Recently I spent some time observing my daughter’s cheer squad practice before a competition. All the girls and even the coaches showed clear signs of frustration throughout the practice. Several girls were continuing to struggle learning dance routines and tumbling maneuvers they had been working on for months.
Suddenly I thought that surely there would be a great deal of behavior analytic literature relating to sports performance. A search of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis does provide a list of about 30 articles relating in some way to the use of applied behavior analysis principles for enhancing sports performance (You can see that list here).
In my opinion, there is a lot of potential for the use of behavior analytic principles and procedures to teach sports related skills that involve complex behavior chains. There are some promising treatment packages currently out there, such as TAGteach, that have been used in several sports related applications. There is some empirical evidence supporting it at this time, such as Stokes et al (2010), however I would like to see additional research on it.
That being said, I am definitely intrigued by the prospect of using ABA procedures in teaching tumbling and gymnastics. I’m a big fan of using my own kids as test subjects (I don’t think my daughter remembers being clicker trained to discriminate colors when she was 6 months old).
Always fascinated by the vast spectrum of possibilities for the field of applied behavior analysis!