A major issue that athletes of all levels face is thetask of dealing with pressure.  Pressurecan arise from several different scenarios and can often affect athletes in anegative manner or cause an athlete to “choke”. As someone who has competed in sports I have experienced pressure firsthand and have also seen how pressure can affect the performance of athletes.  Researchers have conducted numerous studiesto determine how pressure can affect athletic performance and to determine howperformance stressors might be more easily managed.

  If researchers can identify how stressorsaffect athletic performance, then they may also be able to develop strategieswhich would help coaches and athletes learn how to overcome pressure whichmight have an affect performance.  Basedon information gathered from several other studies, Ngo, Richards, and Kondric developedtheir own study to determine if and how pressure can affect serve kinematics intable tennis.  They developed a studythat would test two distinct types of anxiety: state cognitive anxiety andstate somatic anxiety.  State cognitiveanxiety is pressure that is mental, can result in negative thoughts, and cancontribute to lack of self-confidence. State somatic anxiety is the physiological aspect of anxiety andincludes elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate.  The purpose of the study is to investigatethe effects of anxiety on the movement kinematics of table tennis serve tobetter understand the relationship between anxiety and performance.

Methods            Thisstudy was conducted using a sample of nine male university level table tennisplayers with a mean age of 23.4.  Each ofthe participants had a minimum of 2 years playing and were all currentlyplaying competitive table tennis at the time the study was conducted.  Each of the 9 participants were randomlyassigned to either a low anxiety condition (LAC) or a high anxiety condition(HAC) and prior to testing, each of the participants were asked to choose aserve which they felt comfortable enough with to repeat throughout theexperiment.  Participants in the LAC werethen instructed to play five identical serves unopposed while those in the HACfaced a nationally ranked player (who was known to the participants) and wereinstructed to serve five times and play the point against their opponent.  The nationally ranked players were instructedto wear a sponsored national table tennis uniform while facing off against theparticipants.    Participants were also given the MentalReadiness Form-Likert which was implemented to measure cognitive anxiety,somatic anxiety, and self confidence. Heart rate was monitored using a Polar Team 2 system which consists of aheart rate monitor placed around each participants torso and heart rate sampleswere recorded over a 20 second period from the first recording.

  Nine infrared cameras combined with QUALISYSmotion capture software was used to measure the bat 3D kinematics.  Each participant could use their own bat andeach bat had three 12 mm reflective markers attached to the edge of the batwhich allowed the bat movement to be captured by the cameras.  Physiological effects were tested using aone-tailed paired T-test and self-reported anxiety scores were measured using a2x2 repeated measures ANOVA.

  Bat faceangles were measured in 3 axes and were also tested using a 3×2 repeatedmeasure ANOVA. Results            Theself-confidence assessment was struck from the study because the researchersdetermined that the self-assessment did not focus on the effects of stateanxiety on kinematic behavior.  Theresults revealed significant main effects for test conditions (F (1.8) =13.913, p= 0.006, y= 0.8), indicating that anxietymanipulation was successful and there was a significant main effect for theanxiety type as well (F (1.8) = 6.

897, p=0.030, y = 0.7).  The mean heart rate in beats per minute wassignificantly higher in the HAC (M=132.22±45.66 bpm) compared to the LAC(M=106.78±38.10 bpm).

  An increased heartrate in the HAC signifies that anxiety manipulation was successful on a physiologicalbasis.Conclusion            Cognitiveand somatic anxiety was significantly higher in the HAC group than the LACgroup; however, both anxieties were increased regardless of what group theywere in.  Participants experienced agreater effect of somatic anxiety, which would peak at the onset of acompetition, whereas cognitive anxiety is more likely to be experienced duringthe performance.  It was predicted thatthe heart rate of the participants would increase, and it did and wasespecially higher in the HAC group, which the researchers had expected.  The researchers hypothesized that bat angleswould be affected between LAC and HAC however ball impact did not changebetween the two conditions.

 The servesat all three axes followed a similar pattern and the face angles of the batwere consistent throughout the service motions. Critique           One of the critiques that I had for this study is thatthe sample size was far too small.  Alarger sample size would offer more data which could in fact lead tosignificant findings that simply cannot be found with such a small sample size.I also believe that the testing should have included an audience which wouldbetter simulate a real-life competition.

With an audience present, I believethat the HAC would have been even more intense which in turn could have led tosignificant changes in bat and movement kinematics. This study could berepeated with a larger sample number and could also include players of allskill level. I believe that the researchers limited themselves quite a bit inexpecting the participants to meet so much criteria.

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