Schmidt and Lee’s chapter on motor learning and attention presents evidence that attention is an important element in sport and performance. In summary, the authors list numerous types of attention including limited, selective, conscious and unconscious to name a few. In conclusion it is important to take away that attentional demands are based on the interaction between tasks and although some tasks may be automatic, performers have attentional limits.
This information has practical implications throughout the sport and performance realm. I would like to focus my attention (no pun intended) on how this information may help a basketball coach teach a novice tennis player how to serve. It is important to know the difference between controlled and automatic processing. The processing on a novice athlete is going to be slow, attention demanding, serial, and the athlete will have to want to learn the task (serving). Another important point to make is the difference between internal and external attentional focus. Due to the skill level of the athlete, I would help the athlete focus internally which will help the tennis player learn the movements necessary to conduct the skill at hand (flexion of the arm on the toss). As the athlete moves toward advanced level serving I would direct his or her attention on an object in the environment (watching the ball leave his hand).
Overall, attention is important to performance. As a consultant, it is important to know the athlete or performer on an individual level in order to understand his or her attentional style. Focus is key to a successful performance in any type of skill or task. I challenge you to think of ways you may help an athlete attune his or her attention in a different manner rather than his or her typicl dominant response to tasks.