|dc.description.abstract||Previous research has shown that performance in change of direction (COD) tasks will be dictated by task-specific mechanical constraints, and individual-specific neuromuscular characteristics. Also, changes in performance in COD tasks will be specific to training mode and the individual. The overarching research question of this thesis was “how can performance in COD tasks be enhanced in rugby union athletes?”
The first aim was to identify neuromuscular qualities associated with performance in COD tasks. Second, to investigate categorical differences (forwards vs. backs) and relationships between strength, jump and COD measures. Lastly, the influence strength and jump training interventions have on category- and task-specific COD performance was investigated.
When performance was defined as time to complete the COD task, the main findings were: (1) the reliability of general and sport-specific COD assessments are unique to the group in question, (2) categorical differences (e.g. backs vs. forwards) in performance were observed, (3) mechanical determinants of performance were task-specific, (4) performance was associated with the expression of net force relative to time, (5) meaningful task-specific improvement in COD performance was concomitant with meaningful improvement in strength and jump measures, and (6) following training intervention individuals rated as ‘slow’ at baseline experienced a greater positive response than their ‘fast’ counterparts.
Several practical applications may be offered from the findings. First, practitioners are encouraged to select general and sport-specific COD assessments and establish the reliability of each assessment within the group to be trained. Second, categorical differences in COD performance suggest practitioners monitor performance within defined sub-groups in accordance with manoeuvres association with those experienced in competition. Third, eccentrically-emphasised resistance training has applications for COD tasks that require large magnitudes of direction change – i.e. requiring full deceleration prior to acceleration in the new direction. Fourth, accentuated jump training appears to have application to performance in COD tasks that require smaller magnitudes of direction change. Finally, practitioners are encouraged to monitor within-individual changes in performance measures to specifically address the needs of the athlete, and increase the likelihood of individual-specific performance enhancement||en_NZ