saantvoord, 1993). Vision is the primary sense for interception, providing up to 80% of the information (Gavrisky, 1969), particularly important when processing environmental information which is essential for sporting activities. Utilising adequate visual information about object properties through flight are coded through neural activity and converted into muscle activation patterns (Dessing, Wijdenes, Peper & Beek, 2009). Methods have suggested the importance of perceptual information which can be investigated by manipulating what, when (pre or during movement onset) and for how long visual information is available (Bennett, Ashford, Rioja, Coull & Elliot, 2006). It has been proposed that information processing can be developed through training. Manipulating constraints have shown to encourage habituation to the changes specific to and improving performance (Kahn & Franks, 2004). Although cricket has been identified, many other sports involving catching such as rugby, baseball etc. and indeed hitting sports, namely tennis and badminton etc. could also benefit greatly from visual information training.
The ecological approach suggests properties within the environment will provide opportunities for action; known as affordances. Perception of the environmental properties will ensure that performers explore available stimuli in an environment (Helsen & Poawels, 2006). A perspective control strategy requires repetitive monitoring of the properties of movement, progressively increasing the accuracy of interception as the movement advances (Panchuk & Vickers, 2009). In order to reduce errors environmental information would ideally want to be sampled as late as possible (Regan, 1997). The rate at which an object increases in size will allow us to calculate the time to contact, known as tau (Lee & Young, 1985). Tau principles suggest that we can use very late information to aid performance. Visuo-motor delay in skill performance is suggested to be short (Gibson, 1969), depending on the nature of the information performance can be adapted up to the last 100-150 ms (Pain & Hibbs, 2007). McMorries, Morris & Dunstall (1991) suggested that direct perception coupled with action would not need to travel to the central nervous system but more responded to by the peripheral nervous system, a procedure thought to be faster.
A cognitive, information processing approach would oppose the ecological perspective. Information obtained is believed to travel to the central nervous system where it is converted into meaningful information. An output is selected via a motor programme (Keele, 1968) or a schema (Schmidt, 1975) and controlled by an open-loop mechanism of control applicable to the discrete task of catching (Adams, 1971). Therefore, in opposition to Gibson (1969), Savelsberg et al. (1993) proposed that the visuo-motor delay is up to 100-150ms longer. Panchuk & Vickers (2009) represent a cognitive approach in which actions are planned from information attained about the initial conditions prior to their execution; labelled predictive control. Performers utilise advance information, the onset period and extent of movement to anticipate optimum interception. Through training, expert performers utilise advanced visual information to anticipate the outcome (Müller & Abernethy, 2006), as they have greater experience in selecting, processing and retrieving information from perceptual cues specific to their discipline than novices (Helsen & Pauwels, 2006).
Previous findings propose that occluding vision at 300ms and 325ms prior to hand contact detriments catching ability. Proteau (1992) found an increased reliance on visual data and a subsequent decrease in performance after prolonged practice for a visual aiming task. Proteau’s (1992) practice hypothesis proposes that learning is specific to the sources of afferent data available during practice. Greater performance of a motor skill with increased practice is due to the refining stage of central planning and improved recognition of error detection and correction mechanisms, facilitated during practice. A change to intermodal sensory processing occurs as vision and proprioception are integrated in the memory. Proteau et al. (1992) further illustrated that during prolonged practice in a no vision condition, performance success was disrupted subsequently due to the availability of vision. Practice did not facilitate performance suggesting that it is not what source of information is optimal for sequential limb positioning; alternatively it is what information is stored in the memory (Ivens & Mertenuik, 1997), a theory in contrast considering the importance of vision in rapid aiming (Elliott & Jaeger, 1988).
Schmidt (1988) proposed that afferent information was fundamental for the learning process but through practice, motor programs can run effectively without afferent input. Fleishman & Rich (1963) suggested that visual afferent information is utilised as a principal source but is progressively replaced by kinaesthetic input as practice occurs. Equally, Bennett et al. (1999) hypothesised that differing sources of information, such as proprioception, were just as important. Restricting vision by decreasing the visual field prior to interception demonstrated no debilitative effects on performance. Araujo et al (2004) found no decrements in performance and even in some cases improved performance, as subjects were able to adjust from alternative environmental conditions. Providing a task-specific solution to the adapting environment, will ensure motor patterns remain consistent through adaption (Williams & Hodges, 2005). Perceptual motor systems are flexible to dynamic environments. External constraints act to channel the initiation of functional movement patterns (Bernstein, 1967). Practice will ensure task-relevant cues are more easily obtained through a combination of alternative information which will allow the perception-action coupling to be developed (Tresilian, 1995). Manipulating constraints in practice encourage change and ultimately enhance performance (Kahn & Franks, 2004). This rejects Proteau et al. (1992) practice hypothesis, suggesting that learning is specific to the sources of feedback experienced during practice. Removing vision eliminates the use of coupling; alternatively adding visual information means previous data obtained is ignored.
Visual information of spatio-temporal characteristics of ball flight has concluded vital for catching, while the effectiveness of senses such as proprioception and kinaesthetics have also shown to have substantial effects. Proteau’s (1992) practice hypothesis would suggest implications for training with full vision as little adaptation to alternative sources of information were not eminent. However, the differing approaches; ecological (Gibson, 1988) and cognitive, information processing (Schmidt, 1975), have opposing answers to the time at which effective information is sampled prior to ball to hand contact. Additional experimentation to determine the pinnacle point at which information is sampled needs attention. Furthermore, the discovery of the initiation of gross and ultimately fine motor movements is also essential for optimal execution of an effective interceptive action in a sport-specific situation.
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Tags:CricketEcological ApproachInformation ProcessingPsychology of SportSport PsychologySports PsychologyVisual Information
About Katie Nichols
Having completed my BSc in Sport and Exercise Science at The University of Portsmouth, I continued my studies completing an MSc in Sport Psychology. Presently, I am working for Lane4, a management consultancy company, employing sport and organisational psychology to enhance individual and business growth