McPherson, S. L. (2000). Expert-novice differences in planning strategies during collegiate singles tennis competition. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 22, 39-62.

This study examined planning responses of collegiate varsity (expert, N = 6) and beginner (novice, N = 6) women tennis players between points during each game in competitions. Interviews were conducted between points. Two questions were asked: "What were you thinking about while playing that point?" and "What are you thinking about now?" The investigation focussed on the second question. Content analyses of responses were performed.

Experts generated three times more planning concepts than novices. Experts developed similar proportions of actions, goals, and conditions while novices generated more conditions and goals than actions. Experts also produced a greater variety of concepts in all categories than novices. Experts exhibited a higher level of concept sophistication than novices.

Implication. An avenue for developing psychological capabilities to take novices to higher levels of performance would be to provide a mental skills training program that focuses on more frequent thoughts with extensive variety, and a high degree of sophistication of content. The latter could result from teaching athletes about advanced technical aspects of the sport.

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