Anxiety, stress and focus of attention

Raôul Oudejans

To be able to perform well in high-achievement settings it is essential to develop skill and expertise at the highest level. In sports and the performing arts there is a large emphasis on the acquisition of hours (training time equalling around 10,000 hours) with less emphasis on achieving the highest quality of training. However, research over the last few decades has revealed several methods of training and instruction that are more effective in improving performance, even in high-stress situations, as compared to more traditional ways of learning. Examples are deliberate practice, training under pressure and training with an external focus of attention. Raôul will present a theoretical framework of high-quality learning, using Ericsson’s work on deliberate practice and the constraints-led approach of skill acquisition developed by Davids and colleagues. Furthermore, he will present work on training and performing in high-stress situations, and on training with an external focus of attention. This will show that high quality training sessions (simulating relevant aspects of the performance environment) may improve performance also in high-stress situations. In all cases, it is clear that by increasing the quality of training more can be achieved in less time.