Pacing and Self-regulation: Important Skills for Talent Development in Endurance Sports

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Pacing has been characterized as a multifaceted goal-directed process of decision making in which athletes need to decide how and when to invest their energy during the race, a process essential for optimal performance. Both physiological and psychological characteristics associated with adequate pacing and performance are known to develop with age. Consequently, the multifaceted skill of pacing might be under construction throughout adolescence, as well. Therefore, the authors propose that the complex skill of pacing is a potential important performance characteristic for talented youth athletes that needs to be developed throughout adolescence. To explore whether pacing is a marker for talent and how talented athletes develop this skill in middle-distance and endurance sports, they aim to bring together literature on pacing and literature on talent development and self-regulation of learning. Subsequently, by applying the cyclical process of self-regulation to pacing, they propose a practical model for the development of performance in endurance sports in youth athletes. Not only is self-regulation essential throughout the process of reaching the long-term goal of athletic excellence, but it also seems crucial for the development of pacing skills within a race and the development of a refined performance template based on previous experiences. Coaches and trainers are advised to incorporate pacing as a performance characteristic in their talent-development programs by stimulating their athletes to reflect, plan, monitor, and evaluate their races on a regular basis to build performance templates and, as such, improve their performance.

Elferink-Gemser is with the Center for Human Movement Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands. Hettinga is with the Centre of Sport and Exercise Science, School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester, UK.

Hettinga (fjhett@essex.ac.uk) is corresponding author.