Competitive spirits

Q. What makes a person tough competitor in sport ? Examine the role of the sport psychologist in this regard. 15 marks.

5 thoughts on “Competitive spirits”

  1. A tough competitor in sports is one who exhibits the required skills for the particular sport as well as the mental ability to cope with performance pressure. A strong sportsperson is one with qualities such as
    1. Locus of control, concentration and focus: Locus of control means the extent to which one believes that he is in control of his life. It could be either internal, i.e. believing we have control of the situation or external, i.e. the environment controls us. an internal locus of control provides a facilitative effect that results in better management of stress and in turn better performance whereas external locus of control leads to a debilitative effect or feeling of weakness and helplessness leading to high anxiety and bad performance. Psychologists could help the individual to shift their locus of control to internal thereby motivating him to perform better. Concentration and focus can be improved by the ‘Imagery technique’ where the individual imagines how he will perform in the competition by visualising the environment, tracing his moves and shots, etc.
    2. Stress management: Physical activities like sports leads to high physiological and psychological arousal. Arousal level has direct impact on an individual’s concentration, focus and performance. Managing an optimum level of arousal is therefore necessary. It was initially stated that for simpler (and heavy) tasks, high arousal would lead to better performance. Eg: weightlifting requires participants to have high arousal levels. For complex tasks and tasks that requires more concentration, low arousal levels result in better performance. Eg: Archery, rifle shooting, etc. Studies such as ‘Inverted U Hypothesis’ have correlated performance and arousal to bring out the concept of optimum arousal. By looking at how fine the motor skills required for a particular sport are, psychologists can seek to optimise arousal levels in participants in that sport.
    3. Motivation: A tough competitor will have high motivation. Both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation play a role in performance but mostly intrinsic motivation is dominant. The need to grow in his chosen field of sports is an important drive to practice well and thereby perform better. To keep the intrinsic motivation high psychologists could apply goal setting theory. The individuals could set small realistic goals to work upon and with positive reinforcement and rewards, the individual’s self esteem could be impacted. Attribution theory states it is innate tendency of individual to attribute or make sense of the situation and the consequences. It could be internal or external, i.e. if you fail you attribute it to the environment and if you succeed you attribute it to you skills. Studies show a person with low self esteem with attribute internally leading to feeling of depression which could hinder the performance catastrophically. Psychologists could work on the individual to attribute situations realistically through positive feedback, even if exaggerated. Similarly, as per Bandura, self efficacy or belief about one’s abilities can be boosted by successful performance, verbal persuasion and feedback.
    4. Anxiety: During performance two types of anxiety is present, somatic (Physiological) and cognitive anxiety (Anxious thinking). Study has shown cognitive anxiety is negatively related to performance because anxious thinking leads to self doubt, images of failure and humiliation. Managing anxiety is therefore important as this separates the experts from the novices. Experts perform better due to control on their cognitive anxiety and novices are more likely to crack under pressure.
    Therefore, contribution of psychology in varies fields is increasing as it helps understand human behaviour and modify it as required for better performance. Sports psychologists can utilise the psychological studies and theories to optimise the performance of sports-persons in various sports.

  2. Sports is not only about realising one’s aptitude through training. Besides eminent coaching and use of technology, a tough competitor is one who has below psychological qualities:
    1. Mentally tough : An emotionally strong person is able to manage his/her emotions and focus on the possibilities. This gives him/her an upper hand compared to others.
    2. Maintains optimal arousal : Very low and very high arousal affects performance(yerkes-dodson law). A person who maintains optimal arousal which depends on the nature of the sport(oxendine) is a tough competitor.
    3. Strong in the 4Cs- concentration, confidence, control and commitment

    Sport Psychologists can help a person to be emotionally strong using below psychological principles:
    (i) EMOTION MANAGEMENT :
    1. Cognitive behavioral therapy – this fixes cognitive distortions and thus eliminates anxiety. Eg: fixing irrational beliefs (Ellis Rational emotive therapy)
    2. Classical conditioning – a trigger word is conditioned to provide relaxation. This trigger word helps relax and prevents anxiety.
    3. Self instructional therapy for anger management
    4. Relaxation technique – meditation influences performance. Eg: novak djokovic has told about the power of meditation
    (ii) MENTAL PREPAREDNESS :
    1. Use of imagery – Mental practise elicits visualised response during performace. This is done through external and internal imagery. Eg: a basketball player visualising throwing ball directly into the net
    2. Motivation – psychologists recommend sports persons to be motivated by mastery goals(to give one’s best) during practise and ego approach goals(be better than others) during the game(Dwecks achievement goal theory)
    3. Help set SMART goals – goal setting improves performance. Sportsperson are trained to set specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, time bound goals.
    4. Operant model – providing regular feedback during practise sessions reinforces expected behavior during performance.

  3. A tough competitor is one who possess right skill supplemented by right technology with well-maintained psychological profile. The psychological interventions in the sports psychology are:-

    1) Arousal: A tough competitor always maintains optimal arousal required for the sport. Different sports requires different level of arousal. e.g. Golf requires far less arousal than football.
    2) Imagery: Uses mental imagery to stimulate the real life situation and preparing himself for the occasion
    3) Concentration: maintains the right amount and kind of concentration needed.
    e.g. Chess player needs to keep sustained concentration compared to sprinting athlete who needs intense concentration
    4) Motivation: Employs right kind of motivation in off-field and in-game.
    e.g. Cricketers employ master-oriented motivation while training and ego-oriented motivation in-game scoring
    5) Mentally tough and emotionally stable: In time of crisis, ability to empower positive emotions to tackle the situation
    e.g. Sport-persons like Djokovic, Halep known for giving ‘comeback’ in final sets
    6) They always keep themselves – committed, in control of their emotions and have self-confidence.

    Role of Sports Psychologists: The role of sports psychologists is to research, educate and train the individuals so enable these psychological interventions to improve participation and performance of the individual.

    1) Anxiety: By employing Yerkes-Dodson’s law of anxiety, they study the amount and kind of arousal needed for the sport as this directly has influence on the focus, concentration, employing fine-skills etc., They train the individuals according to the nature of their skill and the game.

    2) Motivation: By employing Dweck achievement goal theory of motivation, they make sport-persons realize the kind of benefits and costs associated with mastery-oriented and ego-oriented motivations and train them to use the methods effectively.
    e.g. mastery-oriented motivation yields better results in long-run, but ego-oriented motivation nudges the individual to push the limits in-game.

    3) Preparedness: Sports psychologists prepare individuals mentally so that they are able to concentrate and feel in-control of the situation. Some methods are:-
    1) Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals : when set goals are specific and reliable and action oriented, it naturally reduces anxiety and there by enables him to focus
    2) Use of mental imagery: By training them to use mental imagery, he prepares the individual psychologically for the in-game situation [ Hesslow simulation hypothesis ] and it increases sense of ‘control’ in the individual

    4) Emotional stability: Sports psychologists employ variety of methods ranging from relaxation techniques to cognitive behavioral techniques to existential therapies for employing right kind of emotions. This plays a key role as research suggests that although mental toughness and anger-management have genetic traits, it can greatly improved through thorough practice

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