Australasian Skill Acquisition Research Group Conference

Macquarie University in Sydney hosted the 2013 conference for the Australasian Skill Acquisition Research Group – ASARG. This yearly event pulls together thinkers from a variety of disciplines with an interest in skilled performance, particularly in sport.

It’s an intimate gathering, as far as conferences go, with presentations spanning two days and no overlapping panels. Everyone is present to learn from and engage with everyone else’s research. It’s also the first conference I’ve been to where the presentations come to a close early on day one in order to go play soccer. What a great way to get to know other people, discover new ideas in a practical setting and have a heap of fun!

I really enjoyed learning about the projects other people have been up to, and found the discussion periods – which raised questions about research design, future projects and pushing current investigations even further – just as exciting. Topics ranged from investigating which side step manoeuvres are more predictable in rugby league, to using eye tracking technology to understand behaviour at a level people often can’t articulate, to investigating the difference between coach and athlete recognition of good technique during rowing (remembering that the coach is often positioned quite far away from the action).

Tory Thomas keeps it smooth on the Hammerhead at the 2013 Austrailan XC Champs. Photo: Kath Bicknell

My presentation, ‘Triggering Better Biking: Action and cognition in performance’ was first off the rank. I spoke about the information available to bike riders through different sensory pathways – visual, aural, kinaesthetic… – and how this is used to guide action and monitor safety during elite level racing. I looked at riding the Hammerhead at Stromlo Forest Park in Canberra as a case study.

While most people at the ASARG Conference came from a science background (particularly exercise and sports science, and psychology) I’ve come at this research from the humanities, drawing a lot on philosophical anthropology. It was interesting to see what different perspectives can offer research into skilled action and cognition but also to see how some researchers are arriving at similar conclusions using very different methods. I have about 5000 ideas for new research following on from post-presso discussions and hearing about what other people are doing in this area as well, a massive win in my book.

Next year’s ASARG Conference will be in Auckland, tantalisingly close to the sweet, flowing mountain bike trails in Rotorua and a chance to see the Auckland trail networks for the first time as well. Looks very tempting indeed.