Anticipation of ball location in low and high-skill performers: A developmental perspective

Gershon Tenenbaum, Tsvia Sar-El, Michael Bar-Eli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Objectives: To study how visual anticipatory capabilities develop in high and low-skill tennis players and the role of years of practice (i.e. experience). It was expected that with accumulated experience differences will increase with skill-level, in particular under conditions of fast visual exposure which results in minimal environmental information exposure. Method: Eighty tennis players divided into 4 age categories and 2 skill levels (high and low) were selected according to 4 criterion which ensured appropriate representation of skill-level and experience in tennis. Age categories were 8-11, 11-14, 14-18, and >18. Years of experience in the game were 2.12, 4.17, 6.5, and 12.4 years respectively. Players observed filmed segments of tennis strokes on a monitor, which varied in temporal occlusion conditions from - 480 ms prior to ball-racquet contact to 320 ms after contact. After each exposure they were asked to indicate the final ball location. The radial, lateral, and depth distances were averaged for age and skill level. Design: A temporal occlusion paradigm was used in this study. The film was prepared with a camera positioned in the receiver's court. Eight strokes which best represent the game of tennis were chosen. Forty-eight segments were viewed and errors were calculated for each exposure. Result: High-skill tennis players gained more from practice and experience in developing visual anticipatory skills, but their perceptual advantage was not consistent across all stroke conditions, being at its greatest number in conditions of maximal temporal constraints. Conclusions: Differences in visual anticipatory capabilities exist between different skill levels at the outset of their development. These differences increase with experience, mainly after 6-7 years. Greater knowledge base does not always guarantee a superior anticipation of upcoming events and choosing the best decision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-128
Number of pages12
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2000


  • Deliberate practice
  • Temporal occlusion paradigm
  • Tennis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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