Short term psychological preparation

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Anxiety (cognitive and somatic)


  • Worry and negative feelings about your own performance


  • physiological symptoms such as raised herat rate, increased perspiration and shortness of breath


  • experiencing tension, agitation and restlessness

State anxiety 

  • situation specific and can be linked to a particular role, place or level of competition

Trait anxiety

  • which is general and enduring feeling of apprehension
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Effects on technique

  • The concept of anxiety is closely related to arousal
  • Research suggests that arousal can have either a positive or negative effect on sports performance
  • Jones and Swain (1992) suggest that elite athletes view competition arousal as a positive feeling of alertness rather than anxiety, whereas beginners have a negative response to the rise in arousal

Their are 4 main theories linked to arousal and anxiety with performance:

  • Inverted U - Yearkes & Dodson (1908) - difficult to test, predicts relationship between arousal and performance as an inverted U
  • Drive theory - Zajonc (1965) - over simplistic, fails to appreciate the different personalities of the performr and the context of the performance
  • Catastrophy model - Hardy (1996) - suggests that arousal has different effects on sports performance depending on cognitive anxiety. Arousal will increase performance when cognitive anxiety is low, but may lead to a sidden catastrophic decline in performance when cognitive anxity is high
  • Processing efficiency theory - Eysenck & Calva - anxiety may affect processing efficiency rather than task effectiveness. Anxious athletes have to work to maintain the same level of performance they would display if they were not anxious
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Strategies to prevent anxiety and choking

  • set achieveable goals
  • imagery 
  • positive talk
  • relaxation exercises
  • music

Main strategies to combat anxiety

  • mental rehersal
  • coping skills
  • somatic and cognitive techniques
  • performance-monitoring review
  • pre-performance routines
  • simulation training
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Aggression Vs Assertion

Aggression - intent to harm outside the rules of the game

Assertion - channelled aggression within the rules of the game

There are a number of theories that suggest causes for aggression, these tend to fall into the 2 categories of nature or nuture:

  • the instinct (nature) theory - suggests that aggression is an inniate biological drive in all humans, and sport provides an outlet for this aggression
  • the frustration-aggression hypothesis - suggests that having goals blocked can cause frustration which then leads to aggression
  • the social learning theory Bandura (1977) - states that we learn to be aggressive by watching others (nuture)

Strategies to reduce aggression include internal control of arousal levels, punishment and the reinforcement of non-aggressive behaviour

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Mental rehersal

Go through competition in your mind, thinking about all the different situations that may occur and how you will respond, identify times you may be aggressive or anxious and think how you could control these feelings

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  • Imagery helps performers improve their concentration and promotoe feelings of self-confidence
  • It involves creating a series of mental pictures, these may include images of successful past performances, the flowing movements of an elite role model or escape pictures where the performer imagines themselfs in a more relaxed place
  • All these techniques can be used to help control anxiety
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Self talk

  • help athletes link to specific skills and help them focus on correct technique
  • E.g. a rugby player linking low and drive when they are about to go into a tackle
  • self-talk can help to promote self-confidence
  • the key is to keep the reinforcement as simple as possible
  • E.g. at the winter olympics Team GB luge team uses the phrase `arrow` to help the riders focus and maintain the correct bidy shaoe as they progress down the course 
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Pre-game routines

  • give yourself specific, task relevant instructions
  • E.g. a long jumper will undergo a pre-planned routine in their preparation before a jump
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Relaxation techniques

  • Self directed relaxation is where the performer concentrates on each of their muscle groups separately and relaxes them.
  • Progressive relaxation training is where a performer feels the tension in their muscles and gets rid of this tension by "letting go"

Other techniques include:

  • visualisation
  • yoga
  • listening to music
  • toe-tensing
  • deep-breathing exercises
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Home advantage

On average 56-64% of home teams win their matches e.g. China top the medal table with their highest ever medal table position of 51 golf medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

A reason may be that the large, supportive crowds may help the home team in terms of motivation and the amount of effort they put in.

Proxomity effect

  • crowds close to the action for example basketball are said to increase the audiences influence

Said to take 6 to 9 months for a new team to get used to a new stadium e.g. Arsenal moving from Highbury to the Emirates stadium

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Social facilitation & Social inhibition

Social facilitation - refers to the influence others have on performance, the other people may include:

  • co-actors - other participants
  • audience

Social inhibition - the negative effect an audience has on performance, may involve an increase in:

  • arousal of the performer
  • competitive drive

Triplett (1898) said cyclists performance improves by around 30% when in a group, Ringlemann (1913) said this was true but upto a certain number of co-actors, if group gets too big team members may lose motivation. This is called Social Loafing

Zajonc said the presence of others was enough to increase arousal levels of performer. 

Drive theory suggests learned behaviours tend to be our dominant ones, as arousal levels increase the athlete tends to revert to their dominant responce.

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Importance of competition

Martins - competition anxiety (1998) - individuals tendancy to percieve competitive situations as threatening and to respond to these situations by experiencing state anxiety

The more importat the competition the higher higher the level of state anxiety the performer will experience, most of this pressure comes from external sources e.g. media, audience and people talking about it

The way to control the anxiety is down to how the performer percievs the extra pressure

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Evaluation apprehension

Cottrell (1972) - social facilitation - he said it wasnt others influencing performance, but whether the performer felt the the audience was judging or evaluating the performance

Leads to arousal and the resulting dominant responce

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Strategies for coping

  • self-talk
  • imagery 
  • cue utilisation
  • relaxtion techniques
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Environmental factors

The effect of the environment depends not so much on playing surface but the settings around it e.g. crowd, team mates, coaches and media for elite sport

Beginners perform better in low arousal environments, elite athletes perform better in high arousal environments

The nature of the audience can have an effect on performance

  • noisy aggressive crowds - performer may feel more anxious and become aggressive
  • proximity of crowd - if corwd is close to piych, performer may feel threatened

However, some performers may feel reassured if the crowd is close and noisy e.g. playing at home in familier surroundings

The better the performer the more effective they will be at dealing with adverse conditions 

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