Does Practice Makes Perfect?

Topic: Teams, Development
Publication: Journal of Applied Sport Psychology (2003)

Article: Sport-specific practice and the development of expert decision-making in team ball sports
Authors: J. Baker, J. Cote, & B. Abernethy
Reviewed By: Scott Charles Sitrin

How long does an athlete need to practice before he or she becomes an expert?  In the 1970s, the amount was 10,000 hours, or, approximately 10 years (sound familiar to you “Outliers” fans?).  As of late, the theory has been refined to reflect the notion that quality is at least as important as the quantity of practice.  Deliberate practice, a high-quality type of practice that focuses on improving performance with a work-like fervor, has been shown to differentiate expert from non-expert athletes, academics, and artists.  

Though there has been research on the relationship between deliberate practice and athletes who play individual sports, such as golf and tennis, less research has been performed on the relationship between deliberate practice and athletes who play team sports, such as basketball.  In addressing this void, Baker, Cote, and Abernethy investigated if sport-specific practice (i.e., deliberate practice) differentiated expert from non-expert athletes in the team sports of basketball, netball, and field hockey.  It was found that the expert athletes had engaged in more deliberate practice than the non-expert athletes, with the expert athletes having practiced over 13 years and in excess of 4,000 hours since the age of 12. 

Though the research was performed on athletes, the findings appear to be applicable to business organizations as well.  A business could, for instance, first determine what constitutes deliberate practice, and then, implement the model into the trainings of new and current employees.  Since deliberate practice differentiates experts from non-experts in both individual and team settings, the training program should improve the performance of the employees, and in turn, the performance of the company as a whole.

Baker, J., Cote, J., & Abernethy, B. (2003). Sport-specific practice and the development of expert decision-making in team ball sports. Journal of applied sport psychology, 15(1), 12–25.

human resource management,organizational industrial psychology, organizational management