The Role of Intelligence in Sport


L.D. Nazarenko, professor, Dr.Hab.
Ulyanovsk state pedagogical university named after I.N. Ulyanov, Ulyanovsk

Key words: intelligence, its manifestations, sports activity, formation, evaluation criteria, educational experiment.

Sports activity is traditionally considered from the standpoint of motor aptitude, the implementation of which enables to achieve outstanding results and provide the self-fulfillment of a personality via sport. However, the impact of sports activity is largely determined by the ability of an individual to implement and understand in detail the objective rules of growth of results, the effect of sports exercises on the body, including its biological and social aspects. The rapid growth of sports achievements, increased competition in the international arena, the constant improvement of the role of sport in the development and improvement of not only an individual personality, but also society in general, have defined the prestige of sports activity, the interest of various countries in the increase of their sports status. This has stipulated for an intensification of researches in the field of sport, a significant expansion of the material and technical base, search and development of innovative technologies of achievements of outstanding world-class athletes.

At the same time, one is to look for new ways to improve and implement the kinesiologic potential to cope with the strong competition with developed sports powers. The enhancement of the role of intelligence in sports training is assumed to be one of these directions. Its research opens up new opportunities to improve the efficiency of competitive activity.

The purpose of the study was to provide the theoretical, methodological and experimental substantiation of the role of the wider use of intellectual skills and potentials for enhancing sports skills.

 Objectives: 1. Identify the major functions of intelligence and the factors influencing its development in sport. 2. Test the feasibility of implementing these functions and the factors in the educational experiment.

Materials and methods. The main manifestations of intelligence: perception, attention, logical and creative thinking, memory, analytical skills are a primary component of sports activity. At the same time, experience shows that many trainers and experts underestimate the role of intelligence when raising the fitness level; highlighting the biological aspect of sports training: enhancement of the level of motor-coordinating qualities that provide general physical, special and technical skills, improving tactical training via more effective use of the kinesiological potential. In this case, an athlete is usually not involved as an active subject in the process of sports training, he plays the role of an executor of the program developed for him. Such an approach does not facilitate intellectual development and integral implementation of his potential. As pointed out by M.K. Akimova, 2003; G.Yu. Eysenck, 1995, et al, intelligence is the key quality of personal development, that determines the area of activity and mental attitude of an individual, it forms a system of his values. In this regard, we consider intelligence as a set of important parameters of the cognitive area, which are manifested in its various forms.

In accordance with the views of I.M. Sechenov, 1952, S.L. Rubinstein, 1972, et al. intellectual qualities are displayed during vigorous activity, at its different stages a person learns necessary concepts, mental actions, creates their algorithms and theoretical models of implementation, depending on the purpose of activity. Intelligence should be treated as a structured set of mental qualities such as perception, attention, etc., stipulating for easy, profound and quick acquisition of knowledge and skills, understanding of the feasibility and variability of their application, making it the core factor of development and self-identity. Intelligence is shown in the man’s ability to search for adequate solutions of complex problems in unexpectedly arising situations and man’s adequate behavior in a variety of problematic circumstances.

The level of intellectual activity is determined to some extent by the properties of the nervous system, which develops and improves depending on the method of organization of activity. Higher the requirements for intellectual qualities stipulate for easier and more intuitive program of the proposed activity, its goals, objectives and expected result, more clear unity of mental and motor activities. Consequently, intelligence should be considered as a stable system capable of development under the targeted impact of the environment. Intelligence helps to choose effective solutions of a complex problem according to its level of development. Creation of teaching conditions, that require the gradual expansion and intensification of cognitive abilities of an individual, raises the level of intelligence and thus the ability to solve more complex problems, along with acquiring relevant skills. More varied work conditions and tasks to be solved promote more diverse and supple intellectual activity. Intelligence determines the behavior and nature of human relationship with others, as one of the aspects of his intellectual activity is the ability to objectively analyze and assess the situation. The bigger range of methods and approaches to solving the problem an individual has, the wider the range of his cognitive abilities is. Therefore, the variety of activities, methods and solutions to unexpectedly arising situations is the leading condition for the development of intelligence. Such an approach to the interpretation of its essence helps to consider mental qualities as the main condition of manifestation of human individuality.

Assimilating during the specially organized activity system of knowledge, skills and abilities, a person creates his own intellectual style of behavior and relationships with other people. This indicates a special category of smart people setting a certain style of behavior for the majority, which is fixed in the norms and rules of social behavior, gives the status of a leader to an individual, who can create new models of development of the modern society, influence current economic, social and political processes in the country, self-actualize himself as an individual [3-5]. 

Based on the findings [5], the key functions of intelligence are:

- definition of psychological readiness of an individual to develop cognitive abilities by means of selected activity (sports, arts, literature, etc.);

- formation of a certain type of behavior and relationships with others, which puts a person at a higher level of spiritual and moral development;

- improvement of the ability for orientation, objective assessment of difficult situation and finding effective solutions.

Sports activity has specific requirements for intelligence, requiring learning the nature of the influence of physical exercises, the patterns of development and improvement of qualitative aspects of motor activity, that enhance fitness, and finding the ways and techniques to harmonize intellectual and motor activities to achieve high results.

Intelligence is determined by two main factors:

- A system of learnt knowledge, skills and abilities in various areas;

- An ability to expand and improve them using a chosen activity.

In sport person’s abilities are judged by his achievements. However, the effectiveness of performances in competitions depends not only on abilities, they are determined by getting fit and ready to mobilize the kinesiological potential.

The effectiveness of the training-competitive process is determined by the following factors:

- interest in selected type of sports activity;

- competitive training motivation;

- trainer’s personality and professional competence;

- state and material and technical facilities of the training process.

Intelligence is displayed in sport as the ability to assimilate the technology of comprehensive coordination, multidirectional exercises; learning the laws of growth of sports skills, achieving a high level of stability and reliability of competitive activity, objective, critical analysis and synthesis of personal achievements and failures during competitions, actively seeking the ways to correct them. It has its own evaluation criteria, the most important of which are:

- amount and level of learnt knowledge, skills and abilities, and the extrapolation ability in new conditions;

- speed ​​of perception of incoming information and its processing ability;

- understanding and clear statement of the essence of issue or problem;

- ability to choose an effective method of solving complex problems;

- standards of speech, behavior, establishing interpersonal relationships.

The level of intelligence in sport is determined by the readiness for:

- self-education (assimilation of sports terminology, concepts, definitions, conceptual propositions, principles, means and methods of sports training);

- organization of the optimum regime of the day, lifestyle, self-restraint;

- self-education and enhancing the level of spiritual and moral development.

In order to test the possibility of enhancing the intelligence level by means of chosen sport an educational experiment was conducted, involving 24 elite (I category, CMS and MS) female 400 m distance runners aged 16-22 years. Two groups were arranged: control (CG) and experimental (EG), 12 athletes each. Before the educational experiment a test was made to identify initial general physical and special running fitness and determine the initial level of intelligence.

Results and discussion. The indicators of general physical fitness were determined using the following tests: 30 m running (standing start), 1000 m running (standing start), standing triple jump; shot put (3 kg). Processing of the data had not revealed any significant data regarding the level of general physical fitness of athletes of the CG and the EG (p>0,05).

The level of special running fitness was determined using the following tests: 100 meter distance running (crouch start) (s), 200m running (s), 400m running (s). The analysis of the results had not revealed any significant data on the special fitness level of female runners of the CG and the EG either (p>0,05).

The level of intelligence was determined according to the following criteria: amount and quality of learned knowledge, skills and abilities in 400 m running, speed of new information perception and its processing ability, clear understanding of the value of applied means and methods in sports training, culture of speech, behavior and interpersonal relationships. The volume and quality of learnt knowledge, skills and abilities were assessed in the following way:

5 points - knowledge of basic terms, concepts, definitions, conceptual propositions, principles of sports training, sports performance growth patterns;

4 points - knowledge of specific terminology, sense of notions, definitions, conceptual and methodological propositions;

3 points - general idea of ​​the rules of organization of training process, teaching and training principles, requirements for teaching and training process;

2 points - poor understanding of concepts, definitions, terms, conceptual propositions of growth of sports performance;

1 point - some information about the nature of training load, conditions required to enhance sports skills, lack of knowledge of terminologies, concepts.

The analysis of the findings had not revealed significant differences in intelligence among female athletes of the CG and the EG (p>0.05). Training sessions were conducted in the CG in accordance with the program of sports training recommended by the Athletics Federation of Russia (2009), in the EG much attention was paid to the development of intelligence by means of this kind of sports activity.

To this end, each new physical exercise was called in accordance with terminology; revealing its effects on the body, the value for improving individual running technique, forming of a personal sports style. Specific techniques were used that activate cognitive activity of female runners. For example, the proposed question - "What is the difference in the 100 m running technique of Valery Borzov and other strong runners? etc."

Athletes’ skills to give a concrete, clear answer to the question were formed, evasive statements were not allowed, as well as ambiguous interpretation of any provision. Much attention was paid to the speech culture, youth slang was not allowed, good knowledge of specific terminology, definitions, concepts was required. The requirements for the behavior of elite athletes who aspire children and young people were discussed, it was explained that high sports results are not just runner’s personal achievement, but also a great work of trainers and other professionals, their professionalism, ability to reveal and implement athlete’s dispositions. There were formed the skills to establish proper relations between runners and other people via the use of a set of teaching methods: approval, blame, condemnation, personal example and others. Examples of noble actions of prominent athletes were cited, who deserve the praise of many millions of spectators and TV viewers, etc.

At the end of the educational experiment general physical, special and intellectual skills were retested. The results of the educational experiment indicated the improved performance in both of the groups, but it was more significant in the EG. Thus, the indices in 30 m running (standing start) increased by 1,87% and 5,44% (p>0,05) at the end of the experiment compared with the input data 4,50±0,63 s and 4,51±0,27 s in the CG and the EG respectively.

In 1000 m running the indices improved by 0,81% and 4,69% (p>0,05) at the end of the experiment compared with the input data 3,22±0,21 m and 3,22 ±0,34 m in the CG and the EG respectively. A similar trend was found for other tests.

The dynamics of the indicators of special running fitness also improved in both of the groups with different numerical values. Thus, the input data in 100 m running (crouch start) was 13,29±0,65 s and 13,28 ± 0,81 s in the CG and the EG respectively increased by 2,26% and 7,76% (p>0,05) at the end of the experiment respectively.

Concerning 200 m running, the input data 26,16±0,12 s and 26,14 ± 0,66 changed by the end of the experiment by 1,11% and 8,14% (p>0,05) in the CG and the EG, respectively. A similar trend was established in other tests.

The analysis of changes in intelligence indicates the improvement in both of the groups, but the changes were more significant in the EG. Thus, the indices in the CG (input data 2,97±0,15  points) increased by 2,71% (p>0,05) by the end of the experiment, while in the EG (input data 2,67±0,16 points), the increment was 16,23% (p<0,05).

Conclusions. Proceeding from the results of the educational experiment, intelligence is of great importance in sports activity. As the highest form of thinking, intelligence activates athlete’s activity, creating conditions for the implementation of the principal conceptual regulations: the unity of consciousness and activity, the holistic approach to the organization of a training process, allocating and considering cause-and-effect relationships conditioning efficiency of motor actions. The amount of learnt knowledge, skills and abilities increases significantly in the course of intellectual development, along with improving speech habits, behavior, interpersonal relationships, which is important in all kinds of activity. Hence, sport is an effective method of development and improvement of intelligence. Intelligence has specific functions in sports activity; its development relates to a number of complex factors such as problem-solving skills, formation of cognitive skills, social behavior and interpersonal relationships. Intellectual development is related to the amount and quality of learnt knowledge and the need to extend it.


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