The Relationship Between Sport-Specific Practice and Achievement

22 Mar

7608808_f248[1]We’ve all heard the saying, “practice makes perfect,” or — more specifically — “perfect practice makes perfect.”  The point is, there’s a high level of correlation between purposeful practice and proficiency (pardon the alliteration).  But, what about cognitive expertise (in other words, sport aptitude or sport IQ)?  How much practice does it take to improve an athlete’s knowledge of and “feel” for the game in a way that is relevant, leading to performance improvement?

A new study of over 500 youth athletes (ages 12-16) recommends that “young players dedicate at least 4 hours weekly to training to achieve a significant improvement in cognitive expertise.” (Analysis of the Relationship Between the Amount of Training and Cognitive Expertise; Gil, et. al.)

“There is a strong association between the number of weekly training hours and the achievements attained by deliberate practice.  Athletes who accumulate more deliberate practice hours per week show a higher level of sport expertise.  Sport-specific knowledge and decision-making are both indicators of cognitive expertise.”

“Research has associated the amount of practice with knowledge and decision-making in sport.  It has been established that those athletes who accumulated more training hours in structured (situational) activities showed a greater development of knowledge and greater precision in decision-making.  Knowledge also influences processes such as attention, visual behavior, anticipation, recognition, response selection, and execution.”

Here are some tips to make your practice time more productive:

  • Practice situationally (not randomly)
  • Focus on quality repetitions
  • Practice at game speed
  • Be an active participant, don’t just go through the motions
  • Actively observe teammates when you’re not part of a drill
  • Practice to improve and learn 


Your thoughts?

One Response to “The Relationship Between Sport-Specific Practice and Achievement”


  1. You Can’t Do It All in the Weight Room | Athletic Performance Training Center - April 1, 2015

    […] Sport-Specific Skill Development […]

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