Describe arousal, anxiety and stress including their causes. Explain effects on performance.

Authors Avatar

BTEC National Sport Level 3

Describe arousal, anxiety and stress including their causes. (P3)

Explain effects on performance. (M2)


Arousal is the amount of mental energy or preparedness a person has prior to performance.

Being aroused has different effects on the body and mind being aroused will make you fell mentally excites, have an increased pulse, blood pressure and temperature. Sweating is likely to occur as having butterfly’s in your stomach your focus will increase as you set yourself into the zone you are playing in.

There are different levels of arousal under aroused, optimum arousal and over arousal.

Being under aroused gives you a slow RT your attention span and concentration goes broad and you have slow reaction and stimuli.

Being over aroused will lead to being highly excited, having a decrease in motor control leading to poor execution of skills. Attention span becomes narrow giving tunnel vision and making poor decisions.

Optimum arousal makes the athlete physically and mentally prepares for action, making them make good decision and execute skills accurately the athlete will also have a quick RT.

Optimum levels of arousal are affected by how difficult or intellectual a sport is, how much cognitive energy it requires, and how much endurance and persistence the sport/task needs.  For example, the arousal levels in a Rugby team training session are likely to be higher because it requires persistence and perseverance. A training session is a low cognitive task, therefore arousal levels are going to be higher, and are likely to be more beneficial to long term performance.  Performers become more intrinsically motivated and self-directed, as at training they are much more eager to learn and improve.  Whereas, a  Golfer (putting) which is a high cognitive task, is likely to initiate lower arousal levels - where concentration is at its highest and decision making is essential; so, as a result, the athlete is able to optimise his/her performance to that of the best possible, without becoming agitated in an effort to sink the ball.  

Drive theory

According to the Drive Theory if an athlete is appropriately skilled then it will help them to perform well if their drive to compete is aroused - they are psyched up. As arousal increases, performance increases.

An example of this theory is when everyone was expecting Paula Radcliffe to win Gold at the Olympics. Because of vast pressure and media attention Paula Radcliffe receives she decided to train alone in the south of Spain instead of at the British team’s training camp. Throughout her career she had won races by going to the front and trying to burn the opposition away, but in the Olympics race this didn’t happen, her opponents stayed with and then started to go in front. She then began to lose confidence in herself and gave up around the 23 mile mark, falling to the wayside in tears having to be supported by fans. After failing to achieve gold in the marathon Paula decided to go ahead with running the 10000m. Deciding to run the 10000m is seen as a big mistake by many, there was no way she was going to be able to run a full 10000m against people with fresh legs, having run 23 miles in the week followed by huge emotional trauma. Before the 10000m Paula’s arousal levels would have been very high, thinking if she would finish or even get a podium finish, hence, according to the inverted ‘u’ theory, the fall in her performance was due to over arousal.

Join now!

Inverted ‘U’ theory

This theory states that as arousal levels increase so will the level of performance, but only to a certain optimal level of performance. Beyond the optimal level, performance will get worse if arousal levels increase.


There are two forms of anxiety trait anxiety, state anxiety, somatic and cognitive

Trait anxiety is a feature of personality. Person perceives non-dangerous circumstances as threatening and responds with state anxiety reaction.

State anxiety: temporary ever changing emotional state with feelings of apprehension or tension.

Anxiety can be caused by a number of determining factors. Different athletes ...

This is a preview of the whole essay

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay


With the inclusion of 'catastrophe theory', this would be a strong merit piece of work! :)