The importance of Cueing
The coach must be able to give clear, meaningful instructions to help the player to execute the task efficiently and effectively and therefore maximise their performance, guiding and optimising the attentional focus of the player for a successful outcome.
According to Schoenfeld and colleagues in 2018, attentional focus may be defined as what a person thinks about when performing an activity. Attentional focus can further be split into internal and external focuses of attention. An internal focus is focusing on bodily movements while performing an activity, for example during jumping, thinking of extending the hips, knees, and ankles simultaneously. An external focus is focusing on the performance of the activity, for example during jumping trying to explode off the ground as quickly and as powerfully as possible. The cues that a coach uses can promote either an internal or external focus of attention.
Most of the research points towards cueing an external focus of attention to be most beneficial for performance-based tasks. When players have an internal focus of attention, they may over think the movement, and thus the natural, automatic movement patterns used to normally complete the task are constrained thus affecting performance.
With an external focus of attention, the player is focused less on the movement and more on the outcome, and thus their body can self-organise and pick the most appropriate movement strategy for the task. Cues for an external focus are also often easier for the player to comprehend. For example, during acceleration drills the coach might ask the player to “focus on pushing the ground away behind them” with the feet.
An internal focus cue for acceleration could be “to focus on the triple extension of the hip, knee and ankle to propel yourself forward”.
The external cue is easier for the player to picture what is being asked of them. The coach must choose the appropriate cue to direct the focus of attention, work on the aspect of the task that needs improving and make the information digestible for the players. Some external cues for use with common lifts are shown below.
- "Push the ground away with your feet"
- "Put your shoulder blades in your back pocket"
- "Graze the shins as you lift off the ground"
- "Squad down like you are sitting back into a chair"
- "Pull down on the bar as you lift to create stability in the upper body"
- "Big Chest"
- "I want to see the logo on your chest all the way through the lift"
- "Pull the bar towards the floor"
- "Drive your elbows down towards the floor"
- "Don't reach for the bar with your chin, pull yourself under the bar"
- "Drive the bar away from your chest towards the ceiling"
- "Squeeze your shoulder blades together when setting up"
- "Control the weight on the downwards phase and touch the chest"
- "Explode off the ground"
- "Land as upright as possible"
- "Land like a cat making as little noise as possible"
While most effective cues are external, there is a potential benefit for an internal focus of attention when maximising muscular development, especially with isolation or single joint exercises e.g. bicep curl. A cue such as “contract and squeeze the bicep at the top of the curl” may be a useful internal cue in this instance as the player thinks hard about contracting the muscle. It could potentially enhance the mind muscle connection and lead to greater muscle activity during the lift.