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Psychology of sport performance

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Psychology of sport performance

Task 3a

Describe the influences and effects of stress and anxiety on sports performance.


Stress is a particular pattern of disturbing psychological and physiological reactions that occur when an environment event threatens important motives and your ability to cope with situations. Stress is your body's way of responding to any kind of demand. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences.


Anxiety affects our whole being. It affects how we feel, how we behave and has very real physical symptoms.

It feels a bit like fear but whereas we know what we are frightened of, we often don't know what we are anxious about.

Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling - severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating.

Stress and anxiety in sports performers

I have chosen to look at Mohammed Ali and the ways that stress and anxiety would have affected him during his boxing career.

Stress and anxiety can affect all performaers in sports however it can affect them in different ways.

Stress is either positive or negative. Positive stress is known as arousal, it is an offset of adrenaline in order to prepare for stress. It ensures that we are alert and concentrating. Aggression is when stress is negative and can lead to violence. It can also lead to the muscles tightening and becoming anxious this will have a decrease in performance.

Factors that could stress during a performance are: pressure, crowd, prize, big game, type of event, unfamiliar environment, biased referring etc. Stress will often cause a change in behaviour, which can either be physical or psychological. Physical effects could be things such as a release of hormones, tense muscles, and sweating, increasing heart rate, increasing breathing, nausea, increase in pulse rate, temperature. Psychological effects could be being paranoid, getting aggressive, becoming unstable, irrational, over aroused although it could be motivational and improve your alertness.

Task 3b

Compare the effects of stress and anxiety on sport performance




Stress in not necessarily negative, without the action of positive stress a lot of athletes would not reach their full potential.

There is a level of stress which is normal for athletes and sports people.

On the positive side it alerts us to a threat and increases our level of arousal and activation which can help us be more effective in coping with the threat.

When the stress that the athlete experiences is continual and stays with them over a long period of time, it is the negative affects of stress. When the athlete feels overworked they will be contributing less and less to the sport. The physical affects will be an increase in pulse rate, blood pressure and perspiration.


This can have a positive affect when it is somatic anxiety which is the physical symptoms of anxiety such as nervousness, tension and even excitement. But if it continues it can cause a decrease in performance.

Mohammed Ali would have been affected by Somatic anxiety.

Anxiety breaks down into three factors, somatic anxiety, cognitive anxiety and self confidence. Cognitive anxiety is the negative concerns regarding performance and one's ability to deal with the situation at hand. High levels of cognitive anxiety can lead to negative thoughts, worry, poor concentration, disrupted attention and feelings of loss of control.

Task 3c

Critically analyse the effects of stress and anxiety on sport performance, providing recommendations for changes as appropriate.

Everyone at one point in their life experiences stress and anxiety. It is only when it goes on for long that it becomes a problem.

From the previous questions I can see just how much strain it can become on an athlete who is under stress. It can totally affect the way they play and can affect them mentally.

Stress and anxiety would have affected Mohammed Ali when he had to travel away from his comfort zone to another country for his boxing matches. This would have been a whole new environment and a different crowd. He would have been nervous and anxious as the crowds may have reacted different etc.  

However as I mentioned in the previous question there are negative and positive affects of these.

I have made a list of ways to combat and control stress and anxiety and would recommend this to the athletes.

* Break the routine

Rather than going into your usual evening routine such as preparing dinner, have a long relaxing bath, or do some exercise. You can also find a nice quiet, comfortable place where you can lie down and relax, and take some time to do some relaxing breathing. In your mind, take yourself on a journey to a relaxing place - this could be anywhere you can imagine, such as a peaceful forest, or tranquil mountain stream.

* Breathing exercises

Pay attention to your breathing.  Place one hand on the part of your chest or abdomen that seems to rise and fall the most with each breath.  If this spot is in your chest you are not utilizing the lower part of your lungs.

Place both hands on your abdomen and follow your breathing, noticing how your abdomen rises and falls.

* Alcohol and sleep

Make sure you are getting a good nights sleep and that your alcohol consumption is low. These are proven factors that can cause stress and anxiety.

* Quiet time

Have time to yourself to reflect on the day and to try and plan ahead to avoid stressful situations.

Gokhan Talip                                                                                                          16/05/07


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