Glossary – A F

Commitment: is a motivational state influencing the athlete’s effort and persistence they put in their sport, especially when facing obstacles. The athletes’ level of commitment varies through their career. The commitment to train, rest and recover is considered one of the first steps to excellence. 

Photograph by Roya Ann Miller on Unsplash

ANT’s: stands for Automatic Negative Thoughts. These automatic thoughts come from people’s beliefs about themselves and the world. Although everyone can experience negative self-talk from time to time, during stressful situations like competitions negative thinking can get more intense. A constant negative thinking pattern by ANT’s can impact negatively on confidence and performance. Athletes can manage ANT’s by first recognising the negative self-talk and then replacing it with constructive thoughts. Other techniques for negative self-talk could be cognitive restructuring, reframing, and challenging the beliefs leading to the negative automatic thoughts. 

Attention: from the Latin word attendere: to direct the mind toward something. It is the cognitive process allowing us to observe an activity, or a stimuli, whether internal (e.g., a sensation, or a thought), or external (e.g., visual or auditory information), at any given moment. Through attention we can sustain our concentration for a particular length of time, focus on something specific, and select relevant from irrelevant information. Attention, focus and concentration are terms often used interchangeably. However attention is actually what we are observing at any given time; focus is the central point of our attention; and concentration is our ability to direct our focus and perform without getting distracted. 

Arousal: is the level of intensity of our behaviour. By being aroused we prepare ourselves both physiologically (e.g., increasing our heart rate) and psychologically (e.g., increasing our attention) to perform. Certain tasks are facilitated by specific arousal levels. For instance an archer needs to have a low level of activation in order to see the target properly and release the arrow accurately. On the other hand, it will be more helpful for a martial artist during a combat to be activated when facing the rival. If we think of a continuum, on one side we could be sleeping deeply, in the middle we would be awake and on the other extreme very excited. Nevertheless, arousal is neither positive nor negative but neutral. Arousal can be measured physiologically, biochemically, and through questionnaires. Relevant theories on arousal and performance are: Drive Theory, Inverted U hypothesis, Catastrophe theory, and Individual zones of optimal functioning (IZOF).

Burnout: Although there is not a universal definition for burnout, it is usually referred to as the exhaustion experienced from a committed athlete after being unable to meet the sport demands. The range of symptoms can span several dimensions, including: -Affective: e.g., feeling emotionally exhausted, not enjoying the sport anymore. Cognitive: e.g., experiencing difficulty concentrating, having powerless thoughts. -Physical: e.g., experiencing fatigue, being lethargic. Behavioural: e.g., being often absent from training. Not everyone with burnout suffers all the symptoms, and sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between a symptom and a consequence of burnout. Causes of burnout include: excessive workload, lack of support and lack of recognition. As well as impaired performance, the consequences of burnout can negatively impact the athlete’s wellbeing, and the team. Related key words are overtraining, drop out, staleness and stress.

Deliberate practice: is purposeful and systematic practice trained at the right level of skills for the athlete. It provides the athlete with feedback so s/he can understand what the mistake is and why it has happened. This type of practice needs to have enough sessions to correct errors. For deliberate practice to work, athletes also need the motivation to improve. A relevant author in this area of expert performance is K. Anders Ericsson: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K._Anders_Ericsson

Focus of attention: is the central point of your attention. The focus of attention is different depending on the stimuli athletes pay attention to. Focus’ direction and width:

Direction – Internal: Emotions, thoughts and bodily sensations.

-Direction – External: Environmental aspects, ej., ball, fans, weather.

-Width – Narrow: Something specific, ej., landing spot.

-Width – Broad: Several things widely, ej., the player’s position of the opponent team.

Flow: is a pleasant state occurring when people are immersed in a challenging and achievable activity. While in flow the whole focus of attention is on the activity, the person feels in control of the situation, the notion of time is distorted and there is a loss of self-awareness. For this experience to occur, the activity must have a specific structure and a target, and it cannot be too easy or too difficult. The activity also has to provide feedback on whether the target is being met. This experience was first researched by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow is relevant for sport since optimal performance usually occurs when athletes enter this state.