Expertise: The goal of performance development

MSL research field: 
TitleExpertise: The goal of performance development
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsHodges, NJ, Baker, J
EditorCollins, D, Button, A, Richards, H
Book TitlePerformance Psychology: A Practitioner's Guide
PublisherElsevier Publishers

It has long been acknowledged that practice is an important ingredient in obtaining expertise in sports. However, there has been debate concerning the importance of this variable and whether practice is both a necessary and a sufficient ingredient. There has been a tendency for researchers, perhaps spurred on by practitioners, to devote their efforts to looking for innate factors that serve to give the expert advantage. This has been at the expense of looking to the specifics of the practice environment. This changed significantly in the early to late 1990s when Ericsson et al (1993) presented evidence to show that a specific type of domain-relevant practice, so-called deliberate practice, was positively related to expertise level in musicians. In other words, the more skilled the musician, the more domain-relevant practice had been accumulated. Since this time there has been a significant collection of evidence in sports showing similar relations between practice and performance in domains as varied as soccer and field hockey (Helsen et al 1998), karate (Hodge & Deakin 1998), wrestling (Hodges & Starkes 1996) and triathlon events (Baker et al 2005, Hodges et al 2004). Although there has been debate over this correlational-type research and hence our ability to imply cause and effect, the fact that methods were now available to measure practice quantity and quality resulted in some important and interesting questions in the field of skill development. People now wanted to know the critical ages for starting practice and whether practice could stave off declines in performance associated with age or even
overcome performance differences as a function of sex (for recent reviews see Baker & Coˆte´ 2006, Hodges et al 2007, Ward et al 2004). In this chapter we aim to provide the reader with an overview of this research, with specific emphasis placed on implications for best practice and ‘talent development’. We will attempt to review studies where practice and performance relationships have been examined with the purpose of understanding which conditions best promote the chances of succeeding within a sporting domain, as well as maintaining a high level of performance in a domain beyond established peaks. To guide our discussions and reviews, the chapter is divided into two general sections. In the first we examine research evidence in terms of three major constraints on practice outlined by Ericsson et al(1993): resources, motivation and effort. We also examine the concept of sport enjoyment in this section as it relates to the concept of motivation. In the second section we look at various practice behaviours as a function of the stage of development of the performer, whether this is as a child, during the adult and peak performance years or as an ageing performer(i.e. master athlete). There are obvious links between the two sections in terms of the various constraints and conditions that are likely to affect practice and performance at the different stages of skill development.

Refereed DesignationRefereed
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