Psychological strategies used to enhance performance

Motivational techniques

Goal setting

Where athletes set goals to help them focus and achieve specific outcomes. Types of goals:
Outcome goals: Individual focuses on end results for example result times.
Performance goals: Focuses of comparing present performance results to previous results. It is independent of other athletes.
Process goals:Focus on physical movements and game strategies.
Confidence building: this enables the athlete to believe in their ability and are less likely to choke and buckle under pressure.

Optimal arousal

Arousal is an individuals alertness or amount of readiness. Usually medium arousal is the most effective in increasing performance as people are aware of what is going on around them but are able to select which stimuli to respond to. Optimal arousal is usually linked to the inverted U graph.

Techniques for Arousal Promotion

These techniques are used when the athlete is under aroused meaning they may be feeling sleepy or disinterested in the activity.

Acting energised

Athletes can jump around and bump into each other to pump each other up and to get energised. This is often seen by football team prior to a match.

Using positive self-talk

Athletes can tell themselves out loud or in their mind positive statements to increase performance and arousal levels.

Listening to music

Listening to up-beat music can help athletes become energised and is often seen when athletes are warming up.

Mental imagery

Visualisation is used by athletes to imagine themselves performing a skill before actually carrying out the skill in game situation. It can help to improve performance by strengthening neural pathways and can link the imagery with the action.

Energizing imagery

Athletes may use energizing mental imagery such as them achieving their goals in the performance to increase arousal.

Techniques for Arousal reduction

Breathing control or centred breathing

helps the athlete relax and refocus as they just have to focus of their own breathing eliminating distracting stimuli.


Involves the athlete being connected to machinery that monitors autonomous bodily functions such as breathing and heart rate and sends this information back to the athlete so that they can try and control these levels. For example if their heart rate is too high they may try sitting down and breathing slowly in an effort to reduce this.

Stress-inoculation training (SIT)

During training the athletes are exposed to small amounts of stress they gradually adapt to the changes in stress and these are further increased so that in a game performance they remain calm whilst under stress as they are adjusted to it.

Progressive Muscle relaxation

This is where the athlete focuses on contracting then gradually relaxing separate muscle groups all over the body until the body as a whole is relaxed. The physical relaxation can also help relax the mind and calm the athlete.


Involves an individual trying to focus on clearing their mind. It aims to decrease anxiety, improve focus and promote well-being. This may be used to decrease arousal.


Can involve increasing or decreasing arousal it works to get the athlete to focus of the relevant stimuli in the activity. It also works to maintain focus over prolonged periods of time and having an awareness of the situation surrounding the individual.


  • Leads to a decrease in performance as the athlete buckles under pressure.
    • Occurs when there is built up pressure
    • Causes attention to narrow and become more internal as the athlete may engage in negative self talk.
    • Can impair timing and coordination