Performance in sport is a blend of physical fitness, psychological toughness, and skill. Saying how much any on these factors contributes to sport performance is difficult. What we can say is that certain sports seem to require different qualities. Snooker, for example, is a sport where skill plays a more important role than distance running, where physical fitness is considered more important. Immediately, as this is written, the discerning reader is saying to themselves; “Snooker players now consider physical fitness to be important”. This statement is true and most elite snooker players spend time doing work on physical fitness. It is true to say that a skilled snooker player will be beat novice player regardless of physical fitness. Physical fitness may only be important in the final stages of a long match between two elite players. Similarly, a skilled runner, who for example, is 4 stone over-weight, would struggle to beat a poorly skilled runner who is lean in a 10 kilometre race. The key point to this exercise is to start considering the three parts of performance separately, and see how much they contribute, so that the elite can divide their time spend training effectively.


It could be argued that it is difficult to separate the relative contribution of as the factors interact. Further, that running training makes you fitter physically and can make you mentally stronger also. The sceptics among you may say that difficulties distinguishing the relative contribution of skill, psychology, and physiology to performance and making an attempt to do so is a futile task. However, I suggest this exercise helps you focus your training appropriately. .


This reason is that evaluating the relative contribution which skill, psychology, and physiology make to performance makes you think carefully about performance. Training theory proposes that the more specific the training is, the more effective is that training to bring about improved performance. Therefore it follows that if the athlete can identify specific aspects about performance needed for success it should be straightforward to design a programme to achieve these goals. For example, if strength is identified as the key aspect for performance, and the athlete can lift, for example, 60 kg for the bench press, a weight training programme with high resistance and a low number of repetitions should bring about improved strength.


In terms of sport, it is acknowledged that the three factors contribute to performance in different ways and it is difficult to determine exactly how much each makes to the overall performance. An athlete who is physically fit will only reap the benefits of this fitness if he/she has sufficient psychological toughness and sufficient skills. For example, the athlete with a high aerobic capacity (strong heart and lungs) will only benefit from that fitness component if he/she has the confident to sustain this effort and the ability to maintain concentration.