School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Research

close up of an Olympic torch

Elite sport

It takes an applied sports science approach in consultation with many of our leading athletes and coaches at a Paralympic level, with the aim of disseminating knowledge to sports performers and practitioners at all levels.

Recent projects:

Performance Psychology and Management

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr David Fletcher

Project Description

This research programme investigates a range of psychosocial factors associated with sustained success, including human thriving, psychological and team resilience, performance leadership and management, performance environments and cultures, and performance consultancy and coaching. The findings are used to help organizations around the world reach their fullest potential and build sustainable competitive advantage through individual and team development.

Collaborators: Dr Zara Whysall (Lane4 Management Group Ltd), Dr Austin Swain (Lane4 Management Group Ltd), Dr Liz Campbell (Lane4 Management Group Ltd), Dr Alison Maitland (Lane4 Management Group Ltd)

Sponsor: Lane4 Management Group Ltd

Outputs:

Performance Psychology and Management publications (Word document)

Psychological and Team Resilience in High Achievers

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr David Fletcher

PhD Students: Paul Morgan, Claire Davidson, Steven Decroos (University of Leuven, Belgium), Robin Lines (Curtin University, Australia)

Project Description

This research programme investigates definitional, conceptual, theoretical, empirical, methodological, psychometric and practical issues associated with psychological and team resilience in high achievers. The findings are used to help individuals, teams and organizations withstand pressure and enhance performance.

Collaborators: Dr Mustafa Sarkar (Nottingham Trent University), Dr Chris Stride (Sheffield Univeristy), Dr Yevheniia Mikheenko, Dr Luke Clark (University of British Columbia), Professor Angela Roberts (University of Cambridge), Dr Gert Vande Broek (University of Leuven, Belgium), Dr Katrien Fransen (University of Leuven, Belgium), Professor Filip Boen (University of Leuven, Belgium), Dr Daniel Gucciardi (Curtin University, Australia), Professor Nikos Ntoumanis (Curtin University, Australia), Dr Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani (Curtin University, Australia), Dr Kagan Ducker (Curtin University, Australia)

Sponsors: Medical Research Council, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

Outputs:

Morgan, P. B. C., Fletcher, D. and Sarkar, M. (2015). Understanding team resilience in the world’s best athletes: A case study of a rugby union world cup winning team. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 16, 91-100.

Sarkar, M. and Fletcher, D. (2014). Psychological resilience in sport performers: A narrative review of stressors and protective factors. Journal of Sports Sciences, 32, 1419-1434.

Sarkar, M. and Fletcher, D. (2014). Ordinary magic, extraordinary performance: Psychological resilience and thriving in high achievers. Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology, 3, 46-60.

Sarkar, M. and Fletcher, D. (2013). How should we measure psychological resilience in sport performers? Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, 17, 264-280.

Morgan, P. B. C., Fletcher, D. and Sarkar, M. (2013). Defining and characterizing team resilience in elite sport. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 14, 549-559.

Fletcher, D. and Sarkar, M. (2013). Psychological resilience: A review and critique of definitions, concepts and theory. European Psychologist, 18, 12-23.

Fletcher, D. and Sarkar, M. (2012). A grounded theory of psychological resilience in Olympic champions. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 5, 669-678.

Sarkar, M. and Fletcher, D. (2014). Ordinary magic, extraordinary performance: Psychological resilience and thriving in high achievers. Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology, 3, 46-60.

Psychosocial Aspects of Olympic Champions

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr David Fletcher

PhD Students: Karen Howells, Cara Williams

Project Description

This research programme investigates the role of psychological resilience and adversarial growth in Olympic champions. The findings are used to help sport organizations and performers prepare for Olympic competition

Collaborators: Dr Mustafa Sarkar (Nottingham Trent University), Mr Daniel Brown (University of Bath)

Sponsor: Association for Applied Sport Psychology

Outputs:

Howells, K. and Fletcher, D. (2015). Sink or swim: Adversity- and growth-related experiences in Olympic swimming champions. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 16, 37-48.

Sarkar, M., Fletcher, D. and Brown, D. J. (2015). What doesn’t kill me…: Adversity-related experiences are vital in the development of superior Olympic performance. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 18, 475-479.

Fletcher, D. and Sarkar, M. (2012). A grounded theory of psychological resilience in Olympic champions. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 5, 669-678.

Psychosocial Preparation of Olympic Swimmers and Coaches

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr David Fletcher

PhD Students: Karen Howells, Gillian Cook

Project Description

This research programme investigates perceptions of sport psychology in Olympic swimming, the role of adversarial growth in Olympic swimmers' psyche and performance, and the nature and development of Olympic coaching expertise. The findings are used to help to prepare Briitsh Olympic swimmers and coaches.

Collaborators: Dr Michael Peyrebrune (British Swimming), Mr Nigel Redman (British Swimming)

Sponsors: British Swimming, Association of Applied Sport Psychology

Outputs:

Howells, K. and Fletcher, D. (2015). Sink or swim: Adversity- and growth-related experiences in Olympic swimming champions. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 16, 37-48.

Performance Lifestyle in Elite Sport

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr David FletcherProfessor Ian Henry

PhD Students: Claire Davidson, Sam Giles

Project Description

This research programme investigates the relationship between atheltes' lifestyles, their psychological health and well-being, and their performance. The findings are used to help optimise athletes' psychological functioning and performance.

Collaborators: Dr Arabella Ashford (English Institute of Sport), Dr Rachel Arnold (University of Bath), Ms Joanna Harrison (English Institute of Sport), Dr Charlotte Woodcock (Staffordshire University)

Sponsors: UK Sport, English Institute of Sport

Performance Knowledge in Elite Sport

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr David Fletcher

PhD Students: Christopher Bradley

Project Description

This research programme investigates how knowledge of human performance is best managed in the elite sport domain. The finidngs are used to develop policy to management performance-related knoweldge in elite sport.

Collaborators: Dr Peter Brown (English Institute of Sport), Dr Rachel Arnold (University of Bath), Dr Dave Griffiths

Sponsors: English Institute of Sport

Personal Growth and Transitional Experiences in Student-Athletes

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr David Fletcher, Professor Ian Henry, Ms Joanne Emmett, Mr Alan Buzza, Mr Simon Wombwell

PhD Students: Emily Deason

Project Description

This research programme investigates how student-athletes growth and transition through their sport participation. The findings are used to help support student-atheltes in their sport and studies.

Collaborators: Mr Daniel Brown (University of Bath), Mr Andy Borrie

Sponsors: Talented Athelte Scholarship Scheme, Loughborough University Sports Development Centre

Outputs:

Brown, D. J., Fletcher, D., Henry, I., Borrie, A., Emmett, J., Buzza, A. and Wombwell, S. (2015). A British university case study of the transitional experiences of student-athletes. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 21, 78-90.

Sport Psychology Service Provision: Gaining Entry as a Neophyte Practitioner

Loughborough University collaborators: Chris Harwood

PhD Students: Toby Woolway

Project Description

This project focuses on the perceptions of organisational decision-makers or gatekeepers with respect to sport psychology service provision. Specifically, it examines the characteristics that matter to gatekeepers in terms of the employment of young sport psychologists and their facilitation of 'entry' into the organisation. Such research enables a better understanding of who and what practitioners need to be in order to gain entry and employment.

Optimum technique for fast bowling performance in cricket

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr Mark King, Prof Fred Yeadon

PhD Students: Dr Paul Felton, Dr Peter Worthington

Project Description

From a performance point of view the research has focused on the relationship between technique, ground reaction forces and ball speed. In particular, increased ball speed has been linked to a faster run-up, a longer delivery stride and delaying the swing of the bowling arm for a range of fast bowlers. In terms of ground reaction forces, increased ball speed has been strongly correlated with horizontal impulse and inversely related to peak vertical ground reaction force, vertical loading rates and horizontal loading rates. These results contradict some of the current beliefs in cricket but tie in very closely with javelin research and suggest that the fastest bowlers maximise their horizontal breaking impulse during front foot contact as opposed to peak ground reaction forces and loading rates.

Collaborators: Kevin Shine (ECB Lead Fast Bowling Coach), Dr Craig Ranson (Physiotherapist / Senior Lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University)

Sponsors: England and Wales Cricket Board

Outputs:

Ranson, C., King, M.A., Burnett, A., Worthington, P.W., Shine, K. 2009. The effect of coaching intervention on elite fast bowling technique over a two year period. Sports Biomechanics, 8, 261–274;

Worthington, P.W., King, M.A., Ranson, C. 2013. Relationships between fast bowling technique and ball release speed in cricket. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 29, 78-84;

King, M.A., Worthington, P.J. and Ranson, C.A. accepted. Does maximising ball speed in cricket fast bowling necessitate higher ground reaction forces? Journal of Sports Sciences.

Fast bowling technique and injury potential in cricket

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr Mark King, Prof Fred Yeadon

PhD Students: Dr Paul Felton, Dr Peter Worthington

Project Description

In terms of injury potential (lumbar stress injuries) the research has moved away from the traditional back foot contact bowling action classification system and focused on the front foot contact phase of the delivery stride where the spinal postures are extreme and loading on the lower back is greatest. It is proposed that concurrent lower trunk extension, rotation, and extreme side-flexion during the early part of the front foot contact phase of the bowling action, at a time when ground reaction forces are also high, is the most important mechanical factor in lumbar stress injuries.

Collaborators: Kevin Shine (ECB Lead Fast Bowling Coach), Dr Craig Ranson (Physiotherapist / Senior Lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University)

Sponsors: England and Wales Cricket Board

Outputs:

Ranson, C.A., Burnett, A.F., King, M., Patel, N. and O’Sullivan, P.B. 2008. The relationship between bowling action classification and three-dimensional lower trunk motion in fast bowlers in cricket. Journal of Sports Sciences, 26, 267 – 276;

Worthington, P.W., King, M.A., Ranson, C. 2013. The influence of cricket fast bowlers’ front leg technique on peak ground reaction forces. Journal of Sports Sciences, 31, 434-441.

Batting against fast bowling

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr Mark King, Dr Andy Harland

PhD Students: Chris Peploe

Project Description

Batting is challenging task where the batter has a short amount of time to assess the ball being bowled, choose an appropriate shot and then play a successful shot. This project looks at two aspects of batting against fast bowling; first playing short pitch bowling and secondly hitting over the top.

Collaborators: Graham Thorpe (ECB Lead Batting Coach)

Sponsors: England and Wales Cricket Board and Loughborough University

Outputs:

Peploe, C., King, M.A., and Harland, A.R. 2014. The effects of different delivery methods on the movement kinematics of elite cricket batsmen in repeated front foot drives. Procedia Engineering, 72, 220-225.

Optimum technique for spin bowling in cricket

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr Mark King, Dr Paul Felton

PhD Students: Liam Sanders

Project Description

The ability to generate a high spin rate on the ball for a spin bowler is crucial for success in spin bowling. This project investigates the technique factors that are linked to maximising the spin rate on the ball.

Collaborators: Peter Such (ECB Lead Spin Bowling Coach)

Sponsors: England and Wales Cricket Board and Loughborough University

Outputs:

Such, P. Felton, P. and King, M.A. 2012. ECB Spin Bowling Group: Finger spin and a solid repeatable action. On the up, 8 (supplement) 1-4

Limiting movements in gymnastics

Loughborough University collaborators: Prof Fred Yeadon, Dr Mike Hiley

PhD Students: Dr Monique Jackson, Dr David Burke

Project Description

Establishing limits to performance in sport has been attempted using various methods but is fraught with difficulty. Limiting movements in gymnastics may be described by the number of somersaults and twist that can be achieved from the various apparatus. Such limits are quantised into integral numbers of somersaults and half twists and are not dependent upon physiological parameters such as oxygen uptake. As a consequence it is feasible to establish such limiting movements based upon measures of strength and variability using computer simulation. This ongoing project has obtained results for gymnastics vaulting and high bar as well as the aerials event in freestyle skiing.

Sponsors: British Gymnastics

Outputs:

Yeadon, M.R. 2013. The limits of aerial twisting techniques in the aerials event of freestyle skiing. Journal of Biomechanics 46, 1008-1013.

Hiley, M.J., Jackson, M.I and Yeadon, M.R. 2015. Optimal technique for maximal forward rotating vaults in men’s gymnastics. Human Movement Science 41, 1730-1735.

Optimum techniques for the undersomersault on parallel bars in gymnastics

Loughborough University collaborators: Prof Fred Yeadon, Dr Mike Hiley

Project Description

The undersomersault, or felge, to handstand on parallel bars has become an important skill in Men’s Artistic Gymnastics as it forms the basis of many complex variations. To receive no deductions from the judges, the undersomersault must be performed without demonstrating the use of strength to achieve the final handstand position. This study aimed to evaluate the effect of three optimisation criteria on performance of the undersomersault using a computer simulation model. The technique used by two gymnasts could be explained using the optimization criterion which minimised horizontal velocity before release and facilitated further skill development. The optimization criterion which minimised peak joint torque produced a technique advocated for beginners where strength might be expected to be a limiting factor. The optimization criterion which maximised angular momentum resulted in a different type of undersomersault movement of greater difficulty.

Sponsors: British Gymnastics

Outputs:

Hiley, M.J. and Yeadon, M.R. 2012. The effect of cost function on optimum technique of the undersomersault on parallel bars. Journal of Applied Biomechanics 28, 10-19.

Optimum techniques for takeoff in trampoline gymnastics

Loughborough University collaborators: Prof Fred Yeadon, Dr Mike Hiley

PhD Students: Dr David Burke

Project Description

Optimum takeoff in trampolining is a compromise between the production of height duing flight and angular momentum. This study uses computer simulation to model the gymnast and trampoline bed in order to determine optimal takeoff technique for given trampoline movements.

Sponsors: British Gymnastics

Outputs:

Burke, D.  The mechanics of the contact phase in trampolining.  PhD thesis, Loughborough University.

Impacts of cognitive resources on sports performance

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr Stephan Bandelow, Prof Eef Hogervorst

PhD Students: Veronika van der Waardt

Project Description

This project started in 2006 to provide objective tests for learning disability to allow for evidence-based inclusion of this disability category in the Paralympics, where learning disabilities had been excluded since 2000. Re-inclusion started in London 2012 partly as a result of this work and the Loughborough involvement in LD inclusion work for the Paralympcs eneded in 2010. The continuing, more fundamental research focus aims to detect and quantify the impact of cognitive functions on performance in specific sports.

Collaborators: University of Iceland, KU Leuven

Sponsors: Interntional Paralympics Committee; Department for Culture, Media & Sport, MENCAP; The Baily Thomas Charitable Fund, Youth Sport Trust

Psychological factors in elite sports performance

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr Stephan Bandelow

PhD Students: Final year project students: Lousia Farrer-Fisher (swimming) and Stephanie Blackwell (athletics).

Project Description

Quantifying the the role of confidence, cognitive and somatic anxiety, coping strategies and resilience on elite athlete competition performance. One study in 2011 investigated the the top 50 swimmers in the GB squad, another in 2012 at elite track and field athletes. Highly significant correlations between personal best times and the psychological factors were found, as well as complex non-linear interactions. This research aims to provide an empirical foundation for psychological profiling and psychological support for elite athletes.

Outputs:

The relationship between confidence, anxiety and coping strategies and elite swimming performance.; The relationship between confidence, anxiety and coping strategies and elite athletics performance. Manuscripts in preparation.

Optimising reaction times in motor racing professionals

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr Stephan Bandelow

Project Description

Applied research at consultancy level to detect and optimise factors that influence reaction times at race starts and beyond.

Optimum technique for fast bowling performance in cricket

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr Mark King,  Prof Fred Yeadon

Project Description

From a performance point of view the research has focused on the relationship between technique, ground reaction forces and ball speed. In particular, increased ball speed has been linked to a faster run-up, a longer delivery stride and delaying the swing of the bowling arm for a range of fast bowlers. In terms of ground reaction forces, increased ball speed has been strongly correlated with horizontal impulse and inversely related to peak vertical ground reaction force, vertical loading rates and horizontal loading rates. These results contradict some of the current beliefs in cricket but tie in very closely with javelin research and suggest that the fastest bowlers maximise their horizontal breaking impulse during front foot contact as opposed to peak ground reaction forces and loading rates.

PhD students: Dr Paul Felton Dr Peter Worthington

External collaborators: Kevin Shine (ECB Lead Fast Bowling Coach) Dr Craig Ranson (Physiotherapist / Senior Lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University)

Sponsors: England and Wales Cricket Board

Outputs: 

Ranson, C., King, M.A., Burnett, A., Worthington, P.W., Shine, K.  2009.  The effect of coaching intervention on elite fast bowling technique over a two year period.  Sports Biomechanics, 8, 261–274.

Worthington, P.W., King, M.A., Ranson, C.  2013.  Relationships between fast bowling technique and ball release speed in cricket.  Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 29, 78-84.

King, M.A., Worthington, P.J. and Ranson, C.A.  accepted.  Does maximising ball speed in cricket fast bowling necessitate higher ground reaction forces?  Journal of Sports Sciences.

Fast bowling technique and injury potential in cricket

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr Mark King,  Prof Fred Yeadon

Project Description

In terms of injury potential (lumbar stress injuries) the research has moved away from the traditional back foot contact bowling action classification system and focused on the front foot contact phase of the delivery stride where the spinal postures are extreme and loading on the lower back is greatest. It is proposed that concurrent lower trunk extension, rotation, and extreme side-flexion during the early part of the front foot contact phase of the bowling action, at a time when ground reaction forces are also high, is the most important mechanical factor in lumbar stress injuries.

PhD students: Dr Paul Felton Dr Peter Worthington

External collaborators: Kevin Shine (ECB Lead Fast Bowling Coach) Dr Craig Ranson (Physiotherapist / Senior Lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University)

Sponsors: England and Wales Cricket Board

Outputs: 

Ranson, C.A., Burnett, A.F., King, M., Patel, N. and O’Sullivan, P.B. 2008. The relationship between bowling action classification and three-dimensional lower trunk motion in fast bowlers in cricket. Journal of Sports Sciences, 26, 267 – 276.

Worthington, P.W., King, M.A., Ranson, C. 2013. The influence of cricket fast bowlers’ front leg technique on peak ground reaction forces. Journal of Sports Sciences, 31, 434-441.

Psychological factors in elite sports performance

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr Stephan Bandelow

Project Description

Quantifying the the role of confidence, cognitive and somatic anxiety, coping strategies and resilience on elite athlete competition performance. One study in 2011 investigated the the top 50 swimmers in the GB squad, another in 2012 at elite track and field athletes. Highly significant correlations between personal best times and the psychological factors were found, as well as complex non-linear interactions. This research aims to provide an empirical foundation for psychological profiling and psychological support for elite athletes.

Final year project students: Lousia Farrer-Fisher (swimming) and Stephanie Blackwell (athletics).

External collaborators: Kevin Shine (ECB Lead Fast Bowling Coach)

Sponsors: England and Wales Cricket Board

Outputs: 

The relationship between confidence, anxiety and coping strategies and elite swimming performance.; The relationship between confidence, anxiety and coping strategies and elite athletics performance. Manuscripts in preparation.

Optimising reaction times in motor racing professionals

Loughborough University collaborators: Dr Stephan Bandelow

Project Description

Applied research at consultancy level to detect and optimise factors that influence reaction times at race starts and beyond.

Conflict in the coach-athlete relationship (working title)

Loughborough University collaborators: Sophia Jowett, Chris Harwoord

Project Description

While social and personal relationships are vital for productivity, health and wellbeing, conflict is inevitable and is likely to cause upset and hurt feelings as well as anxiety and distrust. Despite the potentially central role of interpersonal conflict in sport, researchers have yet to pay concerted attention to exploring the nature of conflict, its antecedents and consequences. This research aims to develop a conceptual framework of interpersonal conflict and develop/validate psychometric instruments that assess conflict between coaches and athletes, as well as investigate its substance through qualitative research and its correlates through quantitative research.

PhD student: Svenja Wachsmuth

Sponsor: PhD funded by School

Relationship and Leadership: their role to athletes' performance and wellbeing

Loughborough University collaborators: Sophia Jowett

Project Description

Transformational leadership is manifested when leader’s behaviours aim at elevating followers’ self-worth and confidence, helping them to develop skills, as well as achieving high standards of performance. Such leaders are inspiring, visionary and engaging, and they focus on developing followers’ potentials, not only for their own benefit, but primarily for the followers’ benefit (Bass & Riggio, 2006). Transformational leaders who help their athletes develop skills necessary to achieve their full potential and motivate them to persist in a pursuit of their sporting dreams, take special interest and devote time and energy to build close and positive relationships with their athletes. Coaching is a complex process and effective C-A-R has the capacity to increase team collaboration or team cohesion (Jowett & Chaundy, 2004). It is hypothesised that the environment embracing an interplay between coach-athlete relationship and transformational coaching has a capacity to influence athletes’ well-being and performance.

PhD student: Aleksandra Krukowska

Sponsor: Funded by Student

What personal characteristics performance coaches look for in their athletes?

Loughborough University collaborators: Sophia Jowett, David Fletcher

Project Description

The purpose of this study is to explore what characteristics coaches look for in athletes. The study will aim to delve into coach’s perspectives on how individual characteristics of athletes affect the coach-athlete relationship and communication as they work together to bring about performance success. This study will then explore how coaches work with athletes whom they might describe as having “challenging” personalities. Overall, the study will aim to understand personal characteristics that can potentially be trained to allow the development of purposeful working relationships that are successful.

PhD student: Rendy Marican

Sponsor: Funded by Student