Debilitative interpretations of anxiety symptoms and the elite performer
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Research shows that elite performers, compared to non-elite performers, interpret their pre-race anxiety symptoms as more facilitative to performance than debilitative (Jones et a1., 1994; Jones and Swain, 1995). Despite this, a small percentage of elite performers interpret their anxiety symptoms as debilitative. Jones et al. (1994) showed 14.7% and 85.3Yo of their elite participants interpreted their symptoms as debilitative and facilitative, respectively. The purpose of this study is to investigate the reasons why these elite performers have not developed a facilitative interpretation of their anxiety symptoms throughout their competitive career. It also begs the question, how can these elite performers compete at an elite level even though they interpret their anxiety symptoms in this way? In depth interview techniques were used to investigate elite performers' pre-race thoughts, feelings and mental strategies underlying their interpretations. Participants were 6 male elite perfoÍners from a variety of sports who interpreted their anxiety symptoms as debilitative to performance. Data was drawn from verbatim transcripts and was content analysed. Four general dimensions along with additional descriptive results traced the participants' pre-race thoughts, feelings and mental strategies from early competitive experiences to the present day. It was concluded that the participants experienced no education at an early age about how nerves are necessary to perform optimally. Also they have not mastered the psychological techniques required to consistently maintain a facilitative interpretation. They were shown, however, to possess high levels of self-confidence, perceived readiness, perceptions of control and a number of cognitive management strategies. Important practical implications emanated, in particular, the important role of the coach early in the performers' competitive careers.
BSc (Hons) Sport, PE and Recreation
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