Tips & Training

How Psychological Development Affects Your Performance

Psychological Development is a key component in sports performance. Here are three important factors that affect how not only how well you perform but how much you enjoy the sport.

 

  • Perceived Competence: (Also known as self-esteem) Athletes' perceptions of their athletic com­petence go through predictable developmental changes:
  • Athletes 7-9 years old focus on outcome and effort in judging one's competence. "I won, therefore I am a good athlete," or "I tried hard, I must be a good athlete." Winning and Losing serve as an important source of competence information for young athletes.
  • With older athletes ages 8-12, there is a gradual decline in the importance of feedback from parents as a source of competence information. There is an increase in coach technical knowledge as a source of competence information, and a gradual increase in the importance of peer comparison. "I beat Joe which means I'm a good athlete.
  • Gradually through adolescence (12-18 years), is when they recognize that ability and effort impact performance. Before this, the athlete can not distinguish between the two concepts. There is a progression from focusing on peer comparison to focusing on self-comparison as a source of competence information. A "task" goal orientation increases with age while "outcome/win" goal orientation decreases with age.

It is important to understand what sources you may rely on to provide competence information. Note that coach feedback becomes an increasingly important source of competence information for athletes.

 

Perspective-taking: is the ability to take another's perspective and it progresses in a predictable sequence and impacts how an individual relates to others.

  • At a young age (under 8), children are not able to take the perspective of others have an egocentric perspective. The young athlete's thoughts, feelings, ideas and needs are correct (as far as he is concerned) . . . and everyone else thinks and feels this same way too, right?
  • Gradually through adolescence, children develop the ability to take others' perspective but still view their perspective as the correct view. The latter stage of development occurs when the individual can take and appreciate another's perspective.

Young athletes will often display behavior that is selfish and doesn't take others into account. However, they may not yet have developed the ability to understand others’ feelings or points of view. As you get older it’s important to consider the perspectives of your parents and coaches to learn how your actions may affect others.

 

Motivation: the direction and intensity of effort.

  • Younger athletes (7-10) seem more externally motivated while older athletes are often more internally motivated. It appears that young athletes need external motivation, reinforcement and material rewards to maintain their enjoyment of sport. They look to coaches, parents and teammates to provide and structure their fun. Older athletes simply enjoy the sport: hard training for them is a primary source of fun. They are internally motivated and need fewer and fewer external motivators. They have more clarity about themselves as athletes and a clearer purpose behind their participation.


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