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Influence of game design, physical demands and skill involvement on the subjective task load associated with various small-sided games among elite junior rugby league players.

Dobbin, Nicholas and Atherton, Ant and Hill, Colin (2020) Influence of game design, physical demands and skill involvement on the subjective task load associated with various small-sided games among elite junior rugby league players. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. ISSN 1555-0265 (In Press)

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Abstract

Purpose: To determine if small-sided games (SSGs) could be designed to target specific task loads using the NASA task load index (NASA-TLX) as well as reporting the influence of the physical and technical demands. Methods: Using a within-session, repeated measures design, 26 junior rugby league players completed five SSGs focused on physical, technical, temporal, cognitive and frustration task loads. NASA-TLX responses were evaluated after each game; the physical demands were recorded using microtechnology; and skill involvement recorded using video analysis. Results: In each SSG, the task load emphasised (e.g. physical load/physical game) emerged with a higher score than the other loads and SSGs. The physical demands were lowest during the physical game (ES = -3.11 to 3.50) and elicited greater defensive involvements (ES = 0.12 to 3.19). The highest physical demands and attacking involvements were observed during the temporal game. Lower-intensity activities were generally negatively associated with physical, performance, temporal and total load (η2 = -0.07 to -0.43) but positively associated with technical, effort, cognitive and frustration (η2 = 0.01 to 0.33). Distance covered in total and at higher speeds were positively associated with physical, effort, performance, total load (η2 = 0.18 to 0.65), and negatively associated with technical, frustration and cognitive load (η2 = -0.10 to -0.36). Attacking and defensive involvements generally increased the respective task loads (η2 = 0.03 to 0.41). Conclusion: Coaches and sport scientists can design SSGs specifically targeted at subjective task loads in a sport-specific manner and through manipulation of the physical and technical demands.

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