Elite and non elite middle distance track runners : the differences in competitive anxiety intensity and direction
University of Wales Institute Cardiff
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the differences in competitive anxiety intensity and direction within elite and non elite middle distance track athletes. With the aim to continue determining the effects of anxiety-related symptoms on performance and the possibility of facilitative interpretations of anxiety symptoms leading to improved performance and whether the elite participants have a disposition to be able to interpret the symptoms as more facilitative than the non elite participants. The examination of the effects of multiple performances within the same day (i.e. a qualifying round proceeded by a final) rather than just a straight final was looked at as current recent has not considered this, and with a hope that the multiple performances will magnify the demands placed on the athletes compared to the straight final, and show more significant effects of anxiety on performance. The participants used in this study were, track athletes (25 male and 15 female) whose ages ranged from 15 to 30 years. Elite (N = 20) and non elite (N = 21) participants completed a modified version of the Mental Readiness Form-3 scale to include a directional measurement scale. The findings showed a significant interaction effect for cognitive anxiety direction, where the elite participants in all three race situations interpreted cognitive anxiety direction as more facilitative to performance when compared to the non elite participants. There were four significant main effects for skill level out of the six subscales of the MRF-3. For all three of the direction sub scales the elite participants maintained a more facilitative interpretation of anxiety symptoms compared to the non elite participants, and also demonstrated a higher level of self confidence intensity. There were also two significant main effects for race type illustrating a lower level of self confidence being present in the final after the qualifying round compared to a straight final for all participants. The supporting of literature in competitive anxiety that has identified how elitism can have a big role in the anxiety response along with the support for research within mainstream psychology that suggests anxiety symptoms interpreted as facilitative can lead to an improved performance is a major strength of the study. Competitive anxiety literature has found the elite individuals to use appraisal and coping mechanisms to reduce psychological distress, the use of these mechanisms are also seen as possible explanations for the present study’s findings. Future research should consider identifying the possible coping and appraisal strategies utilised by the elite performers, as well as the possible influence of these strategies on the anxiety response.
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