Psychological factors in sports performance

Today, psichology in sport study some variables and significant aspects of sports performance, both in elite and amateur athletes (Abdullah et al., 2016; Swann et al., 2017). Studies have found that psichology in sport performance helps between 45 and 48%, while when psychological variables are added, the percentage of variance explained by statistical regression analyses rises to about 79% and 85%, especially in combat sports such as wrestling (James et al., 2016). There have been different approaches to the study of the role of psychology in sport.

Emotions are an essential component of sport, particularly in combat sports where an effective attack on the opponent's body is one of the main actions.

Gee et al. (2007), conducted over 15 years of research on professional ice hockey players in North America and demonstrated that competitiveness and self-confidence,  classic issues of psychology in sport, were significant predictors of performance in athletes.
Similarly, some bibliography in psychology in sport focused on the differences in these variables between athletes (even those who do not compete regularly) and non-athletes. For example, Schurr et al. (1977) analyzing the psychology in sport, found that team sports athletes were more extrovert, with higher abstract reasoning and self-confidence than non-athletes and athletes practicing individual sports, while athletes in general showed greater objectivity and less anxiety than non-athletes.
Despite all these efforts and results, the available tests of psychology in sport still fail to draw up a specific personality profile that can distinguish athletes from non-athletes (Weinberg and Gould, 2014).  Moreover, some popular sports such as trail running, jogging, cycling or triathlon do not have clear boundaries between competitive and amateur practice, as is the case in more traditional sports.

The psychology in sport: ultramarathon runners

There is a particular interest into the psychology in sport like ultra-runners. The results of studies in the literature still show little consistency. For example, the results of studies on the effects of ultra-running are unable to distinguish whether or not ultra-running causes an acute impairment of cognitive function (Wollseiffen et al., 2016). There are, however, three areas where it seems possible to draw more solid conclusions. First, the acute effects of ultra-race on mood are known and these effects seem to include an increase in fatigue and a decrease in tension from an emotional point of view.

The studies that have investigated the reasons why ultra-runners are driven to practice this type of sport have almost exclusively shown that the most important motivating factor is the opportunity to achieve and overcome personal goals, often extreme.

Ultrarunning offers runners the opportunity to set themselves different goals, more or less extreme and difficult to achieve, explain the psychology of sport.

Psychology in sport seems to differentiate the ultra-runners from the marathon runners. Amongst marathon runners, the motivations that bring these athletes to compete are broader, including the search for greater self-esteem and the desire to improve their health. (Ogles & Masters, 2000). One possible explanation for this difference is that ultra-marathons vary widely in distance and ultra-runners are then able to select and choose which races to participate in.
The effect of ultra-running on tension is very interesting and various theories have been proposed, including explanations based on the anxiolytic effect of aerobic exercise in general (Rauch et al., 1988) and explanations based on the resolution of pre-competitive anxieties related to performance and the possibility of muscular injury (Tharion et al., 1990).

Some of the emerging sports such as trail running, jogging, cycling or triathlon have no clear boundaries between competitive and amateur practice, as is the case in more traditional sports.

The same opportunity does not exist in the marathon where the race distance is fixed (although runners can obviously set goals with respect to the race time or the final position). One of the most interesting results of these studies is the observation that super-corridors present in the exploration and knowledge of their physique and mental limits.

Psychology in sport: boxing, fighting sports

Emotions are an essential component of psychology in sport, particularly in combat sports where an effective attack on the opponent's body is one of the main actions. Fighting against an opponent is often accompanied by the risk of pain and injury, which can cause chronic discomfort to competitors. This type of sporting competition requires efficient mental control and strong, rapid and tactically correct reactions, as well as precision and imagination (Marks et al., 2012).

According to psychology in sport, Team sports' athletes are more extrovert, with a higher abstract reasoning and a higher self-confidence.

Some authors of psychology in sport attribute to combat the ability to reveal different traits of human nature, such as anxiety, aggression, vanity, pride, skill and interdependence between these factors. These aspects, on the one hand, are linked to a marked improvement in performance; on the other hand, their presence can cause a significant worsening of performance and generate indecisiveness (Harasymowicz, 1978). Great attention is paid to the phenomenon of anxiety in the research.
Anxiety arises under different circumstances and always has an impact on the body, mind and behavioral health of people, especially athletes. The consequences of its influence are manifold (Bali, 2015). It is pointed out that anxiety affects the ability to act, particularly in combat sports because of the persistent fear of failure, paralyzing the competitor and reducing the ability to command and correct specific actions (Harasymowicz, 1978). Pre-competitive anxiety is often explained by Martens' multidimensional theory of anxiety, which argues that anxiety consists of a mix of cognitive and somatic components. Somatic anxiety increases until it reaches its optimal level at the start of a competition and then decreases rapidly.
In addition, it manifests itself to the athlete in the form of physiological responses, annoying or distracting sensations (e.g. increased heart rate, shortness of breath, butterflies in the stomach and tense muscles) resulting from autonomic regulatory stimuli. This somatic anxiety is responsible  - according to psychology in sport - for a decrease in productivity and concentration. In contrast, cognitive anxiety may manifest itself for several days before competition in the form of irritability and worry. It can lead to difficulty in concentrating and focusing attention as well as in the anxiety that precedes performance.

Psychology in sport question: can mental fatigue affect perceptual-cognitive abilities?

According to psychology in sport, mental fatigue is a psychobiological state experienced following exposure to cognitively challenging tasks. A lack of energy and feelings of fatigue are often associated with mental fatigue, and this can result in reduced attention, reduced reaction times, worsened activity planning and slower changes in performance after mistakes.  Although the effects of mental fatigue have not been studied in detail in relation to sport, research in non-sporting areas, such as behavioral science, can provide important information on how mental fatigue can affect perceptual-cognitive abilities in athletes.
Studies of psychology in sport on car purchase research (Levav et al., 2010) and court rulings (Danziger etal., 2011) have suggested that decision fatigue, caused by repetitive decision-making processes, can exhaust individuals' cognitive abilities and mental resources, which in turn affect their subsequent decisions. In general, psychology in sport studies show that at the mental level, the tired individual is likely to make a decision characterized by ease of mental effort rather than rationality in terms of the optimal outcome.
Sources and bibliography

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