Hardy (1990) produced Catastrophe Theory in an attempt to explain the arousal – performance relationship. Evaluate and compare this theory to other arousal - performance theories and assess their respective contribution to sport science. Justify and support your evaluations with research evidence.
When Adrian Morley stepped onto the pitch recently to represent Great Britain in the first Rugby League test match against Australia he undoubtedly shared the determination of all the other players. When the whistle blew however his first action was to make an illegal, straight armed, head high tackle on an opponent. He was sent off after 12 seconds. Whilst this was an extreme occurrence in terms of its rapidity, sport is strewn with examples of performance being adversely affected by uncontrolled emotions. The more highly profiled amongst these include the dramatic loss of Jana Novotna to Steffi Graf in the 1993 Wimbledon Ladies final; the collapse of Jean Van der Velde from an equally ‘invincible’ position in the 1999 British Open Golf championship; Ronaldo’s emotional ‘breakdown’ prior to the 1998 World Cup final; and the unstable performance of Paul Gascoigne in the 1991 F.A Cup final. These and other examples would seem to confirm the argument of Jones and Hardy (1989) that “a deciding factor in competitive performance is not the degree of skill of the athlete, but the ability to perform that skill under competitive stress”.
The fact that a relationship exists between a sportsman’s emotions and performance has long been recognised, but the exact nature of this relationship is a contentious issue. Weinberg and Gould (1995) describe the relationship as one of the most compelling for sports psychologists, stating that no definitive conclusions regarding the nature of the association have been reached despite decades of study.
Kent (1994) defines arousal as “the state of general preparedness for action in the body, involving the activation of the various...