Reinvestment & Risk: Skill acquisition in high-risk sports

  • Danny Douglass

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The unique focus of this thesis is to examine skill acquisition within highrisk sports, where threat of physical harm may be potentially the primary stressor. Research to date has examined the beneficial effects of applying various implicit and explicit-based learning interventions upon stressful situations, whereby explicitly acquired skills deteriorate. This is largely due to a phenomenon understood as reinvestment, whereby athletes will internally direct attention towards their actions, ultimately having a debilitating effect on performance. The unique aspect of risk within sports such as skateboarding, provides a potential avenue to understand if the benefits of implicit-based learning strategies can extend to a wider collection of ever-expanding high-risk sports (e.g. BMX, Snowboarding, Formula 1). Minimal research to date has focused on this unique culture of high-risk sport and the mechanisms by which skill acquisition occurs. Experimental study 1 examined reinvestment propensity of high-risk sports athletes (e.g. skateboarding) against low-risk counterparts (e.g. golf) across the learning spectrum of novice, intermediate and experienced. Performer status was also examined to identify any differences in the propensity to reinvest between athletes of amateur and professional status. Low-risk athletes displayed a decrease in the propensity to reinvest as they progressed from novice to a more experienced level. Furthermore, results confirmed that high-risk athletes displayed a unique propensity to reinvest in their movements when compared to low-risk counterparts. This (high-risk athletes reinvesting to a greater extent) represents an original contribution to the current debate on the behavioural characteristics in high-risk athletes. The sensation seeking trait, synonymous with risk, was also measured to highlight a unique differentiating aspect between high and low-risk sports. Results confirmed that this trait was significantly higher within high-risk athletes in comparison to low-risk counterparts. The methodologies employed across experimental studies 2, 3, and 4 compared various implicit-based learning interventions (analogy & guided discovery) against explicit instruction. These studies incorporated participants defined as novice (study 2), experienced amateur (study 3) and professional high-risk athletes (study 4). Results were similar at all levels of performance, whereby implicit-based learning interventions demonstrated significantly superior performance and minimal reductions in reinvestment propensity. The thesis also aimed to contribute to the debate between the effectiveness of video versus live demonstrations of skill acquisition within the experimental studies. No support could be identified in favour of using live as opposed to video demonstrations or vice versa, indicating both are viable for coaching delivery. The theoretical implications of the results in the current thesis are discussed within the framework of working memory and the wider application to other unique learning methodologies which feature risk from physical harm as a potential stressor.
Date of Award18 Oct 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Teesside University
SupervisorMartin Tayler (Supervisor)

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