Clyde Street

Learning, Teaching, Performing

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#SCP12: Observation and Augmented Information

This week’s topic in the Sport Coaching and Pedagogy unit at the University of Canberra is Observation and Augmented Information.

It has been a busy week so I am behind with the SlideCast for this presentation.

I aim to integrate some of the material in the presentation with some autobiographical information.

As throughout this unit I am trying to ensure that I have material relevant to the coaches and teachers on the unit.


This is a short video clip I used in the lecture. I used it to trigger some thoughts about coach/athlete, teacher/pupil relationships and proxemics.


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Observation +

I received an alert today via a LinkedIn group about a Performa Sports App.

I discovered that “Performa Sports is the performance analysis tool that gives analysts, coaches and players the edge”.

The availability of applications like this is offering real-time opportunities for observation + support for coaches and players. It has been fascinating to watch the transition from real-time hand notation systems to ubiquitous digital tools that generate data rich resources.

I thought I would use the term ‘observation +’ to describe tools that provide real-time and near real-time augmented information. This observation + domain is no longer the sole preserve of performance analysts.

Here in Australia, for example, FoxSports is offering viewers of their A-League and Big Bash League coverage some powerful real-time tools.


Big Bash League

Each of these applications shares rich data about performance.

The A-League App has a video replay option:

and a range of data that can be used for real-time or subsequent secondary data analysis.

The Big Bash League App shares a range of data visualisation tools:

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As I watch people use these Apps and see the flourishing of digital media I sometimes think back to the start of my involvement in this analysis of performance space and the use of cine film!

Some key issues for me in this observation + time:

  1. How do we support real-time live observation?
  2. How do we filter the volume of material available for reflection?
  3. What do we know about the effectiveness of these media for personal learning environments?

One of my research priorities in 2012 will be the exploration of the use of observation + tools. I am going to look very closely at the multiple intelligences and learning styles literature and practice.

I would like to share some ethnographies of learning to explore observation + behaviour.

Photo Credit

Observe them

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Bandwith Approach to Supporting Learning

Yesterday’s talk by Royce Sadler at the University of Canberra has sent me off on a journey thinking about how learners flourish.

I liked Royce’s reference to texts from the last forty years. The trail for Royce’s talk had started me reflecting on Peter Dowrick’s work on feedforward and Ian Franks and Gary Miller’s (1991) paper Training Coaches to Observe and Remember.

After Royce’s talk I revisited a paper by Kristine Chambers and Joan Vickers (2006) on the Effects of Bandwidth Feedback and Questioning on the Performance of Competitive Swimmers.

The paper reported:

  • A coaching intervention involving Bandwidth Feedback and Questioning (BF-Q) on competitive swim times (cTIME), practice swim times (pTIME), and technique (TECH)
  • With a cohort of competitive youth swimmers over one short-course (25m) swim season.
  • Kristine and Joan concluded that coaching in which feedback was delayed and replaced with questions directed to the athletes contributed to improved technique and subsequent faster race times.
  • Compared to the Control group, the BF-Q group displayed greater gains in TECH during the intervention period and greater improvement in cTIME during the transfer period.

Kristine and Joan discussed two powerful issues arising from their research:

  1. It demonstrates that swimmers were aware of their ability to affect gains in personal athletic development. These results emphasize the importance of self-regulation, personal control, and active learning to efficient and heightened skill acquisition.
  2. Although swimmers described increases in mental work encouraged by their coach, the improvement in communication seemed to override any negative effects of the cognitive load. Improving coach-athlete interaction was one goal of combining questioning with bandwidth feedback. The present study supported the combined use of questioning and bandwidth feedback to enhance learning and maintain effective coach-athlete relationships.

I think this paper is an interesting empirical support for some of the points Royce made in his talk. In arguing for this resonance I am aware that I am attracted to bandwidth ideas.

Some time ago (twenty years in fact) Richard Schmidt discussed the impact frequent augmented feedback can have on learning. I liked his distinction between the performance impact of feedback and longer term learning.

Royce’s presentation, revisiting Kristine and Joan’s paper and returning to Richard’s arguments have encouraged me to work through Franz Marschall, Andreas Bund and Josef Wiemeyer’s (2007) meta-analysis of augmented feedback in the e-Journal Bewegung and Training 1. Their analysis reviews 40 papers published from 1989 to 2000.

Photo Credits

Coaches watching the fight

Coach with the wrestler’s hat


Communication, Social Media and the Coach

I am meeting with Robin McConnell‘s undergraduate Advanced Coaching Studies’ group on 29 April.

My discussion topic is Communication, Social Media and the Coach.

This blog post is the start of a conversation with the group in advance of the meeting.

I am keen to discuss:

  1. Coach and athlete communication.
  2. Opportunities provided by social media to share ideas and discuss performance.
  3. Augmented information.

This blog has a number of posts on these topics. I am hopeful that the students coming to the meeting have an opportunity to look at:

There are many more posts that might be of interest (and some SlideShare presentations) but I am keen to explore how students in the group engage with social media and cloud computing. I will be asking about slow reading too (Kingsley, 2010). I will recommend SIRC’s excellent social media resource and mention Wirearchy via Harold Jarche’s post Social Learning, Complexity and the Enterprise. I will point to Tom Slee’s post on social media (via Kent Anderson), Jason Kramer-Duffield’s discussion of communication ecologies and evidence about the Internet and civil society. Brian Solis posted about the social genome in his discussion of The Three C’s of Social Networking (consumption, curation, creation).

A recent report from Canada (2011) points out that:

Cloud computing is a loose and evolving term generally referring to the increasing use of computer applications that are web-based. A cloud-based application does not need to be downloaded to a user’s computer or institutional servers, and the data used by the application and inputted by the user is housed on servers elsewhere. The application works remotely: it’s not physically present, it could be anywhere in the world (hence the term “in the cloud”).

Social media applications are by definition cloud-based: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Blogging services like, Blogger, Tumblr or Posterous, or link sharing sites like StumbleUpon, Digg. Any individual may sign on and start using such services independent of their institutional affiliations.

The students in the group will graduate this year at a remarkable time. As coaches in a digital age they will become produsers of learning resources that can have profound impacts on personal learning environments.The scale of this age is indicated by Gary Hayes’ Social Media Counts (13 April 2011):

(For an alternative set of metrics see Is Social Media Ruining Students?)

I hope to end our discussions on with a consideration of leadership behaviours that will resonate with Robin’s discussion throughout the unit. I hope too that we can explore the role augmented information plays in short, medium and long-term coach-athlete relationships.

I will be suggesting that the students follow up on a great case study of the use of social media. Mark Upton and Robert Oatey have developed Mark and Robert are strong advocates of coach education and are “true believers in the potential of the online medium to deliver content that can enhance a wide variety of coaching methods and disciplines”. I think Mark’s post, Creating the ‘coachable moment’ with PlayerTube and online video, exemplifies excellent use of social media based upon profound understanding of the coaching process.

After all this discussion I will recommend reading Connectivism & The Relationship Era. The post includes this observation which seems a great place to end the day’s conversation:

In the connectivist learning model, the flow of knowledge is more important than the knowledge itself. In other words, the process is more important than the content. The main reason for this is that there is a constant need for quick adaptation. In this era, knowledge must be directed quickly to where it is needed to be applied. Once it has served its purpose, it is archived and momentarily forgotten. Notice that discarding information is now practically unheard of because once the connection has been made (i.e. something is learned), it will be stored somewhere. The additional task is mere retrieval or recollection.


In this post I am considering free social media. There are a variety of third part software services available too. A recent white paper on Becoming a Social Business (2011) observes that:

The rise in consumer-oriented social networking applications and platforms over recent years has drawn curiosity from enterprises both large and small. IDC believes that curiosity has turned into business opportunity as the lines between consumer and enterprise continue to blur. Unfortunately, adoption of social software in the enterprise has encountered some skepticism due to the hype surrounding the technology and the perception that it is the younger generations’ means for socializing with friends. It has also been criticized as being a waste of time. Yet there is evidence to suggest that this doubt is shifting and that enterprise social software is becoming the next generation of collaboration tools to enhance organizational productivity.

As an example IBM has a social software available (IBM Connections):

Photo Credits

Coaches watching the fight

Coach with the wrestler’s hat

Wrestler with his coach

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Working with Coaches and Performers


I have been revisiting some of my work from the 1990s of late. In this post I share a paper written in my early years as Director of the Centre for Notational Analysis at the Cardiff Institute of Higher Education.

In 1993 I was exploring some of the issues around a notational analysis service to sport and presented a paper at a British Association of Sports Sciences’ conference. The title of the paper was Working with Coaches and Performers: Notational Analysis as Liberational Praxis?

My background in social sciences had encouraged me to think about the links between liberation theology and Marxist conceptualisations of praxis and how they might enrich an understanding of sport performance. My thoughts were focused by a remarkable victory in rugby union in 1993 when Wales defeated England in Cardiff (there is a video of the game winning try and conversion here). I was working with the Welsh Rugby Union at that time but was in Amsterdam with the Welsh A team coached by Kevin Bowring. The scenes after the game in Cardiff were euphoric. BBC Wales TV replayed the entire game that night and rescheduled its programs for the rest of the weekend.

In the abstract I submitted to the conference’s scientific committee I noted that:

I am conscious that the reality of such theology and praxis is not always positive and developmental and so a second strand in the paper is the use of the concepts of liberation and praxis as reflective tools to explore the limits of notational analysis.

I present the paper here as a contribution to the discussion of the role of notational analysis in supporting coaches and athletes. I present it as an artefact too for a sociology of knowledge approach to notational and performance analysis.

I have added hyperlinks in this post to facilitate access to references used. There were limited opportunities to hyperlink text in 1993.

Working with Coaches and Performers: Notational Analysis as Liberational Praxis?


In this paper I use terms such as ’empowering’, ‘facilitating’, ‘sharing’ and ‘learning’ to characterise the relationships between notational analysts and coaches and notational analysts and performers. I suggest that by drawing on a tradition of research from outside sport science we can conceptualise the role that notational analysis can play in sport. In doing so I am conscious of Arthur Bolster’s (1983:299) comment that “I recall one teacher defining social science as a remarkably complicated way of talking about remarkably common sense notions”.

Liberational Praxis

A variety of disciplines outside sport science have been attracted to perspectives that challenge dominant assumptions about the philosophical basis of research and academic endeavour. The work of Paulo Freire and Antonio Gramsci, for example, has stimulated considerable debate in educational studies and the social sciences. John Southgate and Rosemary Randall (1981:53) observed some time ago that:

Much current research in the social sciences is concerned with being of some direct use to those who are normally considered to be the ‘subjects’ of the research process … and one of the central problems facing its practitioners is the nature of the interactions between themselves and their ‘clients’, particularly where the research aspires to be a liberatory process for all concerned.

Patti Lather (1986) explored “what it means to do empirical research in an unjust world”. In her work she was committed to praxis-oriented research that she construed as:

the development of a change-enhancing, interactive, contextualized approach to knowledge-building … that is provocative in its implications for both theory, and, increasingly, method. (Lather, 1986:260)

More recently Linda Bain (1989:22) suggested that a goal of research is “to empower those being researched, that is, to provide them with the insight necessary to demystify and critique their own social circumstances and to choose actions to improve their lives”.

It seems opportune (1993) to use such approaches in sport science. I want to address some of the fundamental epistemological and ontological issues by linking them to work underway with two governing bodies of sport.

Despite the absence of accreditation procedures, notational analysts do work with coaches and performers to enhance performance in sport. At best, their venture is collaborative and interdependent. At worst, it provides ample specification of what Paulo Freire (1972) termed ‘invasion’ where values, belief systems, ideology, and cultural norms are imposed in an unequal relationship.

The concepts of liberation and praxis strike me as heuristic foci for aspirations and action in sport for sport scientists, coaches and performers. I believe that whilst liberational praxis is vulnerable to the taunt of ‘mere rhetoric’ it can describe an effective working relationship between researcher and practitioner. As Richard Tinning (1992) has indicated, the concept of praxis has a long history. Although central to Marxist analyses of political change, it was employed by the ancient Greeks to describe critically informed action. Such action has an emancipatory, liberational thrust.

Paulo Freire has been persistent in his exploration of the liberational dimensions of pedagogy and from his work I have drawn the importance to be attached to action linked to an egalitarian vision of human relationships. I am aware that liberational theology acted as an important catalyst for change in some cultural contexts and that the very appeal of such a theology was that it addressed the specific needs of the people. It appears to me that the strength of a liberational appeal is that it is action based and brings about local change: “Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it” (Freire, 1972).

The outcomes of relationships developed between notational analysts and coaches and notational analysts and performers can resemble what Richard Tinning (1992) regards as transformative practice. He favours a democratic mode of research in which “the participants work out their own solutions to their own problems (and that they employ their own language and concepts rather than those of the ‘expert’) (1992:203).

Such research raises consciousness and leads to practical action. Praxis is the term used to define the fusion of thinking and practice.

I think it takes considerable social skills to facilitate this kind of research. In the next part of the paper I provide two examples of collaborative work with governing bodies of sport. In particular I want to ground my account in the context of a year in which teams with whom i worked experienced peaks and troughs of performance and exhilaration.

Working with Coaches and Performers

In 1993 I was fortunate to work with two governing bodies of sport in Wales. One of the sports, rugby union, has a cultural significance that gives it a national profile in the media and is a subject of everyday conversation. The other sport, women’s lacrosse, is virtually invisible in the Welsh public consciousness. Both are invasive team field games that have exciting performance possibilities.

In both games the coaches of the representative teams hold honorary positions and earn their livings from other employment. Much of their time is spent thinking about, preparing for and delivering coaching foe elite performance. In the case of women’s lacrosse, the coach of the national team was also a playing member of that team (but not the captain).

The link between the Centre for Notational Analysis at the Cardiff Institute of Higher Education and the two governing bodies was developed to support excellence in elite performance. I was familiar with and had coached both sports. The Centre received the wholehearted support of the governing bodies for the work undertaken. Notational analysis for both sports was defined closely with the coaches concerned and in the case of rugby union with the Technical Director of the Welsh Rugby Union who acted as the point of contact for the service provided.

The fundamental purpose of this work was to provide coaches, and through them the players, with augmented information about performance. Ian Franks and his co-workers (1983, 1984, 1986a, 1986b) and Mike Hughes (1988, 1993) have identified the benefits to be gained from systematic observation and my work with the two sports was intended to build upon some of the foundational assumptions evident in the literature. My analytical work has been based on real-time hand notation and lapsed-time scrutiny of VHS and S-VHS video. From the outset I was keen to provide data for coaches’ and players’ immediate use. Written accounts in a form acceptable to the coach and visual narratives from video recordings have proved to be the most frequent types of augmented information provided. Both types are linked closely with a convivial working relationship framed by conversation, chat and humour.

As my relationships have developed with these coaches I have become acutely aware of my professional commitment to them and my personal links with them. During 1993 there have been very special moments when weeks and months of work have come together to produce information that the coaches found helpful and occasionally has enabled them to recast their knowledge of performance. There have been moments too when similar volumes of work have been less than helpful.

If I was to evaluate honestly my work over the year I hope I could claim reasonably to have been involved in some for of praxis. Notational analysis can be a ‘pure’ academic endeavour. It can be a most exhilarating form of applied sport science too. This latter form can fuse thought and action. For busy coaches and players the support offered by a notational analysis can liberate by providing information pre- and post-event. In the case of women’s lacrosse team I was fortunate to attend the World Cup in Edinburgh and was able to work with the team during the event as well.

Karl Marx’s eleventh thesis on Feuerbach (Feuer, 1969: 286) is that:

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways: the point, however, is to change it. (Original emphasis.)

My feeling is that, at best, notational analysis provides coaches and performers possibilities of change by providing relatively objective information that is over and above any intrinsic information available as a result of the ‘normal’ conduct of their coaching or playing. As such this augmented information (Schmidt, 1991) can ‘liberate’ coach and performer and contribute to enhanced performance.

At worst, notational analysis can block action. By preparing for events with detailed analysis of opponents, for example, coaches and players can be disempowered and their decision-making can be rendered ineffective. I am conscious that in my own work there have been times in the last year when analysis has become an academic exercise and that the liberational potential of the work has been illusory and rhetorical. It is this point I would like to develop in the next section of the paper.

A Word of Caution: Mere Rhetoric?

I am keen to stress that a reflexive approach to notational analysis as a form of liberational praxis must be sensitive to its limits as well as its possibilities. Notational analysts are invisible at present in the structure for accreditation in BASS/BASES and have considerable inroads to make on the established orthodoxies of sport science in the United Kingdom. As a sub-group there are important epistemological and ontological issues to be developed. I do not think that these can be helped by snake oil sales’ pitches by exponents of notation particularly if we profess messages that are vacuous either in intellectual challenge or practical application. Liberation zealousness falls into both categories.

However, I am concerned that notational analysts avoid the pitfalls of scientism identified by Bryan Appleyard (1992) in his discussion of science and the modern person. He contends that:

An important part of any case is that, whether we or more modest scientists like it or not, science possesses an intrinsic domineering quality. This kind of triumphant scientism is built into all science. Opposition tends to be subdued and demoralized to the point where we can no longer identify the damage done by these populizers. (1992: 2)

I believe that praxis is a touchstone for the flourishing of notational analysis and an antidote to ‘triumphant scientism’.

A Pragmatic View

Raymond Williams (1976: 203) notes in his discussion of the term ‘pragmatic’ that its meanings include “practical and useful” as well as:

a dignified alternative to unprincipled or timeserving, especially in political movements which profess a set of beliefs and which decide, under pressure, to neglect, discard or betray them, but with a show of skill and intelligence.

In this paper have suggested that notational analysis is practical, useful and a dignified activity. It can offer liberational praxis in close working relationships with coaches and players. There is always a danger that as notational analysts we can take ourselves too seriously and that ‘scientism’ renders liberational praxis mere rhetoric. Without a reflexive approach to notational analysis we might just become the antithesis of what we want to achieve in sport science.


Appleyard, B, 1992. Understanding the Present. London: Pan Books.

Bain, L, 1989. Interpretive and critical research in sport and physical education. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 60(1), 21-24.

Bolster, A, 1983. Toward a more effective model of research on teaching. Harvard Educational Review, 53(3), 294-308.

Feuer, L (ed), 1969. Marx and Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy. London: Fontana.

Franks, I & Goodman, D, 1984. A hierarchical approach to performance analysis. Science Periodical on Research and Technology in Sport. Canada.

Franks, I & Goodman, D, 1986a. A systematic approach to analyzing sports performance. Journal of Sports Sciences, 4, 49-59.

Franks, I & Miller, G, 1986b. Eyewitness testimony in sport. Journal of Sport Behaviour, 9, 39-45.

Franks, I, Goodman, D & Miller, G, 1983. Analysis of performance: qualitative or quantitative? Science Periodical on Research and Technology in Sport. Canada.

Freire, P, 1972. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Herder & Herder.

Hughes, M, 1988. Computerised notational analysis in field games. Ergonomics, 31, 1585-1592.

Hughes, M, 1993. Notational analysis of football in T Reilly et al (eds) Science and Football II. London: E&F Spon.

Lather, P, 1986. Research as praxis. Harvard Educational Review, 56(3), 257-277.

Scmidt, R, 1991. ‘Frequent Augmented Feedback Can Degrade Learning: Evidence and Interpretations’ in J Requin & G Stelmach (eds) Tutorials in Motor Neuroscience. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Southgate, J & Randall, R, 1981. ‘The troubled fish: barriers to dialogue’ in P Reason & J Rowan (eds) Human Inquiry. Chichester: J Wiley & Sons.

Tinning, R, 1992. ‘Action research as epistemology and practice: towards transformative educational practice in physical education’ in A Sparkes (ed) Research in Physical Education and Sport. London: Falmer Press.

Williams, R, 1976. Keywords. Glasgow: Fontana.

Photo Credits

Feedback Loop

Scotland v Wales 1983