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Enhancing Sport Performance


Researchers in this theme deliver research and consultancy to athletes, coaches, officials, sporting organisations and schools aimed at enhancing the performance, development and well-being of coaches, athletes and teachers. Our research is multi-disciplinary with expertise in sport psychology, exercise physiology, sports biomechanics, strength and conditioning, physiotherapy and skill acquisition. 

Please click on the project titles below to find out more about our research.

For enquiries concerned with Sporting Performance Research please contact Professor Iain Greenlees.

For more information on our range of consultancy services, please visit our Sports Performance and Rehabilitation Unit page.

Personality & Performance


The extent to which personality variables may influence sporting performance and the sporting experience is a question that has taxed sport psychologists and sporting observers for years. At the University of Chichester, we are interested in the extent to which stable personality traits may influence a performers journey through sport and the extent to which they meet their potential.

We are interested in the relationship between a range of personality variables, including the Big 5 traits of openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion and neuroticism (e.g., Allen et al., 2010), mental toughness (e.g.,Birch et al., 2017) and more specific traits such as reward and punishment sensitivity. Predominantly we focus on the impact of personality on sporting performance and talent development but researchers are also exploring the role of personality in occupations such as life-guarding and in other performance domains such as e-sports.

Interested in finding out more about this research area or getting involved in our research projects? Please email Iain Greenlees (i.greenlees@chi.ac.uk).

Key Publications

Allen, M.S., Greenlees, I.A., & Jones, M.V. (2013).  Personality in sport: a comprehensive review.  International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 6, 184-208.

Allen, M.S., Greenlees, I., & Jones, M. (2014). Personality, counterfactual thinking and negative emotional reactivity. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 15, 147-154.

Allen, M.S., Greenlees, I., & Jones, M. (2011). An investigation into the five factor model of personality and coping behaviour in sport. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29, 841-850.

Birch, P., Crampton, S., Greenlees, I., Lowry, R., & Coffee, P. (2017). The Mental Toughness Questionnaire-48: A Re-examination of Factorial Validity.  International Journal of Sport Psychology, 48, 331-355.

Thelwell, R.C., Lane, A.M., Weston, N.J.V., & Greenlees, I.A. (2008). Examining relationships between emotional intelligence and coaching efficacy. International Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology. 6, 224-235.

Thomas, S., Reeves, C., Agombar, J., & Greenlees, I. (2013). Personality hardiness at difference levels of competitive motorcycling. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 116, 315-321.

Key Staff

Strength and Conditioning


To effectively develop athlete strength and conditioning programmes, strength and conditioning practitioners should inform their resistance exercise selection based on their suitability. Additionally, it is critical to establish appropriate and accessible methods to effectively monitor the effects of strength and conditioning programmes, whether the athlete should return to play/competition, and the athlete’s readiness to train. Both these areas can be effectively explored by quantifying the mechanical demands of resistance exercises and common athletic tasks with biomechanical techniques, like measuring force-time data using force plate measurement systems.

We have spent the last 15 years using force-time data to quantify the mechanical demands of different resistance exercises (e.g. Lake et al., 2017) and common athletic tasks (e.g. Lake and McMahon, 2018; McMahon et al., 2018b). Additionally, we have also been interested in 1) developing standardised methods to robustly process force-time data (McMahon et al., 2018, and 2) establishing the suitability of using new technology to quantify the mechanical demand of resistance exercise and common athletic tasks (e.g. Mundy et al., 2016; Lake et al., 2018; Lake et al., 2019).

We have also researched characteristics of effective strength and conditioning coaches and explored the impact of different coaching/leadership styles on the recipients of strength and conditioning coaching.

Interested in finding out more about this research area or getting involved in our research projects? Please email Jason Lake (j.lake@chi.ac.uk).

Key Publications

Lake, J., Augustus, A., Austin, K., Comfort, P., McMahon, J.J., Mundy, P., and Haff, G.G. (2019). The reliability and validity of the bar-mounted PUSH BandTM 2.0 during bench press with moderate and heavy loads. Journal of Sports Sciences, 37(23), 2685-2690.

Lake, J., and McMahon, J.J. (2018). Within-subject consistency of unimodal and bimodal force application during the countermovement jump. Sports, 6(4), 143-150.

McMahon, J. J., Comfort, P., Lake, J., Suchomel, T. J. (2018). Understanding the key phases of the countermovement jump force-time curve. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 40(4), 96-106.

McMahon, J. J., Jones, P., Suchomel, T. J., Lake, J., and Comfort, P. (2018b). Influence of reactive strength index modified on force- and power-time curves. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 13(2), 220-227.

Lake, J., Duncan, F., Jackson, M., and Naworynsky, D. (2017). Effect of a hexagonal barbell on the mechanical demand of deadlift performance. Sports), 5(82), 1-8.

Mundy, P. D., Lake, J. P., Carden, P. J. C., Smith, N. A., and Lauder, M. A. (2016). Agreement between the force platform method and the combined method measurements of power output during the loaded countermovement jump. Sports Biomechanics, 15(1), 23-35.

Szedlak, C., Smith, M.J., Day, M.C., & Greenlees, I.A. (2015). Effective behaviours of strength and conditioning coaches as perceived by athletes. International Journal of Sport Science and Coaching, 10 (5), 967-984.

Key Staff

The Science of Women’s Football


There has been huge growth in the popularity of women’s football from both a research and participation perspective in recent years. The University of Chichester has always had a strong tradition in the women’s game and we were one of the first Universities to be awarded an FA Women’s High-Performance Centre in 2017.

Our research in women’s football has focused on the physical (e.g., Datson et al., 2017) and technical (e.g., Harkness-Armstrong et al., 2020) demands of match performance, fitness test performance (e.g., Bishop et al., 2019) and how testing can inform talent identification processes (e.g., Datson et al., 2019), injury prevention training (e.g., De Ste Croix et al., 2018) and the development activities of elite players (e.g., Ford et al., 2020). In addition to our numerous projects with female players, we have recently undertaken a multi-disciplinary project on the training and development of elite female referees (Datson et al., 2020).

We aim to research topical areas relating to football match performance, as demonstrated by one of our students currently undertaking a PhD entitled ‘interventions to reduce heading load in women’s football.’

Interested in finding out more about this research area or getting involved in our research projects? Please email Naomi Datson (N.Datson@chi.ac.uk)

Key Publications

Bishop, C., Turner, A., Maloney, S., Lake, J., Loturco, I., Bromley, T., & Read, P. (2019). Drop Jump Asymmetry is Associated with Reduced Sprint and Change-of-Direction Speed Performance in Adult Female Soccer Players. Sports, 7(1), 29. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports7010029

Datson, N., Drust, B., Weston, M., Jarman, I. H., Lisboa, P. J., & Gregson, W. (2017). Match Physical Performance of Elite Female Soccer Players during International Competition. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 31(9), 2379–2387. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000001575

Datson, N., Everley, S., Greenlees, I., & Piggott, L. (2020). Tailoring Referee Development for the Women's Game.

Datson, N., Weston, M., Drust, B., Gregson, W., & Lolli, L. (2019). High-intensity endurance capacity assessment as a tool for talent identification in elite youth female soccer. Journal of Sports Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2019.1656323

De Ste Croix, M., Hughes, J., Ayala, F., Taylor, L., & Datson, N. (2018). Efficacy of Injury Prevention Training Is Greater for High-Risk vs Low-Risk Elite Female Youth Soccer Players. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 46(13), 3271–3280. https://doi.org/10.1177/0363546518795677

Ford, P. R., Hodges, N. J., Broadbent, D., O’Connor, D., Scott, D., Datson, N., Andersson, H. A., & Williams, A. M. (2020). The developmental and professional activities of female international soccer players from five high-performing nations. Journal of Sports Sciences, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2020.1789384

Harkness-Armstrong, A., Till, K., Datson, N., & Emmonds, S. (2020). Technical characteristics of elite youth female soccer match-play: position and age group comparisons between under 14 and under 16 age groups. International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 20(6), 942–959. https://doi.org/10.1080/24748668.2020.1820173

Adventure Sports Coaching


Participation in adventure sports has increased significantly in recent years, with 2.8 million people participating in 2018 (Sport England, 2018). This increased participation in adventure sports has brought with it an increased demand for quality coaching which, in turn, has generated research interest in adventure sports coaching.

Research from the University of Chichester has focussed on the identity, working practices and underpinning beliefs of adventure sports coaches (ASCs). Emerging evidence suggests that ASCs are orientated toward coaching for independent performance in highly dynamic environments and that high-level ASCs develop underpinning beliefs that are associated with learner-centred approaches to coaching (Christian, Berry & Kearney, 2017; Christian, Hodgson, Berry & Kearney, 2019). These, and other, studies have identified that, when it comes to coaching adventure sports, as opposed to other sports, something ‘a little bit different’ is happening. Specifically, the non-competitive nature of adventure sports, and the concept of working in synergy with the natural environment create a different set of social and philosophical parameters in which the ASC operates.

At present, ASC research at the University of Chichester is expanding with current projects focussing on comparing philosophical beliefs of ASCs with more ‘traditional’ sports coaches, investigating the demographics of the workforce, accuracy of observation and analysis of rock-climbing coaches and the use of case study research to investigate development of values, beliefs and philosophy.

For more information on the research activities in Adventure Sports Coaching, please contact Ed Christian (e.christian@chi.ac.uk).

Key Publications


Berry, M., Lomax, J., & Hodgson, C. (Eds.). (2015). Adventure sports coaching. Routledge.

Journal articles

Christian, E., Berry, M., & Kearney, P. (2017). The identity, epistemology and developmental experiences of high-level adventure sports coaches. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 17(4), 353-366.

Christian, E., Hodgson, C. I., Berry, M., & Kearney, P. (2019). It’s not what, but where: how the accentuated features of the adventure sports coaching environment promote the development of sophisticated epistemic beliefs. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 1-13.

Christian, E., Kelly, J. S., Piggott, L. V., & Hoare, J. (2020). A demographic analysis of UK adventure sports coaches. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 1-14.

Conference presentations

Christian, E. and Berry, M. (2018). The identity, epistemology and developmental experiences of high-level adventure sports coaches. Conference presentation delivered to the Plas-Y-Brenin Adventure Sports Coaching Conference. January, 2018.

Christian, E. and Berry, M. (2016). ‘Crafting knowledge’ – The learning journey of the coach. Conference presentation delivered to the British Canoeing Coaching Conference. November, 2016.

Key Staff

Understanding and Enhancing Skill Acquisition


Researchers in this topic share an interest in understanding expertise, analysing visual search behaviours that underpin skilled performance, and developing effective learning environments to enhance skill acquisition.

To guide fast and accurate decision-making, skilled individuals engage in visual exploratory activity (VEA) to search for and pick up relevant information in their ever-changing environments. At the University of Chichester, we are interested in understanding visual search behaviours and the influence on performance in the domains of sport and lifeguarding. Our previous research in sport has predominantly focused on VEA in youth football and aim to further understand implications for coaches in designing effective practice to develop VEA.

In lifeguarding, our previous research has focused on visual search patterns and hazard detection. We aim to further our understanding into the visual search patterns that discriminate lifeguard experience and hazard detection performance. Specifically, our on-going PhD research intends to develop a greater understanding of psychological factors and neurocognitive processes involved in drown detection performance.

To design effective learning environments, we are interested in designing representative practice environments, using video analysis in practice and investigating cognitive load in motor learning. Specifically, our on-going PhD research aims to examine how changes in task difficulty that are either self-controlled (autonomous) or contingent on performance (challenge point) affect learning outcomes. The aim of this ongoing research is to give coaches more tangible, useable tools to inform and shape their practice environments and structure.

For more information on the research activities in Understanding and Enhancing Skill Acquisition, please contact Chris Pocock (c.pocock@chi.ac.uk).

Key Publications

Eldridge, D., Pulling, C., & Robins, M. T. (2013) Visual exploratory activity and resultant behavioural analysis of youth midfield soccer players. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 8 (3), 560-577. ISSN 1988-5202.

Moore, L. J., Harris, D. J., Sharpe, B. T., Vine, S. J., & Wilson, M. R. (2019). Perceptual-cognitive expertise when refereeing the scrum in rugby union. Journal of Sports Sciences, 37(15), 1778–1786.

Page, J., Bates, V., Long, G., Dawes, P. & Tipton, M. (2011). Beach lifeguards: visual search patterns, detection rates and the influence of experience. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 31, 216–224.

Pocock, C., Bezodis, N. E., Davids, K., Wadey, R., & North, J. S. (2020). Understanding key constraints and practice design in Rugby Union place kicking: Experiential knowledge of professional kickers and experienced coaches. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 15(5-6), 631-641.

Pocock, C., Dicks, M., Thelwell, R. C., Chapman, M., & Barker, J. B. (2019). Using an imagery intervention to train visual exploratory activity in elite academy football players. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 31(2), 218-234.

Pulling, C., Kearney, P., Eldridge, D., & Dicks, M. (2018). Exploring football coaches’ perceptions of the introduction, delivery and evaluation of visual exploratory activity. Psychology for Sport and Exercise, 39(11), 81-89.

Runswick, O. R., Jewiss, M., & Sharpe, B. T. (in-press). The effect of match play context on cognitive effort and perceptual-motor performance in golf putting. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology.

Smith, J., Long, G., Dawes, P., Runswick, O., & Tipton, M. J. (2020). Changes in Lifeguards’ Hazard Detection and Eye Movements with Experience: Is One Season Enough?. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 13(1), 6.

Yeoman, B., Birch, P. D. J., & Runswick, O. R. (2020). The effects of smart phone video analysis on focus of attention and performance in practice and competition. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 47, 101644. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2019.101644.


Eldridge, D., & Pulling, C. (2019). Soccer coaches’ perceptions of how to deliver visual exploratory activity. Sports Coaching Symposium. 19th June 2019, University of Chichester, U.K. (Oral presentation).

Eldridge, D., Pulling, C., & Robins, M. (2013). Visual Exploratory Activity and Resultant Behavioural Analysis of Youth Midfield Soccer Players. International Society of Performance Analysis of Sport Workshop. 2nd- 5th April 2013, University of Alicante, Spain. (Oral presentation).

Pocock, C., Bezodis, N. E., Davids, K., & North, J. S. (2019). Experiential knowledge of key constraints: Implications for representative practice environments. Expertise and Skill Acquisition Network Conference. 2nd May 2019, St Mary’s University, Twickenham, U.K. (Invited symposium presentation).

Pocock, C., Dicks, M., Thelwell, R. C., Chapman, M., & Barker, J. B. (2017). Using an imagery intervention to train Visual Exploratory Activity in elite academy football players. Research in Imagery and Observation Conference. 18th-19th May 2017, University of Roehampton, U.K. (Oral presentation).

Pulling, C., & Eldridge, D. (2019). Understanding the importance of football vision and scanning. Football Innovation Summit. 1st-2nd April 2019, London, U.K. (Oral presentation)

Runswick, O. R., Jewiss, M., & Sharpe, B. T. (2019, May). The effect of match play context on cognitive effort and perceptual-motor performance in golf putting. Paper presented at the 8th Meeting of the Expertise and Skill Acquisition Network (ESAN), St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London.

Yeoman, B., Birch, P. D. J., & Runswick, O. R. (2019). Smart phone video analysis during practice affects focus of attention and performance in skilled golfers. Poster presented at Expertise and Skill Acquisition Network Conference, St. Mary’s University, UK, May, 2019.

The Science of Esports


Researchers in this topic share an interest in understanding the science underpinning esports performance and the factors contributing to mental health and well-being in esports. Esports has seen a dramatic acceleration in growth over the last 15 years. This has led to an increasing amount of interest into the science underpinning performance and mental health of players. Despite the increased attention, relatively few empirical examinations have been conducted and published.

At the University of Chichester, we are primarily interested in psychological and psychophysiological determinants of esports performance and mental health. Our previous research has focused on stress and coping in elite esports players. By interviewing elite esports players, the study identified 51 individual stressors, including a range of internal (e.g., communication issues, lack of shared team goals) and external (e.g., event audience, media interviews) stressors. A range of emotion- (e.g., breathing, relaxation), problem- (e.g., intra-team communication after matches), approach- (e.g., team camps, delegating roles) and avoidance (e.g., removing self from the situation) coping strategies were described by participants. We hope this research enables applied practitioners to help esports players develop strategies to deal with stressors, which might in turn, might lead to performance enhancements.

To further examine the factors underpinning stress and mental health in esports players, we are currently collaborating with the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Players’ Association to examine the predictors of mental health in professional players. The study aims to advance the current lack of understanding of the factors influencing mental health in professional esports players. In conjunction with this study, we are also collaborating with The Neul (UK’s largest university esports organiser) to examine the predictors of mental health in university players. By conducting these survey-based studies, we will be in a better position to understand mental health concerns in esports players, and ultimately support both amateur and professional players to deal with the intense demands of gameplay.

We also have an interest to examine the psychophysiological determinants of esports performance and mental health. We are planning various projects using heart rate variability and eye tracking to better understand the mechanisms underpinning esports performance. Additionally, we are keen to extend our research examining the transfer of perceptual-cognitive skill between football players and FIFA players. We hope the information gleaned will extend our understanding of the factors impacting esports performance and aid practitioners to better support players.

For more information on the research activities in The Science of Esports, please contact Phil Birch (p.birch@chi.ac.uk).

Interested staff:


Murphy, C. P., Wakefield, A., Birch, P. D. J., & North, J. S. (2020). Esport expertise benefits perceptual-cognitive skill in (traditional) sport. Journal of Expertise, 3(4).

Smith, M. J., Birch, P. D., & Bright, D. (2019). Identifying Stressors and Coping Strategies of Elite Esports

Competitors. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS), 11(2), 22-39. 10.4018/IJGCMS.2019040102.


Leis, O., Lautenbach, F., Birch. P., & Elbe, A-M. (2020). Stress and coping in esport. Paper presented at the ASP Conference, Salzburg, Germany, May, 2020.