Academic journal article Indian Journal of Positive Psychology

Enhancing Sports and Exercise Performance through Cognitive Interventions

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Positive Psychology

Enhancing Sports and Exercise Performance through Cognitive Interventions

Article excerpt

The ability to cope with pressure and anxiety is an integral part of sports, particularly among elite athletes. Anxiety and stress exerts a variety of effects on athletic performance. Sports performance of athletes become "pumped up" during competition, when the rush of adrenaline is interpreted as anxiety, and negative thoughts begin to dominate, it can have devastating effects on their ability to perform. Cognitive interventions have been found to exert a powerful influence on performance. Sport psychologists help to the athletes to cope with the stressors and anxieties that are seen throughout their preparation and their performance.

The present article discusses cognitive intervention techniques such as visualization exercises, relaxation, cognitive restructuring, and effective goal setting.

Cognitive strategies refer to a mental process that is intended to improve some behavioral outcome in exercise. One area of applied exercise psychology is concerned with examining the effect of these strategies on exercise performance and affect, or mood state. This paper concerns the use of cognitive interventions that favorably influence sports and exercise performance. Most of these have been established in the sport psychology literature and used successfully in sport, yet they also have a direct impact on exercise performance, and form an important concept in applied exercise psychology. Relations h ip between Anxiety and Performance

Anxiety before or during athletic competitions can hinder performance of an athlete. The coordinated movement required by athletic events becomes increasingly difficult when your body is in a tense state. A certain level of physical arousal is helpful which prepares athlete for competition. But when the physical symptoms of anxiety are too high, they may seriously interfere with athletes' ability to compete. Similarly, a certain amount of worry about how athletes perform can be helpful in competition, but severe cognitive symptoms of anxiety such as negative thought patterns and expectations of failure can bring about a self-fulfilling prophecy. If there is a substantial difference between how an athlete performs during practice and how he does during competitions, anxiety may be affecting his performance.

Martens, Vealey, and Burton (1990) expanded the work of invertedU from Yerkes and Dodson to include a multidimensional approach in which they looked at the relationships between cognitive anxiety and performance in addition to somatic anxiety and performance (invertedU). They found a strong negative linear relationship between cognitive anxiety and performance. That is to say that as the cognitive anxiety increases, performance decreases in a linear fashion. They also found the relationship between somatic anxiety and performance, curvilinear relationship where both lower and higher levels of somatic anxiety were detrimental to performance. The above research indicates that anxiety has a considerable impact on performance.

Participants in a collegiate softball tournament were put into one of two conditions: high situation criticality or low. While somatic anxiety did not differ in the two situations, those athletes in the high criticality condition had significantly higher levels of cognitiveanxiety (Krane, Joyce, & Rafeld, 1994). Clearly the cognitive interpretation an individual gives to a situation exerts an effect. Researchers have found that athletes who are successful interpret arousal to be facilitative. Research conducted with an elite group of swimmers found that anxiety intensity levels were higher in subjects who interpreted their anxiety as debilitative as those who reported it as being facilitative (Jones, Hanton, & Swain, 1994). This has been found to be true of gymnasts (Jones, Swain, & Hardy, 1993) as well as basketball players (Swain & Jones, 1996). Gould, Petrchlikoff, and Weinberg (1984) have reported that the strongest predictor of cognitive anxiety was years of experience such that the more experience an individual had the lower the level of cognitive anxiety. …

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