Executive functions and psycho-behavioural skills in artistic gymnasts: Age, developmental stage and sex-related differences

Felien Laureys*, Dave Collins, Frederik J.A. Deconinck, Matthieu Lenoir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

During the talent development (TD) process in sport, cognitive and psycho-behavioural skills are necessary to successfully overcome TD-specific challenges. This cross-sectional study explored executive functions (EF) and psycho-behavioural skills (PCDE), in male and female high-level artistic gymnasts between 9 and 26 years old. The first objective was to investigate if an ideal profile would emerge for these gymnasts. In the youngest age group (9–12yo), a general improvement with age for EF was observed, and gymnasts scored higher on imagery use than the quasi-control group. The older age group showed that gymnasts had significantly higher scores on inhibition, imagery use and self-directed control and management than the quasi-control group. The second objective was to conduct a person-centred approach, investigating the individual profiles of a selected group of four high-level gymnasts. The radar charts revealed a relatively similar profile in all four gymnasts and the quasi-control group for the EF components, while there was a pronounced within group and between groups variation for the PCDE profiles. This study showed that inhibition, imagery use and self-directed control and management could be potential performance indicators in gymnastics. The radar charts support the idea that, once an athlete scores above a specific threshold on all variables, there is no necessity for trying to maximise each and every of these skills but rather, it might be better to leave room for individual profile variation. Since individually different profiles were indeed observed, we recommend an athlete-centred approach in all TD phases from a young age onwards.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Early online date27 Feb 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Feb 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • athlete development
  • athlete-centred approach
  • psychometric assessment
  • sport
  • talent development

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