Enns, J. T., & Richards, J. C. (1997). Visual attentional orienting in developing hockey players. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 64, 255-275.

Covert visual orienting was measured in 12 and 15 years-old hockey players at two skill levels (low and high), and in college students with no hockey training. Two types of cues were tested at five cue-target intervals (100-850 msec): digits that informed of likely target locations, and abrupt luminance changes that occurred randomly at possible target locations.

High-skill 15-yr-olds used the general alerting factors produced by both cues better than the other three groups. Their responses were fastest overall and changed least with cue-target interval. For the information cue, all Ss showed increased benefits and costs as the cue-target interval was increased, but high-skill players had generally smaller orienting effects than low-skill players. For the stimulus cue, all Ss showed an inhibition to targets at cued locations, but high-skill Ss showed greater change in the response time function over cue-target interval.

These results support an association between hockey skill and several important aspects of visual attention: sustained alertness, efficient voluntary orienting, and efficient processing of abrupt stimulus events.

Implication. In sports where recognition and reaction times are important, practice activities that develop these capacities should be incorporated into skill instruction and should be part of a developmental curriculum in young athletes.

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