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.
Paul R. Ford and A. Mark Williams
Edward K. Coughlan, A. Mark Williams, and Paul R. Ford
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Matthew Andrew, Paul R. Ford, Matthew T. Miller, Allistair P. McRobert, Nathan C. Foster, Guido Seerden, Martin Littlewood, and Spencer J. Hayes
We examined whether practice activities adopted by professional youth soccer coaches are modulated through the implementation of and engagement with cocreative evidence-based programs. Across two experiments, we used systematic observation to identify the practice activities of seven coaches across 134 sessions. In Experiment A, drill-based and games-based activities were recorded and quantified. To encourage behaviour change across the study, the systematic observation data were compared with skill acquisition literature to provide coaches with quantitative feedback and recommendations during workshops. Postworkshop systematic observation data indicated that practice activities used by coaches changed in accordance with the evidenced-based information (increase in games-based activities) delivered within the workshop. Interview data indicated that coaches typically stated that the workshop was a key reason for behaviour change. In a follow-up Experiment B, feedback and recommendations were delivered using an interactive video-based workshop. The systematic observation data indicated that coaches increased the use of soccer activities that contained active decision making with coaches citing the workshop as a key reason for behaviour change. These findings indicate that coaching practice activities can be supported and shaped through the implementation of cocreated workshops wherein coaches collaborate with sport scientists and researchers to bridge the gap between science and application.