It is July 2008 and I am on the steamy, beautiful but windy beaches of Puerto Rico. The events of this day stand vivid in my mind, the adrenaline pumping, as I recall with ease the extreme levels of arousal that I experienced while competing in the intense gold medal match of the Puerto Rican beach volleyball championship. Being a highly competitive athlete I am astutely aware that my mind and body go through numerous transformations when facing certain situations or events in competitive sport. In this discussion paper the importance of arousal and anxiety in sport and my own personal experiences will be discussed and explored.
Arousal is a significant aspect in sport because it can ...view middle of the document...
By focusing on the important aspects of the game and ignoring the irrelevant surroundings an athlete is able to reach the optimal level of arousal. On the other side of the spectrum low arousal can be achieved by focusing on both relevant and irrelevant cues.
Flow state and peak performance which are commonly not differentiated between, mean two different states of performance in sport. Flow state is commonly known as a suspended trans-like state where everything goes just right. The athlete has an energized focus that is hard to break. In the case of volleyball where one would sometimes make an error or miss a ball, it doesn’t happen; rather the athlete makes that impossible dig or that serve that looks like its sailing out floats back in for the perfect ace! Flow state is centered on performance as opposed to peak performance which is highly outcome oriented. Therefore peak performance is where others help you to achieve that state of performance.
Next, state and trait anxiety are another aspect important to understand when discussing performance in sports. State anxiety occurs when an athlete is in a situation that produces stress. It is usually a temporary state; therefore the stress is gone once the athlete is no longer in that situation. Trait anxiety on the other hand is more long-term and the athlete is responsible for bringing the stress and anxiety to the situations.
As an elite level volleyball player including national level beach and club and varsity indoor, I have competed at very high levels and come to know the importance of the effects of arousal on my ability to compete. In my experiences at AAAA OFSAA volleyball championships I have experienced flow state. It was my final high school year and our team was competing in the semi final game. I was very pumped up but calm at the same time. I played the best volleyball that I have ever played; I was unstoppable and kept going and going as if in a trance. I continued to make kills and digs and everything was going my way. Nothing around me mattered more than playing this game.
Conversely, I also experienced situations of low arousal. When playing volleyball in high school where my team was always very strong, competing against the weaker teams often caused the team including myself to be very under aroused. It seemed as though we would “play down” to the other team’s level. In these scenarios, my team would win, but not as easily as we should have, as our focus was not on the game, rather it was on what was happening in the stands or the joke someone told on the bench. I know that when I...