Getting on the Right Track

Athlete-centred practice for expert performance in sport

Authored by: David T. Hendry , Nicola J. Hodges

Routledge Handbook of Sports Performance Analysis

Print publication date:  February  2013
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415673617
eBook ISBN: 9780203806913
Adobe ISBN: 9781136658631


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In this chapter, we offer guidelines for optimizing practice based on empirical studies of motor learning and a review of various practice methods. In so doing, we tie motor learning literature to developmental models of expertise in sport based on early specialized practice. We attempt to show how increased knowledge of skill acquisition and athlete-centred practice principles can enhance the quality of information provided to athletes for learning. Athlete-centred practice structuring can facilitate learning through the development of technical and tactical competencies, and increase robustness in the face of competition pressures, as well as encourage short-and long-term engagement and motivation. This is broadly achieved through a focus on the development of the athlete as a cognitively engaged problem solver. Knowledge of long-term practice pathways is necessary for practitioners as they work on developing athletes from an early age and as they make decisions concerning how much to practice and when. With respect to skill development, skill transfer and long-term engagement in sport, we argue that early specialized practice designed to promote activities which encourage cognitive effort, problemsolving behaviours and engagement on behalf of the athlete should be seen as the goal of the development of sporting excellence.

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