Expert Coaches’ Strategies for the Development of Expert Athletes

  • John H. Salmela


Discussion on the role that natural talent plays or environmentally based variables play in the development of expertise in sport has seen a gradual swing from the importance of innate abilities to that of environmental determinism. Ericsson and colleagues (1993) have defended a theoretical framework on the development of expert performance in sport and other achievement domains based on the environmental notion of long-term adaptations of performers to deliberate practice. The present paper advances a complementary dimension to Ericsson’s view of deliberate practice in terms of the role expert coaches play in the organization and supervision of training and competition. In-depth interviews were conducted with 21 expert Canadian coaches of basketball, volleyball, ice hockey and field hockey whose average age and coaching experience was 45.5 and 18.1 yrs, respectively. All coaches were interviewed in regards to their personal athletic history, evolving visions of coaching, approaches to training and competition. Inductive analyses revealed that the complex primary tasks of expert coaches were designed to plan maximal deliberate practice. The coaches directed their personal resources to the organization of practice and group processes and towards the resolution of the effort and motivational constraints. Motivational and effort constraints were both reduced in the training process by such means as creating a vision for the team and setting the goals, teaching the skills, maintaining a work ethic, and training the physical and mental systems. Competition was an arena for evaluating the effectiveness of previous training where the lessons learned were blended into future practices. Ericsson’s model of expertise development is highly compatible with the main reported beliefs and behaviors of these expert coaches.


Work Ethic Deliberate Practice Expert Performance Talent Development Talent Identification 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • John H. Salmela
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Human KineticsUniversity of OttawaCanada

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