Differences in decision-making development between expert and novice invasion game players

David Gutierrez Diaz del Campo, Sixto Gonzalez Villora, Luis M Garcia Lopez, Stephen Mitchell
Perceptual and Motor Skills 2011, 112 (3): 871-88
This cross-sectional study investigated the differences between young expert soccer players' (n = 55) and novice players' (n = 74) decision-making ability during performance of invasion games (ages: 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, and 13-14 years). Decision-making ability was assessed in invasion games that were appropriately modified for age and expertise. Games were modified to meet the developmental needs and previous learning of the participants, so interference between motor execution and decision making was minimized. Game performance was videotaped, and measures of cognitive components were developed from observational analysis. Decision making was measured at two levels: (a) decision making restricted to the selection of the technical-tactical skills (passing, moving with the ball, getting free, marking, tackling, double teaming, and interception) and (b) decision making in the adaptation to the tactical context of the game. Expert players remained superior in decision-making ability when variation in skill execution was controlled. Decision-making differences between levels of expertise decreased with age with regard to the first level (skill selection) and increased with age in relation to the second level (tactical-context adaptation). Findings are discussed in terms of implications for instructional focus and task design.

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