Common sense tells us that there are important links between sport and arousal, anxiety and stress. Sport normally involves competition, which in turn tends to induce anxiety, characterised by an increase in arousal. You may have had the experience of performing better than you expected when anxious, or, alternatively, you might have had the less fortunate experience of making mistakes under pressure. Sport psychologists have been concerned with understanding what factors affect arousal, anxiety and stress; how these affect athletic performance; and how we can learn to regulate our arousal and anxiety in order to improve our performance. As Jones (1991) has pointed out, at the top sporting levels (at least in many sports), there is very little

difference in the skill levels of the participants. It is thus often the ability to handle anxiety and stress that separates the winner and loser. Before going any further, it is important to understand exactly what psychologists mean by the terms ‘arousal’, ‘anxiety’ and ‘stress’.