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Introduction: In our research, we investigated the components, executive functions, and cognitive abilities underlying decision-making in sports performance using a computer-based test system. To define the athlete experience, we classified athletes according to an exact, unambiguous definition following international terminology, based on their performance, achievement, playing age, and sport's popularity. We hypothesize that team athlete with significant athletic experience will perform better on the executive function test.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted on team athletes N=52. The VTS-DT test was used to measure executive function. The classification of athlete experience was based on an internationally accepted taxonomy defined with scientific precision (SWANNN, 2015).
Results: When classified by athlete experience, the athletes we studied fell into amateur and elite categories. The DT/S2 scores of the two groups were compared based on each factor. We obtained trend-like correlations for the factors 'number of reactions', 'number of stimulations,' and 'number of good responses. Correlation analysis was performed between the factors on a group-by-group basis. When examining the relationship between reaction time, we found that there is a strong relationship with the number of stimulations (amateurs: r = -0.80; elite athletes: r = -0.87) since the faster someone is (i.e., the less reaction time), the more times they can respond to stimulations. Looking at the results for elite athletes, we also observe a moderately strong relationship between reaction time and the number of good responses (r = -0.68). We may suggest that experienced athletes could produce better responses faster than less professional athletes.
Conclusions: Our hypotheses were partially confirmed, as we found a trend-like correlation that elite athletes scored higher on the DT test, which examined athletes' executive functions in a complex, adaptive way. Our research demonstrates that, on the one hand, it is worthwhile for coaches to build on experienced athletes when assembling a team, in addition to the momentum of young athletes, and that the development of executive functions and cognitive skills can improve the performance of athletes.