INFLUENCE OF SKILL LEVEL AND ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
U.S. National Library of Medicine defines Athletic performance as carrying out of specific physical routines or procedures by one who is trained or skilled in physical activity. Performance is influenced by a combination of physiological, psychological, and socio-cultural factors.
Athletics is an exclusive collection of sporting events that involve competitive running, jumping, throwing, and walking. The most common types of athletics competitions are track and field, road running, cross country running, and race walking. The simplicity of the competitions, and the lack of a need for expensive equipment, makes athletics one of the most commonly competed sports in the world. Athletics is mostly an individual sport, with the exception of relay races and competitions which combine athletes’ performances for a team score, such as cross country.
There are four basic psychological skills generally exposed in Sport Psychology. Mental imagery, the first psychological skill, consists of five main categories; cognitive-specific, cognitive-general, motivational-specific, motivational-general mastery, and motivational-general arousal. Each skill can serve one or numerous functions, such as motivation or learning a new skill (Hanton et al. 2008). Relaxation is the second psychological skills in sport psychology. Relaxation can include unstructured or more structured techniques. These techniques can be grouped into two categories; muscle-to-mind and mind-to-muscle. Muscle-to-mind is better known as progressive muscular relaxation and mind-to-muscle is better known as transcendental meditation. Relaxation is considered to be relevant in regulating activation and arousal levels (Wadey et al. 2008). The third psychological skill is self-talk. Self-talk is considered a verbalization phenomenon within many athletes where they are addressing themselves. Self-talk has been shown to have both cognitive and motivational functions. The last psychological skill is goal-setting. Outcome, performance, and process are three different types of goals which can influence athletic performance by extracting changes in athletes’ levels of focus, attention spans, self-confidence, effort, and motivation (Hatziggeogoadis et al. 2008).
To be a better athlete does not necessarily mean that you must train harder or longer. It could mean that you need to address all the components that make up a successful athletic performance – mental as well as physical. Since you do not enter into competition with a completely empty head, you must include mental skills in your training and conditioning programmes as well. This will enable you to develope the strategies which will prepare you to enter a competition with the “proper mindset”
If you are interested in getting the most of your athletic endeavors, you can no longer treat your performance as a combination of isolated factors which come together in some mysterious and unified way on the day of the competition. A long distance athlete would never think to enter a long distance race without spending time physically preparing the body to meet the conditioning demands of a race. Yet, most athletes probably enter a race without determining what psychological skills he or she would need to help achieve the best physical performance. Almost no one prepares and practices the necessary mental conditions.
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