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The effect of motivational and attentional primes on athletic performance was assessed. Thirty-four male, recreational basketball players shot 10 free throws after completing a word scrambled sentence task that primed either autonomous motivation, fluency, or nothing (control). Results revealed that neither prime significantly increased free throw scores more than the control, but fluency primed participants scored significantly more free throws than autonomous motivation primed participants. Results provide support that athletes should try to relax during high pressure situations that require precision. Focusing on the task at hand will hinder performance, while naturally going through the motions will enhance performance. Results also provided support that there is an optimal level of arousal for performing one’s best. Too low or too high of arousal actually hinders an athlete’s performance.
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