Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Expert-Novice Differences in Cognitive and Skill Execution Components of Youth Baseball Performance

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Expert-Novice Differences in Cognitive and Skill Execution Components of Youth Baseball Performance

Article excerpt

Research in sport expertise has primarily focused on identifying the cognitive and motor processes which underlie performance. Often laboratory simulations have been used to examine response selection (perceptual, cognitive) or response execution (motor) processes (see Abernethy, Burgess-Limerick, & Parks, 1994; McPherson, 1994; Starkes & Allard, 1993; Thomas, 1994, for more extensive reviews). These approaches have improved our understanding of the cognitive and motor processes which underlie expert performance. However, few studies have attempted to demonstrate expert-novice differences in performance in natural sport settings.

Field studies in natural settings are especially important from a developmental perspective. Bloom (1985) noted that exceptional performers often enter the domain at very young ages. Early identification of talent is determined in relation to performance of same or similar age peers (Ericcson, Krampe, & Tesch-Romer, 1993). However, the criteria for evaluation and defining expertise may change across age as the nature of the performance context changes and the factors underlying successful performance change as well (i.e., modification of rules and tactics, changes in body size, increases in speed of processing).

Surprisingly, little research has investigated sport expert performance during the transitional periods in childhood and adolescence. Only two studies have examined expertise in high-strategy sports in game performance settings. French and Thomas (1987) compared novice and expert basketball players ages 8 to 12 years old on cognitive and skill execution components of performance. Child experts made more accurate response selections (cognitive) and executed sport skills more effectively during game play. The cognitive component of performance maximally discriminated expertise. Both cognitive and sport skill execution components of performance discriminated expertise in youth tennis (McPherson & Thomas, 1989). Age differences in both studies were minimal. Similar to findings in performance of verbal tasks (e.g., Chi, 1978; Chi & Ceci, 1987; Chi & Koeske, 1983), expertise seemed to reduce or eliminate age differences in sport performance.

More research is needed to understand developing expertise in different sport contexts and how cognitive and skill execution components of performance combine and interact. The primary purpose of this study was to examine expert-novice differences in cognitive and skill execution components of performance in youth baseball. Based on previous developmental studies in high-strategy sports, experts were predicted to exhibit greater accuracy in response selection and greater success in sport skill execution during game play. Response selection (cognitive) components were predicted to maximally discriminate expertise levels. Minimal age differences were expected.

The relationship between years of experience in baseball and baseball skill performance was also addressed. Abernethy, Thomas, and Thomas (1993) predicted that experience would contribute minimally to expertise in childhood in both high- and low-strategy sports. In contrast, Ericcson et al. (1993) suggested that sport skill performance level can be directly related to the accumulation of deliberate practice. Children with more years of experience in a skill domain may perform at higher levels due to accumulation of greater amounts of deliberate practice. Levels of deliberate practice typically increase across childhood. Both Ericcson et al. and Abernethy et al. (1993) would predict, then, that the contribution of experience to expertise would increase across age. However, Ericcson et al. would predict that differing years of experience in a domain would impact motor skill performance at younger ages than Abernethy et al. (1993) would predict. Therefore, relations between years of experience, expertise, and baseball skill execution components were examined to address these predictions. …

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