Arousal, Anxiety and Sport Performance

Arousal, anxiety and sport performance
During decades coaches and athletes have been witnesses of how arousal and anxiety affect performance. But, why it occurs? To know how to differentiate and interpret both, their sources and learning ways to regulate them is very useful to maximise performance.

Arousal is a general physiological and psychological activation, varying on a continuum from deep sleep to intense excitement. Highly aroused individuals are mentally and physically activated experiencing physiological changes which include increased heart rates, respiration and sweating (Weinberg & Gould, 2003).

Anxiety is a negative emotional state in which feelings of nervousness, worry and apprehension are associated with activation or arousal of the body. These feelings are the cognitive anxiety component while the degree of arousal perceived is the somatic anxiety component. In addition, an important distinction should be made between state and trait anxiety (Weinberg & Gould, 2003).
    • State anxiety is an immediate emotional state that is characterized by an increase in physiological arousal (Cox, 2003)
    • Trait anxiety is a personality predisposition to perceive certain environmental situations as threatening, and to respond to these situations with increased state anxiety (Spielberger, 1971 cited Cox, 2003)

Whether or not an athlete responds to a threatening situation with high levels of state anxiety will depend entirely on the athlete’s perception of the situation (Cox, 2003). Increasing arousal state anxiety influences athletic performance by increasing muscle tension and coordination difficulties, and changing attention or concentration levels (Weinberg & Gould, 2003).

Catastrophe theory
The catastrophe theory explains the arousal-performance relationship holding that the two independent variables affecting athletic performance are cognitive state anxiety and physiological arousal. (Horn, 2002) The theory suggests that...