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Stress, anxiety and arousal in sports performance

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Zoe Travis

on 3 November 2015

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Transcript of Stress, anxiety and arousal in sports performance

P3 P4 M1 D2
Know the relationship between stress, anxiety, arousal and sports performance.

Drive Theory
This theory shows that as arousal increases, so does the performance level. With experts and elite athletes, as arousal increase, so does their performance level because the skill they are doing is grooved. However, those who are novices, as their arousal increases, their performance level decreases because they haven't learned the skill enough for it to be grooved. Likewise, this theory means performers drive to do their best.
For example, Roger Federer has shown less mistakes for a Grand Slam than training because his arousal levels are increased as he is being challenged. In training, he has lower arousal levels because he doesn't have an audience watching him and his is able to improve on his techniques without the pressure.
For a beginner, they would create more mistakes in front of a crowd because their arousal levels will increase which means performance will decrease. This is because they are showing off and they are not concentrating on what they are doing.
As for myself, I competed in county cross country at Cadets and I performed my best coming 3rd and went to compete at Regional level because I had motivation at the finish line because that's where the audience was standing which had increased my arousal levels.
Inverted U Theory
This theory shows that performance levels are best when the arousal levels are moderate. However, performance levels are worst when the arousal levels are too high or too low. This is a better theory than the drive theory because it takes into consideration over arousal and under arousal and how that also affect their performance levels.
An example for this is for under arousal, Manchester United could be playing AFC Bournemouth in the Premier League and may not perform to their best standard because the opposition is too easy which could be a risk as they could lose the game due to lack of concentration and arousal levels being low.
Cobe Bryant scored 81 points in an NBA match because his arousal levels were moderate and he was in the Individual Zone of Optimum Functioning (IZOF) which meant he had performed his best in the match.
Cross country is an example of where I have been under aroused because I didn't perform my best as I didn't train hard enough beforehand and too many people were in front of me to get ahead of them when I was racing.
Catastrophe Theory
This theory shows that as arousal increases, so does the performance levels but when arousal gets too high, performance will then drop dramatically. This theory links to the Inverted U Theory because in that theory, performance only decreases slowly. The dramatic drops means there is a choking and people can't improve their performance again once arousal levels are too high.
Jacob Ellis is an example for this theory because she was ahead of everyone else in the final for boarder cross and her arousal levels goes too high and tries to show off just before the finish line which results in her falling. This leads to her losing to first place and getting second place. This had meant that Ellis had 'choked' which meant her performance had dropped and she wasn't able to pick it back up again.
Usain Bolt had made a false start at the World Championships because he was over aroused as he believed that the race was his to win and that no-one could beat him.
In my own experience, I was over confident in 400m because I saw myself winning on the first 300m and then everyone else overtook me when it was the last 100m stretch. For this to happen, I slowed down because I was in front of everyone else.
Arousal
Arousal is the mental and physical state of readiness which affects sports performance both positively and negatively. I will be focusing on 3 different theories which link to arousal: Drive Theory, Inverted U Theory and the Catastrophe Theory.
Zoe Travis
UNDER AROUSED
OVER AROUSED
Anxiety
Anxiety happens when there is a significant amount of imbalance between the individuals perception of their ability and their perception of the demands and importance of the situation. This is split into 2 sections: cognitive and somatic which is the mind and the body. There are a few techniques to manage anxiety which are: talking to yourself to calm yourself down which is positive, by taking in deep breaths, thinking positive things which is imagery to take your mind off the situation and progressive muscular relaxation (PMR). There are also many causes of anxiety called stressors. These include the crowd or coach, fear of failure, importance of the event, climate, opposition or your own team, the referee or official, past experience by being beaten by a better team and injury.
Cognitive Anxiety
Cognitive anxiety is to do with the brain and how you think when you are put in a situation that causes anxiety such as taking part in a big game like the World Cup.
It is associated with worrying, panicking, being nervous, poor focus into game situations, having self doubt and thinking negative thoughts.
This mainly happens during the game such as netball when a goal shooter is about to shoot and the audience could be booing, which could put the shooter off and make them miss. This could increase their cognitive anxiety as the shooter could be feeling nervous, and they might not be able to concentrate on what they are doing because of this.
Another example of cognitive anxiety is when John Terry was about to take a penalty kick in a cup final and because the crowd had put pressure on him, he had experienced high levels of anxiety causing him to miss the shot.
Somatic Anxiety
Somatic anxiety is to do with your body and physical symptoms of how you react. These symptoms include: increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, muscle tension, nausea, hyperventilating, being sick and shaking. Also, somatic anxiety is triggered by cognitive anxiety because the brain and the mind is the most important.
An example of this is when someone is under a lot of pressure such as when Zinedine Zidane was vomitting before he took the penalty because he was experiencing high levels of anxiety.
Another example of somatic anxiety is when a basketball player is about to take a free throw and experience muscle tension before they take the shot which could decrease his performance levels as he could miss the shot.
State Anxiety
State anxiety is experienced in a particular situation such as 1 event may be in a big game. It is usually a temporary emotional response to a situation that may be threatening. A performer who doesn't normally experience high levels of anxiety, will experience this in games such as cup finals or the finals in the Olympics.
An example of this is our PE teacher, Jacko, who is confident all the time but when he did an abseil, he experienced high levels of anxiety as he was afraid of heights. This resulted in Jacko panicking, swearing and starting to behave differently.
Trait Anxiety
Trait anxiety is a general disposition to perceive situations as threatening. This is passed on genetically from parents who also experience high levels of anxiety. Similar to this, it is a relatively stable personality trait and high trait anxiety leads to high state anxiety. Performers will experience high levels of anxiety before they play any sport if they have trait anxiety.
An example of trait anxiety is when it was Paul Scholes' testimonial. He was too shy to lead the team out on the pitch, and his team players had to push him out onto the pitch because he was experiencing high levels of anxiety as it is in his genes that he experiences anxiety.
Stress
Stress is the trigger that stimulates the increase in arousal and anxiety. Stress occurs when the performer feels that they can't cope. By having long term stress, this could impede a healthy balanced lifestyle. Stress which increases arousal and anxiety can push the performer in their 'zone of optimal functioning'. There are many causes of stress such as: competition, the importance of the event, conflict, frustration, perceived low ability or poor play, poor decision of the official, injury or illness, the climate, perceived danger, trait anxiety, state anxiety, lack of confidence, cognitive anxiety and somatic anxiety. There are two types of stress: eustress and distress. Eustress is a good thing when you are in the zone which helps you to perform and play better. Distress is a bad thing when scouts are watching you play which links to the catastrophe theory.
An example of eustress is Andy Murray where he would play better in grand finals than training and would have a better serve as they are playing an important game.
An example of distress is when Joey Barton experienced high levels of stress which resulted in him injuring Sergio Aguero. This decreased his performance because he got sent off.
Individual Zone of Optimal Functioning
IZOF is where you perform at your best and it was shown that some elite athletes succeeded when anxiety levels were low, while others achieved success when anxiety levels were high. This links into the Inverted U Theory where athletes have a hand width rather than a threshold. Some characteristics of the 'zone' are: having total control and being focused, feeling effortless, little conscious thought, highly pleasurable, automatic, relaxed and not anxious, high levels of confidence, optimum level of arousal and it is also known as 'peak flow'.
An example of IZOF is Sally Gunnell at the 1993 World Championships. At first, she had a cold and tried to hide it so no-one else had noticed a weakness in her. This is the way she had portrayed herself beforehand. The techniques Sally Gunnel used was telling herself to go for it saying she won't get the opportunity again. Likewise, she was giving off postive vibes. Similar to this, she used thought stopping which pushes the negative thoughts away. Also, she used visulisation by telling herself for ages that she needs to win. Another technique she used was taking in deep breaths before the race begins.
During her race, she didnt realise that someone else was runing ahead of her at first and she couldn't remember anything from the race as she had tunnel vision. At the end of the race, she didn't realise she had won the race until the commentator announced that she had a World Record.
Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR)
This somatic technique is used to help control anxiety and arousal and help to relax the athlete. This is done by increasing the tension of the muscles throughout the body and gradually relaxing each muscle group in turn. This technique takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes to complete which is very time-consuming. This works by lying on a flat surface with your eyes closed, listening to relaxing music, slowly allowing your body to feel heavy. An example of who would use this technique is, Usain Bolt as he will need to reduce his arousal levels as low as possible the night before he competes. This technique may only be useful if it is used alongside other relaxation techniques.
Biofeedback
Biofeedback is a somatic anxiety technique to measure physical changes that happen to the body when arousal and anxiety levels increase. The performer will visualise 2 situations such as your bed and the beach, to figure out which situation is best to control their anxiety levels. For example, Jessica Ennis-Hill could benefit from being on the beach more as her heart rate may be lower at 55bpm and in bed her heart rate could be 60bpm. Blood pressure and skin temperature can also be measured with the heart rate. When these changes are being monitored, the performer can control the physiological effects of excessive anxiety and adopt to a calmer state. However, this technique requires using expensive equipment and takes up a lot of time.
Imagery
Imagery is an cognitive anxiety technique used to help relax and focus an athlete. There are two different ways of imagery: external and internal. External is when the athlete can picture themselves performing the task successfully for example, Sally Gunnell sitting in the stadium watching herself run the perfect race over and over again. Internal is when athletes have the mental rehearsal of skills and techniques. It looks at specific elements of the skill without looking at the whole picture for example, when a cricket player mentally rehearses themselves doing a forward defensive. The performer may only benefit from external imagery if they are experienced and must be skilled. By internal imagery, it may only be useful for those who can associate with the correct kinaesthetic feel of the skill to the correct outcome.
Thought Stopping or Positive Self-Talk
Thought stopping or positive self-talk is another cognitive anxiety technique used to relax and focus the athlete. This technique requires the athlete to stop thinking negatively and any negative thoughts should be stopped with a positive thought. Also, it requires the athlete to endorse their own ability or progress by talking to themselves. An example of where this technique has been used is Sally Gunnell in the 1992 Olympics. She had refused to think about hitting the first hurdle and kept telling herself that she was going to win and she wouldn't get this opportunity again.
Thought stopping mainly happens with extroverts and confident athletes and may benefit them more than introverts. Positive self-talk would only value performers if they are experienced and of a high standard.
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