AROUSAL AND ANXIETY SECTION B CHAPTER 11

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1 SECTION B CHAPTER 11 AROUSAL AND ANXIETY Peak flow theory Csikzentmihalyi derived a theory which asserts that flow is an optimal experience which is intrinsically rewarding. Figure 11.4 shows the relationship between the task demands and the skill level of the performer, and you will see that there is a zone in which these two factors combine to produce an effective performance. Flow is a period of peak performance, when the performer feels totally involved without effort, and without having to concentrate. If skill level exceeds task demands (task is too easy), the performer is bored, and if task demands exceed skill level (task is too hard), the performer becomes anxious. Peak flow occurs when: The demands of the task match the skill level of the performer. Actions of a performer become automatic. Concentration is total without effort. The performer feels in control without effort. The performer loses self-consciousness. Time appears to speed up. Or time appears to slow down. The performer feels exhilarated by the activity. Peak flow is achieved when: The performer has a positive mental attitude. The performer controls his or her anxiety. The performer maintains concentration and confidence (maintains focus). Peak fitness is maintained. Perhaps Usain Bolt (figure 11.5) was both in the Zone and had peak flow when setting his multiple World records at the Beijing Olympics 2008, and the Berlin World championships Catastrophe theory Catastrophe theory (see figure 11.6) is a variation of inverted U theory in which performance increases as arousal increases, but if arousal gets too high a complete loss of performance occurs (the catastrophe). task demands figure 11.4 peak flow anxiety FLOW boredom skill level figure 11.5 Usain Bolt with peak flow? The performance line on the graph plummets rapidly towards disaster. This almost always happens when the performer tries too hard, for example: The golfer who tries too hard and completely misses the fairway from his drive at the 18th hole when in a winning position. The gymnast who completely messes up her previously well-executed routine. high figure 11.6 catastrophe theory Anxiety affects arousal, and these theories can also apply to how anxiety affects performance. Effects of arousal on technique The point of optimum arousal is of crucial importance to the learning and stability of a sportsperson s technique. Technique is the sequence of actions which enables a performer to successfully perform the skill of his or her event. Trying too hard (overarousal) can cause a performer to change his or her technique in an uncontrolled way - with a resultant loss of performance. This can be made worse by the anxiety which would accompany a major event - such as a major at tennis or an open at golf. performance low optimal arousal arousal the catastrophe high 10 78

2 PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS THAT OPTIMISE PERFORMANCE Choking and overarousal High arousal can cause a performer to have negative thoughts. Negative thoughts of failure or lack of success can creep in if a performer is over-aroused. These thoughts can affect the performer s confidence and create an almost complete inability to perform skills properly. This is choking and is an aspect of inverted U theory. Examples are: The snooker player who misses an easy shot when in the final frame of an important match. The golfer who misses the fairway from the tee when in the lead in a competition. This particularly applies to sports where there is a fine skill. Choking can be controlled by cognitive management techniques (see page 81 below). Anxiety Anxiety can be explained as an emotional state similar to fear, associated with: Physiological (somatic) arousal - connected with raised heart rate, raised breathing rate, sweating and so on. Psychological (cognitive) arousal - worry and negative feelings about the situation, feelings of nervousness, feelings of apprehension. Anxiety is closely linked to arousal, since an anxious person is more likely to become aroused than a calm person. Hence the various theories linking arousal with performance (drive, inverted U, catastrophe) can also apply to link anxiety with performance. It can have behavioural consequences - in which a person will experience: Tension. Agitation. Restlessness. Trait anxiety - A-trait (Speilberger) Trait anxiety is an inbuilt (trait) part of the personality which gives a person: A tendency to be fearful of unfamiliar situations. A tendency to perceive competitive situations as threatening. A tendency to respond to competitive situations with apprehension and tension. State anxiety - A-state State anxiety is an emotional response to a particular situation, characterised by feelings of nervousness and apprehension which is often temporary - as you might expect if the anxiety is related to a certain situation which of course will change as daily activities change. Measuring anxiety There are three methods of measuring anxiety, namely by observation, by questionnaire and using physiological measures. The observation and questionnaire methods have the same advantages and drawbacks associated with personality testing outlined on page 72 above. There are several standard questionnaires which attempt to measure anxiety, these are: Martens Sport Competitive Anxiety Test (SCAT). Martens Competitive State Anxiety Inventory (CSAI). Speilberger s State, Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Smith s Sport Anxiety Scale (SAS). Each of these tests (questionnaires) are relatively lengthy and require interpretation for successful use. Anxiety 79 11

3 SECTION B CHAPTER 11 AROUSAL AND ANXIETY Physiological measurements Physiological measuring equipment are heart rate monitoring devices and skin conductivity devices (these devices measure sweating). The disadvantages are that the use of, and results produced by such devices, are affected by the exercise intensity being undertaken (as opposed to the anxiety of the performer). Also, since the performer has to be wired up (figure 11.7) to make the measurements, there may be difficulties associated with the equipment being used in certain games or situations (in contact sports for example). figure 11.7 measuring anxiety? Physiological measures have the following major advantages. They can be made during, before or after the event, and are directly related to performance. Also they can be systematically and scientifically recorded (either by charting, or by numerical data). This would enable a person to quantify accurately the measures being made. Most of these measures can be used to assess stress or anxiety. Stress Stress and anxiety are closely linked, with stress being a major cause of health issues in our society. Figure 11.8 outlines the main factors associated with stress and stressors. figure 11.8 stress and stressors Stress is a response of the body to any demands made on it. The symptoms of stress (figure 11.8) are physiological, psychological or behavioural (see table 11.1 below for details). Stressors Stressors are the cause of stress and are: Social including the disapproval of parents or peers, the rejection by peers or parents, or isolation from normal social interactions. Chemical or biochemical in which harm is inflicted by ingestion of nasty substances. Bacterial, which would be an illness caused by microorganisms. Physical in which a person would suffer injury, pain or exhaustion. Climatic in which extremes of weather are experienced, such as hot weather for endurance activities, or rain and cold on bare skin. Psychological, in which there is a mismatch between the perception of the demands of a task and the ability of a person to cope with these demands. Symptoms of stress Table 11.1 symptoms of stress physiological physical physiological symptoms psychological symptoms behavioural symptoms increased heart rate worry rapid talking increased blood pressure feeling overwhelmed nail biting increased sweating inability to make decisions pacing increased breathing rate inability to concentrate scowling decreased flow of blood to the skin inability to direct attention appropriately yawning psychological STRESS STRESSORS emotional increased oxygen uptake narrowing of attention trembling dry mouth feeling out of control raised voice pitch frequent urination behavioural social 12 80

4 PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS THAT OPTIMISE PERFORMANCE Control of stress and anxiety Stress and anxiety management techniques become important for sports performers when performances fall, or failure is experienced. Cognitive relaxation techniques These techniques use the power of thought to redirect attention away from failure or perceived failure. A performer will take control of emotions and thought processes, will eliminate negative feelings, and will develop self-confidence (self-efficacy, see page 88 below). Imagery relaxation, in which a performer will think of a place with associations of warmth and relaxation, then imagine the activity or technique. This process involves practice in non-stressful situations, and will be used prior to competition. Thought stopping, in which when negative thoughts or worry (about failure) begin, a performer should immediately think stop, and substitute a positive thought. simulate a whole movement sequence control arousal before performance mental picture of a skill building self-confidence USES OF MENTAL PRACTICE Mental rehearsal or practice (visualisation), in which the mental or cognitive rehearsal of a skill without actual physical movement is undertaken by a performer. The performer will consciously imagine a performance or rerun a past experience, and will continue with a preview of hoped-for success. This process helps concentration, and helps the performer to focus on strengths and weaknesses. This technique is used by most top level sportsmen, and is often prompted by video or talk from a coach. The point of this in stress or anxiety control is that it brings an activity away from the actual performance, and therefore away from any anxieties associated with the performance itself. Figure 11.9 outlines the main features of this process, which is explained in detail in AS Revise PE for AQA ISBN , page 95. Concentration is a state of mind in which attention is directed towards a specific aim or activity. Concentration and attentional focus (control of attention towards a task) are essential components of a sportsperson s armoury of mental techniques to assist performance. Attentional control training (ACT) is a personalised programme which targets a performer s specific concentration problems. It assesses the demands of the sport, the situation, and the personality of the performer. Cue utilisation describes a situation in which cues can be used by the sportsperson to direct attention, and to trigger appropriate arousal responses. This would enable attentional focus at a relevant moment. Sometimes, narrowing of attentional focus by an aroused player will cause lack of awareness of broader play issues. Self-talk is a procedure where a person will talk through the process of a competitive situation, talking positively and building self-confidence. Somatic relaxation techniques Somatic relaxation techniques control the physiological symptoms of stress and anxiety. figure 11.9 mental practice or rehearsal imagine success or avoid failure focus attention on important aspects of skill mental warm-up, readiness for action must be as realistic as possible used during rest periods prevents wear and tear small muscle contractions same as actual practice Progressive muscle relaxation, sometimes called self-directed muscle relaxation training, enables a performer to focus on each of the major muscle groups in turn, then to allow breathing to become slow and easy. The athlete will visualise the tension flowing out of a muscle group until it is completely relaxed. Eventually a sportsperson will be able to combine muscle groups, and achieve total relaxation quickly. Control of stress and anxiety 81 13

5 SECTION B CHAPTER 11 AROUSAL AND ANXIETY Somatic relaxation techniques Centring involves the control of physiological symptoms of stress by focusing on control of the diaphragm and deep breathing. The famous John McEnroe (famous for throwing tantrums on court you can t be serious, then going on to win Wimbledon titles), used centring to bring himself down from a major row with a court official to playing the perfect serve or shot - within 10 seconds! figure John McEnroe used centring Biofeedback is the process of monitoring skin temperature (cold if stressed, warm if unstressed), and the galvanic skin response in which the electrical conductivity of skin increases when moist (tense muscle causes sweating). A further measurement is made by electromyography, in which electrodes are taped to specific muscles which can detect electrical activity and hence tension in muscle. The point is that these measures are perceived by the sportsperson during a performance, and he or she can then alter his or her behaviour to reduce the symptoms of stress or anxiety. Goal setting as a motivational strategy STUDENT NOTE Goal setting has been covered in the AS programme, refer to page 109 of AS Revise PE for AQA ISBN: for a review of these concepts. The main function of goal setting (figure 11.11) is to increase motivation. The feeling of satisfaction gained from achieving a goal brings about this motivation. Goal setting can also be used as a means of managing anxiety or stress. Goals can be short-term, medium-term or long-term. Short-term goals can be used as targets for single training sessions, or what can be expected after a period of training. Long-term goals may or may not be achieved, but are placed in the background of a performer s mind and can underpin everything he or she does. Kelly Holmes had the ambition (goal) of getting an Olympic gold, and she eventually did this twice! This goal motivated Kelly to keep going through injury and disappointment, to keep her training through bad weather and good times. Goals should be: Easily attained initially and therefore realistic. Incremental, a little bit at a time. Challenging but achievable. Progressively more difficult. Training goals should be planned around overall goals. Goals are either: Outcome oriented: Towards the end result of the sporting activity. For example to win a race. provides motivation long-term figure goal setting GOAL SETTING short-term medium-term Performance oriented: Judged against other performances. For example to beat his or her best time. Process oriented: Obtain an improvement in techniques

6 PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS THAT OPTIMISE PERFORMANCE Practice questions 1) The catastrophe theory is used to explain a golfer s disastrous failure to win a match having been 3 strokes in the lead coming up to the last green. Explain this situation and why this theory might be useful in preventing a repetition. 4 marks 2) A number of PE students are attending trials at their chosen sport. Describe the Inverted U theory and explain how it might affect a student s performance at the trials. 5 marks 3) a) What is meant by the term stress? 2 marks b) Explain two psychological symptoms of stress. 2 marks c) Identify three main stressors in the context of sport. 3 marks d) What is the difference between state and trait anxiety? 2 marks e) What coping strategies should the anxious performer draw upon? 5 marks 4) a) Discuss the possible relationships between anxiety and performance in sporting activities. 7 marks b) High levels of arousal have often been linked with stress. Sketch a graph showing the relationship between the performance of a complex skill and level of arousal. 2 marks c) Add a second curve to your graph showing how the performance of a simple skill might be affected by arousal. 2 marks 5) Many elite athletes identify an emotional response called the peak flow experience that is associated with success. Describe what is meant by peak flow experience and give reasons why it might occur. 5 marks 6) With reference to sporting performance, explain how cognitive and somatic anxiety differ. 5 marks Practice questions 15 83

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