A NATURALISTIC STUDY OF THE STRESS PROCESS DURING COMPETITION
University of Wales Institute Cardiff
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Underpinned by Fletcher and Fletcher’s meta-model of stress, emotions and performance (2004, 2005) this study holistically explored the stress process during competition in three field event athletes (a triple jumper, long jumper and pole vaulter). A naturalistic method of inquiry involved video recording participants during a competition (performance data) and collecting competition diaries post-competition. The performance data and competition diaries formed the basis of follow-up self-confrontation interviews. Inductive and deductive content analyses revealed participants experienced both competition (environment, technical, performance and injury) and organisational (equipment, officials and competition organisation) stressors. Positive and negative thoughts and feelings were reported along with behavioural responses (nervous habits). A greater amount of negative, compared to positive, thoughts and feelings were experienced by participants. Appraisals were classified as positive and negative, with the majority of stressors appraised as positive. Problem-, emotion- and avoidance-focused coping strategies were employed, of which problem-focused coping was most frequently cited. Coping strategies were employed automatically and often used in combination with each other. The strategies did not always result in an effective coping outcome, but were implemented in order to cope with specific stressors. The findings highlighted stress as an ongoing process within field event athletes. Practical implications included athletes being aware of the types of stressors they could encounter. Sport psychologists need to intervene to enhance positive appraisals and coping strategies. Coaches have to provide their athletes with different forms of support in stressful situations. The inclusion of behavioural responses within Fletcher and Fletcher’s model may be a necessary adaptation. Future research needs to undertake a holistic approach of the stress process, consider behavioural responses and develop improved ways to obtain appraisal information.
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