ATHLETES EXPERIENCES OF PEAK PERFORMANCE, LOSING AND GAINING IT.
Background and Rationale of the proposed project
Success, failure, defeat and victory are common terms in a competition especially among athletes. Athletes celebrate victory and success with great excitement but when defeated they are utterly disappointed. However, peak performance has a challenging achievement even for elite athletes. All athletes try as much as they can to attain peak performance, the state of excellent functioning where athletes perform at their best levels and they end up getting remarkable results (Harmison,2011; Privette, 1983). Peak performance has been a great aspect in any successful athlete?s life that is based on a lot of underlying factors in their life. It is great when athletes attain this and are able to maintain it but what happens when one loses their peak performance? Is it possible for one to come back to their feet and regain it? Rome was not built in a day, so does regaining an athlete?s peak performance entail a lot of details. But what really is peak performance? Is it the same as peak experience or there is a slight difference? Let?s find out.
Privette (1981) suggests peak performance to be ?behavior in any activity that transcends what normally could be expected in that situation? (p.51). From this definition, peak performance refers to a high level of functioning within any given activity (Privette, 1983). Athletes refer to peak performance as the release of their latent powers to have optimal functioning and flow in a certain sport competition. Peak performance can still be obtained even though the individual does not meet the reward of the competition which is primarily winning, as peak performance is based on the individual having their best performance (Williams & Krane, 1998). So, what is peak experience? Abraham Maslow, defines peak experiences as ?rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the perimeter?. To summarize those words, peak experience is a moment of ecstasy, much happiness and the blissful feeling that comes along with it. Peak performance characteristics that can be distinguished are fulfilment, significance and spirituality (Privette & Bundrick, 1991). Peak experience seems to be more aligned with positive emotions focus, whereas peak performance has more of behavioral and outcome focus. (Privette & Bundrick, 1991).
For an example, a football player peak performance might be being an impact in the game and scoring a hattrick in a game. Peak experience may be the experience of winning a major cup e.g. champions league, domestic cup, league cup or an international cup. Peak experience may not be linked with an athlete?s personal performance as they could have played average or below average but, the outcome was immensely positive. Peak performance has a great association with flow and optimal functioning. Flow is a psychological state that involves the capability of a person to change high demands to enjoyable experiences with the capability of success. Flow is a positive psychology state that typically occurs when an individual perceives a balance between the challenges associated with a situation and their capabilities to accomplish the demands (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). Jackson and Csikszentmihalyi (1990) gave an account of a runner supposedly in a state of flow:
?I felt very in control; I felt strong. I was able to run as I had planned; I felt really focused. I just felt like, you know, like athletes say ?It just clicked?; it felt great the whole way ?(p.4). Jackson (1993) defines as a total absorbing and rewarding experience, one that stood out than average. Jackson asked elite athletes on their views among the relationship of flow, peak performance and peak experience.
Athletes offered a range of perceptions; Jackson calculated that 75% of the athletes said that flow was always part of their peak performance and 71% said that flow was always involved in their peak experience. The athletes viewed flow as an optimal mental state that led to their peak performance. There is a lack of psychological research of athletes losing and gaining peak performance. As argued by (Anderson et al, 2014) there are different factors that contribute to an athlete attaining peak performance. This depicts that athletes have to a high developed ability that can be able to handle the psychological state of the body and alternate between all optimal aspects. Athletes have acknowledged that their best performances are accounted to by one prevalence factor and that is their psychological state. Therefore, that goes without saying that psychological attribute and mental skills have a major impact in an athlete attaining peak performance and having the capability to maintain it. Even if one is to assume that flow is positively associated to performance, research has suggested that it is not frequently experienced by athletes (Jackson, 1992). Ravizza (1977, 1984), however, found that most athletes interviewed reported that peak performance states were involuntary and temporary in nature. A reaction is often expected after failure to comprehensively breed success in the future. The purpose of this research is to get into the life experiences of athletes during that moment of peak performance, how it was, how it felt, how to manage or rather maintain it; for those who lost it how the experience was, did it affect other areas of their lives especially their association will fellow athletes, coaches, family and friends and get an understanding of their journey to regaining it. The result findings will be of great help to all people involved in the sporting sector though some tips learnt may even be applied in business.
Peak performance has been typically defined as a superior functioning that exceeds an individual?s average performance quality in any activity (Forbes, 1989; Privette, 1983). Athletes refer to peak performance as their release of all energy when at their optimal performance within a specific sport competition. Peak performance can still be seen as an individual that does lot of out of the ordinary actions. Peak performance can still be obtained even though the individual does not meet the reward of the competition which is primarily winning, as peak performance is based on the individual having their best performance (William et.al, 1998). Peak experience can be defined as intense joy or a moment of total/highest happiness that is not necessarily performance related. Peak performance characteristics that can be distinguished are fulfilment, significance and spirituality (Privette & Bundrick, 1991). Peak experience seems to be more aligned with positive emotions focus, whereas peak performance has more of behavioral and outcome focus. (Privette & Bundrick, 1991). Cohn. 1986 & Ravizza,1977, have not found any studies that athletes peak experience to be unrelated to peak performance.
Athletes describes that their peak experience resemble close to their peak performance (Cohn,1991). In summary peak performance can be seen as an episode of superior contribution, whereas peak experience is a moment of highest happiness and ecstasy. For an example, a football player peak performance might be being an impact in the game and scoring a hattrick in a game. Peak experience may be the experience of winning a major cup e.g. champions league, domestic cup, league cup or an international cup. Peak experience may not be linked with an athlete?s personal performance as they could have played average or below average but, the outcome was immensely positive. The diversity in psychological factors which are experienced during peak performance has of course been investigated and a crucial comprehension of the optimal psychological state of peak performance been provided forCITATION Kra06 p 207-227 l 1033 (Krane, 2006, pp. 207-227). Having to advance research beyond psychological experience in peak performance is key in the field of sport psychology. Psychological skills are basically tools for the mind. It includes enhancing of confidence, self-talk, goal setting and achievement of a positive mindset just to mention but a few. For peak performance to be achieved it is very crucial for an athlete to be in the right mental space. There has always been a struggle for athletes in achieving peak performance which has been the main reason why they seek advice from various sports psychologists. The psychologists thus use a variety of techniques to help the athletes. Application of evidence-based techniques tend to enhance quality management and aids athletes in the increase and maintenance of functional athletic behaviors in competitions CITATION Phi16 l 1033 (Birer, 2016). Impaired mental well-being factors like stress and anxiety can affect the readiness to train and lead to diminished performance. Flow is a positive psychological attribute that lessens anxiety and self-doubt (Harmison, 2006). Many literature items have been written to answer the question of whether there is a certain level of the body and mental state expected of an athlete in order to attain the highest levels of performance (Harmison, 2011). Athletes have acknowledged that most successful performance are highly dependent on their psychological state. This conquers with the research by Csikszentmihalyi (1990) that high level of concentration supports the merging of action and awareness and enhance a loss of self-consciousness.
ATHLETES EXPERIENCES OF PEAK PERFORMANCE, LOSING AND GAINING IT.