University of Nordland
The process of developing elite athletes in any sport is both long and complicated. Among other things, it requires nurturing talent, developing technical and tactical skills, as well as maintaining a high level of performance over the duration of a long athletic career.
In the second edition of the anthology Developing Sport Expertise – researchers and coaches put theory into practice, editors Damian Farrow (Professor of Sports Science, Victoria University/Australian Institute of Sport), Joseph Baker (PhD, Associate Professor, Lifespan Health and Performance Laboratory, York University) and Clare MacMahon (Discipline Leader of Sport Science and Head of Motor Learning and Skilled Performance in Health Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology) provide an understanding of the latest research in sport performance and sport expertise. The book is comprised of a total of 40 different contributors, consisting of both sport science researchers and international expert coaches.
This second edition is thematically divided, consisting of five parts. Part I, titled “Expert systems” (chapters 1-4), reviews emerging literature on the role of proper training in sport expertise development. This first part of the book investigates an age-old issue in sport and expertise research – defining and understanding who the talented athlete is. The question of defining athlete talent is addressed on three different levels: micro (the individual athlete), meso (the training activities of athletes) and macro (selection systems and skill learning). Furthermore, the contributors in the chapters that make up part I underline the multi-dimensional nature of skill development in sport.
Part II, “Expert officials and coaches” (chapters 5 and 6), focuses on strategies for athlete development used by expert coaches and officials. In chapter 5, the authors Plessner & MacMahon consider expertise in sport officials, highlighting that officiating is a diverse role with many different types of demands. In chapter 6, Côté, Erickson & Duffy review litterature and research findings on how expert coaches develop. This chapter aims to be directly applicable to coach education programs in order to facilitate the development of future expert coaches.
Part III, “Contemporary coaching approaches” (chapters 7-9), discusses recent research based recommendations for designing coach practice. Here, the main topics are 1) the role of observation in coaching practice, 2) methods to improve the organization of practice and 3) implicit training methods as means of maximizing athlete development and improving learning. Similar to part II, this section of the book is aimed towards coaches, hoping to challenge sport coaching practitioners to consider and revise their current approaches to coaching practice.
Part IV, “Expert athlete processes” (chapters 10-13), looks at the cognitive elements of skill advancement in athletic performance. The chapters in this part offer a wide variety of topics, from “choking” among elite athletes, gaze behavior (the concept of “quiet eye”) in coach experts, current understandings of decision-making skills and differences between unskilled and skilled performers in their use of tactical information in sport.From chapter to chapter, I truly enjoyed reading these small recollections of experiences from expert coaches around the world.
The fifth part, “Expert commentary” (chapters 14 and 15), provides some international perspectives on current issues in sport expertise, both theoretically and in its practical implications. These final chapters challenge researchers and coaches alike to consider the connection between coach and scientist, between theory and practice. In the book’s final chapter, researchers are encouraged to put aside their theoretical backgrounds when investigating sport expertise, making the topics of research more accessible to sport practitioners (e.g. coaches and athletes). Savelsbergh, the author, also stresses the importance of integrating different theoretical perspectives in order to advance practical implications of future sport expertise research.
A unique and innovative feature of the book is the section named “Coach’s Corner” which is a part of (almost) every chapter in the book. In these small sections, coaches from a wide range of sports comment and share their experience on the topic at hand. Rowing, rugby, netball, ice hockey, tennis and football are only some of the sports represented by the contributing coaches in these sections. Tying these real life experiences and coaching practices to theoretical framings and research of sport expertise is perhaps one of the biggest strengths of the book in terms of bridging the gap between theory and practice, between scientist and coach, within the multifaceted field of sport expertise. From chapter to chapter, I truly enjoyed reading these small recollections of experiences from expert coaches around the world. Overall, “Coach’s Corner” provides a refreshing break from the books theoretical and empirical perspectives.
It is somewhat difficult to identify the target group of readers for “Developing Sport Expertise”. Some of the chapters are clearly directed towards coaches, while others focus mainly on reviewing research and trends in certain fields of sports expertise, and accordingly, might not have the same strong application to coaching practice. Being both a sport scientist and a coach myself, I find this book informative and helpful. Admittedly, it appeals more to the coach in me than the sport scientist.
To summarize, if you are a practicing coach, or just interested in sports coaching, talent development and skill acquisition, this is a book worth taking your time to read. It presents both interesting and relevant theoretical frameworks and current research, as well as connecting these to the practical world of coaches in sport.
Copyright © Anne Tjønndal 2015