Creating Champions: The Development of Expertise in Sports

MSL research field: 
TitleCreating Champions: The Development of Expertise in Sports
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsFord, P, Hodges, NJ, Williams, AM
EditorKaufman, S
Book TitleBeyond Talent or Practice: The Complexity of Greatness
PublisherOxford University Press

The outstanding performances of elite athletes are underpinned by physical, psychological, motor and perceptual-cognitive attributes that are close to the limits of human capability. The dominance of athletes from certain countries in certain sports (e.g., Jamaican sprinters, East African distance runners) suggests a strong genetic component to performance, but this dominance does not rule out the possibility that unique environmental factors may partly, or fully, explain this superior performance. In this chapter, we review evidence showing that acquired attributes and experiences, rather than genetic factors, more typically differentiate elite athletes from their sub-elite peers. With the exception of genetic differences related to height, stature and to a lesser degree, muscle fibre types, the current evidence suggests that genes likely play a relatively minor role in the development of expertise in sport. There remains debate as to what constitutes the optimal environment for the development of expertise in sport (e.g., early specialization vs. early diversification), but without doubt, prolonged engagement in large amounts of high quality sport-specific practice and activity are critical to this outcome. In order to develop future champion athletes, we recommend that practitioners focus should be on the creation of an optimal environment.

Refereed DesignationRefereed
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