This concept profoundly affects participation in sport, motivation, anxiety and
sport enjoyment. Athletes' perceptions of their athletic competence go through
predictable developmental changes:
Children (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 children (ages 8-12), there is a gradual decline in the importance of
feedback from parents as a source of competence information, an increase in coach
technical knowledge as a source of competence inormation, and a gradual
increase in the importance of peer comparison in making competence judgments. "I beat Joe which means I'm a good athlete."
In adolescents (aged 12-13) and older adolescence (aged 16-18 years) is when they recognize
that ability and effort impact performance. Prior to 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.
Parents need to understand what sources children rely on to provide
competence information. Because outcome is so important at a young age, late
maturing athletes are at risk of low competence as they are not experiencing
much success. Additionally, coach feedback becomes an increasingly important
source of competence information for athletes.
Perspective-taking: the ability to take another's perspective 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 pective 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 they develop, a parent can
enhance their perspective taking abilities by pointing out how their action
affects others. This can help them progress along the developmental spectrum.
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. Around age 10, children begin seeing
rewards as bribes which, under some conditions, can negatively affect motivation.
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.
This article was taken from the 2006 United States Olympic Committe Sports Science Summit.