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The Influence that Personality Has on Sport Performance

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The purpose of this paper is to discuss the influence that personality has on sports performance. Firstly, the paper will define arousal, stress, and anxiety. Secondly, the paper will discuss the Inverted U Hypothesis and arousal levels in soccer. Thirdly, the paper will discuss two different types of stress and how event importance influences sports performance in soccer players. Fourthly, the paper will look at several different types of anxiety and how anxiety influences sports performance in soccer players. Fifthly, the paper will look at how exercise can improve stress and anxiety.

Firstly, arousal can be defined as how alert, eager, or driven an individual may be in a particular situation and it is also a combination of physiological and psychological components. Stress can be defined as a certain amount of pressure that an individual feels they cannot cope with that is often a negative experience. Anxiety can be defined as an emotional state that is often negative and is usually related to the emotions of being nervous, worried, and/or apprehension.

Secondly, arousal levels do play a positive or negative role in an individual’s sports performance. If an individual’s arousal levels are too high or too low, it will affect their performance during sports activities. There are three levels of arousal which is part of the Inverted U Hypothesis. The three different levels of arousal include low arousal, optimal arousal, and high arousal. The Inverted U Hypothesis displays the association between an individual’s level of arousal and their performance. The Inverted U Hypothesis indicates that performance peaks when an individual is optimally aroused. For example, if the Inverted U Hypothesis focused on soccer, arousal levels would differ for each individual depending on which position they played. According to TOGSoccer, if a player were to play a defending position, the player would have to maintain a steady optimal arousal level. If the arousal level is too high, the individual could begin to make mistakes or run out of position. If the arousal level is too low, they may have a slower reaction time. However, if a player were to play a wing position, they would have to alter their arousal levels with the play of the game. The player’s arousal level would have to be high when the ball comes into play and the need to use their explosive power and speed. If the player did not alter their arousal level in the wing position it could lead to muscle tension or cramping and/or performing the skill too early. It is quite obvious that arousal levels do influence the sports performance of an individual in soccer. However, the arousal level for an individual is very dependent on what position is being played in soccer.

Thirdly, there are two different types of stress which include acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress can be defined as a pressure that exists only for a brief period of time and chronic stress can be defined as a pressure that is continuous and most likely has been built up over a period of time. If an individual believes that they are too stressed it can become difficult for them to perform at one hundred percent, can negatively affect their motivation, and can also take the enjoyment out of the sport. An individual can feel stress from having too much pressure put on them by their family, peers, and/or coach or the individual has no more enjoyment in participating in the sport, therefore, leading to the individual having a lack of motivation. There is a type of stress known as situational stress and an example of this would be event importance. The event’s importance would be acute stress. The stress or pressure of a particular event would only be temporary and could include, during the lead-up to the event or throughout the event. Event importance stress will definitely influence how an individual performs in different sports. For example, there is an event during a soccer game known as a penalty shootout, this is when it is one on one with the goalkeeper and another player, it puts a tremendous amount of pressure and stress on both players. For this example, added stress creates a negative emotional state for an individual such as stress or anxiety. The state of stress and/or anxiety develops as the importance of each kick in the penalty shootout increases and mistakes were more likely to be made. This theory was supported by research that was conducted in 2000 that showed that the high importance of an event leads to stress and anxiety. Figure 1, the figure displays that the likelihood of successfully getting a goal during a shootout decreased as the kick number increased. Event importance is a major factor for individuals participating in soccer, as well as, the added stress from family, peers, and/or a coach to perform at a high-performance level. Stress does influence sports performance and most stress influencing sports performance is acute stress.

Fourthly, there are two different components of anxiety, state anxiety, and trait anxiety. State anxiety refers to the temporary changes of mood of an individual and trait anxiety is part of an individual’s personality but is also referred to as the individual recognizing a threat, even though it is not dangerous, however, the body and mind still react to it as a threat. Using the previous example of a penalty shootout in soccer, anxiety definitely influences the sports performance of a player in a negative manner. The researchers, Horikawa & Yagi, conducted an experiment on penalty shootouts in soccer. The results of this experiment demonstrated that there is a difference between an individual with high trait anxiety compared to an individual with low trait anxiety in penalty shootouts. As shown in Table 1, an individual with high trait anxiety displayed higher state anxiety compared to an individual with low trait anxiety when the number of successful goals decreased. The researchers found that the state anxiety of an individual was most likely to be influenced by the combination of trait anxiety and situational stress and that an individual with higher trait anxiety and state anxiety influenced the goal performance in penalty shootouts in a negative manner. This research demonstrates that anxiety, whether it is trait or state anxiety, will influence the sports performance of an individual participating in soccer, particularly in a high-pressure/stressful situation such as penalty shootouts.

Fifthly, it is quite clear that arousal, stress, and anxiety all influence sports performance in soccer in a negative way. However, can exercising individually or participating in a team sport improves the stress or anxiety levels of an individual? Exercise releases endorphins which is a neurotransmitter that makes an individual feel good after they have exercised. There can be many benefits of exercise with anxiety and stress that can include relief of tension, improving physical and mental energy, improving sleep and the release of endorphins. A clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School has stated that he has witnessed with his patients who participate in physical activity, that exercising has had a positive effect on their anxiety. According to Ratey, the type of exercise does not matter, the physical activity can range from an outdoor walk, bike ride, or attending classes such as gym or dancing classes, and the more exercise the better it is for an individual with anxiety. The current author agrees with Ratey and believes that exercising in an individual capacity and/or in a team sport can positively improve mental health including, stress, anxiety and depression from personal experiences. Exercising is quite important for mental health and can positively improve stress and/or anxiety for an individual.

To conclude this paper, the arousal levels in soccer influence the sport performance for an individual depending on what position they are playing. Stress can influence sport performance in soccer, particularly the importance of an event that would induce acute stress. The two different types of anxiety, state anxiety, and trait anxiety were discussed, and how they both influence the sports performance of an individual in soccer, particularly in high-pressure situations. The benefits of exercising or participating in physical activity were discussed as well as how it improves stress and anxiety.


  1. Hartman, E., Visscher, C., & Lemmink, K. A. P. M. (2007). Kicks from the penalty mark in soccer: The roles of stress, skill and fatigue for kick outcomes. Journal of Sports Science, 25(2), 121-129. doi:, R. S., & Gould, D. (2018). Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology (7th ed.). United States.: Human Kinetics Publishers USA
  2. Australian Psychological Association. (2020). Stress. Retrieved from Academy. (n.d.). Inverted U Hypothesis. Retrieved from (2015). Applying the Inverted U-theory to Soccer. Retrieved from, A. W. (2019). Dealing with Stress in Sports. Retrieved from, M., & Yagi, A. (2012). The relationships among trait anxiety, state anxiety and the goal performance of penalty shoot-out by university soccer players. PLoS ONE, 7(4), 1-5. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035727
  3. Madwell, R. (2016). Exercise as Stress Relief. Retrieved from, L., Segal, J., & Smith, M. (2019). The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise. Retrieved from
  4. Ratey, J. J. (2019). Can exercise help treat anxiety? Retrieved from

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