Deliberate Soccer Practice Modulates Attentional Functioning in Children
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Executive controlOrientingAlertingChildhoodTeam sports
Moratal C, Lupiáñez J, Ballester R and Huertas F (2020) Deliberate Soccer Practice Modulates Attentional Functioning in Children. Front. Psychol. 11:761. [doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00761]
SponsorshipThis research was supported by grants from San Vicente Mártir Catholic University of Valencia (2019-158-003 to FH and 2018- 158-004 to CM) and the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (PSI2017-84926-P) to JL and FH. The funding bodies had no role in the study design, the data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
The main purpose of this study was to explore the association between the regular practice of open-skill sports (i.e., soccer) and executive control, along with other attentional functions (i.e., alerting and orienting) during preadolescence. The study was conducted on 131 participants (70 non-athletes and 61 soccer players). To measure cognitive performance, participants performed the Attentional Network Test—Interactions (ANT-I) task. Compared to non-athletes, soccer players showed overall faster responses and better executive control (e.g., reduced interference from distractors). Overall, our results provide new empirical evidence supporting the positive association between regular sports practice and cognitive performance, and more specifically executive functions. However, is important to note that the relationship between regular sport practice and cognition is complex and multifactorial. Our findings can be partly explained by the “cardiovascular fitness hypothesis” and the “cognitive component skills approach,” suggesting that an externally paced sport environment with high physical fitness and perceptual–cognitive demands may be an appropriate setting to optimize the development of cognitive functioning during early adolescence.