A2 PE Factors Affecting Performance - Anxiety / Arousal

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Ivan Dolphin


I participate in athletics and 2 years ago I represented the north west of England in the U15 pentathlon. Since then I have been concentrating on shot putt much more because I find the skill that is required to perform a shot turn is immense; to gather the maximum  momentum in a short distance but have the control not to fall out of the circle is a masterpiece of discipline and practice.


I shall investigate how arousal affects performance of a shot putter. “Arousal is a physiological state of alertness and anticipation which prepares the body for action” – Barbara Woods (2001).

However, it’s true that over-arousal can be lethal to performance; it can lead to anxiety and incorrect performance. Arousal had influenced me negatively as overly low levels will lead to sloppy performance and being overanxious can lead to fouling out the front of the circle; as has happened in the past. Concluding the study I hope to understand anxiety better and learn to regulate it during competition to give me the best chance of performing well.

I must investigate:

  • How cognitive and somatic anxiety affects arousal.
  • If the catastrophe theory holds true for shot putt, and the level of effect on extroverts and introverts.
  • Mental preparation and techniques used to control levels of arousal and anxiety.

The study will be conducted over 6 athletics meets. From it I will be able to conclude how arousal affects the performance of different types of person and personality.

In order to complete this research I have compiled a table of all the sources of information I plan on using.

The following table shows all the parts of this research, describes them and states the deadlines.

Review of Literature

Somatic anxiety is “Anxiety demonstrated by actual physiological responses such as increased heart rate and sweating.” Oxford University Press.

Cognitive anxiety is “Anxiety as perceived by the individual in terms of how the individual feels about a situation.” Oxford University Press.

According to the Optimum Arousal Theory (Yuri Hanin, 1980) each athlete has an optimal arousal level at which he will perform best. Refer to appendix 5.

Yerkes-Dodson (1908) theory is given in appendix 5.

 Woods 1998 disputed this theory and stated that it did not account for cognitive anxiety and “only applies to a performer who is not worried”. Publius Syrus once said “” This can be directly applied to this theory when referring to over-arousal.

Drive Theory (Clark Hull 1943) which is explained in appendix 1. This can be seen in the professional world where the shot putter would usually be doing fast, jerky movements, pumping his arms and shouting or jeering; this is done to increase arousal, to get hyped up then all this tension is released in the effort of the putt.

The two above theories are too simplistic and so the Multi-dimensional Anxiety Theory (McGrath, 1970) was introduced; it relates to cognitive and somatic anxiety. Refer to appendix 5.

It implies that once I start putting the performance should improve as the event progresses as the performer gets more used to the action within the event; this is assuming the cognitive anxiety is constant. This theory was backed up by Richards (1995) (Appendix 4) for mountain biking, Dunn (1999) & later with Syrotuik (2003) who researched hockey players’ cognitive anxiety.

The catastrophe theory relates cognitive anxiety, psychological arousal and performance; (appendix 3). This theory was applied by P. Schwenkmezger and L. Laux (1980) when investigating professional women’s handball.

Techniques have been developed to establish a balance between over and under arousal, this is Mental Imagery is analyzed in appendix 5.

Another method used to reduce arousal is Meditation for Relaxation

A number of people involved in sports psychology believe that meditation can be useful in getting maximum performance from an athlete (Syer & Connolly, 1984). Refer to appendix 5 for definitions.

If the performer is under-aroused he would need to use self-talk to convince himself that he will succeed or get his coach to talk to him. Performing short sprints or jumps would excite the body and elevate heart rate and readiness; this tells the body to get ready for action.

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Optimal levels of arousal and stimulation are central to Eysenck’s (1967) theory of introversion – extraversion and Zuckerman’s theory of sensation seeking (Zuckerman, 1969b, 1984a). Explanation follows in appendix 5.

Given that the optimal performance level for shot putt is high this theory suggests that the extrovert would need little arousal alteration as he is naturally highly aroused however the introvert would need more arousal alteration as his natural arousal levels are low. This can be seen in mountain biking for example (Richards 1995); where the performer also needs high arousal levels, the arousal alteration would be the ...

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