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Paul R. Ford and A. Mark Williams

The developmental model of sport participation (DMSP) was proposed by Côté (1999). First, we examined whether the participation profiles of two groups of professional soccer players in Ireland who either had or had not played Gaelic football to an elite level in adolescence provided support for this model. Both groups commenced participation in soccer around 6 years of age and on average participated in two other sports between 6 and 18 years of age, excluding soccer and Gaelic football. A reduction in the number of other sports and an increase in hours devoted to the primary sport were observed between 6 and 18 years of age, as per the predictions of the DMSP. Second, we examined whether players who demonstrated early diversification required fewer soccer-specific hours to achieve expert performance in that sport compared with players who demonstrated less diversification or did not participate in Gaelic football. No significant relationships or differences were reported, which did not provide support for the DMSP, possibly due to the low sample size employed in this study.

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David Alder, Paul R. Ford, Joe Causer and A. Mark Williams

We examined the effects of high- versus low-anxiety conditions during video-based training of anticipation judgments using international-level badminton players facing serves and the transfer to high-anxiety and field-based conditions. Players were assigned to a high-anxiety training (HA), low-anxiety training (LA) or control group (CON) in a pretraining–posttest design. In the pre- and posttest, players anticipated serves from video and on court under high- and low-anxiety conditions. In the video-based high-anxiety pretest, anticipation response accuracy was lower and final fixations shorter when compared with the low-anxiety pretest. In the low-anxiety posttest, HA and LA demonstrated greater accuracy of judgments and longer final fixations compared with pretest and CON. In the high-anxiety posttest, HA maintained accuracy when compared with the low-anxiety posttest, whereas LA had lower accuracy. In the on-court posttest, the training groups demonstrated greater accuracy of judgments compared with the pretest and CON.

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André Roca, Paul R. Ford, Allistair P. McRobert and A. Mark Williams

The ability to anticipate and to make decisions is crucial to skilled performance in many sports. We examined the role of and interaction between the different perceptual-cognitive skills underlying anticipation and decision making. Skilled and less skilled players interacted as defenders with life-size film sequences of 11 versus 11 soccer situations. Participants were presented with task conditions in which the ball was located in the offensive or defensive half of the pitch (far vs. near conditions). Participants’ eye movements and verbal reports of thinking were recorded across two experiments. Skilled players reported more accurate anticipation and decision making than less skilled players, with their superior performance being underpinned by differences in task-specific search behaviors and thought processes. The perceptual-cognitive skills underpinning superior anticipation and decision making were shown to differ in importance across the two task constraints. Findings have significant implications for those interested in capturing and enhancing perceptual-cognitive skill in sport and other domains.

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Paul R. Ford, Jeffrey Low, Allistair P. McRobert and A. Mark Williams

We examined the developmental activities that contribute to the development of superior anticipation skill among elite cricket batters. The batters viewed 36 video clips involving deliveries from bowlers that were occluded at ball release and were required to predict delivery type. Accuracy scores were used to create two subgroups: high-performing and low-performing anticipators. Questionnaires were used to record the participation history profiles of the groups. In the early stages of development, hours accumulated in cricket and other sports, as well as milestones achieved, did not differentiate groups. Significant between-group differences in activity profiles were found between 13 and 15 years of age, with high-performing anticipators accumulating more hours in structured cricket activity, and specifically in batting, compared with their low-performing counterparts.

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Stefanie Hüttermann, Paul R. Ford, A. Mark Williams, Matyas Varga and Nicholas J. Smeeton

Over the last decade, research on the visual focus of attention has become increasingly popular in psychological science. The focus of attention has been shown to be important in fast team-sport games. The authors developed a method that measures the extent of the attentional focus and perceptual capabilities during performance of a sport-specific task. The participants were required to judge different player configurations on their left and right sides with varying visual angles between the stimuli. In keeping with the notion that the focus of attention is smaller than the visual field, attentional performance was poorest at the wider viewing angles compared with perceptual performance. Moreover, the team-sport players were better able to enlarge their attentional focus and make correct decisions more frequently than individual athletes, particularly when a motor response was required. The findings provide a new perspective, dissociating the attentional and perceptual processes that affect decision making under various response modes.