Observing Special Moments in Sport

Twenty years ago, Anders Ericsson and Neil Charness (1994) suggested that:

recent research in different domains of expertise has shown that expert performance is predominantly mediated by acquired complex skills and physiological adaptations (p.725).

They added:

In most domains it is easier to identify individuals who are socially recognized as experts than it is to specify observable performances at which these individuals excel. (p.731)

For some reason, this paper popped into my head as I was following Jason Holder’s innings in Antigua overnight on ESPNcricinfo.
I had watched Jason play in the World Cup and thought there was something very special about his ability and temperament. The online commentary overnight included this after ball 3 in the 129th over of the innings:

This is one of those times when we are allowed to truly say ‘he went to the wicket a boy and came back a man’.

The choice of that phrase brought back memories of Norman Denzin (2003) and his discussion of performance ethnography. In the Preface to his book, Norman observes:

We inhabit a performance-based, dramaturgical culture. The dividing line between performance and audience blurs, and culture itself becomes a dramatic performance. (p.x)

I have spent today thinking about how we inscribe these moments in sport. I am sure the West Indian and England performance analysts have coded Jason’s innings. It would be fascinating to merge these data with an ethnographic account of this special moment in sport as part of the ongoing discussion of the specification of “observable performances” and of the essence of expertise in sport.

Photo Credits

Antigua -Sir Vivian Richards Stadium (Roger, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Smile Group Travel (30 March 2015)


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