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Towards an understanding of perceptual-cognitive expertise in sport coaching (ref: SF20/SER/HENDRY)

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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Dr D Hendry Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

One of the hallmarks of expert sport coaches is their ability to recognize patterns of play, anticipate game action sequences and make the necessary adjustments to provide their team with an advantage. Despite the obvious importance of these factors, there is still a dearth of research investigating the assessment and development of what is known as perceptual-cognitive expertise in sport coaches. Perceptual-cognitive (P-C) skill relates to the ability of an individual to utilize advanced postural cues, identify common game structures, efficiently modulate their gaze behaviours, and use contextual information to predict what will happen next in sporting situations.
This prospective study series offers a student the opportunity to investigate the perceptual-cognitive and perceptual-motor mechanisms underpinning skilled decision making and anticipatory behaviours in sport coaches. Using an expertise approach, there is scope to assess the perceptual-cognitive skills of elite and sub-elite sport (e.g., football) coaches using a battery of domain specific and general tests. Due to relatively recent research developments highlighting the role of the motor system in aiding anticipatory performance, there is also opportunity to explore how playing experience and motor capability influences perceptual-cognitive skill in coaching. Based upon any significant discriminatory findings, the design, implementation and assessment of an intervention aimed at improving P-C expertise in elite/sub-elite level coaches’ offers opportunity for additional applied research projects. Any such projects would incorporate key theories of skill acquisition relating to instruction, feedback and observational learning to enhance perceptual-cognitive skill. This line of research will be facilitated through access to a variety of research tools including vision tracking goggles, 3-D cameras, Virtual Reality technology and a full-performance analysis suite.
It is anticipated that the findings from this novel study series will have significant practical and theoretical implications leading to improvement in how coaches are developed.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g., SF20/…) will not be considered.
Deadline for applications: Open
Start Date: October 2020 or March 2021
Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

For further information, please contact Dr David Hendry ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

Please note, this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend; the studentship is available to Students Worldwide. Fee bands are available at . A relevant fee band will be discussed at interview based on project running costs


Hendry, D.T., Williams, A.M., Ford, P.R. & Hodges, N.J. (2019). Developmental activities and perceptions of challenge for National and Varsity women soccer players in Canada. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 43. 210-218.

Hendry, D. T., & Hodges, N.J. (2019). Pathways to expert performance in soccer. Journal of Expertise, 2 (1), 1-13.

Hendry, D.T., Williams, A.M., & Hodges, N. J. (2018). Coach ratings of skills and their relations to practice, play and successful transitions from youth-elite to adult-professional status in soccer. Journal of Sport Sciences, 36(2). 1-9.

Hendry, D.T., Murphy, C., Williams, A.M., & Hodges N.J., (2016) ‘Improving anticipation in racket sports: An evidence-based intervention’, in S. Cotterill, N. Weston & G. Breslin (eds) Sport and exercise psychology: Practitioner case studies, New York: Wiley

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