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The Mental Preparedness of the Athlete: Michael Phelps in the 100M Butterfly

Introduction to Persuasive Essay about Sports

The object of this free persuasive essay about sports is the Scenario of Michael Phelps in the 100M Butterfly Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games. When it comes to elite level competitions, the mental preparedness of the athlete plays a key role. Due to this fact, there are more and more studies dedicated to this issue in order to develop psychological concepts that would be relevant to a certain scenario. However, the scenario of Michael Phelps 100 meters butterfly is an interesting case from the psychological point of view. Therefore, this free persuasive essay about sports is dedicated to analysis of the scenario from the psychological point of view. However, for further analysis of the scenario, a detailed description of the event is needed.

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Michael Phelps underwent high emotional pressure at the race, as well as before it. However, the level of psychological resistance was high due to proper mental training. Nevertheless, competitions in swimming in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2008 Olympics were held from 14th to 16th August at the Beijing National Aquatics Center. In fact, it was a real challenge for Michel Phelps to win this competition because the tension was really high and he had to overcome it in order to get the best result. Phelps competed with the world-record holder Ian Crocker, as well as a Serbian, Milorad Cavic, who had the best qualification time, and these facts were a real threat for Phelps. Moreover, Cavic was in the coveted lane four and Phelps was right next to him in lane five, but it was not the best position for Phelps to start. In fact, at that moment, Michel Phelps was under immense pressure.

However, the race has begun and it was a clean start for all sportsmen. Cavic was firing down the pool towards the first turn. Nevertheless, the biggest advantage of Phelps seemed to be his turns, especially after the final turn of the race. Cavic blitzed the first 50 meters; nonetheless, Phelps was 0.64 seconds behind. Furthermore, the trademark turn of Phelps failed and Cavic was ahead of Phelps. Soon, Milorad Cavic appeared to have a commanding lead, but surely Phelps would catch him up. At a distance 20 meters to go, Cavic was holding off Phelps. Even near the wall, it really did not look that Michel would do it; however, on the last stroke, Cavic made a critical error as he lunged to the wall earlier. As a result, he touched the wall underwater while Phelps managed to put one more stroke above the water.

As a consequence, the electronic touchpad registered Phelps as the winner mere 0.01 seconds sooner. The slow-motion video reveals how Phelps made the last stroke and took the lead. Hence, Michael Phelps took a gold medal in the 100M Butterfly Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

Influence of Psychological Factors

There are several factors that had influenced the result of the race. Taking into consideration high pressure, which was caused by the experience of competitors, it was a real stress for Phelps. The entry-level of competitors was higher than that of Phelps. As a result, he was in a condition of self-oppression. Moreover, one of the strongest competitors was in the next lane; thus, Phelps’ willingness could be sufficiently decreased. These factors had a negative influence on the moral preparation of the sportsman that is significant in such sports. However, the adrenalin rush played a key role in this scenario because it gave him the strength to make a final stroke. The Olympics is a very high-level competition, and losing or winning in such competition creates a really stressful situation for any athlete. Consequently, such situations stimulate the adrenal glands that basically give a noticeable increase in strength and the boost of energy.

Another factor that had impacted the result of the competition is motivation and stress-resistance. These features are built for the competition and they help the athletes to focus on preparations and training. The specially trained psychologists cooperate with athletes and coaches in order to increase their will power. In fact, it is doubtless that such preparation also contributes to the sportsmen’s results. Sometimes, athletes are low self-confident and have some problems in communicating with teammates and coaches. Therefore, athletes should overcome this barrier in advance to focus on workouts.

In spite of that Michel Phelps won a gold medal, this result may influence his self-confidence since the electronic touchpad had registered the winner time a mere 0.01 seconds sooner than his competitor. From the psychological point of view, such a result may cause some problems with volition in the future. In fact, the self-determination of a sportsman may be harmed because he could think that winning this medal was pure luck. Nevertheless, further professional help will change the athlete’s psychological condition.

Explanation of Psychological Factors

In fact, many athletes undergo hard emotional stress while participating in different competitions. However, there are many factors influencing the psychological condition of athletes; that is why, the new discipline has been formed, which is sport psychology. Many psychologists and sportsmen believe that while training a sportsman focuses 90 percent on physical and only 10 percent on mental aspects. Nevertheless, when the time comes to the competition, it is 10 percent of physical and 90 percent of a mental burden.


In fact, the scenario of Michael Phelps can be considered from various psychological theories. However, the dominant one is the concept of self-efficacy, which lies in the center of social cognitive theory. This theory emphasizes the role of social experience, reciprocal determinism, and observational learning in the general psychological condition of an individual.

According to this theory, an individual’s abilities, attitudes, cognitive skills make a paradigm, which is known as the self-system. This system is the main factor in how people perceive various situations and how individuals act in response to those situations. Self-efficacy has a key role in this self-system.

However, self-efficacy is a belief in one’s own capabilities to execute and organize the number of actions in order to solve prospective situations. Nevertheless, it is doubtless that this theory can be applied to the scenario of Michael Phelps because he had a belief in his ability to succeed in the 100 meters butterfly. The belief of Michael Phelps can be observed from his behavior and emotions. These behavior and feelings are determinants of a further result of the event (Horn, 2008).

In fact, self-efficacy can have an impact on everything, ranging from psychological states to behavior to motivation.

Virtually all individuals can estimate the goals that they want to reach, things they want to achieve, and things they want to change. However, some people realize that the achievement of these goals is not an easy task. Scientists believe that self-efficacy plays a key role in how goals, challenges, and tasks are approached. However, there are positive and negative influences of strong and weak self-efficacy, but for the case of Michael Phelps, only several are needed. People with strong self-efficacy have a strong sense of commitment to their activities and interests.

Moreover, they recover quickly from disappointments and setbacks. The main point is that people view problems as challenges that must be faced and then mastered. As for weak self-efficacy, people focus on personal feelings and recover from failures for a long-time period and then avoid challenging tasks. However, the development of self-efficacy should be on a high level for Phelps in order to succeed. The result of 0.01 seconds can influence the further development of the individual. Nevertheless, everything depends on Phelps’s self-efficacy. In fact, this scenario can be viewed as a mastery experience, which can be used for the development of a strong sense of efficacy.

Furthermore, performing a task successfully makes people’s sense of self-efficacy much stronger. On the other hand, failing adequately in performing the task can make self-efficacy weaker and undermine it. Another factor is that athletes can be persuaded by the positive opinions of other people. Hence, it is the task of coaches and team members. They should make their own contribution to the psychological conditions of athletes who, in turn, give the profits in the competitions. Verbal encouragement from other people is the best way to overcome self-doubt and put the best effort in task performance. The third factor is psychological responses, which is really important for the performance of the task.

Emotional states, moods, stress levels, physical reactions can influence how the individual feels about personal abilities in certain situations. As for Phelps, the poor emotional level could weaken his sense of self-efficacy in the swim. However, there is no doubt that Michael Phelps has a strong sense of self-efficacy. In this situation, he can master a positive experience for the further development of self-efficacy.

However, all these factors are not the sheer intensity of physical and emotional reactions, which is important. In fact, it is rather how these reactions are perceived and interpreted. Athletes should learn how to minimize stress by facing challenging or difficult tasks. When they master it, people can improve their self-efficacy.

Self-Determination Theory

Another factor that impacts the result of the competition is motivation, which can be referred to as the self-determination theory. In fact, motivation is a driving force that helps to achieve goals. Motivation is what caused Phelps to act and what brought him profitable results. However, motivation involves the emotional, social, biological, and cognitive force that activates the particular behavior. Nevertheless, there are three elements of motivation and those are persistence, intensity, and activation. There is no doubt that Michael Phelps underwent all this process. Activation stimulated Phelps to have more training that was beneficial for the athlete. Persistence made him put more effort into the achievement of long-term goals. Finally, intensity helped him not to give up the career of a swimmer. Motivation has a great impact on the psychological condition of the athlete, and his performance directly related to the level of motivation (Luiselli & Reed, 2011).

However, psychologists describe two types of motivation, and those are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic is motivations that arise from the personal gratification, in other words, individual makes something for his/her own satisfaction. It is obvious that Michael Phelps had a great intrinsic motivation because it is the Olympics and the patriotic reasons made him put a lot of effort into the goal’s achievement. Extrinsic motivations are those that arise from outside a person, and those involve trophies, rewards, social recognition, and money. There is no doubt that Phelps was motivated by all these factors because the Olympics are one of the most prestigious competitions in the world.

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Thus, motivation was a driving force for Michael Phelps and it helped him to achieve his goals.

Theory of Emotion

In fact, emotions have a significant influence on human behavior. Strong emotions can cause actions that an individual would never perform or avoid situations that previously seemed to be enjoyable. However, there are many studies related to the theory of emotion. Nevertheless, these theories are grouped into three main categories and those are cognitive, psychological, and neurological. All these theories can be applied to the scenario, but the most relevant is psychological and neurological ones.

The James-Lange theory is one of the most known theories of emotion. According to this theory, emotions influence task performance. William James and a physiologist Carl Lange suggest that emotions occur as a result of psychological reaction for the particular events (Karageorghis & Terry, 2010). In fact, the individual receives an external stimulus that causes a psychological reaction. Therefore, the emotional reaction depends on how the individual interprets these physical reactions. Hence, for instance, Michael Phelps underwent a stress situation and his brain interpreted these physical reactions as a driving force, which led to the adrenaline release that strengthened his powers. This temporal boost of energy helped him to win the race.

It is doubtless that the theory of emotion can be applied for this scenario because every competition, especially the Olympics, is hard emotional stress for athletes. In the case of Michael Phelps’ 100 meters butterfly, the adrenalin rush played its role. However, for a better understanding of the theory’s application, a more detailed review is required.

This process is related to brain functioning as it produces adrenalin. Adrenalin (also known as epinephrine) acts as a subconscious response that made Phelps fear the result of the competition. Exciting or stressful situations arouse the state of anticipation and power experience, which is also known as an adrenalin rush. As for Michael Phelps, a highly stressful situation triggered the release of adrenalin, which elevated the heart rate and increased the oxygen level that is responsible for the temporary feeling of being highly energized (Horn, 2008).

This emotional state of Michael Phelps influenced the result of the race. It can be suggested that the final pushes Phelps made were because of the adrenalin rush.

However, the adrenalin rush had its major part in the scenario of Michael Phelps’ 100 meters butterfly because it gave him the strength to make a final stroke in the race. Taking into consideration the fact that the Olympics are a very high-level competition, losing or winning in such competition creates a really stressful and challenging situation for any athlete. Consequently, such situations stimulated the adrenal glands that basically gave Phelps a noticeable increase in strength and the boost of energy.

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Many athletes think that hours and hours of training and practice are vitally important for optimal performance. Only when the body is on the peak of physiological condition, they think that they ready for the competitions. As it has been mentioned above, the physical condition is important, but when it comes to the competitions, especially elite level competitions, the mental preparation has a key role.

Psychological training is essential for a good athlete, and in comparison to physical preparation, the mental one is easier and more enjoyable. In order to attain optimal performance, athletes need to get mental skills. There should be a mutual work of mind and body. To perform at their best, athletes should get rid of distractions, excess tension, and misdirected focus that are negative factors. However, psychological conditioning can help to control these factors. Nevertheless, if these negative factors are not under control and work against the sportsman, they can easily negate thousands of hours of training.

The psychological conditioning is vitally important and for this reason, there is a list of mental skills that can help athletes to achieve their goals (Luiselli & Reed, 2011).

  • A positive attitude;
  • Self-motivation;
  • Realistic goals;
  • Dealing effectively with people;
  • Positive mental imagery;
  • Managing the emotions;
  • Maintaining concentration.

Each of these skills has a certain importance in various sports. Therefore, some sports athletes should concentrate on particular skills whether it requires solo work or teamwork.

However, the first point is that athletes should realize that attitude is a choice. They should have a positive attitude and view sport as a chance to compete against themselves and to learn from their own success and failure. Moreover, the athletes should realize that they are not perfect as well as teammates, other sportsmen, and coaches. In other words, they should pursue excellent results, not perfection. This skill is very important for all sports and there are no exceptions.

Another important point is the motivation that is also vitally important for a successful athlete. There are rewards and trophies that the athletes expect to receive through their sports participation. However, they should be ready to persist difficult times, especially when these privileges are not rapidly forthcoming. Athletes should realize that the benefits come from their participation, not the outcome. In fact, this point is more important for solo sports such as swimming, tennis, and others where the emotional burden comes on one person. Such a situation can be a critical point in the career of an athlete.

However, athletes should set realistic goals and realize that some of them can be short-term, while others can be long-term. Nevertheless, they should approach their goals on a daily basis in order to succeed in the future and it applies to all sports.

In fact, athletes should realize that they are a part of the big system, especially those who go in for team sports such as basketball, football, soccer, etc. Firstly, they should realize that they are a part of their families, teammates, friends, etc. They should learn how to communicate effectively. In other words, they should be able to deal with conflicts, oppositional people, and other difficult situations. Another important point is concentration and it is also important for all kinds of sports. Athletes should know that they must pay maximum attention during the game or some sport situation. They should learn how to concentrate and resist distractions. Also, they have to learn how to regain concentration when the focus is lost.

In fact, all these points are vitally important for all sports and athletes should get proper psychological skills in order to achieve their goals. However, there should be a balance between emotional preparation and physical training in order to cope with all the difficulties that can arise during the competition.

The Conclusion to Persuasive Essay about Sports

To sum up, there are many factors that influenced the result of Michael Phelps in 100 meters of a butterfly. Hence, all these factors can be viewed through the prism of various psychological concepts and theories and those are self-determination, self-efficacy, and emotion theory. However, while preparing for the competitions, sportsmen should pay attention not only to physical training but also to mental conditioning. In fact, it will help to achieve their goals, especially on the elite level competitions where the emotional burden is on the highest level. In order to attain optimal performance, athletes need to get mental skills. As for the scenario of Michael Phelps’ 100 meters butterfly, it can be concluded that he had proper mental preparation that helped him to win the race. Moreover, there is a special list in this free persuasive essay about sports that can help athletes to shape their mental condition. However, it can be supplemented further, but there are no limits for perfection.

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