Thursday, 21 June 2012

Wayne Rooney Practicing Visualisation

It was nice to read on Phil McNulty, BBC Sports Chief Football Writer's blog, that Wayne Rooney is practicing his visualisation techniques. Training this 'minds eye' or 'quiet eye' is key in elite sports performance and obviously worked for Wayne and England on Tuesday evening. Read Phil's blog here.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

It must be love - Part 4

There's actually a second make of daily disposable multifocal lenses that's just come out. I tried them for tennis this week and I found them to be much easier to handle, more comfortable, and gave better distance vision. Maybe the reading wasn't quite as good, but I still much preferred them to the other type. I partnered The Reverend Ian. TRE is not actually a vicar, any more than French Nigel is actually French. But French Nigel does at least have a French surname, The Reverend Ian has no ecclesiastical connections whatsoever as far as I'm aware. He does on occasion, however, lose his service action. And when this happens, one cannot help but be reminded of a vicar, walking home after a difficult meeting with a parishioner. He's caught out in a heavy storm and his umbrella, having been blown inside out, has now fallen to bits. A large 4x4 has driven past him and through a large puddle simultaneously, wit the result that he looks, and feels, as if he's taken a long swim with his clothes on. He knows that all this is yet another test of his faith, so he shouldn't and won't complain. But he has led a mostly blameless life, and often done his best to help others. So he can't begin to understand why the Almighty should choose to torment him in this fashion. We ended up on top, even though we were quite inconsistent. Something of a curate's egg, I suppose. David Donner

Table Cricket

I must confess that I’d not heard of table cricket until I was asked to umpire a regional final of the Macquarrie National Competition. The game was originally developed by Doug Williamson at Nottingham Trent University in 1990. The aim was to give a sporting opportunity for youngsters who could not take part in the traditional Paralympic sports. It was created especially for those with more severe physical impairments, such as muscular dystrophy. The game is played on a table tennis table. The ball is rolled down a slope, and the batter has to hit it to designated areas on the side of the table to score runs. There are fielders who can try and block the ball with sliding panels. You certainly need to be on your toes as an umpire as the action can be quite frenetic. The excitement of the kids matched that of any junior cricket I’ve been involved with, and it made for the kind of day you never forget. There’s a version of the game called target cricket, which is designed for those with learning difficulties. The batter has to try and hit the ball to targets or gaps. Once a target has been hit, it’s reversed and is no longer a “live” scoring option. It occurs to me that it would be a good idea if there were also the option of using a ball that rattles, as in blind cricket, so those with visual disabilities can play the game as well. I think I’ll suggest that. David Donner

Friday, 8 June 2012

It must be love - Part 3

My tennis was washed out this week, but I learn that Bulldog Russell has won the French Open. This was a tournament won by our club, in case you were wondering why you hadn't seen his name listed in the Order of Play at Roland Garros.I was glad to hear that all those coaching lessons have paid off for him at last.I entered a tournament once. The effect remains so strong, that to this day I am unable to say the word in public. People look at me rather askance when I refer to "the T word".It didn't help that I'd been getting increasing elbow pain when playing, especially on serve. And I turned up to find that nearly everyone else was a team player, and I'd only just graduated (reluctantly) from the beginners' group. I was introduced to my partner, who clearly faced that dilemma familiar to any child opening a present expecting it to be the "must have" that will make them the envy of their friends; only to find it's some cheapskate version that will make them a laughing stock. There's an internal battle between crushing disappointment and the need to maintain some semblance of politeness. In this case, crushing disappointment won by a knock-out in the opening seconds of Round One. I made a remark about an elbow support she was putting on. "Well you're not having it!" This remark was not made in response to any kind of request of mine. Rather, it was delivered in the exasperated tone of a hostess who, having thought it would be charitable to invite the neighbours round for a sherry on Christmas Eve, had immediately regretted it upon their arrival, and had now noticed that one of them had just trodden something unmentionable into the Axminster. I thought it would be gallant to offer to serve into the sun, an offer that was quickly accepted. But this meant that when I tossed the ball up to serve, I completely lost sight of it. I swung the racket in the direction of where I thought the ball should be. Contact was confirmed when I felt a searing pain in my elbow. Through watering eyes I peered in vain to see where in the service area the ball had landed. But it hadn't landed in the service area; nor in any other part of the court. It had lodged, on the full, halfway up the back fence. For the second serve, I tried to adjust the power. This did land in the service area. Unfortunately, it was one of those on our side of the court. This proved to be the first of several double faults I would make during the day. The atmosphere between my partner and me descended from frosty, to something Messrs Celsius and Kelvin would have calculated to have been physically impossible. We lost every match, but did win some games. My partner was a pretty good player, and even I couldn't mess up all the time. We did, however, come last, by a considerable margin. I was expecting the men to be really competitive, and the women to be supportive. But it was the other way around. The men, especially the better players, often made encouraging comments. But to the women - Yummy Eileen and The Immaculate Karen excepted - I was about as welcome as flatulence in a mixed sauna. And even Yummy Eileen's sympathy was rather overshadowed by her joy at partnering one of the strongest men. He was also the husband of my partner, which I'm sure didn't help her mood any. The Immaculate Karen is, well, immaculate, and did sympathise later. But she's also the best player and a coach. So for all those reasons she doesn't mind playing with a weaker partner. And that's the point - I see it clearly now. This was a blind date. Both the men and women were looking for one thing in their partners, but it wasn't the same thing. For the men, obviously, it's looks. And I had no complaints on that score. But the women (TIK apart) wanted the best players. So I now have a huge amount of sympathy for my partner. She's turned up thinking she's in with a chance of a dinner date with George Clooney, only to discover she's been paired with the office nerd, who's promising she'll be really excited to see his extensive model railway collection. So I really should sign up to the course of counselling, get over my phobia and enter another tournament. Just another couple of things I need to do: firstly, I need to raise the standard of my tennis. Something on a par with Roger Federer should do it. And then I need to make myself available, which means fitting it in to my busy schedule. And at the moment, in my list of things to do, it lies just below organising an ice hockey match in Hell. David Donner

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Olympic Countdown - Judo

Does lots of practice make you more left handed? Some people are right-handed, other left-handed, and a few are ambidextrous. Movements of the right hand, for instance, are controlled by the left side of the brain. Rapcsak et al (1993) proposed that long-term motor training (such as an athlete training for their sport) is associated with more involvement of the right side of the brain. Therefore, if you look at more experienced athletes, you should find that they show a relative trend towards left-handedness. For some reason, the sport that several researchers have chosen to study this is judo. Mikheev (2002) looked at expert judo players and controls, and found that although all but one called themselves right-handed, there was an increased involvement of the right-hand side of the brain in the experts. For instance, when experts had to listen and remember words they heard through only one ear, 20% of them did better using the left ear (right half of the brain), whereas all the controls did better with their right ear. The experts were also more likely to do certain tasks, such as using a screwdriver, with their left hand. But there is an alternative explanation, which is that it’s simply more advantageous to be able to throw your opponent to either side. Lee & Quan looked at the throws made by novice and elite judo players in practice matches. 85% of the throws by the non-elite category were right-sided and 15% left-sided. For the elite players, however, 53% were right-sided and 47% left sided. They also looked at how often the players switched sides. They found that non-elite players were 12 times more likely to rely on a single side when throwing. This is a very limited strategy compared to being able to throw in either direction, and is likely to limit one’s progression in the sport to higher levels. So it seems that becoming more ambidextrous is a result of getting an advantage, rather than through lots of practice. This may explain why few darts players switch hands, although I understand that Raymond Van Barnevelt did well using his left hand in a tournament when his right hand was injured. But then he is actually left-handed, so that probably doesn’t count. David Donner

It must be love - Part 2

One of my patients tried these new daily disposable multifocal lenses and got great vision at distance and near, so I was keen to try them again at tennis. I was expecting the distance vision to be better with the new prescription, but it wasn't - worse if anything - but still excellent for close things. The Mighty John was delighted to get me as a partner. He'd partnered his wife the day before and had to run around a lot, and was hoping I'd be able to do the same for him. There's a perception in the group that I'm much younger than the rest of them. Whilst it's true that I'm the youngest by a few years, I suspect I'm older than they think. And anyway, none of us are exactly in the first flush of youth. The Mighty John started slowly, but he's easily the best player, so even when half-fit is still a formidable opponent. For once I started well. Perhaps the close focus of the lenses was helping me to focus on the contact point especially well. TMJ started to get into his stride, so we beat French Nigel and The Reverend Ian 6-1. ( Are you listening, Bulldog Russell? No, I thought not). With both of us playing well, we breezed past the two Richards - Richard the Poke and Southpaw Richard - 6-0. We then faced Comic Bob and Jonathan the Slice, who had lost their previous two games 6-0, 6-0. So in theory this should have been a walk-over. But these are two wily old birds, who have numerous strategies for winning a game, only some of which actually involve playing tennis. It would be an exaggeration to say that Jonathan the Slice only has two shots. It would be an exaggeration, because he really only has one shot, with two variations. The first is a wicked fast backhand slice, that veers off the racket at improbable angles. This means that you are waiting for your partner to return it, when you realise that the ball has just whizzed past you. But the second variation is far more devilish. The shot is played with such spin and slice, that the counter-rotation of the ball is about ten times faster than its forward velocity. As the ball hovers over the net like a diabolo, you are faced with two unattractive alternatives, heightened by the cry of "Watch the spin!" from JtS. The first option is a volley, but you know that as soon as your racket makes any contact the ball will immediately ricochet into the bottom of the net. The second is to allow the ball to bounce, after which which it spins off in a completely unpredictable direction. The humiliation of your air-shot is compounded by the cry of "I told you to watch the spin!" from the other side of the net. There's only one weakness in these two shot variations: the majority of them fail to clear the net. But against us JtS suddenly finds his form, and he and Comic Bob break The Mighty John's opening serve. Comic Bob, never short of a comment, suggests that they were waiting for some better opposition before showing their true form. But this comment laid the seeds of their own destruction, because in that first game we weren't playing with quality. I in particular made a couple of bad mistakes. So they couldn't maintain the level of their play, and we moved into a 5-1 lead. At this point, Jonathan the Slice brought out one of his favourite tactics: "Last game counts seven!" There was time for a few more games after this, and TMJ and I moved into a 4-0 lead. Now, with only time for one more game, came the inevitable "Last game counts five!" There are times when one can play well, but for whatever reason it's not reflected in the score. But this wasn't one of those times. So The Mighty John and I adjourned to the bar, satisfied with our work, with the rather unusual score for the evening of 6-1, 6-0, 12-1, 9-0. David Donner

Friday, 1 June 2012

It must be love!

The only time I wear contact lenses is for playing tennis. there are some multifocal daily disposables just out, and I was keen to try them. They seemed very rigid, and not that easy to get in, but were comfortable enough once in, and seemed very clear for near things. Not 100% sure about the distance, but not bad. I'm playing with Bulldog Russell against Ian and French Nigel. I'm expecting a close game, but BR turns to me and says "We should beat these two easily". Unfortunately, BR only has one volume setting, so this comment is clearly audible to anyone within a 100 yards radius, including our opponents. No pressure then. BR starts well, unlike me, but the game's nicely poised at 3-3. "We need to raise our game; we should be winning easily" is BR's version of an inspirational team talk. I ignore him, and my game does start to improve. We go 4-3 up, but they pull as back to 4-4. "We can't possibly lose to these two" says BR, volume control, as ever, stuck on full.The pressure seems to be getting to him, and he starts making a lot of errors. We do lose, 6-4. "Whenever I've played those two before, I've always won easily". Thanks, BR, it must be playing with me then.Talk about reverse psychology! I was pretty pleased with the lenses, although they were a bit tricky to get out. I'll try a different power next time to see if I can get even better distance vision. David Donner