Resolving the Centipede’s Dilemma: Steve’s new research paper published

Psychological Research

Steve’s latest research paper has been published in the journal Psychological Research.  Entitled Resolving the Centipede’s Dilemma: external focus distance and expertise in applied, continuous skills, the studies demonstrate the advantage gained via a distal external attentional focus whilst performing continuous movement skills.  We discovered that expertise plays a role in the immediacy of the benefit, in that the less developed the level of expertise, and the greater the potential to develop further, the more immediate the distal focus benefit.  Less skilled participants were provided with a sizeable and immediate advantage with a distal focus compared to a proximal focus and to their self-selected focus.  Experts were most effective using their well-practised and honed focus, though a prescribed distal focus matched this immediately.  We believe that given sufficient trials and practice using the distal focus, that experts will also experience significant performance gains.

It is very common in formal movement learning situations, at all standards, that participants are required and advised to focus internally on their bodily movement mechanics and proximally on any equipment they may be using.  Research has robustly demonstrated that such focal points interfere with subconscious motor control mechanisms and distract critical attentional resources from the goal of the task – which is what we should actually focus on.

Steve’s paper has been published open access by Springer Nature, so is freely available, full text, to anyone interested.  If you have any questions on this work or skill acquisition in general, please get in touch and he’ll do his best to assist.  Steve is available to run Skill Acquisition & Motor Learning courses on demand.

By |April 5th, 2024|Skill Acquisition|Comments Off on Resolving the Centipede’s Dilemma: Steve’s new research paper published

Skill Acquisition days with British Curling

British Curling

Steve was invited to work with British Curling’s performance coaches to explain skill acquisition principles and to explore the potential benefits for elite level curlers.  The National Curling Academy is based in Stirling, it boasts excellent facilities for competition and to aid the practice and development of Britain’s curling talent.  The main goals are the Olympics and World Championships where Britain already has a strong track record though, in the pursuit of any and all gains, marginal or otherwise, British Curling is working hard to maximise the potential of their athletes.  Steve was delighted to be able to assist.

If you’re interested in learning more about skill acquisition to enable your activity development, whatever the discipline and level of expertise, Steve will be happy to support you.  He runs public courses as well as bespoke training.  Get in touch at and on 07796 213817.

By |October 26th, 2023|Skill Acquisition|Comments Off on Skill Acquisition days with British Curling

Skill Acquisition course

Skill Acquisition

Steve ran his two day Skill Acquisition course this week and was able to bring the participants up to date on critical issues in learning as advised by the academic evidence.

It is, unfortunately, still the case that information provided on various coach and teacher education courses still lags significantly behind this evidence base; sometimes it is completely contradicted by the evidence.   Steve works hard on his Skill Acquisition course to explain and demonstrate how an evidence based approach is more rewarding for both learners and those supporting them.  It is appropriate for all teachers, coaches and learners from all backgrounds and disciplines.

If you’re interested to develop your knowledge so as to better enable your own learning, or to more effectively support the learning of others, this is the course for you.  Get in touch with Steve if you’re interested on 07796 213817 or

By |March 3rd, 2023|Skill Acquisition|Comments Off on Skill Acquisition course

Skill Acquisition course

Skill Acquisition course

Steve is running his signature two day Skill Acquisition course on February 28th & March 1st.  Skill Acquisition is Steve’s academic specialism and this course is suitable for anyone trying to develop their own skills or who is trying to assist others to develop theirs.  It is an engaging classroom based course which will test and challenge current methods whilst providing an up to date academic evidence based approach to skill development and learning.  Many methods currently used across all education settings are not based in evidence, in fact, the evidence can contradict current practice and beliefs.  Steve’s course will seek to sort those approaches which are well supported by research from those which are based on intuition, culture, political ideology and historical practice.  You’ll be able to participate fully throughout and invited to interrogate everything until you are satisfied you have the wheat separated from the educational chaff.

Have a look at Steve’s Skill Acquisition page and some of the feedback from participants and/or call for a chat to see if this course is for you: 07796 213817 &

By |January 30th, 2023|Skill Acquisition|Comments Off on Skill Acquisition course

Translating Thoughts into Action

Steve’s most recent research has been cited by Professor Gabriele Wulf and Professor Rebecca Lewthwaite in the latest edition of Current Directions in Psychological ScienceTheir paper, entitled Translating Thoughts Into Action: Optimizing Motor Performance and Learning Through Brief Motivational and Attentional Influences, explains the importance of critical motivational and attentional factors in optimising skill development and motor performance.  In particular, they point out the significance of maintaining enhanced expectancies for future performance, performer autonomy and an appropriate external focus of attention.  Steve’s work is cited as evidence of the beneficial effect of maintaining a distal external focus during performance.

Steve encourages anyone interested in developing their teaching, coaching, personal performance or competitive edge to engage with the most up to date scientific knowledge.  Steve runs Skill Acquisition and Motor Learning courses throughout the year which aim to distil the current research into an easily understandable and useable form.  His next two day course is December 20th – 21st and he’ll be pleased to hear from you if you would like to attend.

By |November 5th, 2021|Skill Acquisition|Comments Off on Translating Thoughts into Action

Steve’s recent research article, published in Human Movement Science , has been cited and linked to by Distinguished Professor Gabriele Wulf in her pre-Olympic article in The Conversation explaining the importance of an appropriate focus during skilled performance.  Professor Wulf has led the field in attentional focus research for the past two decades and has had a significant impact on the understanding of how performers and learners, as well as those assisting them, can best focus to optimise their movement outcomes; she has also inspired many others, including Steve, to join in this exciting and critical field of work.

The Conversation is an internationally recognised news source for the dissemination of high quality academic research knowledge and its application to all of us.  Steve’s research, using wildwater kayak racing as a medium, is one of six papers cited to highlight the range of accurately measured benefits achieved with an external attentional focus. Steve is currently writing up a further paper on attentional focus which will hopefully be released later this year.  Gabriele Wulf’s article is available by clicking on the image to the left.

By |July 31st, 2021|Skill Acquisition|Comments Off on

Skill Acquisition course

Skill Acquisition 2

Following on from the publication of his latest paper Steve ran a two day Skill Acquisition course online.  This was a first for Steve but did allow participants to join from the Far East as well as from the length and breadth of the UK.  A stimulating and interesting two days were had with many engaging debates around the topics Steve introduced.

If you are interested in Skill Acquisition in any field and would like to better understand the latest research and its implications for learning and teaching then get in touch with Steve.  He’ll be pleased to hear from you and happy to help.

By |December 23rd, 2020|Skill Acquisition|Comments Off on Skill Acquisition course

Skill Acquisition course

Skill Acquisition course

Steve is running his signature Skill Acquisition course online on the 21st & 22nd December. He’ll be presenting this in his usual way i.e. no Powerpoint, and trying to maintain the usual flexibility and interaction with participants to ensure everyone maximises their understanding of critical factors in learning. For those new to this provision, it will not be a rerun of the information you may have been exposed to on various education courses or national governing body coaching awards. Steve has specialist academic training and knowledge in skill learning and, therefore, how we can aid that process for ourselves and others. He’s keen to communicate and translate the scientific evidence accurately so that it is accessible for learners and coaches of any level and discipline.

The December 2020 issue of Human Movement Science is now published and Steve’s latest academic paper is freely available via the following link until December 25th:

By |December 4th, 2020|Skill Acquisition|Comments Off on Skill Acquisition course

Skill Acquisition paper published

Human Movement Science

Steve has just had his latest academic paper published in Human Movement ScienceSteve’s research examined the impact of a distal versus a proximal external attentional focus in continuous, open skills – that is, skills which have a repetitive action and in which the participants have to respond to external variables beyond their control (e.g. weather, water conditions, opponents etc.).  Steve’s work demonstrated the importance of a prescribed distal focus if performance is to be optimised.

Elsevier (the publishers) have provided a free to access share link for the first 50 days of publication, so if you are interested in understanding more about critical issues in skilled performance, irrespective of skill level, age, gender and so forth, then have a look here: .

The link will work until December 25th, after that time only the abstract will be visible as Elsevier will then only make it available through purchases and subscription services.  If you have any questions about this or other skill acquisition issues please contact Steve.  You can also consider coming on Steve’s signature Skill Acquisition course which is packed with evidence based information to aid your learning, as well as the learning of anyone whose skills you are helping to develop.

By |November 8th, 2020|Skill Acquisition|Comments Off on Skill Acquisition paper published
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