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The state of general prepardness of the body for action, involving physiological and psychological factors.

You have a heightened sense of physiological arousal.

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Somatic Signs of Arousal (physiological)

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Feelings of nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Headache
  • Cold, clammy hands
  • Butterflies in stomach. More difficult to see
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Increased levels of hormones in blood.
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Cognitive Signs of Arousal (psychological)

  • Increased focus and concerntration
  • Heightened awareness of important cues in the environment
  • Narrowing of attention exluding irrelevant stimuli
  • Decreased reaction time

However being over aroused can have negative effects:

  • Anxiety
  • Tension
  • Negative self talk
  • Difficulties sleeping 
  • Inability to concerntrate
  • Fear and Anger
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Peak Flow

The optimal experince that facilitates best performance and is intrinsically valuable

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Drive Theory

A theory of arousal that proposes a linear relationship between arousal and performance. As arousal increases so does quality of performance.

Performance = habitual strength x drive

The more an elite performer is aroused the better their performance due to the dominant response being habitual.

The more a beginner sports person is aroused thew dominant repsonse may be incorrect and high levels of arousal can cause a decrease in performance.


  • Habitual behaviour dominant response not always correct. Even elite performers reach a point where their performance does not get any better.
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Inverted U Theory

A theory of arousal that considers the optimal performance occurs when the performer reaches an optimal level of arousal.

At low levels of arousal, performance will be below par, which means the performer will not be psyched up.

As arousal increases, so does performance until it reaches an optimal point. After this, a further increase in arousal causes a decrease in performance. Each athlete has their own optimal level of arousal.

Beginners do not perform as well as elite players as arousal levels increase because they dont have the same level of grooving of the skill. Too much arousal can divert the beginners attention. Therefore it may be better if beginners have a low level of arousal.


  • Critics question if optimal arousal occurs at the mid point of the graph.
  • One curve does not explain different arousal levels for different skills.
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Catastrophe Theory

A theory that predicts a rapid decline in performance resulkting from the combination of having high cognitive anxiety and increasing somatic anxiety.

At first cognitive anxiety is high and somatic anxiety is low so performance is enhanced.

But when congitive anxiety is high and somatic anxiety is high there is a rapid decline in performance.

If the performer can get their arousal levels down, then they can return to a good level of perfomance but not optimal immediatley.

If the performer can not lower their arousal levels their performance continues to decrease.


  • Arousal is only benefical when high level of cognitive anxiety.
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Zone of Optimal Functioning

The area between the upper and lower levels of arousal within which optimal performance takes place.

  • The athlete feels in full control
  • Effortless performance
  • Attention and concerntration of the performer is focused.
  • Execution of skill brings enjoyment and satisfaction.

Individual Zone of Optimal Functioning:

  • Different athletes have different zones of fucntioning.
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Zones of Fucntioning

Low Zone of Functioning:

  • Personality - Introvert
  • Task type - Simple, gross skills E.g. Shot put
  • Stage of learning - Cognitive/Associative phase
  • Experince - Novice performer

High Zone of Functioning:

  • Personality - Extrovert
  • Task type - Complex, Fine skills E.g. Spin Bowl
  • Stage of learning - Autonomous phase
  • Experince - Experinced performer
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Optimal Level of Arousal

  • It is vital that a perofmer can maintain or achieve optimal levels of arousal
  • Arousal is affected by personality, type of skill, performer and environment.
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Peak Flow

Peak Flow Experience:

  • Optimal experience that facilitates best performance and is intrinsically valuable.
  • Somatic anxiety is appropriate and cognitive anxiety is low.
  • Balanced perception of demands of the situation and their ability to cope.
  • Concerntration and attention are at maximum
  • High self confidence
  • Greatest happiness experienced

Nine factors associated with being in the zone:

  • Challenge - Skill balanced
  • Merging of actions and awareness
  • Clear Goals
  • Unambiguous feedback
  • Concerntration on the task at hand
  • Sense of control
  • Loss of self-consciousness
  • Transformation of time
  • Intrinsic rewards
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