Educational resource to optimize intellectual performance of adolescent athletes in unspecific and specific conditions



PhD, Associate Professor G.A. Kuz'menko1
T.N. Lugovskikh2
1Moscow State Pedagogical University, Moscow
2Sports and Education Centre Sambo-70 of Moscow Sports Committee, Moscow

Keywords: adolescent, intellectual performance, dynamics, athletic performance, conditional specifics.

Introduction. Competitive efficiency of young athletes is known to depend on a wide variety of factors including intellectual performance that will be maintained on an optimal level required for competitive success. Intellectual activity in children’s and adolescent sports associated with high workloads is always challenging, and “improvements in sport mastery are achieved, - in opinion of A.A. Pseunok et al. (2016), − through high stresses of the central control system” that are considered a “negative process” [3]. Considering some matters of intellectual performance improvement, D.B. Bogoyavlenskaya (1987) describes this notional category as the “manifestations of the own cognitive initiative that imply a purpose-setting action followed by new facts and regularities being “spontaneously” discovered” [1, p. 4]; and considers it synonymic to the notions of “creative activity” and “creative initiative” [1, p.5]. Moreover, the author highlights the cognitive and motivational sides of personality as highly important since “it is the intellectual qualities that provide a basis for any intellectual action and determine individual operational capacities, but they manifest themselves... being refracted through the inhibitory and stimulatory... motivation structure of the personality” [1, p.6]. Z.Y. Gnezdilova (2001) makes a special emphasis on the key role of volitional qualities in the intellectual performance process giving a top priority to “insistence” and “success” as the resultant factors of the social appreciation of the individual performance standards [2, p.8]. The above studies, however, were focused on subjective adolescent activities unlimited by whatever expected result model, and in this sense they are largely different from a competitive activity of an adolescent athlete. We believe that it is the main design components of the adolescent intellectual performance process that will be identified and studied, with the relevant “reference points” being fixed where the thought-and-action channelling mechanisms are activated in the key points of competitive process; and this might be the way to find the main regularities to mobilize the informational, motivational, cognitive, operational, emotional, volitional and regulative self-control aspects of the personality – to improve the quality of individual performance self-control assets.

Objective of the study was to find special factors and educational resource to ensure the adolescent intellectual performance being highly efficient in competitive process. Subject to the study were the adolescent athletes engaged in different sports including martial arts, team sports, cyclic sports etc.

Methods and structure of the study. The study data were obtained using questionnaire surveys; interviews; self-descriptions and self-ratings; educational assessments; intellectual performance timing and rating tests in the critical competitive phases; psychomotor abilities testing procedures including 60-second Tapping Test; intellectual performance variation testing (up to 6 min long) by the Compass Test; and Hidden Object Test (up to 6 min long) by L.L. Tearstone to diagnose the “field dependence” versus “field independence” cognitive styles; descriptive statistical data; and the difference sifnificance ratings based on the Wilcoxon t-criterion.  

Study results and discussion. Natural wavelike variations in the adolescent athletes’ work capacity profiles due to fatigue of the neuromuscular apparatus as verified by the Tapping Test data may be interpreted as natural body responses to the maximal pace-and-rhythm test rates (see Figure 1) and, as such, be neglected in the educational resource designing to improve the operational aspects of their intellectual performance process.  






















P< 0,05







Figure 1. Movement frequency variations in the Tapping Test of adolescent athletes (n=180)

Having studied the adolescent intellectual performance variations with time – in the tests that require the performance pace and intensity being maintained at the highest level – we found a few sags in the intellectual test performance process in the context of the “field dependence” versus “field independence” cognitive styles. This component of the tests was designed to offer unspecific intellectual workloads –  unrelated to the core athletic activity – to find correlations if any with the similar test data characteristic of the low volitional control levels and insufficient manifestations of key volitional and control qualities in the test performance process (see Figure 2).

The unspecific adolescent intellectual performance and intellectual success rating tests and analyses gave us the means to identify the most challenging time bands of the tests when the intellectual performance notably sagged, as follows: 150 – 210 s; 330 – 390 s; and 450 – 510 s time bands. It should be noted that these time bands in the adolescent athletes’(n=180) intellectual performance tests were semantically different and geared to activate the personal intellectual assets driven by the relevant values-and-motivations (41%), volitional (79%), self-regulatory (96%) and other performance components – with the relevant content being designed to keep the intellectual performance intensity at the individually optimal level.

Figure 2. Intellectual performance/ work capacity variations in the Compass Test and Hidden Object Test, both taking 600 seconds

Having rated the adolescent athletes’ intellectual performance/ personal semantics-driven development in within the competitive process timeframe, we identified the top priority content and demands for the informational, motivational, cognitive, operational, emotional, volitional and regulative self-control assets that should be in focus of the necessary education support tools to initiate and develop the relevant-content-driven self-control abilities to maintain the intellectual performance components on due levels.  Given hereunder are the choices (in %) of the situation-driven readiness-to-act components. In order to track the key trends, we neglected the components chosen in less than 60% of the cases.

The study showed that anxiety over poor competitive performance initiated the relevant existential/ semantic component in 92% of the choices (as demonstrated by the semantic structures like “What do I do here in these competitions?”; “I make no success, what shall I do?”); and the values-and-motivation component in 73% of the choices (driven by the formulae like “I need to…”; “If I fail next time – what shall I do?”). In the situations like that the operation/ activation component is blocked to inhibit reasonable decisions being made to correct the process in a timely manner; and the self-control component of the personality is inactive.

Furthermore, the study showed that success in competitions mostly activates the regulative component responsible for the individual performance parameters being maintained at the optimal level – in 89% of the choices (as manifested by the semantic units like “demonstrate…, show…, prove…, make sure…, keep an eye on…, control the situation…, take into account…”, etc.)

In bouts with equally strong opponents, the adolescent athletes were found to give priority to the following hierarchy of ready-to-act components: emotional and volitional ones in 86% of the choices (with the following qualities dominating in the chronology of demands for necessary volitional assets: self-possession; initiative; decisiveness; courage/ firmness; purposefulness etc.); cognitive component in 81%  of the choices (with an emphasis on the attention focusing and control ability; decision-making efficiency; prudent analysis of the situations; proactive thinking in a “one step ahead” format etc.); operation/ activation component in 72% of the choices (with the next actions being spelled out); regulative component in 67% of the choices (meaning the ability to control the negative emotions; act firmly under confusing/ distracting impacts; resist to the coming fatigue etc.); and the informational component in 63% of the choices (meaning the demand for timely information on the own performance parameters, possible opponent’s actions etc.).

Initiatives under the educational component of the study to help the young athletes master basics of constructive self-control of the intellectual performance parameters within the frame of the education and training subjects – gave the means for the adolescents to develop the basic knowledge and skills for the intellectual performance self-control and improvement in the individually critical components (see Table 1). The latter included the following: actual information mining skills; motivations for the nearest goals of activity being attained; correcting the cognitive activity by the leading cognitive functions being activated; attention focusing on the nearest operations and actions; volitional qualities being activated with due emphasis on the key problems of the volitional performance control mechanisms; action/ operation quality management making resort to the relevant psycho-emotional self-control qualities to resist the coming fatigue; and the creative contextual control in developing the semantic aspects of the actions. 

Table 1. Variations in the intellectual performance self-control components mobilized in the adolescent athletes’ education and training process (n=180)

Statistical indices of the sample

Intellectual performance self-control components

Educational assessment

Clearly spelled

Focused on the nearest goals

Timely supportive

Self-control scope

Test data: I – initial; F – final; scoring points (0-5)

































Wilcoxon t-criterion












Conclusion. The study and analysis to profile the adolescent intellectual performance process content in the competitive period with identification of the critical time bands of highest demand for the relevant informational and motivational support and with the relevant critically important volitional qualities being mobilized – gave the means to help the adolescents solve the current intellectual problems and activate the relevant self-control assets to adequately respond to the upcoming situations (with due deliberate self-control in the process of the preset objective being attained). We believe that the educational resource designed to improve the adolescent athletes’ intellectual performance process will be focused, on the one hand, on the due reflexive skills being mastered for self-control in problematic situations at every stage of the competitive process; and, on the other hand, will help them gain individual experiences in semantics-driven self-control tools being adequately applied in model situations of the education and training process. 


  1. Bogoyavlenskaya D.B. Psikhologicheskie osnovy intellektual'noy aktivnosti: avtoref. dis. … d-ra psikhol. nauk (Psychological grounds of intellectual activity: abstract of doctoral thesis (Psych.) / D.B. Bogoyavlenskaya. Moscow: SRI gen. and ped. pscyhology, 1987. – 49 p.
  2. Gnezdilova Z.Yu. Formirovanie intellektual'noy aktivnosti uchashchikhsya v protsesse obucheniya: dis. … kand. ped. nauk (Formation of students' intellectual activity during studies: PhD thesis) / Z.Yu. Gnezdilova. – Irkutsk: ISPU, 2001. – 165 p.
  3. Pseunok A.A., Mugotlev M.A., Silant'ev M.N. Osobennosti adaptatsii k trenirovkam yunykh sportsmenov, zanimayushchikhsya tsiklicheskimi i atsiklicheskimi vidami sporta (Specifics of adaptation to training sessions of young cyclic and acyclic athletes) // Teoriya i praktika fizicheskoy kultury. – 2016. – № 1. – P. 24.

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Reported in the article are the adolescent athletes’ performance profiling study data obtained using questionnaire surveys; testing procedures including Tapping test, Compass test and Hidden Object test; competitive performance analysis using reflexion procedure; educational assessments; descriptive statistical data; and difference significance ratings – that gave the means to identify some process regularities and outline the educational resource required to improve the quality standards of the adolescent intellectual performance. Subject to the study were 13-15 years-old adolescent trainees of the Sports and Education Centres. The adolescent intellectual performance profiles – on the natural background wavelike work capacity variations during the 600-second tests – were found to show three performance sagging trends. The competitive performance reflexive analysis data were also indicative of at least three problematic zones where the intellectual performance was found to sag due to the insufficient informational, motivational, cognitive, operational, emotional, volitional and regulative self-control abilities. It should be noted in this context that permanent competitions with equally strong opponents require the self-control abilities and qualities being well-developed and versatile. In cases of serious defeats, senses-, values- and motivations-focused self-control qualities are most beneficial in adolescent athletes, whilst win/ domination situations require the intellectual performance being duly balanced by the regulatory constituent of the self-control assets. The adolescent competitive performance optimizing educational resource implies the adolescents being trained to apply the relevant self-control strategies in model education/ training situations designed to simulate the most critical phases in the competitive process.