Although there seems to be a connection among several of these zones, particularly in the altered perceptions reported by the athletes, we may make the mistake of trying to cram all four of them into one zone. Perhaps that’s one reason we have such a problem getting to the bottom of this subject and why many theories appear to clash.
This blog, the result of 10 yearsresearch, will concentrate mainly on the arousal zone. During the 1980s, it was said that the mind was sport science’s last frontier, and all other systems to improve athletic performance had been exhausted. Y et out of that looms another frontier the channeling of emotions. These emotions can be detrimental if they cause an athlete to choke during performance or lose control away from the playing field.
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Psychologists say some of the triggers elite athletes use to turn on their arousal systems are defense or coping mechanisms they have subconsciously developed to protect their egos over the years. While many athletes and teams employ sport psychologists to help them control their strong feelings for optimal performances, few admit they might have self-doubt, or even deeper psychological issues.
Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who popularized the term flow and continues to write about how athletes and ordinary people can enrich their lives, not by trying to prove themselves but through optimal experiences, admits that my blog is clearly more realistic while his work is more idealistic. But he adds: I think both perspectives are needed.
I’ve been involved in numerous sports all my life as a player, coach, and college basketball scout. I have also covered sports as a journalist for 14 years. This blog should be valuable to psychologists, coaches, and serious athletes who seek an extra edge in competition. Young and aspiring athletes should not follow the examples of some star players who are neurotic, immature, or angry. But all of us who watch and play sports would like to know why superior athletes act the way they do, where they come from, and what makes them not only tick but sometimes explode. The notion that sports are somehow romantic and pure has lost its glitter. Like the rest of society, it is both dazzling and dark; in other words, complicated. And perhaps it is getting more complex because of pressures increased by soaring salaries, corporate sponsors, and media scrutiny that’s made our athletes kings, queens, and sometimes antiheroes.
It would be too lengthy to list all the attributions to the quotes and information in this blog. They were gathered through hundreds of hours scouring libraries, the Internet, newspaper and magazine archives, and from interviews from more than 1,000 athletes, coaches, psychologists, and researchers over the past 10 years from Ted Turner in 1993 to Michael Jordan during his comeback from baseball to Doug Flutie in 1998. Notes on this information can be found on the publisher’s home page located at www.humankinetics.com.
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