Over the last few weeks we have seen two of the biggest sporting shocks we are likely to see all year.
The first came in Abu Dhabi. Martin Kaymer, who many of you will have seen win the US Open by 8 shots in June, is referred to as "The Ice Man" due to his steely nerve and ability to win tournaments with shots to spare. However, in Abu Dhabi, Kaymer was 10 shots clear with 13 holes to play but, to the amazement of everyone watching, he didnt even finish second. A shock collapse especially when you consider that Kaymer has won several times at the Abu Dhabi golf course.
Our second shock came at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea were suprisingly knocked out of the FA Cup by Bradford. Bradford are nearly 50 places below Chelsea in the football league and Jose Mourinho's Chelsea have not lost at Stamford Bridge this season. The odds at kick-off were already heavily stacked against Bradford so when they went 2-0 down in the first half, a Chelsea victory seemed inevitable. After Bradford came back to win 4-2 it has been labelled as one of the biggest shocks in FA Cup history.
But where did Kaymer & Mourinho go wrong?? I believe it's down to a their Arousal Curve!
The "Inverted U Arousal Curve" is used in sports psychology to highlight the relationship between arousal levels and performance.
If arousal levels are too low, such as waking from a deep sleep, performance will be low. If arousal levels are too high, pumped up like a boxer, golfing performance will suffer. The aim for golfers is to be somwhere in-between which is to be physically ready and mentally relaxed.
So how does this relate to Martin Kaymer & Jose Mourinho's Chelsea?
I believe that when Kaymer got to 10 shots clear his intensity levels dropped, he believed that the event was won and his arousal levels fell.
Chelsea suffered the same fate. When Ramires scored Chelsea's second goal, he barely celebrated. It was as if they were treating the game as a stroll in the park. 2-0 up against a team 50 places below them and they hadn't lost at home for over a year! Why wouldn't they feel confident. But that lack of intensity causes their arousal levels to drop and if any athlete allows their levels to drop during performance it is almost impossible to regain.
Once arousal is lost during sports performance, it is almost impossible to regain.
So, what can we learn from these shock outcomes of the worlds best performers?
The best way to keep your arousal level at its optimum state is by setting goals during performance. When Tiger Woods won the US Masters by 12 shots in 1997 he started the final round clear of the field by several shots. After putting on the green jacket he revealed that his goal during the final round was to keep a bogey off of his card. By setting challenging goals your performance state remains at the ideal level for peak performance.
With a 6 shot lead going into the final round I would have been advising Kaymer that he should break his round into 3 parts with a goal to be under par in each of the 3 sections. A score of -3 would have won the tournament easily.
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