Sources of stress in the competition environment: comparison of elite and non-elite athletes
University of Wales
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Stress continues to be a prominent and widely discussed factor within the sporting context. It is consistently acknowledged that performers encounter different sources of stress both inside and outside of sport, and the reaction to these various sources of stress are regularly viewed in mainstream media or cited by athletes in media coverage. The two purposes of the study were to understand the sources of competitive and organizational stress encountered by elite and non-elite athletes and to examine the coping strategies adopted by elite and non-elite athletes when they have encountered these competitive or organizational sources of stress. Eight sports performers (4 elite, 4 non-elite), purposively sampled were interviewed using a semi-structured approach. 24 higher order themes taken from previous research (Mellalieu et al., 2009) relating to competitive and organizational sources of stress. Participants were asked to rank the higher order themes generated in previous literature as one to twenty-four. These higher order themes related to the competitive stressors: physical preparation, mental preparation, technical preparation, tactical preparation, risk of re-injury, risk of injury due to opponents actions, previous performance accomplishments, performing correct skill/technique, starting well, performing to ability, opponent ability standard, opponent behaviour, and new opponents. The higher order themes of organizational stressors related to: ranking, selection issues, competition importance/standard, sponsorship, public/media, coach evaluation, team-mate evaluation, spectator/significant other evaluation, competition environment, competition format, and role in the team. The findings revealed that elite and non-elite athletes report similar sources of competitive stressors due to their endemic and inherent nature in relation to competitive sport. Athletes reported more varied organizational sources of stress due to technological, social, economic, and social influences. There were considerable differences when reporting organizational stress with elite athletes reporting ranking, sponsorship and media as sources of stress and non-elite athletes reporting competition environment as a source of stress. The findings also reported that athletes used a variation of coping strategies to deal with competitive and organizational stress. With relation to competitive stressors athletes reported using more problem-focused strategies with increasing effort, planning and problem solving referred to. When encountering organizational stressors athletes commonly used social support as a coping strategy looking for emotional and informational support from teammates, coaches and, significant others. Skill level differences associated with coping strategies showed elite athletes used more emotion-focused coping when encountering competitive sources of stress, in particular the use of visualisation as a coping strategy. The implications of the study state that a balance must be maintained between competitive and organizational sources of stress due to the variety and impact organizational sources of stress have on performance. Sports psychologists’ have to be responsive to differing strategies elite and non-elite athletes adopt when coping with sources of stress and recognise not all skill levels are the same. When encountering organizational stressors there has to be continual information provided by sporting organizations and contingency plans made available so performance is maximised.
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Mellalieu, Stephen D.; Neil, Rich; Hanton, Sheldon; Fletcher, David (Taylor & Francis, 2009)We examined the performance and organizational stressors encountered by elite and non-elite athletes within the competition environment. Twelve sport performers (6 elite, 6 non-elite) were interviewed about both performance ...
Richards, Tobias (Cardiff Metropolitan University, 2013)Informed by Lazarus and Folkmans transactional model of stress and coping (1984) and Lazarus’s cognitive-motivational-relational-theory (1991), the investigation holistically explored the stress process of five non- elite ...
Fletcher, David; Hanton, Sheldon; Mellalieu, Stephen D.; Neil, Rich (Wiley, 2012)In the study reported here, 12 sport performers (six elite and six non-elite) were interviewed with regard to organizational-related issues they had experienced in preparation for competition. Grounded theory procedures ...