How well an athlete performs during sports competition depends on an array of factors, including physical, psychological, personality and external. Some of the factors can be controlled and adjusted to encourage better performance, while others are caused by outside circumstances and are completely out of an athlete’s control.
The physical factors that can affect an athlete’s performance include fitness level, training history and skill level. Athletes who spend more time training and developing their skills usually see notable improvements in their performance. An athlete’s nutritional habits, including properly fueling and hydrating prior to competition, can help boost performance. According to Dr. Shona L. Halson of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, eight hours of nightly sleep and regular 30-minute naps prevent the performance pitfalls that occur with sleep deprivation, boost an athlete's ability to learn new skills and tactics and allow an athlete's body to fully recover from training so that he or she is able to perform at a higher level during competition. Physical factors that can adversely affect an athlete’s performance include temporary sickness, fatigue due to jet-lag and the presence of health conditions like asthma, anemia and allergies.
Athletes who are confident and feel adequately prepared perform at a higher level. Having more competition experience often leads to greater confidence going into a game or match. For example, having previously achieved success by performing at a high level in earlier games or practices can boost confidence and thus performance. Relaxation techniques, such as a baseball player who performs deliberate breathing prior to stepping into the batter's box, and imagery exercises, like a basketball player who envisions himself making free throws, can lead to improvement because the athlete feels better prepared. Psychological factors that can adversely affect an athlete's performance include anxiety caused by personal or family problems. These can disturb his usual level of focus and add stress. Some athletes also experience pressure because they don't want to let others down. They may question their abilities and feel less self-assured.
While the personalities of athletes can vary significantly, the most successful athletes have a tendency to share a number of traits and characteristics. An athlete who is naturally more self-confident and less fearful of failure is likely to perform at a higher level. Players who are better able to deal with stress and look at anxiety as a beneficial challenge often step up and excel. For example, a soccer goalie who considers the need to block a penalty kick for his team to win a match as a welcome challenge will have a better chance of successfully making the play. Athletes who can control their emotions and ignore outer distractions, like an unruly crowd, remain more focused and experience better performance. If a player is naturally more disciplined and self-motivated, he will work harder at training and therefore have a better chance of having greater overall performance. The inability to handle stress, anxiety and adversity can negatively affect performance. Athletes who feel the need to lash out at rowdy opponents often experience a loss in focus. Those who naturally clam up and get nervous during crucial moments are more likely to suffer performance blunders.
Most external factors affecting an athlete’s performance are out of his or her control. These types of factors include wind, which can affect the flight of a ball or blow debris into an athlete’s eyes; extreme weather conditions, like heat or cold; and competitions played at high altitude, which stimulate physiological changes and cause more stress to be placed on an athlete’s body. Other external factor that cannot be controlled by an athlete include the decisions made by referees or umpires, the performance of opponents and the behavior of a crowd.
- Teach PE: GCSE Revision – Factors Affecting Performance
- Soccer Performance: Factors Affecting Soccer Performance
- Human Kinetics: Introduction to Kinesiology: Various Personality Factors Affect Athletic Success and Exercise Adherence
- Gatorade Sports Science Institute: SSE #113: Sleep and the Elite Athlete
- Photo Credit Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images
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