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A-level PE - Unit 3: Preparation for Optimum Sports Performance: Overview

Resources to support A-level PE, Unit 3

Unit Description

Unit 3: Preparation for Optimum Sports Performance Content Assessment
  • Students will develop a knowledge and understanding of the short- and long-term physhiological and psychological preparations made by elite athletes. 
  • The will consider the short- and long-term technical preparations required, example: selection of appropriate kit and equipment, the use of training camps, different types of ergonomic aids.

Written Examination (2 hr)

Weighting: 25% A level

Summary of Assessment Requirements

Unit 3: Preparation for Optimum Sports Performance Content

The assessment of this unit is through a 2-hour examination paper which is set and marked by Edexcel.

The paper will be a question-and-answer booklet, consisting of short-answer and extended-writing type questions, all of which are compulsory. The examination will be available in the summer of each examination series.

The total marks for the paper are 90.

3.1 Short-term Preparation

Physiological preparation

  • Warm-up: stages, types of stretching, intensity, duration 
  • Sources of energy for exercise: dietary manipulation, carbo-loading, hydration, creatine loading
  • Short-term acclimatisation: environmental factors that influence preparation and competition, heat adaptation, hydration planning, increase in plasma volume, increased sweat rate, effects of altitude

Psychological preparation

  • Motivation and stress control: Anxiety (cognitive and somatic), effects on technique, eg choking, aggression versus assertion
  • Strategies: Mental rehearsal, use of visualisation and imagery, ‘self talk’, pre-game routines, relaxation techniques, somatic and cognitive techniques including PMR (performance monitoring review), control of aggression
  • External influences: Home advantage, crowd effect, social facilitation, importance of competition, evaluation apprehension, strategies for coping, environmental factors

Technical preparation

  • Kit and equipment: Selection, environmental and cultural factors, effects on performance
  • Ergogenic aids for short-term preparation: Drugs/supplements, ice vests, cycle ergo meters for warm-up
  • Use of holding camps and pre-match rituals

Fatigue and the recovery process

  • Fatigue: Effects on performance, depletion of fuels (PC, glycogen), waste product accumulation (lactic acid), central governor theory, dehydration, electrolyte loss 
  • Recovery: Time phases (first few hours — 24 hours)First few hours — cooling down, lactic acid removal, restoration of ATP/PC and glycogen stores, EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) 24 hours — DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), hydration, carbohydrate loading Use of ergogenic aids — ice baths, compression clothing, music
3.2 Long-term Preparation

Long-term physiological preparation

  • Key long-term adaptations linked to training methods: Aerobic, Anaerobic training, Continuous, Interval, Plyometrics/power, Circuit/weight/resistance training, Speed

Long-term psychological preparation

  • Key long-term adaptations linked to training methods: Fartlek, Core stability, SAQ, Stretching
  • Goal setting and mental training: SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) targets, performance profiling, attribution theory
  • Motivation: Achievement motivation, Nach/Naff/Intrinsic/Extrinsic Attribution theories
  • Skill development and tactics: Visualisation, use of ritual, training for decision making, visual awareness training, group cohesion

Long-term technical preparation

  • Mechanical: Refinement of technique, perfect model, use of technology and feedback, video and computer software, ‘prozone’
  • Ergogenic aids to include force plates, pedometry, heart rate monitoring, use of GPS technology
3.3 Managing Elite Performance

Centres of excellence

  • History and development of elite support:  Overview of different systems (East German, Australian, US, UK)
  • Support roles and finance, lottery funding/academies/training camps, training for an Olympic Games: Needs of elite athletes, benefits of academy model

Technical support

  • The role of technology in training analysis, enhancement and evaluation for sporting performance
  • The concept of sports science and support
  • The role of national agencies, both sporting and political, in athlete preparation

Key Concepts in this Section


  • Why we warm up and what actually happens to or body so we can make our warm ups more effective 
  • Energy sources – what are they, when do we use them how ca we utilise this information in sport? 
  • Acclimatisation – how should we prepare for competition in different environments? 


  • What is motivation and how do we use it in sport? 
  • Strategies for dealing with stress in sport 
  • External influences – how they affect sports performance and how we can learn to cope with them 


  • Selecting the most efficient and effective Kit & equipment 
  • How performers use ergonomic aids to maximise performance 
  • Use of holding camps & pre game ritual 

Fatigue & Recovery

  • Fatigue - what it is what causes it and how do we try to prevent it 
  • Recovery - what is it and how can we aid recovery in our sport. The second section of the unit titled Long-term preparation covers physiological, psychological and technical preparation and adaptation. This section links to the Development plan – task 1 in Unit 4.