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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 ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7508-1683, Atherton, Ant and Hill, Colin (2021) 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, 16 (6). pp. 802-810. ISSN 1555-0265

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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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