Eccles, David W., Ward, Paul and Woodman, Tim (2009) Competition-specific preparation and expert performance. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 10 (1). pp. 96-107. ISSN 1469-0292

The objective of the study was to identify and describe the extent, function, nature, and timeline of practice and preparation activities undertaken by experts in order to adapt to constraints unique to a specific upcoming competition.

A content analysis was conducted of data from interviews with 15 expert orienteers and six experienced orienteering coaches about competition-specific preparation in the sport of orienteering.

The analysis revealed several key concepts. First, competition-specific preparation is necessary because the constraints of a given orienteering competition vary across competitions. Second, owing to such variance, orienteers have limited advance information about the specific constraints of an upcoming competition, which impedes their preparation for that competition. Third, expert orienteers engage in a range of activities designed to gather information about the constraints of an upcoming competition. Fourth, this information is then used to identify or create practice environments that represent these constraints. Practice within these environments enables expert orienteers to adapt to these constraints before competing.

Competition-specific preparation appears critical to performance in sports in which environmental constraints change considerably between competitions.