Achieving Expertise in NCAA Athletics: Coaches’ Knowledge and Application of Deliberate Practice

Olivier Schmid, West Virginia University, USA
Ian Connole, Colgate University, USA
Jesse Michel, West Virginia University, USA

Theme: Coaching/leadership

Poster Number: 11

Program ID: POS-1

Presentation: October 3, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


For many athletes, developing expertise in sport is a lifelong endeavor that relies on a myriad of individual and psychosocial factors as well as on the specific type and intensity of training (Ward, Hodges, Starkes, & Williams, 2007). Sport psychology professionals work closely with coaches and athletes on facilitating purposeful and optimal training to improve performance. According to the theory of deliberate practice, achieving expertise takes over 10,000 hours or 10 years of training (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Romer, 1993). Deliberate practice requires full concentration and effort, self-awareness, problem solving skills, specific feedback from coaches, and acceptance of delayed gratification. Based on Côté’s talent development model (1999), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletes are in the investment phase and train several hours a day to achieve performance excellence. However, NCAA head coaches reported that the nature of training only plays a minor role in athletic achievement (Hyllegard, Radlo, & Early, 2001) and the extent to which they know about the concept and benefits of deliberate practice was previously unexplored. The purpose of this study was to examine NCAA head coaches’ knowledge and application of deliberate practice principles in their training. A stratified random sampling method was used to identify 183 head coaches (representing all NCAA divisions, sports, and conferences) who completed a 23-item questionnaire designed by the authors. MANOVAs across all sport and NCAA Divisions revealed that participants were not specifically knowledgeable about deliberate practice. Additionally, levels of coaching certification and years of coaching experiences were unrelated to the application of deliberate practice into training. As a result of the study, coaches expressed interest in receiving information about deliberate practice, which provides promising opportunities for sport psychology interventions and coaching education. Suggestions were also offered about how coaching certification programs could more effectively address the development of athletic expertise.

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