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All this rah-rah stuff is generally bad. Nine times out of 10, the arousal technique generates pressure and performance suffers, said Robert Nideffer, a clinical psychologist and teacher at San Diego State University, who has worked extensively with athletes. Locker room pep talks, he finds, only add to anxieties about winning. Players who do well do so despite this goading rather than because of it.

Tom Tutko agrees, but adds that the calming techniques are probably better for amateur athletes:

This is not to say that a charismatic or dynamic coach can’t inspire a team to an extraordinary effort; it is just that, applied to most of us, the method usually has a reverse effect.

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Most recreational players do not need to be pushed to try harder. They are already trying too hard as it is. Thus, there is little in the traditional approach to sports to help us to understand and deal effectively with the psychological part of the experience. We are left to improvise and muddle through.

We’ve discussed ways that music can help a bowler like Troy Ockerman get psyched up and, conversely, ways it can act as a tranquilizer or a security blanket for other athletes like Harry Carson and Dorothy Hamill. Besides music, there are at least five other strategies many elite athletes use for coming down:

• Relaxation and meditation

• Focus and visualization techniques

• Breathing techniques

• Relaxation cues

• Humor

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