In their classic youth sports coaching research, Smoll and Smith found that children playing for coaches trained in a positive approach i. When coaches were not trained to be positive and encouraging, children involved in competitive sport did not experience increased motivation, lower anxiety and enhanced self-esteem. Much of the sport psychological research focusing on competition has been conducted with young athletes in entry-level programs. Less research on competition has been conducted at different levels of competition local, national, and international.
However, recent research with elite athletes shows that these outstanding performers are highly competitive. Their standards of comparison are both self and other-referenced, they are both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated, and they have high perceptions of ability.
Champion athletes have also been found to approach competition differently across various phases of their careers. For instance, in the classic research by Bloom in , elite athlete development was retrospectively traced across the careers of champion athletes. Rather, the focus was on having fun, learning fundamentals, and being active. It was only later that they approached competition in a very serious fashion. In addition, for much of their careers, they focused on long-term development rather than short-term competitive results.
Competitive Stress In Sport One of the most studied aspects of competitive sport has been its association with competitive stress.
Levels of stress experienced by young athletes, sources of stress, and managing stress all have been topics of considerable interest to sport psychology researchers. For example, a golfer may face a situation where he or she needs to sink a crucial foot putt to win a tournament. If the golfer perceives the demands as exceeding his or her capabilities, the result is increased competitive state anxiety, that is, feelings of apprehension and tension accompanied by physiological activation.
Furthermore, heightened levels of state anxiety, especially if they are perceived as debilitative, have been associated with poor performance and lower levels of enjoyment and satisfaction.
Sources of Stress in Athletes Identifying sources of stress experienced by athletes engaging in competition has been a topic of interest to sport psychologists. This research has generally shown that although there are a variety of specific stress sources that an athlete can experience e. Specifically, the more importance that an athlete perceives is placed on an event, the more state anxiety is experienced. Similarly, the greater the degree of uncertainty whether about performance or nonperformance issues that the athlete perceives, the more competitive state anxiety is experienced.
However, situational factors are not the only class of factors influencing competitive stress responses. Performers with high trait anxiety consistently respond with greater levels of state anxiety in competitive situations.
Self-esteem has also been consistently associated with levels of competitive state anxiety experienced in socially evaluative sport contexts. In competitive situations, athletes with low self-esteem experience higher levels of state anxiety than do those with high self-esteem. Finally, more recent studies have found relationships between increased anxiety and high levels of hardiness, perfectionism, and self-presentation concerns as well as low social support, although these findings need to be further verified in additional studies.
For a number of years, researchers have been concerned with the levels of stress experienced by athletes, especially young athletes engaged in competitive sports. Thus, researchers have compared the amounts of state anxiety experienced during practices with those experienced during competitive sport situations.
The thinking behind these comparisons is that competition is more anxiety provoking than are practices, but it is important to note that at times practices can include considerable social evaluation e. Although the results of these studies have consistently revealed that most young athletes experience more anxiety during competitions than during practices, the most important finding is that the vast majority of children do not experience excessive levels of state anxiety during competitions.
However, certain children in certain situations do experience high levels of competitive stress and anxiety. For example, in a set of classic studies of competitive youth sport participants, Scanlan and colleagues assessed the state anxiety levels of youth sport participants during practices i.
A variety of personality and background factors were also assessed. Results of this research led to the general conclusion that most young athletes did not experience excessively high levels of state anxiety during competitions. Certain children in certain situations did experience high levels of state anxiety.
These children were characterized by high competitive trait anxiety, low self-esteem, less fun, less satisfaction with performance, low personal performance expectancies, and worries about failure and adult evaluation. Results reveal that a small percentage of sport participants experience burnout of sport and that chronic stress plays an important role in the burnout process. Managing Competitive Stress Because competitive sport can be stressful, and high levels of stress have been associated with inferior performance and decreased enjoyment and satisfaction, researchers have been very interested in helping athletes to manage stress.
One important but often overlooked class of techniques for managing competitive stress is environmental engineering. With environmental engineering techniques, coaches, adult leaders, and significant others can influence athlete stress levels by increasing the importance placed on competition e.
Or, they can reduce competitive stress by reducing the importance placed on performance e. Training youth sport coaches to adopt a positive and encouraging coaching orientation, rather than a negative or critical one, can reduce the levels of competitive stress experienced.
A number of techniques, mirroring general stress management research in psychology, have been used successfully by athletes to manage their competitive stress. These include cognitive anxiety reduction strategies e. Competitive athletes have also been found to use a variety of problem-focused e. Finally, research has also revealed that there is an optimal recipe of emotions that lead to superior sport performance, so that using stress management techniques to eliminate all stress is counterproductive.
Thus, competitive athletes must know their optimal levels of emotional arousal and arousal-related emotions needed for best performance and then use stress reduction and enhancement strategies accordingly.
Bibliography: Bloom, B. Developing talent in young people. New York: Ballantine. Deutsch, M. An experimental study of the effects of cooperation and competition upon group processes.
Human Relations, 2, — Gill, D. Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise 2nd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. Gould, D. Intensive sport participation and the prepubescent athlete: Competitive stress and burnout. Likewise, boxers can practice speed drills, shadow box and train their reflexes in VR far better than they could ever do in real life.
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Sources of Stress in Athletes Identifying sources of stress experienced by athletes engaging in competition has been a topic of interest to sport psychologists. Whether these effects are positive or negative depend greatly on the competitive context and the emphasis that sport leaders and coaches place on competition and its meaning.
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Which personalities are now considered to be the most skilled and famous athletes? These children were characterized by high competitive trait anxiety, low self-esteem, less fun, less satisfaction with performance, low personal performance expectancies, and worries about failure and adult evaluation. Full-text essay views.
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