Human perceptions of sports equipment under playing conditions

Assessment of sports equipment ‘performance’ is generally derived from physical and technical parameters, such as power, speed, distance and accuracy. However, from a psychological perspective, players need to feel comfortable with their equipment and confident in its properties. These factors can only be measured via the subjective assessment of individual perceptions. Using a study of a group of elite golfers as an example, this paper presents a formalised approach for eliciting and structuring player’s descriptions of their perception of sports equipment. Qualitative methods of inquiry are employed to generate perceptions from a group of professional golfers (n=15) during play testing. The equipment characteristics of significance to the golfers emerged from an inductive analysis of their responses. However, whilst this method of representation of the results was invaluable in identifying the key components or dimensions of a player’s sub-jective perception, it was insufficient to describe the potential relationships between the dimensions. With this in mind, a new technique, entitled structured relationship modelling, was developed to illustrate these associations. Ten general dimensions emerged from the analysis, of which three are presented in this paper along with a section of the relationship model. These results demonstrate the effectiveness of qualitative techniques for eliciting human perceptions and of structured relationship models for representation of the associations found.