Deliberate practice is defined as an activity that is highly relevant to improving performance. It is effortful, challenging, not inherently enjoyable, or immediately rewarding and underpinned by advanced cognitive processing. The authors examine the effect of increasing cognitive processing during deliberate practice on skill learning in intermediate-level performers using a novel approach and quasi-experimental design. Two matched groups of intermediate-level Gaelic football players practiced a kick they identified as being most relevant to improving performance during an acquisition phase and pre-, post-, and retention tests. During acquisition, participants rated practice for cognitive effort and enjoyment. An intervention group engaged in structured cognitive processing before, during, and after the kicking practice sessions, whereas a control group did not. Both groups improved kicking accuracy across pre-, post-, and retention tests; however, the intervention group improved accuracy significantly more than the control group. The intervention group rated practice greater for mental effort compared with the control group, while both groups rated practice low for enjoyment. The intervention group increased reflection and evaluation to a greater degree following practice compared with the control group. Findings highlight the value of applying the principles of deliberate practice and increasing cognitive processing to expedite learning in intermediate-level performers, with implications for skill learning across many professional domains.
Coughlan is with the Dept. of Sport, Leisure and Childhood Studies, Cork Inst. of Technology, Cork, Ireland. Williams is with the Dept. of Health, Kinesiology, and Recreation, College of Health, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT. Ford is with the School of Sport and Service Management, University of Brighton, Brighton, United Kingdom.