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J Sports Sci. 2019 Oct;37(20):2318-2330. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2019.1631102. Epub 2019 Jun 23.

An expert's mind in action: Assessing attentional focus, workload and performance in a dynamic, naturalistic environment.

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a Department of Motor Behaviour, Kharazmi University , Tehran , Iran.
b The SPORT Center, Division of Sports Medicine, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center , Cincinnati , OH , USA.


The aims of this study were to (1) to explore attentional strategies in expert judo players and (2) investigate how attentional focus affects performance effectiveness and perceptions of workload in expert judo players during real competitions. Fourteen expert male judo players participated in the study. A simulated recall method was used following participants' competition to explore contents of attention qualitatively. The data analysis process for the qualitative portion of the study was an iterative process between inductive and deductive analyses. Quantitative analyses of performance outcomes and workload were then associated with the qualitative findings. Qualitative results revealed that the focus of attention was dynamic and complex, with technical aspects of the movements as the highest identified focus. Quantitative analyses revealed that reporting a lower quantity of attentional cues and higher percentage of focus on opponent resulted in higher performance effectiveness and less perceptions of workload. This study indicates that cognitive control and automaticity may work in a synergistic manner for successful skill execution in expert performance.


Cognitive control; automaticity; expertise; judo; mixed method

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