Psychology

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The pressure of performing in competition can have two effects on an athlete’s performance; it can have a positive effect and encourage and improve an athlete’s performance, or can have a negative effect and damage the athlete’s performance. In the following report I will define and discuss factors leading to stress, arousal and anxiety, and the psychological and physiological effects on an athlete’s performance and behaviour as well as critically analyzing strategies of stress management.

Stress is what results when performers see themselves incapable to meet the demands of a situation. Lazarus and Folkman (1984) defined stress as ‘’Stress is a pattern of negative physiological states and psychological responses occurring in situations where people perceive threats to their well-being which they may be unable to meet.” Stress is widely used to refer to the term distress and the negative physiological and psychological responses which result when the athlete feels they are unable to meet the needs of the situation they are presented with. It is the athlete’s perception of a situation, which will determine whether stress will occur. Therefore stress can have both a positive and negative effect on performance. If the demand the athlete is presented with is seen as a positive by the athlete, this will not create any stress, but if the demand is perceived as negative by the athlete, this will have a negative effect on performance. A demand which is perceived as a negative demand is termed a stressor. Sport psychologists commonly refer to stress and anxiety being interchangeable, meaning they are able to be used in place of one another. Kremer and Scully (1994) are among some of the sport psychologists who have argued, separating stress, anxiety and arousal is too orderly, because there is an interaction between them and a substantial overlap between all three. A negative perception of one may lead on two the other two factors i.e. a negative perception of arousal, can lead to stress and anxiety. There are two types of stress;

* Eustress – Is a good form of stress than can provide the athlete with a feeling of accomplishment. It is common for athletes to seek out stressful situations in order to provide themselves a challenge. Athlete’s who seek out stressful situations for themselves, will usually achieve an increase in intrinsic motivation. * Distress – Is the opposite of eustress and is bad form of stress. Distress is severe form of nervousness, apprehension or anxiety as a perceived inability to meet the demands placed on the athlete. Within stress there are also internal and external factors, which may determine why the athlete is stressed; * Internal factors – Internal factors, are factors which come from within our body, examples of internal factors of stress are; * Pain - the athlete may have sustained an injury

* Perception - the way the athlete perceives the demands put on them * Over self critical - this is when the athlete is tough on themselves and criticises their performance too much as they feel they can do better * Cognitive anxiety - this is when the athlete has negative thoughts about their performance, fear of failure and also the inability to concentrate.

* External factors – External factors, are factors which the athlete has no control of, examples of external factors of stress are; * Environment - the environment the athlete finds themselves in may be too noisy or too quiet * Negative social interactions - an individual being rude towards the athlete * Major life event - for example the death of a family member * Day to day interruptions, things such as travelling to training etc. The stress response is activated when athletes find themselves in stressful situations, the way the athlete reacts to the situation, depends on how severe the athlete interprets the threat. The threat and response is controlled by two parts of our nervous system, these are;...
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