An effective method to train the ability to anticipate an opponents actions is to expose athletes to a series of video clips, with each video clip occluding (i.e., the screen goes black) at a specific moment. At this moment, the athlete needs to respond and anticipate what will happen next.
This type of training is referred to as video-based temporal occlusion training.
Typically this training has focused exclusively on improving the ability to identify key kinematic cues. This is achieved by presenting scenarios in a random order (i.e., not in the same order that they appear in a match).
However, as a result, this training has been criticised for neglecting contextual information, such as any patterns that emerge in specific match situations.
David Broadbent and colleagues aimed to improve temporal occlusion video training by presenting scenarios in the same order as they appear in a match (this training group was termed “sequence group”). This was compared to a training protocol where scenarios were presented in a random order (this training group was termed “no-sequence group”).
21 intermediately skilled tennis players participated in the study. Participants were randomly divided into the two training groups.
Each training group were presented with 72 video clips during training, which spanned 3 sessions over 1 week. The video clips displayed a tennis rally and participants were required to anticipate the direction of the final shot as fast as possible.
Pre- and post-tests were conducted before and after the training. The tests included two video tasks – (1) a task where scenarios were presented in the same sequence as they appeared in a match, and (2) a task when scenarios were presented in a random order. Participants’ anticipatory ability was also assessed in a field test (i.e., an actual rally). This was termed the transfer test.
There were 3 key findings:
- For the video task that presented scenarios in a sequence, the sequence group improved more from pre- to post-test than the non-sequence group.
- For the video task that presented scenarios in a random order, the opposite was found – the non-sequence group showed greater improvements than the sequence group.
- During the field test (i.e., the transfer test), the sequence group showed greater improvements in decision time compared to the non-sequence group. Although it must be acknowledged that the difference between the groups was small (the sequential group improved their decision speed by ~50 ms whereas the non-sequential group improved by ~18 ms).
Take home message
When conducting video-based temporal occlusion training, it is worth considering ordering the scenarios in the same order as they appear in a match. By presenting scenarios in the same order as a match, the athlete might learn to anticipate future events based on contextual factors. Importantly, this appears to facilitate greater transfer to the field.
Broadbent, D. P., Ford, P. R., O’Hara, D. A., Williams, A. M., & Causer, J. (2017). The effect of a sequential structure of practice for the training of perceptual-cognitive skills in tennis. PloS one, 12(3), e0174311.