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Theory and Practice Blog

Hello everyone! This is the first blog post on my website for Theory and Practice Consulting. As you'll know if you've seen the new Theory and Practice website, I'm a Mental Performance coach in Austin, Texas. My academic background is in Cognitive Neuroscience where I studied the science behind human learning and performance in a PhD program at the University of Houston. However, the main reason I began my graduate education was because I was fascinated with sport performance and wanted to learn more about how athletes and high performers develop their expertise.

During my college baseball career at St. Edward's University, I because very interested in the study of expertise and learning/instruction. The first scientific paper I read that piqued my interest in psychology was Dr. Anders Ericsson's famous paper on the importance of "deliberate practice" skill development. Sadly, Anders (a colleague of my father's) passed away this past June (2020). I was taking my first cognitive psychology (the study of human thought and mental processes) class in college and I had to write a research paper on a topic related to the course. I asked my Dad (who's a Clinical and Sport Psychologist) for some ideas on paper topics. He pointed me to Anders' 1993 paper titled "The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance". Thinking that this sounded too related to my personal interest in sports and not "academic enough", I asked my Dad "is that the science of skill development is really related to cognitive psychology?" He replied, "it doesn't get much more cognitive than that."

Here's a 7 minute video summary of Anders Ericsson's deliberate practice theory:

I'm now a little embarrassed by my lack of understanding of the mental processes involved in acquiring expertise. (I should note that Anders' paper used data from professional musicians, not athletes, but I am adamant that focused/challenging practice with good techniques creates athletes, not talent.) I ultimately wrote a paper about how expert performers develop expertise through thousands of hours of practice, but also in making the most use of those hours. Expert performers don't merely go through motions in their practice. They challenge themselves to execute new skills and practice in ways that simulate upcoming competition (I'll be writing more on this in future posts).

In my work as a Mental Performance coach I often apply theories like Anders Ericsson's model of deliberate practice to real sports performance scenarios.

In future blogs I will write more about the science of elite performance, mental strategies for playing your best and current events in sports.

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