Category Archives: Ben Langdown

Abstract Call for 4th Annual OU Sport & Fitness Conference – My Child: The Athlete

My Child: The Athlete

Tickets are on sale now – Click here to register!

The 4th annual OU Sport and Fitness Conference focuses on youth development in sport with particular attention paid to contemporary issues such as:

  • Youth physical development

    E.g. Strength and conditioning, injury prevention, physical literacy, skill acquisition

  • Psychological development

    E.g. Building resilience, coping with and learning from failure

  • Parental support for talented athletes

    E.g. Research to support parents of talented athletes, effects on siblings and family members, family dynamics and youth development

  • Coaching considerations when working with children

    E.g. planning training and practice, coaching behaviours, managing expectations, managing the needs of each athlete

With three world-leading keynotes confirmed, this promises to be an illuminating and thought provoking two days:

Toni Minichiello – Coach to GB’s 2012 gold medal-winning Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill. (Day 1 evening keynote presenter)

Dr Jean CôtéProfessor at Queen’s University, Canada and world-renowned researcher within the fields of youth sports and coach development. @JeanCote46

Dr Camilla Knight – Associate Professor at Swansea University and leading expert on the psychosocial experiences of children in sport, with a particular focus upon the influence of parents. @cjknight

Whether you’re an academic, a student, a coach, teacher or parent, we invite you to join us for two action packed days full of dissemination, discussion, and learning opportunities.

Call for Abstracts (Now Open for Submissions):

The OU Sport and Fitness Conference team invites the submission of abstracts for consideration as either an oral or poster presentation. Submissions may have either an academic or applied focus resonating with the themes of the conference (see above bullet points). We would also welcome submissions which report on research in progress or the initial stages of development.

Please download the abstract submission guidelines here:

Abstract Submission Guidelines

Delegates:

Click here to register!

Full conference packages:
Access to the whole two days – keynotes and breakout sessions
Three course conference dinner on day 1*
Lunch and refreshments on both days

*Please note – we have a limited number of tickets for the evening session – book early to avoid disappointment.

Evening only package*:
Access to the evening session on day 1
Keynote presentation from Toni Minichiello
Q&A Panel with Toni, Dr Jean Côté and Dr Camilla Knight
Three course conference dinner

*Please note – the evening session will take place at Kents Hill Park Training and Conference Centre, MK7 6BZ. There are a limited number of tickets available for this session so please book early to avoid disappointment. 

Twitter

Don’t forget to follow us for all the latest conference updates: @OU_SportConf and use the hashtag #OUSportConf to share that you’ve registered!

 

We look forward to welcoming you to My Child: The Athlete in March 2019!

For any conference queries please contact WELS-Research-Events@open.ac.uk

 

Sport and Fitness Student Induction: Student Hub Live

On Tuesday 26th September 2017, as part of our induction for sport and fitness students studying at the Open University, we held a live induction event through our Student Hub Live platform. If you missed the session you can watch the full video here on the link below or you can watch the individual videos of each session below.

Session 1: Sport and Fitness Qualification Overview (Caroline Heaney and Ben Oakley)

Session 2: Sport and Fitness Blog and Social Media (Helen Owton and Karen Howells)

Session 3: The Role of the Tutor (Helen Owton and Ola Fadoju)

Session 4: E117 App Demonstration (Ben Langdown and Caroline Heaney)

Session 5: The Student Journey (Jess Pinchbeck and Caroline Heaney)

Golden Oldies!

By Ben Langdown

Late nights watching Olympic and Paralympic sport have been a highlight of my summer and it has been absolutely incredible. The lack of sleep has aged me considerably but it has been worth every second to see all the amazing stories unfold.

The media has always loved a story of winning against all odds. In particular, with regard to age:

Too young to win – but look out for them in Tokyo!

Long past their prime – far too old for a spot on the podium!

And then it happens as quinquagenarians pop up and win Olympic and Paralympic gold medals! 15 year olds win medals in varying events and spark a flurry of news reports on success at such a young age.

Male Life Cycle

But why should we be so surprised about athletes young and old winning medals?

As we age many changes take place within our bodies as we develop and train towards peak physiological age of between 20-39 years old, dependant on the sport or event (Allen & Hopkins, 2015). Our muscles grow bigger, stronger and faster, the heart increases in size and can pump with greater force and capacity meaning we can run for longer, row harder or swim faster (see Lloyd and Oliver, 2013 for a full review of youth physical development). As we adapt to aerobic training we experience an array of changes in and around our muscles including an increase in the size and number of mitochondria which are the energy producing powerhouses in muscle cells (NSCA, 2016). This increase results in more energy for muscle contractions and allows us to go:

 Citius, Altius, Fortius!

 Then we hit the slippery slope…I am not even going to search the Latin for ‘Slower, Lower, Weaker’, but you get the idea! From the age of 30 the body’s systems, responsible for our peak performances, will stand at the top of the slope and look down (Spirduso et al, 2005). Now begins the slow, gradual descent that reverses all the good things their childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood years brought them, reducing an athlete’s chances of success.

ID-10055113 FreeDigitalPhotos.net Stuart Miles

FreeDigitalPhotos.net Stuart Miles

After the landmark 30th birthday the following changes start to take place at even the highest levels of sport:

  • Decreases in strength and power due to decreases in muscle mass and increases in intramuscular fat (Rodriguez et al., 2009).
  • Decreased muscular endurance, resting metabolic rate and increased body fat (NSCA, 2016).
  • Cardiac output decreases at a rate of 1% per year as does V̇O2Max, averaging 1% per year from 25 – 75 years (Jackson et al., 1996; Schvartz & Reibold, 1990 as cited in Garber & Glass, 2006).

For example, performance in competitive weightlifting declines by 1-1.5% per year until 70, after which the performance decrement gets even greater (Meltzer, 1994, as cited in NSCA, 2016).

A note of caution – the physiological adaptations to ageing are dependent on the individual, the amount of physical activity, the environment, and disease (Garber & Glass, 2006)).

 STOP PRESS!

This summer athletes have been pushing the boundaries of their physiological clocks; whether this is the result of training or through sheer determination to succeed one last time…

Take Elizabeth Kosmala, a 9-time gold medallist competing in her 12th Paralympics at the age of 72. Okay, she started out as a swimmer and has since switched to the less physically demanding event of shooting, but it is still an achievement to be competing at the top level in her category.

How about 50-year-old Kazakh, Zulfiya Gabidullina who won her country’s first-ever Paralympic Games medal with a world record breaking performance in the S3 class 100m freestyle swimming. Allen and Hopkins (2015) reported that swimmers generally peak around the age of 20! What’s even more impressive is that she didn’t even start training for swimming until her 30s!

Nick Skelton is another great example, at 58 years old, overcoming the physical demands of equestrian events to take individual jumping gold with his horse, Big Star, himself also a veteran (in horse terms!) at 13 years old!

At the other end of the spectrum the youngsters have also picked up medals in both the Olympics and Paralympics. Most notably the likes of gymnast Amy Tinkler (16 yrs), bronze medallist and the youngest member of #TeamGB, swimmers Ellie Robinson (15 yrs, S6) and Becky Redfern (16 yrs, SB13). Also athletes such as Kare Adenegan (15 yrs, T34) and Ntando Mahlangu (14 yrs, T42), who took the 200m silver behind #ParalympicGB’s Richard Whitehead (40 yrs) which is surely one of the biggest age gaps between gold and silver winning athletes!

It is easy to get drawn into the stories surrounding performances but we must pause for a moment and consider the factors potentially allowing them to happen. Let’s take the young competitors first, there is a high possibility that, physically, they have developed earlier than a lot of their peers and are therefore ready to compete at the highest level. Yes, there will be training and physiological adaptations to come but they could be, what are known as, early maturing individuals (Lloyd et al., 2014).

 FreeDigitalPhotos.net arztsamui

FreeDigitalPhotos.net arztsamui

As for the older competitors, especially at the Paralympics, we have to look at the talent pool from which they are emerging. A small talent pool allows athletes to compete for longer and achieve better results than they would if this talent pool were to grow. For example, the women’s 100m freestyle event in swimming, at the Olympics this event was won by Simone Manuel, a 20 year old American. She came from a pool of over 500 swimmers who, on the Fina world ranking list, are all within 5 seconds of each other, thus there is an abundance of swimmers competing on that world stage. Conversely, 50-year-old Paralympian gold medallist Gabidullina has succeeded from a talent pool of 19 swimmers listed on the S3 IPC world rankings, only one of whom was within 5 seconds of her time.

Of course there are many other variables I have not discussed and it is never an exact science to say who will win and at what age, but to even qualify for either of the Games there are times and standards in place, albeit put in place by each home country. So, as the Paralympics continue to thrive following the success of the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games, it is possible that these talent pools will grow therefore reducing the amount of stories we hear of the super quinquagenarians achieving Citius, Altius, Fortius!

 

References:

Allen, S. V., & Hopkins, W. G. (2015). Age of peak competitive performance of elite athletes: a systematic review. Sports Medicine, 45(10), 1431-1441.

Lloyd, R. S., Oliver, J. L., Faigenbaum, A. D., Myer, G. D., & Croix, M. B. D. S. (2014). Chronological age vs. biological maturation: implications for exercise programming in youth. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(5), 1454-1464.

Lloyd, R. S., & Oliver, J. L. (2012). The youth physical development model: A new approach to long-term athletic development. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 34(3), 61-72.

Garber, C. E., & Glass, S. C. (2006). ACSM’s resource manual for guidelines for exercise testing and prescription. L. A. Kaminsky, & K. A. Bonzheim (Eds.). Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Haff, G. G., & Triplett, N. T. (Eds.). (2016). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning 4th Edition. Human kinetics.

Rodriguez, N. R., DiMarco, N. M., & Langley, S. (2009). Position of the American dietetic association, dietitians of Canada, and the American college of sports medicine: nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(3), 509-527.

Spirduso, W. W., Francis, K. L., & MacRae, P. G. (2005). Physical dimensions of aging, 2nd Ed. Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL.

 

Skilled Performance at Wimbledon: Pimms, Strawberries and Movement Variability

By Ben Langdown

Week 2 of Wimbledon is in full flow, as is my second week at The OU having taken on the position of lecturer in Sports Coaching within the Sport and Fitness team. As is customary at Wimbledon time, I am sat here typing this with a punnet of strawberries and cream and a glass of Pimms in hand, flicking my eyes left to right, and back again as a pressurised ball of yellow fluff gets whacked across a taut net and to within millimetres of a chalked line at the back of centre court! Murray is through to the quarter-finals for the 9th consecutive year after beating Nick Kyrgios comfortably in Monday’s last 16 match. This was despite Kyrgios achieving 90% accuracy on his first serve through the first set, 84% over the whole match and averaging 124mph! Murray wasn’t quite as accurate with a mere 64% of his first serves finding the service box, but did clock up an impressive 130mph fastest serve. So how are these top players able to serve the ball so fast but also be so consistently accurate?Sliced strawberries

First, let’s go back to my refreshments, the strawberries and Pimms are very relevant here I must add…Successfully picking up the glass of Pimms and guiding it to my mouth to have a swig without spilling any has resulted from me developing the ability to self-organise hand-to-glass and then glass-to-mouth movements when I was much, much younger! However, novice movements aren’t this smooth and successful. At first new movements are often robotic in nature, consciously controlled and performed using rigid coordination. This is the beginner’s attempt to simplify the skill as much as possible by freezing some of the possible movements in their joints. This is what we call, freezing degrees of freedom (the number of possible movements available at each joint involved in the movement) which allows a beginner to limit the amount of movement variability and achieve more success when first learning a skill. They may not use the most efficient or effective technique but they can achieve an outcome i.e. having a drink!

Whilst novice performances are characterised by this freezing of movements, dynamical systems theorists suggest that the variability in movements, in response to task goals, is an intrinsic part of skilled motor performance and as a result allows performers to adapt and be flexible in their dynamic sporting environment. Often there is a lot of ‘detrimental movement variability’ that impacts upon our success as a novice learner and this is why a lot of mistakes will be made (in my example – drinks spilt!). As we progress, we learn to “unfreeze” our joints’ degrees of freedom, allowing an increased number of movement combinations to be effectively self-organised in response to the goals of the task. So, in my example I can successfully drink from the glass by moving it from the table to my mouth on a variety of trajectories / movement paths, the glass may be at different angles each time, my hand may be holding the glass lower down or higher up, there is no set “motor programme” as was once thought, variability is a part of movement and as long as I am aware of how to adapt my movements to reach the end goal then I will get the glass to my mouth successfully. Through practise we are then able to use this ‘functional variability’ to become successful at performing the task in different environments and with varying constraints imposed on us as performers.

Tennis Serve

This also applies in tennis; the elite players we witness over the fortnight at SW19 are able to benefit from the practise they have put in to allow successful 1st serves to emerge from constraints in three interacting areas: the task, the environment and the player:

Task Constraints (the 1st serve): e.g. where they want to hit the serve, what spin do they want to place on the ball, the rules governing the service, how high has the ball been thrown etc.

Environmental Constraints (Centre Court): e.g. the crowd, the wind – irrelevant when the roof is closed on centre court!

Player Constraints: e.g. how much range of movement do they have in their shoulder, are they carrying a niggling injury that’s causing them pain, what state of mind are they currently in, are they focussed on the task in hand or have they just thrown away an easy point etc. The second set of Monday’s match demonstrated this point nicely where Kyrgios appeared to give up!

Figure 1.0 Dynamical Systems Theory adapted to the 1st serve in tennis: The serve emerges from the interacting constraints.

So how does a novice progress to the level of skill we see at Wimbledon? When attempting a serve, beginners may miss the ball, or hit into the net as they try to coordinate all the movements available at their shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Excluding the movements in the hand (which will be gripping the racket), there are 7 degrees of freedom in the arm:

  • 3 possible movements in the shoulder
  • 1 in the elbow
  • 3 in the wrist

Coordinating these can be a tricky task, hence why variability in the movements of these joints can lead to unsuccessful serves. It is also possible to see why beginners would freeze the lower body and even the wrist and elbow movements to make the serve easier to control (coaches often call this a frying pan service with just the arm moving and no turn of the hips!). In order to hit the ball like Murray and his peers at over 130mph the rest of the body also needs to be self-organised…for now though, we’ll freeze that discussion and just stick with the arm and racket!

Research (e.g. Bootsma, & Van Wieringen, 1990; Betzler, et al., 2012) has shown that when performing the same task over and over elite performers are able to “zero in” on contact with a ball and in this tennis example, serve the ball from the centre of the racket. This means that as the ball is tossed into the air the player can utilise functional movement variability to adjust the position of the racket as it moves towards the ball. Then, as they approach the critical moment of the serve (i.e. impact between the centre of the racket and ball) the amount of variability is reduced to produce consistency from serve to serve. Novice players do not demonstrate as much ‘funnelling’ of variability which is where the mistakes and unsuccessful serves emerge from. Ok, it’s easy for me to say this sat here at a desk munching on strawberries…but try achieving a 90% success rate at over 120mph for a whole set in front of a centre court crowd, the majority of whom want you to lose to their British hopeful!

I don’t want to fool anyone here, elite players do still suffer from detrimental variability in their movements and this is evident when double faults creep into their game, but let’s face it, it doesn’t happen as often as us mere mortals when on the court playing much slower serves!

So, back to my strawberries and Pimms…the constraints on the goal of getting them to my mouth are currently far less daunting than being out on centre court, racket in hand, with 15000 people watching on, and trying to serve at 135mph into a 283.5sqr.ft service box! I feel the environment and my own ‘performer’ constraints alone would be far too imposing, and that’s before I even consider the task!

Enjoy the rest of Wimbledon and look out for those service stats! Cheers!

Useful references:

Bartlett, R., Wheat, J., & Robins, M. (2007). Is movement variability important for sports biomechanists? Sports Biomechanics, 6(2), 224-243.

Betzler, N.F., Monk, S.A., Wallace, E.S., & Otto S.R. (2012). Variability in clubhead presentation characteristics and ball impact location for golfers’ drives. Journal of Sports Sciences, 30(5), 439-448.

Bootsma, R.J., & Van Wieringen, P.W.C. (1990). Timing an attacking forehand drive in table tennis. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 16(1), 21-29.

Davids, K., Glazier, P.S., Araújo, D., & Bartlett, R.M. (2003). Movement systems as dynamical systems: The role of functional variability and its implications for sports medicine. Sports Medicine, 33, 245-260.

Gurfinkel, V.S. & Cordo, P.J. (1998). The scientific legacy of Nikolai Bernstein. In M.L. Latash, (Ed.), Progress in motor control: Volume one, Bernstein’s traditions in movement studies (pp. 1-20). Champaign: Human Kinetics.

Langdown, B.L., Bridge, M., & Li, F-X. (2012). Variability of movement in the golf swing. Sports Biomechanics, 11(2), 273-287.

Newell, K.M. (1986). Constraints on the development of coordination. In M.G. Wade & H.T.A. Whiting (Eds.), Motor development in children: Aspects of coordination and control (pp. 341-360). Boston: Martinus Nijhoff.