Wednesday, October 19, 2011

State of Arousal and Performance

Calming yourself down when a whole team is riding on your back to make this free throw to win the game can be a stressful task in itself, so how do all of these professional athletes maintain a workable stress level to keep their performance at their highest? It's hard to explain, but i think i have some theories.  Athletes that perform at a very high level of competition have much more skill and confidence in their abilities.  I think that they can focus less on what they are actually physically doing to perform the task at hand, and use that freed cognitive space to block out the pressures from around them.  Most athletes like a certain level of pressure while they are performing.  If you know the game or match doesn't matter or there won't be any consequences in the result of a loss, players can become apathetic to the game and make mistakes because they are not in the right state of mind to perform.  However, when there is too much at stake with the game the players can shut down in some sort of state like tonic immobility, where there is too much stress and stimulation to cope and perform, and they "choke".  Professional athletes have the ability to gain confidence in high pressure situations because they are able to block out the underlying pressure and fill it with their confidence in themselves i believe.  Myself on the other-hand, thats a different story.  I will start an activity, such as skateboarding or surfing and have very high confidence and do well in the beginning,. but one bad turn or failed flip trick and i get frustrated and loos my confidence and my performance suffers.  It is mostly a mental thing and i believe that it can be beaten if i could only keep my thoughts from turning negative on me.  I believe that performance under stress relies mostly on the mental will of the athlete.  The more capable you know you are, the more confident in your abilities and the less you let the pressure of the situation damper your performance.  There is definitely a balance of performance and pressure and it is in the shape of an inverted U.  The performance rises as the pressure increases up until a point where it becomes too much causing the athlete to crack, some have a higher pressure threshold, some have lower.  It would be great to perform studies to really understand more of what goes on in peoples head as they deal with stressful situations so they don't crack or choke.  MY solution, don;t take everything so seriously, its just a game, or a hobby, or something else that is supposed to just be FUN.


  1. I agree with everything you've said in your post. I think that the more confident we are, the less we need to focus on the physical.. and we can spend more time on mental aspects of things. I agree that we can still "choke" when things are overwhelming, but there is also less of a chance if we are confident. I like your last statement that tells us to relax, something we all need to do.

  2. I liked this post because I could relate to what you said. I agree that if you are confident and capable of performing the less likely the pressure will damper your performance. I play soccer and find that I do best while under pressure. I also find that if there is no pressure or competition I am more likely to become apathetic and make mistake. On the other hand if I am doing an activity I am not so confident in and mess it, I get discouraged and my performance suffers, just like your example with surfing.

  3. This post is very interesting because I am an athlete as well as a musician, so the inverted "u" about performance is very true to me, and I have personal experience with it.