John Toner * and Aidan Moran **
(*) School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences, University of Hull
(**) School of Psychology, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin, Eire
Toner, J., Moran, A. (2015). Toward an explanation of continuous improvement in expert athletes: The role of consciousness in deliberate practice. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 46(6), 666-675. doi:10.7352/IJSP.2015.46.666
In a body of research spanning three decades, Janet Starkes and her colleagues have produced a wealth of empirical evidence on the importance of deliberate practice in the development of elite performers. Within this corpus of work, a number of studies have alluded to the important role that self-focused attention plays in helping skilled athletes to refine inefficient movements during deliberate practice. Unfortunately, these studies have largely under-represented the role that somatic awareness plays in facilitating further improvement amongst sports performers who have already achieved elite status. In seeking to address this issue of continuous improvement in elite athletes, the current paper marshals evidence to suggest that reflective somatic awareness plays an important role in the practice activities of elite performers. In particular, we argue that such awareness enables elite athletes to consciously and deliberately improve their movement proficiency. More generally, we propose that Shusterman’s (2008) theory of “somaesthetic awareness” offers expertise researchers a potentially fruitful theoretical framework for future research on skill advancement at the elite level of sport.
Keywords: Consciousness, Expert athletes, Motor performance