What: Chris is an excellent high school football player; in fact he is one of the best running backs in the state. He always put up great stats agents lesser teams, but his problems seem to start when he plays in big games. In the big games he makes uncharacteristic mistakes, and turns the ball over more often. Chris has gotten a reputation as a good player, but one who folds in big games, or situations. I know Chris can get into his flow (zone) when it seems he can do anything he wants to do, but for the team to win big games he has to find his flow when it matters.
So What: Chris’s problems seem to arise when he is over aroused do to the increased pressure to win agents the better teams. This increased arousal seems to be preventing him from reaching his flow state which will let him perform at his optimum level. One of the leading models for gauging arousal vs. performance is the inverted U. Gill, Williams (2008) The inverted U proposes that performance is optimal at a moderate level of arousal and it declines as arousal increases or decreases from that optimal level. (pg.181)
The key will be to manipulate Chris to keep his arousal level moderate so he can have a chance to enter a flow state. The actual flow state is hard to define but how the player feels is easier. Basically flow is when everything works out right players sometimes say time slows down, and they can just do whatever they want to . Csikszentmhalyi (1990) Flow is clearly a positive emotional state for an athlete it is a time when everything comes together. By putting Chris at his optimal arousal state it will give him the best chance to go into a flow state. Once he learns how to get to his flow state he will be able to get there more often, but now it is a hit and miss situation.
Now What: As his coach I need to help him to moderate his arousal so he can perform at his best this will intern give the team the best chance to win. First I can train him in a higher stress practices by putting him through more arousal during practice over time he may develop better coping mechanisms to deal with stress. I can also try to limit the arousal during the pre-game worm up, and limit speeches so Chris and the others will remain relaxed. As his coach my biggest focus is to watch and see if he is either under or over aroused and to either amp him up or slow him down.
Some of the things I can teach him to help himself to regulate his arousal. First I need to get him to recognize when he is over aroused, then to react accordingly to slow down. For this simple breathing exercises will do, by just taking a few slow deep breaths Chris can slow his heart rate and begin to feel more comfortable. If he is not aroused enough he can use self talk to convince himself that the team needs him to produce to win. There is no garuntee that Chris will go into a flow state if the arousal state even if he is in a optimal arousal level, but it is less likely to happen if he is not in that frame of mind
Conclusion: Chris is a good player he just needs to learn how to play at his best more often. By learning what his optimal arousal level is he can try to control it to give himself the best chance for success.. By using the breathing exercises, and self talk he should be able to regulate his arousal to some degree. As his coach I need to try to monitor his arousal so I can try to help him. If all of these things are done he will have the best chance of reaching his flow state.
References: Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008) Psychological Dynamics of Sport and Exercise pg181. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics
Csikszentnihalyi, M. (1990).Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York Harper & Row.