Expert Anticipation and Pattern Perception

Authored by: Damian Farrow , Bruce Abernethy

Routledge Handbook of Sport Expertise

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415839808
eBook ISBN: 9781315776675
Adobe ISBN: 9781317691181


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Mention of expert athletes such as tennis player Roger Federer, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, or basketball All-Star Dwayne Wade usually conjures images of exquisite skills based on the impression that they have more time and/or space in which to act than their competitors. Expert athletes competing in interceptive sports such as tennis or cricket, or in invasion games (team sports) such as football or basketball, must process an array of perceptual information from their environment in short periods of time in order to successfully execute an appropriate action. For example, a basketball player needs to consider the position of teammates and opponents, his/her own court position, and that of the ball to elicit a successful action. The outcome of this perceptual-cognitive process is often referred to as anticipatory skill, or the capability that enables an athlete to commence his/her response to an opponent’s action or pattern of play in advance. Colloquially, team sport coaches often describe the player with anticipatory skill as a “good driver in heavy traffic” – the basketball player who seemingly knows what is going to happen two passes before the ball is passed, the racquet sports player already moving into position before his/her opponent has hit the ball. While these players may not always appear to be the fastest movers around the court, their ability to accurately forecast a game’s future ensures they have time on their side.

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