Do pattern recognition skills transfer across sports? A preliminary analysis

Nicholas Smeeton, P. Ward, A.M. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to recognize patterns of play is fundamental to performance in team sports. While typically assumed to be domain-specific, pattern recognition skills may transfer from one sport to another if similarities exist in the perceptual features and their relations and/or the strategies used to encode and retrieve relevant information. A transfer paradigm was employed to compare skilled and less skilled soccer, field hockey and volleyball players' pattern recognition skills. Participants viewed structured and unstructured action sequences from each sport, half of which were randomly represented with clips not previously seen. The task was to identify previously viewed action sequences quickly and accurately. Transfer of pattern recognition skill was dependent on the participant's skill, sport practised, nature of the task and degree of structure. The skilled soccer and hockey players were quicker than the skilled volleyball players at recognizing structured soccer and hockey action sequences. Performance differences were not observed on the structured volleyball trials between the skilled soccer, field hockey and volleyball players. The skilled field hockey and soccer players were able to transfer perceptual information or strategies between their respective sports. The less skilled participants' results were less clear. Implications for domain-specific expertise, transfer and diversity across domains are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-213
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2004


  • sports psychology
  • coaching skills


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