SPORT & EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY

Individuals will usually specialize in either sports or exercise. It is rare to practice in both. Sports psychologists work with sports men and women across teams and individual sports, both amateur and professional. They aim to prepare athletes psychologically for competition and enable them to deal with both competition and training. They may help athletes to deal with the stressful and demanding aspects of their professional, help coaches build team cohesiveness, help athletes deal with the emotional consequences of injuries and so on. Exercise psychologists are mainly interested with the application of psychology to exercise participation and motivating the general public. This may include encouraging people to see the benefits of exercise, encouraging individuals to set goals.

ANXIETY AND AROUSAL

Anxiety is often thought of as an emotion, whereas arousal is thought of as something that occurs as a result of psychological or physiological influences. Both anxiety and arousal are not only present, but are important in competitive sport. 

Proper mental preparation for sport should involve regulation of both anxiety and arousal (regulation NOT elimination).
Anxiety may be defined as a “perceived threat”.
  Arousal may be caused by either positive or negative emotions. 

ANXIETY 
There are two types of anxiety – Trait or State Anxiety.

State Anxiety (often abbreviated as A-state) is a temporary thing – anxiety that fluctuates over time. It involves a person having a sense of apprehension or tension, usually because of a particular perception that the person has about a situation in the near future.

“A transitory emotional state or condition of the human organism that is characterised by subjective, consciously perceived feelings of tension and apprehension, and heightened autonomic nervous system activity” (Spielberger, 1972 – 1983)

This is therefore an appropriate and temporary anxiety.  When something occurs that makes us feel anxious, then we return to our “normal” state again.

Trait Anxiety (often abbreviated as A-trait) is a relatively stable disposition that a person has, frequently depicted as a personality trait.

“Trait anxiety denotes relatively stable individual differences in anxiety proneness and refers to a general tendency to respond with anxiety to perceived threats in the environment”.
(Spielberger,1972 – 1983)

Trait anxiety is the “preset” level of anxiety that an individual may experience if they have a tendency to be more anxious than appropriate to anxiety provoking stimuli.  

For example, if we are driving and someone nearly hits us – we will become anxiety, we will have an intense anxiety reaction. This is normal.  After a while, our body will return to its “normal” level.  However, some people will feel anxious more often and inappropriately.  For example, someone may nearly hit their car and they become so anxious they have to stop driving for a period of time.

As you can imagine, trait anxiety can have a big effect on athletic performance. Athletes with high-trait anxiety are more likely to focus on the chance of failure. They see situations as more threatening or dangerous, and are more likely to focus on negative possibilities, past failures, mishaps and consequences of failure. 

On the other hand, athletes with low-trait anxiety are more likely to focus on success. They respond more effectively to mistakes and stress, and are able to focus on the current situation. Instead of being challenged by their mistakes, they are more likely to be motivated by them to work harder. This allows athletes with low-trait anxiety to recover better physically and emotionally after a mistake, allowing them to get back into the game faster, and focus on a future event. 


Physiology of Anxiety 
The bodily reactions to an anxiety stimulus result from the action of the sympathetic nervous system, and from the effects of the hormone epinephrine (popularly known as adrenaline); secreted by the adrenal glands. This is known as the somatic reaction to stress.

The following reactions occur:
1. The rate and depth of breathing increase
2. There is an increase in heart rate and the amount of blood pumped out with each beat.
3. Blood pressure increases.
4. Less blood goes to the internal organs, and more to the muscles.
5. The liver releases extra blood sugar to supply energy.
6. Production of saliva in the mouth decreases; and supply of mucus in respiratory passages decreases.
7. The pupils of the eyes dilate, letting in more light.
8. The galvanic skin response or GSR (changes in electrical resistance of the skin) increases. The GSR is related in a complex way to the functioning of the sweat glands on the skin (and through this interaction, sweating may increase).

These are similar to the fight or flight responses of stress we mentioned in the previous lesson.  The fact that many of these changes are quite easy to measure, provides a basis for the ordinary lie detector, or polygraph.

The Cognitive reaction to stress is where the mind prepares for the threat to come.

Psychology of Anxiety
Anxiety can be a learned behaviour, and generally is thought of as an internal state usually produced by external stimuli; and not necessarily leading to any particular behaviour. Different levels of anxiety result in many different forms of behaviour.
Anxiety can be used as a motivational emotion when sports participants need to be aware of a threat or danger of loosing a race or game. If managed correctly, anxiety can heighten awareness and keep the athlete “ready” for the game. Another athlete that does not cope well with the level of anxiety prior to competing, may “freeze up”; become distracted, and not cope under pressure.
Anxiety levels need to be controlled in sport: not eliminated.

Competitive anxiety is a state of anxiety, stress and arousal that can occur when athletes are taking part in sports.  This can negatively affect their performance

AROUSAL
Arousal may be considered to in various ways be like having “drive”, “activation”, “readiness” or “excitation”.
Arousal is required in order to achieve optimum performance in sport or exercise.
Physiology of Arousal
An increase in physical activity can change hormone levels, blood flow, etc and create arousal. All athletes react and cope differently with both arousal and anxiety. 

Psychology of Arousal
Arousal may be caused by either positive or negative emotions (e.g. excitement or fear). 
A typical coach will view a correct level of arousal as “being psyched up”. This is a vague and very general concept
Levels of arousal change for different sports. Archery for example requires a slight arousal, but football a much higher or more intense level of arousal.

Choking
Choking is the inability to perform to a former standard.  It is thought that the term originated from the Salem Witch Trials. One of the tests to determine whether someone was a witch required that the woman would swallow one communion wafer. It was thought that if she was a witch, this would be an impossible task for her.  However, many women did choke, probably from the pressure put upon them in the situation. 

High anxiety is usually the course of choking and can lead to a decrease in the athlete’s performance.  The potential for choking depends on the situation and the athlete. As anxiety increases beyond the optimal level for a task, there will be a decline in performance. A certain level of stress may be good in sport, but if this goes too far, it may result in performance decline.    Self doubts and a desire to impress others can create high levels of stress, as can the other stressors we mentioned in the previous lesson.  When choking occurs, the athlete’s focus is no longer on the physical aspect of his/her performance.

For example, choking might occur when –

 

  • The athlete is concerned about what others think about his/her performance e.g. Audience, coach, team mates.
  • There is a gap between their actual performance and the goal they want to achieve in the competition.
  • A top athlete is so focused on winning that his/her anxiety increases and they are slow to react when the start pistol goes off, so losing time. 
  • In football/soccer, loud support/shouting/booing from the audience may increase the self-attention of the athlete, which can result in performance errors.
  • In tennis/football or similar, the athlete misses an easy shot/goal.  They may then become afraid of repeating the same mistake, so their performance may suffer.

The opposite of choke is the “clutch”. This is a term used mainly in the United States. It means that someone is performing well under extreme pressure.  For example, performing to high levels in a critical game.  Many sportspersons, fans and sports writers believe that some players have an innate skill of being “clutch”, but there in no objective evidence to support this.







COURSES & STUDIES FOR CAREERS IN SPORT & EXERCISE

SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY

The Sports Psychology course is aimed at those people already in the health and fitness industries who wish to gain a more comprehensive understanding of how to motivate and support their clients.  It can also be used by professional counselors or psychologists who are working with sports people, and by anyone who wishes to improve their personal knowledge for their own benefit. 

There are three fields of employment currently utilizing expertise in this subject area:

1.  CLINICAL SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY - This covers sports related psychological problems, such as depression, and eating disorders. Expertise in these areas allows people to work with athletes and non-athletes. 

2. EDUCATIONAL SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY - This emphasis the performance enhancement skills, such as arousal control, goal setting, imagery.  In this career, you would work in an athletic environment applying relevant sports psychology techniques. 

3. ACADEMIC SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY - This covers research and teaching. 

Successful completion of this course/module will develop your skills and understanding of psychological principles for use in sports.      

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FITNESS LEADERS CERTIFICATE

This course will provide credits towards IARC (International Accreditation and Recognition Council) accredited Certificates or Diplomas. The course incorporates Exercise and Fitness Knowledge Level 1 and 2 in the U.K; and ALSO the Australian certificates III and IV in Fitness. ACS has articulation arrangements with partner colleges in both Australia and the UK which allows graduates to obtain accredited fitness leader qualifications in either country (A small amount of additional work and extra fees will apply to upgrade and obtain additional, accredited qualifications).  (Note: Though this course can be undertaken and a certificate awarded anywhere in the world; the UK accredited qualification can only be awarded if studying in the UK).

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LIFE COACHING

Life coaching not only involves planning and engaging in processes to bring about change, it can also involve the life coach in motivating the client to accept the need for inner change in order to bring about outer change. In the end, the processes of recognising a need for change and for managing change may be even more valuable and contribute more to the personal growth of the client than the outcomes.

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MOTIVATION

Learn to motivate your clients & staff! Why? Because motivated people work better, live more satisfied lives and are generally healthier and happier.  Motivated employees drive the success of a business. Learn how to get the best of employees by understanding more about this fascinating subject.                    

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AQUAFITNESS

Aquafitness programmes are designed for people who can't participate in high impact sports and fitness; or simply for people who enjoy the fun atmosphere of an aquafitness class. 

Aquafitness is ideal for anyone recovering from injury or illness and wishes to maintain or improve their fitness; also for expectant mothers and the elderly can benefit from this type of exercise!   

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ANATOMY & PHYSIOLOGY

Learn about the human body. Acquire and deepen your knowledge in Human Anatomy and Physiology. This course provides you with the knowledge basis to a career in Human Health and Wellbeing. You will understand what is a human body, how it works and which factors determine health.

 

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