Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Physical Education

First Advisor

Karen E. French


Two theories related to the development of expertise in sport make different predictions related to the requirements for the type and focus of practice activities during childhood and adolescence. Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Rőmer (1993) suggest that individuals benefit from early initiation of task specific practice and the accumulation of task specific practice. Côté, Baker, and Abernethy (2003) suggest that expert team sport individuals benefit from a variety of sport participation and play activities during childhood prior to the specialization and investment in task specific practice activities in adolescence. The purpose of this study was to compare the retrospective practice histories of expert and novice baseball pitchers. Eleven minor league pitchers (experts) and ten players who pitched in high school, but did not pitch in college (novices) served as participants. All participants were interviewed to elicit information regarding their baseball practice activities during childhood and adolescence. The interview collected participants' recollection of the number of organized sports they played, the position played, and information needed to estimate the number of hours of practice of baseball each year. Additional questions addressed what pitches participants threw and how they were learned. Expert pitchers reported throwing a variety of pitches (fast ball, curve ball, change up) at greater velocities than novices. All participants began playing baseball at a young age and participated in an average of 3 sports from age 5 to age 16 prior to specializing in one sport. Novice pitchers began pitching between ages 7-12. Five experts did not begin pitching until high school. These five experts did play infield positions (third base, shortstop) prior to playing pitcher. Experts accumulated more hours of baseball practice by age 18 (M=5,424, SD=3,839) than novices (M=3,839, SD=1,950). Experts also accumulated more hours of practice of pitching (M=1638, SD 3068) than novices (M=895, SD=818). The variability in the hours of accumulated pitching and baseball practice was high for both groups. The findings of this study do support the importance of early engagement in the primary sport. However, the practice histories of expert pitchers in this study more closely resemble the predictions from Côté, Baker, and Abernethy (2003).


© 2010, Robert M. Cathey