Metacognition desired outcome.[4] That means that most (lower level)

Metacognition
in Athletes

            Past surveys about metacognition address the skills of
metacognition, which include planning, self-monitoring, evaluation, reflection,
effort, and self-motivation. For many student athletes, metacognition is a
taught skill, and does not come naturally.1
Rather, it develops over time through deliberate training as coaches teach
athletes to develop the self-monitoring skills that can enable them to analyze
and understand their own behavior. In her article “Metacognition and
Coaching: How to Develop a Thinking Athlete,” Teresa Dail writes, “Many athletes will not reflect on their own level of
understanding with regard to strategies, nor will they accurately consider
their own level of skill. Also, Noel Brick argues that metacognitive skills
allow athletes to enhance our self-regulation during endurance exercise.  Noel and Brick have conducted interviews of runners.
Therefore, carefully worded prompts and planned interactions during practice
can help the athletes detect their own errors and also heighten awareness of
their level of performance.”2 In order to master metacognition, athletes in different sports
are taught to practice its skills before, during or after a test; training for
a competition; or the competition itself. Athletes
concentrate mostly on the quality of their performance and improvement
strategies, self-motivation, the effects of success, and how feelings of
anxiety, nervousness, or enjoyment affect how they think about their own
thinking. Because athletes reflect on their performance
during different stages, they can reflect on their performances, plan for
successes, actively think about their performances during the performances, and
register enjoyment or pride in their performances.3 Linking the steps of metacognition with the different times in
which athletes practice them can help coaches and players to differentiate
between talented athletes and expert, or semi-professional, athletes.

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Expert athletes register
higher metacognitive function and are able to demonstrate the component
processes of forward planning, self-monitoring, evaluation, and
reflection (Dail). Metacognition requires athletes to consciously and
unconsciously consider the ways in which they can accomplish a set of tasks
with a desired outcome.4
That means that most (lower level) athletes are highly dependent on their
coaches to think for them. As was previously stated numerous times in this
work, elite athletes are able to show more developed metacognitive skills.
According to Teresa K. Dail, the degree to which athletes assume ownership over
their actions helps determine their success. For coaches, evaluating athletes’
performance is “a critical part of the metacognitive process,”
but athletes are limited by the fact that they “see themselves the same way as
students see themselves in a classroom. That is, they believe that their role
is to just show up and follow the teacher’s or coach’s daily plan of
activities.”5 Athletic success increases when athletes take ownership of
their performance and assume agency for their actions, using metacognition to
evaluate their outcomes and adjust their behaviors or practice accordingly. I
believe that in order to enhance progress, athletes must take more control of
the situation, for example, self-planning. According to Noel Brick, higher
level athletes managed their time mostly by themselves while taking advice from
coaches: “Most athletes planned other cognitive strategy use (i.e. other than
race objectives, 18 tactics and pacing by themselves or with their coach, while
three athletes reported planning 19 cognitive strategies with a psychologist.”6Coaches are responsible for asking athletes questions that
trigger their reflection. For example, they might ask, ‘Why did we allow the
opposing team to out-rebound us?’ or ‘What do we need to do to avoid so any
penalties in the next half?'”7 These prompts teach athletes to regulate their own memory and
enhance their awareness of their performance and the factors contributing to
their performance. In education, specifically reading, teachers rely on
“reading flexibility” to train student readers so that they can
“adjust their processing behaviors, to effectively meet demands of their
purpose for reading, and this regulation and knowledge of these cognitive
processes may result in ‘the outwardly observable behaviors that reading educators
call flexibility.'”8 Similarly, by asking students to think independently, coaches
(like teachers) can encourage athletes to strategize on their own and plan
independently, which regulates their performance. Hope J. Hartman has commented
that “metacognition affects acquisition, comprehension, retention and
application of what is learned, and affects learning efficiency, critical
thinking and problem solving.”9 Athletes must channel their energy and time into
self-regulating and they have to believe that they can achieve their goals
because positive, critical thinking is essential for success. According to
Theodosiou (2008) within the two main stages of metacognition, which are
cognitive knowledge and regulation, there must be declarative knowledge of strategies
and procedures. This is why each stage of metacognition is important and
essential for success and high-level athletes tend to show it to a higher
extent.

Word count: 816

Self-Regulation

            According to Laura Jonker, Marije T.
Elferink-Gemser and Chris Visscher (2010), research has shown that
self-regulation is most effective in sports in which the surrounding
environment is stable and the athletes have clocked numerous hours in training.
Their survey assesses the involvement of athletes in their sports and their
self-regulatory skills by posing general questions about gender, grade, and age
along with questions about the frequency of training sessions and training
hours. The questions ascertaining self-regulation were grouped into six categories:
planning, self-monitoring, evaluation, reflection, effort, and self-efficacy.10 According to these authors, planning consists of the
respondents’ awareness of their tasks’ demands prior to performance;
self-monitoring is their awareness of actions during the execution of tasks;
effort is the degree to which the respondents are willing and able to exert
themselves; self-efficacy measures how individuals judge their own ability to
organize and complete tasks; evaluation is the respondents’ ability to assess
their processes and the outcome of their efforts after the tasks are completed.
These factors, in turn, are shaped by motivation, emotion, age, gender,
satisfaction, and whether the sport is individual or team oriented. The
triangulated cause-and-effect relationships in each stage provide insight into
how expert athletes develop their skills, suggesting that “expert” performance
is a learned, nurtured trait, not a natural one.

Word count:
222

Planning

            In his report, Noel Brick has talked about planning before running, based
on the results of the interviews that he has taken of runners.        

            As with most activities measured in terms of successfully
met goals, advance preparation in sports leads to more positive outcomes.
However, in athletics, preparation includes mental preparation, which should
incorporate metacognition because thinking about self-performance can help
athletes adjust their behavior during a sport or competition. The kind and
efficacy of preparation varies according to the stage in which the athlete does
it, such as in the beginning, during, or end of studying and training. Before studying for a
test or training for a competition, an athlete might ask themselves how they
feel. In response, an athlete might say, “I think of nothing because I
don’t concentrate on studying all the time,” or “I am nervous because
it helps me be more careful and not make a mistake.” During the planning
stage, the athlete is urged to honestly state how they feel and why so that, by
understanding his or her own attitude, he or she can work within their
abilities, or push themselves outside the comfort zone. Their effort, then, can
be measured by the degree to which they tried to better their attitude, skills, speed, agility, teamwork,
communication, or overall performance. Hong
& O’Neil Jr. (2001) and Zimmerman (1990) agree that motivation is “the
degree to which learners are self-efficiously, autonomously, and intrinsically
driven to attain their goals and consists of effort and self-efficacy.”11

In addition, feelings of
hesitancy or anxiety can illuminate the athlete’s lack of training and highlight the factors sabotaging his or her
performance. If he or she is aware of these shortcomings, then they can either
predict the outcomes, anticipate problems, or compensate for what is missing.
For example, if someone says, “I don’t think the training is enough,” then he
or she realizes their inadequacy and knows that more training is needed. In
contrast, another athlete might think, “I relax and am happy, trying not to
think about it all the time, so I don’t feel too nervous.” Is this hypothetical
person too comfortable, or just confident? Is the athlete actively working to
mitigate his or her anxiety? Or is this person pretending it does not exist? By
admitting this feeling to himself or herself, the athlete can determine the
best course of action and plan ahead; in this way, the athlete takes advantage
of any possible deficiency and tries to turn it into a positive. The agency and
independence of solo athletes may positively affect their performance, as well,
because they are free to operate alone, making their own decisions separate
from the inconsistencies of team-centered actions. Overall, Jonkers’s study
reveals that independent athletes outperform those on teams regardless of
competitive level.12 Because metacognition affects decision
making, comprehension, and critical thinking, its practice yields faster
problem solving, memory, and learning.13

Word count: 494

Self-monitoring

            The nature of metacognition demands that its practitioner
be cognizant of his or her mind reflecting on itself in the moment. Patricia
Babbs and Alden Moe (1983) note that “metacognition is the knowledge of this cognition—it is a
conscious attempt to control his/her own cognitive processes.”14 In order to metacognate, people have to stay
aware of their own thinking. They must know that they are layering another step
of consciousness on top of their regular thinking process. During studying or
training, an athlete might be thinking of success: “I think of the success to
which the studying will lead,” for example. This goal-oriented thinking allows
the athlete to envision an outcome, but more complicated thinking enables
athletes to make split-second decisions. For example, the awareness of nervous
feelings and anxiety can alert an athlete to his or her own fear of making a
mistake; this realization can instantly remind him or her to relax and play
with a clear head. For others, this awareness can manifest in discipline, or
“drive,” a final push to the goal, the finish line, or a personal record. The
anticipation of success fuels effort and, in turn, not knowing how well they are playing can cause athletes to work
harder. Athletes of all levels may also reflect on their ephemeral feelings of
bliss, giftedness, or physical power, implicitly encouraging themselves. Then,
reflecting on this knowledge becomes a way for athletes to instantly gauge
whether their sense of themselves is true or a product of ego or wishful
thinking. This kind of self-monitoring inevitably leads to self-moderating
which can impact performance in the moment.

However, intense
self-assessment typically requires professional guidance and organized exercises designed around self-reflection
and decision making. Teresa Dail (2014) notes, “Many athletes will not
reflect on their own level of understanding in regard to strategies, nor will
they accurately consider their own level of skill. Therefore, carefully worded
prompts and planned interactions during practice can help the athletes detect
their own errors and also heighten awareness of their level of
performance.”15 Although metacognition is most effective in
people over the age of ten, many adults struggling to critically analyze their
own impulses and motivators in the middle of an action can benefit from
activities like those encountered in a classroom. However, Dail points out that
athletes must be responsible for their own learning; they cannot be passive
recipients of knowledge, but must incorporate new strategies by implementing
them consciously. Purposeful analysis can develop strong thinking patterns that
help athletes of all ability levels increase their energy by encouraging
themselves. Thus, paradoxically, the athlete requires confidence to learn
confidence. When the athlete experiences satisfaction, inspiration or
accolades, he or she practices agency, creating a new sense of self and a
higher consciousness of his or her actions.

Word count: 476

Evaluation

            At the conclusion of a competition, athletes naturally
reflect on how they can improve their next performance by drawing on new
lessons. Flavell said metacognition was a “person’s knowledge about the
contents and regulation of memory.”16 In order to teach athletes to self-regulate,
coaches should model self-reflection by posing questions that are inherently
reflective even if they are inclusive, as in a team sport. Evaluation, in this
sense, includes the self-evaluation of the players, and the evaluations of the
coaches trying to inspire this self-evaluation. For example, a coach might ask,
“How do we avoid this tackle in the end zone?” or “What contributed to the take
away in the second half?” As a construct, self-reflective questions corner
people into critically understanding their own behavior.

Word count: 129

 

 

 

 

Reflection

Jonker observes the benefits of metacognition
specific to athletic endeavors, writing, “Within the sports context, reflection facilitates the development of
sport-specific characteristics that are important to realize one’s full
potential.”17

Word
count: 33

Conclusion

            I
believe it is clear that the importance of metacognition cannot be
overestimated. Even though my research showed that there are still some
limitations on usage of metacognition, most of the evidence suggests that
higher-level athletes develop stronger metacognitive skills. There is also
clear evidence that gender differences can affect how athletes evaluate
themselves. I believe that women face certain prejudices, which increase their
anxiety and, therefore lower their ability to use metacognition). Anxiety is
one of the limitations of metacognition. If an athlete is preoccupied with it
and is not confident with his/her abilities, they are unable to effectively
evaluate, reflect or plan as their brain cannot properly focus. I think it is
in some cases reasonable to take sedative (anti anxiety) pills such as Xanax,
Valium or Quateapin to reduce anxiety symptoms and enhance performance.

1 Dail. Teresa K.
p.

2 Dail, Teresa K.
p. 51

3 Noel, Brick

4 Noel, Brick

5 Dail, Teresa K.
p. 50

6 Brick, Noel, p.
10

7 Dail, Teresa K.
p. 50

8 Babbs, Patricia J. and Alden J. Moe p.
424

9 Hope J. Hartman p. 1

10 Laura
Jonker, Marije T. Elferink-Gemser and Chris Visscher

11 Jonker, Laura p.
902  

12 Jonker, Laura p.
904

13 Hartman, Hope p. 1

14 Babbs, Patricia and Alden Moe p. 423

15 Dail, Theresa, p. 51

16 Dail, Theresa, p. 49

17 Joker, p. 906