Is practice the only determinant of sporting expertise? Revisiting Starkes (2000)

Melissa Hopwood */**, Clare Macmahon ***, Damian Farrow */**** and Joseph Baker *****

(*) Institute of Sport, Exercise, and Active Living, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia
(**) Australian Canoeing, Sydney, Australia
(***) Health Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia
(****) Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, Australia
(*****) School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University, Toronto, Canada


Hopwood, M., Macmahon, C., Farrow, D., Baker, J. (2015). Is practice the only determinant of sporting expertise? Revisiting Starkes (2000). International Journal of Sport Psychology, 46(6), 631-651. doi:10.7352/IJSP.2015.46.631


In this paper thw Authors revisit Starkes (2000), reflecting on how knowledge of the relationship between practice and performance has been advanced, and re-addressing the question, ‘is practice the only determinant of sport expertise?’. To answer this, 209 athletes completed the Developmental History of Athletes Questionnaire, providing details of involvement in a variety of practice activities. Practice history profiles were compared between Elite, Pre-Elite, and Non-Elite athletes. Although Elite athletes reported greater involvement in sport-specific physical practice and physical preparation activities, large variability in practice investments was observed. Results support previous findings that practice may be necessary, yet not sufficient for the development of sport expertise, and highlight that nearly 15 years after Starkes’ discussion, our understanding of the contribution of practice to expert performance is far from complete.

Keywords: Expertise, Practice