BACKGROUND: Research has shown beneficial results of using an external focus of attention when completing athletic movements. When an athlete is asked to focus externally, this contributes to motor behavior happening automatically. Previous literature has focused predominantly on examining external and internal cueing in accuracy, balance, and jumping events. However, there appears to be a void in the literature when it comes to performance testing for change of direction (COD). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare the impact that focusing attention externally, focusing attention internally, and no focus of attention has on COD finishing times. METHODS: Thirty highly fit collegiate subjects completed a total of 15 trials in the 5-10-5 COD drill. Subjects were asked to read a set of instructions that would induce an external (EXT) or internal (INT) focus of attention, while the control (CON) condition would induce no specific attention condition. Subjects completed five drills of the control and returned to the lab 48 and 96 hours later and completed the EXT or INT set of instructions in a counterbalanced order. A one-way repeated measures ANOVA was used to calculate the differences between EXT, INT, and CON. The alpha level was set at p ≤ 0.05. RESULTS: Since sphericity was not met, the Greenhouse Geisser was used for our within-subjects effect. A significant difference of time was found overall between the three conditions (F(1.286,30) = 32.530, p = < .001). A post hoc pairwise analysis with Bonferroni adjustment revealed a significant difference between all three groups. EXT (5.049, ± .077 s) was significantly (p < .001) different vs CON (5.201, ± .082 s) and significantly (p < .002) different vs INT (5.087 ± .081 s), while INT was significantly (p < .001) different vs CON. Of note, the effect size was large (partial eta squared = .529). CONCLUSION: The results suggest when subjects directed their attention EXT, faster COD times did occur as compared to INT and CON conditions, while INT produced faster times than CON. Therefore, it could be suggested that sporting coaches consider implementing external cueing with their athletes to achieve success when performing movement-related tasks. Future studies may be needed to assess the impact that external vs internal cueing has on other agility and change of direction tests such as T-drill, Z-drill, Y-shaped, etc.

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