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Research Reviews

The Acquisition of Skill and Expertise (the role of practice and other activities)

P.R. Ford and A.M. Williams

The Big Idea

The American golfer Arnold Palmer (1929-2016) once said “It’s a funny thing, the more I practice the luckier I get.”  Risking over-simplification, Palmer’s witty observation is a fair one-sentence summary of this discussion on what research tells the coach about developing elite soccer players.  Risking over-complication, the deeper question isn’t how much one practices, but how much one practices the right kind of practice.  The authors of this paper urge coaches and players who strive to be in elite soccer circles to pay more attention to research-based principles in designing practice and learning sessions.  These principles may have far more power to create Palmer’s “luck” than emulation of other coaches, historical precedent, instinct, or hunch.


  • The topic of this paper is a summary discussion of the research on elite player development.
  • The path to elite-level play begins with early engagement.
  • To avoid the possibly negative effects of early engagement (such as burn-out), early diversification of sport interests and delaying specialization are valuable.
  • Aging-up presents the problem of structuring practices to include both...

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