Understanding a Player’s Decision-Making Process in Team Sports: A Systematic Review of Empirical Evidence

Mike Ashford, Andrew Abraham, Jamie Poolton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
109 Downloads (Pure)


Three perspectives were taken to explain decision-making within team sports (information processing, recognition primed decision-making, and ecological dynamics perspectives), resulting in conceptual tension and practical confusion. The aim of this paper was to interrogate empirical evidence to (1) understand the process of decision-making within team sports and (2) capture the characteristics of decision-making expertise in a team sport context. Nine electronic databases (SPORTDiscus, PsycINFO, PsycArticles, PsycTests, PubMed, SAGE journals online, Web of Knowledge, Academic Search Complete, and Web of Science) were searched until the final return in March 2021. Fifty-three articles satisfied the inclusion criteria, were analysed thematically, and synthesised using a narrative approach. Findings indicate that the relative absence or presence of mental representation within the decision-making process depends on factors, including complexity, typicality, time available, and contextual priors available in the game situation. We recommend that future research integrate concepts and methodologies prevalent within each perspective to better understand decision-making within team sports before providing implications for practitioners.
Original languageEnglish
Article number65
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2021

Bibliographical note

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/ 4.0/).


  • decision-making
  • perception
  • cognition
  • action
  • information processing
  • recognition primed decision making
  • ecological dynamics
  • Decision-making
  • Action
  • Cognition
  • Ecological dynamics
  • Information processing
  • Recognition primed decision-making
  • Perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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