The level of mental arousal is the level of excitement, anticipation, stress, aggression, apprehension and nervousness. It refers to the state of mental preparedness for participation in an activity.

Impact on Performance
Level of mental arousal is key to success in the long jump. The athlete must be prepared to perform in front of a crowd and be able to deal with everyone focussing their attention solely on them.
If our mental arousal is too low then we may not perform at our highest level, we may appear to be tired, disinterested or distracted. Then again if it is too high, we may become stressed due to expectations, the importance of the occasion or the number of people watching. Having too high or too low a level or arousal may result in loss of distance.
“I must find the correct level of mental arousal to perform at my best, so that I am excited enough, yet calm enough to execute the long jump perfectly.”


An unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behaviour, restlessness, fatigue, concentration problems and muscular tension. All affect performance in a negative manner, and need to be managed or controlled to aid effective performance. Anxiety, takes many different forms but within sport you may feel as though you are choking, you want to run away, cannot move your body in ways that you want. In short, you freeze when the moment matters.
Impact on Performance
Many athletes suffer from Sports Performance Anxiety, with this they may perform well in practice but then anxiety interferes with their performance.
It is usual to have pre-performance nerves, indeed, a certain level of physical arousal is helpful and prepares us for competition. But when the physical symptoms of anxiety are too great, they may seriously interfere with your ability to compete. Left untreated, it becomes a vicious cycle of negative thoughts and feelings followed by poor or inhibited performance.
In Football if a match is still tied at the end of extra time then players may have high anxiety levels during the resulting penalty shootout. Pressure is on the players to score from their team, from the fans who want the team to be successful and the individual player who wants to win. In a Basketball game your team is trailing by 1 point with 2 seconds left on the clock. The player in possession must act quickly knowing that if they score their team wins and if they miss then their team loses.
SPOTY 2013; Andy Murray serving to win Wimbledon - 40 to 0 up in the final set, back to Deuce, then being break point down 3 times, before eventually winning. The thought of winning increased his anxiety and caused his performance to deteriorate, although he was able to manage the anxiety and eventually overcome it to be successful.


Concentrationis the ability to stay on task. It is the ability to completely focus your attention on something for a period of time. When athletes concentrate well they can take in all the information they need to make good decisions like responding to their opponent or adapting to their environment. It is the ability to pay particular attention to the task in hand.

Impact on Performance
Concentration has two dimensions: the broad/narrow dimension gives a width of focus; the external/internal dimension gives a direction to the focus.

Broad/narrow dimension: The performer focuses on a large or small number of stimuli. Broad attention focus enables the performer to be aware of everything around and see several things at the one time. Narrow concentration focuses only one or two cues at a time.

External/internal dimension: External concentration directs the focus outwards. This can be in the act of assessing the situation around you, but not concentrating on any one part, e.g., taking in playing environment. It can also be in the act of performing a skill automatically focusing on what your opponent is doing, as you are about to serve.Internal concentration focuses on thoughts and feelings, allowing you to analyse experiences from the past and prepare to anticipate for the future.

The demand for concentration varies with the sport: Sustained concentration - distance running, cycling, tennis, and squash. Short bursts of concentration - cricket, golf, shooting, athletic field events. Intense concentration - sprinting events, bobsleigh and skiing.

Concentration can also vary when learning a skill. Initially you focus or concentrate on the specific weakness identified. For example when developing a smash if faulty footwork has been identified as the weakness you must ensure that you concentrate on this aspect of the technique as you work through the various practices. If you have numerous faults you should only concentrate on one or possibly two aspects at the same time. Therefore you range of concentration is narrow though it could be internal or external depending on the practice being used. As you develop your level of competence within the skill you can start to shift your concentration from specific subroutines to the overall performance of the skill and then to external factors such as your opponent.

Concentration is the ability to stay focussed on and be fully aware of what is going on around you. For example, in performing a drop shot in badminton, I had to judge the flight of the shuttle, the positioning of my body and the movement of my opponent.


Motivation is thought to be a combination of the drive within us to achieve our aims and the outside factors which affect it. With this in mind, motivation has the following two forms, intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.
Extrinsic motivation is ‘external’: money, prizes, acclaim, status, praise.
Intrinsic motivation comes from within i.e. an athlete driven by a need to succeed because they want to be the best and are not overly concerned by financial or ego boosts.

Impact on Performance
Having a high level of motivation will ensure that you continue to work until you have reached a goal that you have set yourself, often having to have overcome set backs on the way. Many of the world’s top athletes have had to overcome adversity at one time or another of their career or have had to have a high level of intrinsic motivation in order to dedicate the amount of time and effort required to reach the level of performance which they are capable of performing at.
Examples of this are: Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Jordan, Leigh Halfpenny, Andy Murray

Having a lack of motivation or, being motivated by external factors can have a negative impact on performance as if things do not go the way you expect them, you may not put in the required effort in order to improve. Examples of this are common in a number of sports but can be shown in football where players such as Winston Bogarde of Chelsea and Jose Bosingwa of QPR have been happy to not play for their team as they were receiving large sums of money whether they played or not.

A value on the task can also have an impact on a person’s motivation as if they do not value what they are being asked to do; their motivation for the task will be low.

PROBLEM SOLVING(closely related to decision making)

The ability to identify that a difficult/troubled or pressurised situation in an activity is happening or is about to happen.

Impact on Performance
Players must be able to identify that there is a problem and know why it is happening.
For example a sweeper in hockey may be chasing a ball played in behind the defence by the opposition midfield. Running after the ball at speed with his back to the fast, chasing opposition and having no other defender there to offer support, plus a goal keeper who has stayed on their goal line- a clear pressured situation for the sweeper.
In tennis a player may be losing a large percentage of points when playing a forehand cross court shot. The ability to first identify this pattern of errors and to identify the cause is key to problem solving. Is the problem because of: their position on the court, the placement and power of the shot, the position of the opposition, the amount of top spin on the shot?
The process of starting to devise an outcome for the problem is decision making.


Decision-making is an action or process of choosing a preferred option or course of action from a set of alternatives. It forms the basis of all deliberate and voluntary behaviour.

Impact on Performance
Quality decision making is a critical skill in sports. The quality of your decisions has a massive impact on your results. Experience plays a significant part in the decision making process. If you make the right decision on a regular basis you are likely to experience positive outcomes.
The best tennis players usually select the right return shot to play based on several factors. Due to their experience and skill and level of performance the decision making process is instant.

Making poor decisions can often lead to the loss of possession or loss of points or goals. In hockey, if the wrong decision is made when passing out from defence it can lead to an interception and 1 v 1 situation on your goal


Attention span is the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted.
Attention span or length of concentrated time can differ from activity to activity. Some activities require a longer attention span and some a shorter attention span.

Impact on Performance
The demand for concentration varies with the sport:
Sustained concentration - distance running, cycling, tennis, squash.
Short bursts of concentration - cricket, golf, shooting, athletic field events.
Intense concentration - sprinting events, bobsleigh, skiing.

In cricket the batsman needs to ensure he is fully concentrated as the bowler runs up and bowls the ball. He needs to avoid all other distractions such as external noises/ movements from opponents or people in the crowd. Failure to do this could result in a mistimed shot being caught or even being bowled out.
A player shooting 2 free throws in basketball in the dying seconds of a game, when their team is losing by only 1 point needs to ensure they remain concentrated during their shots. Often in the NBA you can see fans behind the basket waving banners and arms, shouting and whistling in an attempt to distract the shooter. A player with a poor attention span and who is too easily distracted might miss the shot and fail to win the match for their team.


Mental Toughness is the ability to consistently perform at the top of your skill level and talent regardless of the competitive circumstances.

Impact on Performance
As you are playing any sport it is important that you are able to block out all external factors. If you are mentally tough you are able to block out the pressure from opponents, the crowd, coaches, managers, team mates etc. to keep producing your best possible performance. If you let these factors affect your performance you are not mentally tough enough.
In the 2013 Wimbledon final Andy Murray was 40-love up and serving at championship point. Djokovic came back to deuce! The crowd went quiet, the commentators, nation, coaches wondered can he be strong enough to do it? Murray was strong enough to block out all that pressure and serve to win the title.
In a cup final that has gone to penalties not all players will be strong enough to volunteer to step up and take a penalty. They would be thinking ….what if I miss, what will the coach say, what will the crowd say, how will the manager react etc. a mentally tough player will step up, block out all these thoughts and concentrate only on scoring the penalty.


INPUT – The brain processes information (gathered through the eyes) and lists possible options.
DECISION MAKING – a decision is made to carry out the best possible option and the muscles initiate a response.
OUTCOME – The action is completed and the performer sees the result.
FEEDBACK – If correct, the action is repeated. If wrong, the action is changed.
E.g, Watch opponent and try to note the type of badminton serve. Make a decision and move towards the shuttle. Play a drop shot just over the net. Win point = try again in a similar situation.


Anticipation is the ability to predict or anticipate your opponents’ next move giving you an advantage or ‘more time’ to execute your next movement.

Impact on Performance
Why do elite athletes, especially games players, appear to have more time on the ball? Having good anticipation or the ability to ‘read the game’ allows you to be more effective when in possession or affords you more time to return a shot. It also saves your energy, takes your opponent by surprise and will lead them to get frustrated affording you more time.
Having poor anticipation will result in you being unsure as to where your opponent will play their next shot in tennis, unable to predict your opponents next move in team games which will make it more challenging for you to mark that player.