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Psycological Theories Of Arousal In Sports

The Catastrophe theory is a severe version of the inverted U theory. At first, an athlete is under-aroused meaning that they are distracted and not aware of their surroundings. Then they are at optimum level of arousal meaning that they are performing at their best. If the athlete then became over-aroused there would be a severe decline in performance as they become over-aroused in that moment. To then try to get back to their optimum level, the athlete is over-aroused and has to become under-aroused again to then build up to the optimum level. A sporting example is in football. When they are under-aroused, they aren’t paying attention as they are as they could be distracted by their surroundings. When they are at their optimum arousal, they are performing at their optimum level of performance. When the player is over-aroused, they have a dramatic drop in performance and are likely to miss an open goal or a penalty. Once the athlete has become over aroused and the performance level has dramatically dropped, the decrease in performance reduces in gradient. To get back to their optimum arousal level, they have to become under-aroused again to then build up back to their optimum arousal level.

The Individual Zone of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) is the final theory that I will be looking at. This theory looks at the relationship between the arousal of an athlete and how this can impact the performance of an athlete. It explains that an athlete has a section of optimal performance over an extended period of time and isn’t just a build up to a peak. Comparing this to the drive theory, the IZOF has sections of optimal performance whereas the drive theory has a peak of optimal arousal and explains that as arousal levels increase, the performance of an athlete also increases. Comparing this to the inverted- U theory, it is clear that this is completely different. Where the inverted- U theory sees arousal at an optimal point, the IZOF theory sees optimal arousal as a section. Furthermore, the inverted- U theory sees that every athlete’s optimal point is at a mid-point on a curve, whereas the IZOF explores that the optimal point varies from person to person.

Comparing this to the catastrophe theory, the IZOF explains how athletes have a section of optimal arousal; however it doesn’t take into account the ‘choking’ factor. A sporting example of the IZOF theory would be with three different kinds of athletes. Athlete A has low IZOF meaning that they perform at their best with low levels of anxiety. This type of athlete tends to be an introvert meaning that they do not actively seek excitement as they have naturally high levels of arousal and do not need anymore. They like to be involved in sports with repetition and concentration such as archery and snooker. This is more likely to link with athletes with an introverted type of personality. Athlete B has moderate IZOF meaning that they perform at their best in moderate levels of anxiety. They would like a sport such as rowing as it is an exciting sport but is very repetitive. Athlete C has high IZOF meaning that they perform best with high levels of anxiety and arousal. This type of athlete tends to be an extrovert meaning that they require lots of gross motor movements such as football and rugby as there is a high level of arousal, it’s a team based game and is an exciting fast paced game. It is most likely to relate to an extroverted athlete that is seeking excitement and stimulation to ensure that they are performing at their optimal performance levels. Overall, this theory explores that athletes can have different levels of arousal and can stay at these levels of a period of time.

The drive theory believes that as long as your arousal levels increase you will always improve your performance. However, this theory isn’t always feasible as athletes can become over aroused. The Inverted- U theory explores that as arousal levels increase so does the quality of performance. However arousal can actually hinder the performance. If arousal occurs beyond the optimum point, the performer becomes over-aroused and performances decrease in a steady manner. They can also be under-aroused which is when they haven’t reached their optimum arousal and are distracted and unaware of their surroundings which decrease performance. The Inverted U theory takes into account personality types which make it a better theory than the Drive theory. However it doesn’t consider ‘choking’ within sport. The Catastrophe theory is a severe version of the inverted U theory. When they are under-aroused, they aren’t paying attention as they are as they are distracted by their surroundings. When they are at their optimum arousal, they are performing at their highest and best. When the player is over-aroused, they have a sudden drop in performance and are likely to miss an open goal or a penalty. To get back to their optimum arousal level, they have to become under-aroused again to then build up back to their optimum arousal level. The Individual Zone of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) looks at the relationship between the arousal of an athlete and how this can impact the performance of an athlete but in a different way. It explains that an athlete has a section of optimal performance at any time and isn’t just a build up to a peak. The one I feel is the most reliable is the IZOF theory as I believe you can be at optimal performance instantly and you don’t have to build up to it.

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