Stress Research Within Sport Psychology Psychology Essay
Although a number of studies and research have been carried out to determine the effects of stress and anxiety on athletes in various sports in general, the impact of these on individuals associated with surfing remains an unexplored area. However, a lot of existing material that applies to general sports can also be applied to surfing and surfers in particular.
When individuals as sportspersons encounter stressful situations, the outcome in terms of positive (e.g., excitement) or negative (e.g., anxiety) emotional responses, and their subsequent effect on performance, will be influenced by the individuals' ability to successfully manage the different external or internal demands of the sports as perceived (Wann, 1997). Responses of stress have been associated with, for instance, situations in which the athletes perceive a lack of ability to cope with the stress encountered (Woodman & Hardy,2001). Thus, they will likely try to actively utilise different coping strategies in order to alter the appraisals, situation or emotional response in the different sports they engage in (Heugten, 2001).
2.1 Anxiety Research
Anxiety is well-studied construct in a range of psychological research areas, including sports, and has over the years undergone considerable refinements with regard to conceptualisations and inventories used. For a comprehensive understanding of the present body of knowledge of anxiety in sports, an appropriate starting point for this dissertation is to briefly overview the related historical developments within mainstream psychology. Whereas issues referring to anxiety were only occasionally mentioned in psychological literature during the first decades of 20th century, albeit discussed by philosophers for centuries and included in theories by Freud, the number of published articles in psychological and sports journals increased dramatically after 1950 (cf. Endler & Kocovski, 2001; Spielberger, 1966). The growing empirical interest could be explained, at least partly, by the development of inventories such as the Manifest Anxiety Scale (MAS; Taylor, 1953) and the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing (IPAT) Anxiety Scale (Cattell, 1957). Although these inventories were regarded as significant advancements to the study of anxiety, mainly because they provided researchers with new assessment possibilities, the early research still struggled with problems of ambiguities and vagueness in the conceptualisation of the construct. Specifically, anxiety was generally regarded as a global personality trait, express among individuals as stable differences in character. Explicit distinctions between stable anxiety tendencies and unstable anxiety reactions were, however, seldom provided in the studies conducted (Cattell, 1966; Spielberger, 1966). In addition anxiety was frequently treated synonymously with constructs such as neuroticism, stress, depression, tension and fear, which further increased the conceptual confusion (Cattell, 1966).
Noticing the abundance of definitions used in the first phase of anxiety research, and highlighting the need to both define what anxiety is and to exclude what it is not, Cattell and colleagues (e.g., Cattell & Scheier, 1958) identified two distinct factors of anxiety through the use of factor and correlational analyses. The first factor was referred to as a trait because it included variables consisting of relatively stable personality characteristics. The second factor was instead labelled as a state anxiety factor on the basis that it included variables with unitary response patterns that appeared to fluctuate over time (Cattell, 1966). Elaborating on this work, Spielberger (1966) took these findings a step further and formulated a conceptual framework of trait-state anxiety, in which the distinction between a stable and an unstable dimension of anxiety was highlighted (Spielberger, 1966). Herein, anxiety as a personality trait (A-trait) was regarded as an individual’s average or normal level of anxiety, unrelated to the impact of situational variables, and was defined as: “a motive or acquired behavioural disposition that predispose an individual to perceive a wide range of objectively nondangerous circumstances as threatening, and to respond to these with A-state reactions disproportionate in intensity to the magnitude of the objective danger” (Spielberger, 1966, p. 17). In order to enable assessment of the new conceptualisation of anxiety, the 40-item inventory “State Trait Anxiety Inventory” was developed (STAI; Spielberger, Gorsuch, & Lushene, 1970), containing a trait scale (i.e., how one generally feels) and a state scale (i.e., how one feels at the moment). The scale later was revised and renamed as the STAI-form Y (Spielberger, Gorsuch, Lushene, Vagg, & Jacobs, 1983), and has played a significant role as a standard international measure of anxiety in psychological research (Spielberger & Diaz-Guerrero, 1983).
2.1.1 Anxiety research within Sport Psychology
The interest of anxiety experienced by athletes in relation to sport competitions increased dramatically in the beginning of the 1970’s and continues to be an intensely studied topic. Yet, issues of “athletes losing their nerve” had indeed been mentioned much earlier in the psychological literature. For example, Griffith (1934) discussed observations of athletes that displayed good sport techniques at practice, but were poor “game performers” who was not used explicitly, concepts such as “crowd shyness”, and “fear responses” among athletes can be interpreted as early expressions of what we today label as sport performance anxiety or competitive anxiety. Moreover, Griffith (1934) noticed that “the athletic field and locker room are veritable experimental laboratories for the study of emotion and mood” and that “the athletic field makes a more accessible laboratory for the practical study of various psychological traits than is made by almost any other situation into which human beings may venture” (p. 23-24).
The increased research interest of the role of anxiety in sport competition was certainly shown in Europe. During the late 1970’s, the European Federation of Sports Psychology (Federation Europeėne de Psychologise des Sport et des Activites Corporelles; FEPSAC) initiated an international research project specifically dedicated to increasing the understand of anxiety in sports (Schilling & Apitzsch, 1989). Because the STAI was relatively brief (40 items), and was therefore easy to apply in sports settings, it was judged suitable for sport psychology research and was soon adapted and regarded as a significant advancement in measurement(Schilling & Apitzsch, 1989; Smith, Smoll, & Wiechman, 1998). Studies utilising the STAI, which included a range of sports, generally supported that the state scale of the STAI was sensitive to changes in anxiety levels among athletes, but less support for the usefulness of the trait scale was found (Spielberger, 1989).
2.2 Stress Research within Sport Psychology
The word stress, like success, failure, or happiness, means different things to different people and, except for a few scientists, no one has really tried to define it, although it has become part of our daily vocabulary. As mentioned by Graham Jones, the study of stress remains a subject field of great interest to both the academic researchers, as well as, sports professionals (Jones, 1993). Personnel, who are there to provide support and coaching assistance to the surfers and other athletes, need to know the psychological forces that may define the behaviour of an individual (Logoff et.al, 2008). The understanding of these forces and behaviours helps these professionals in knowing ways in which stress may affect the performance of the surfer or any other athlete negatively (Holding, 2000). Stress is an integral part of the natural fabric of life in which a person’s behaviour is evaluated by others can be stressful (Spielberger, 1979).
Martens, Vealey, and Burton (1990) stated, “stress has been defined as stimulus, intervening and response to variables by different researchers. As a stimulus variable stress is a precipitator; as an intervening variable, a mediator; and as a response variable, a behavior.” There are many factors which can cause stress for an athlete. There are two ways these are demonstrated, the stress model (fig-1) and the stress response process (fig-2). See the figures below.
Figure Stress model by Jones and Hardy (1990)
The stress model demonstrates what factors affect stress in sport. Stress can affect performance, the way an athlete responds to the stress can affect it, and the management of the stress can negatively or positively affect the athlete’s stress level.
The stress response process (shown below) consists of five stages. Stage 1 is the environmental demand; stage 2 is the athlete’s perception of the environmental demand; stage 3 is the stress response to the environmental demand; stage 4 is the behavioural consequences of the stress response to the behavioural demand; stage 5 is the return to a homeostatic position.
Figure Stress Response Process, Reilly & Williams, 2003
Stress is a factor of life that affects everyone, but athletes tend to suffer from it more than non-athletes, due to the amount they are required to balance, between schoolwork, practices and games, as well as family pressures and everyday life.
Stressors can be defined as causes of stress. A wide range of physical stimuli acts as stressors, including exercise, restraint, heat, cold, noise, pain, shock, injury and infection. All of these can elicit stress responses which are a simple monotonic function of the intensity of the physical stimulus (Hockey, 1983). Researchers studying sports stress identify Stressors as elements in sports that interrupt an individual’s physical and emotional state that may ultimately affect his performance (Patton, 1980). Stressors may be a result of the sport nature itself, communication with fellow trainers and other athletes, and compensation and benefits. Lack of control and lack of direction amongst the team, constructors and trainers is a common issue in sports that leads to stress amongst the athletes (Davis, 2000).
Psychological stress is currently defined in at least two different ways. It refers first to the dangerous, potentially harmful or unpleasant external situations or conditions (stressors) that produce stress reactions, and secondly, to the internal thoughts, judgements, emotional states and physiological process that are evoked by stressful stimuli (Spielberger, 1979). Bainbridge (1974) has defined information-processing capacity as the processing operations and processing strategies which a person has available. An individual’s level of performance will be a function of the processing capacity and the task demands, and a person’s experience will be important in terms of the processing operations and processing strategies that have been developed. Most people work below maximum effort most of the time, and, although they can increase their effort to the maximum for short periods of time (Bainbridge, 1974), continuous work at maximum levels of effort results in more rapid onset of fatigue. Jones (1993) also suggested that a large proportion of the athletes failed to perform to potential because they were unable to maintain their concentration in the face of distractions. This is clearly not just a problem for elite athletes; it is a problem for all serious sports performers, no matter what their ability level.
2.2.1 Sign and Symptoms
There are many signs and symptoms of stress, and everyone is different, so one sign or symptom described by one athlete may not be what another athlete experiences. Ray and Weise-Bjornstal (1999) described seven categories in which an athlete may experience stress. These categories are: affective, behavioural, biological/physiological, cognitive, imaginal, interpersonal, and sensory (Ray and Weise-Bjornstal, 1999). Each category has its own signs and symptoms. Affective signs and symptoms include: anxiety, anger, guilt, depression, shame and feeling sorry for oneself. Behavioural signs and symptoms include: sleeping disturbances, restlessness, aggressive behaviour, alcohol or drug abuse, sulking, crying, poor performance, absenteeism, and clenched fists. Biological or physiological signs and symptoms include muscle tension, increased heart rate, indigestion, stomach spasms, pain and headaches.
Cognitive signs and symptoms are frustration, worries, distortion, exaggeration, unrealistic performance expectations, self-defecting statements and self-handicapping. The imaginal signs and symptoms include images of failure, images of reinjures, flashbacks of being injured, images of helplessness, and images of embarrassment. The interpersonal signs and symptoms include withdrawal, manipulation and argumentation. The last category, sensory, includes tension, nausea, cold sweat, clammy hands, pain and butterflies in the stomach (Ray and Weise-Bjornstal, 1999). There are many signs and symptoms of stress, which are not all experienced by each person, and each person can experience a variety of signs and symptoms.
2.3 Emotions and mood
Anxiety as an emotional response to stressful situations has been mentioned previously in this dissertation, but athletes’ experiences of being anxious are also sometimes referred to in the literature as a mood state. Whereas constructs such as affect, emotion and mood are closely related, on a theoretical level they refer to distinct constructs (Beedie, Terry, & Lane, 2005; Lane, Beedie, & Stevens, 2005; Mellalieu, 2003). Moods and emotions are instead generally more narrowly specified, and mood (e.g., an anxious mood) is often referred to as a relatively long-lasting, diffuse state not directly related to any specific objective. Furthermore, moods are proposed to predominantly impact the cognitions of the individual (e.g., memory and information processing) (Davidson, 1994; Lane & Terry, 2000; Siemer, 2005; Vallerand & Blanchard, 2000). Emotions, on the other hand, are often regarded as short-lived and more intense reactions tied to a specific event or object, evaluated as significant for the individual, that could be real but also subjectively appraised (Lane & Terry, 2000; Vallerand & Blanchard, 2000).
In line with a range of research areas within the general field of psychology, a continuous movement toward positive psychology has indeed been evident within sport emotion research during the past years (Dominelli, 2004). To date, research presented in the literature also suggests that this trend, in which not only anxiety but also positive emotions are accounted for, is a beneficial gateway for the further development of a sound knowledge base of athletes' emotional responses to anger and stress.
2.4 Coping with Stress
The term “coping” is used to describe means and techniques through which athletes and sports professionals can handle the existing stressors, by either making adaptations to their playing strategies or to themselves. Coping is considered integral to the stress process and has been conceptualized from both a trait and process perspective. If coping is view from a trait perspective then athletes are considered to apply a relatively fixed set of coping strategies across different time points and situations. However, in the extant literature coping is typically viewed as a dynamic process (Gould et al., 1993). In this regard, coping can be defined as “….. constantly changing cognitive and behavioural efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person” (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Because coping is central to the stress process athletes do not necessarily experience a negative psychological or emotional state in response to stressors. Athletes with positive belief in their ability to cope, and in goal attainment, are proposed to those with negative expectancies are proposed to interpret their competitive anxiety symptoms as facilitative to sport performance, whereas those with negative expectancies are proposed to interpret their competitive anxiety symptons as debilitative to sport performance (Jones & Swain, 1992). Perceptions of the ability to cope with situation may also impact physiological responses. Individuals who performed a task in front of an audience (stressor) are found to record different physiological responses depending on whether they perceive the task as a challenge or a threat (Blascovich, 1992).
2.4.1 Types of Coping
There are two main approaches for coping with the stressors. These are Problem-focused coping and Emotion-focused coping (Abraham, 2000). Coping with stress and anxiety is an every-day requirement for normal human growth and development. Going to school, or into a new job for the first time, being separated from parents or loved ones, doubting one’s own adequacy in relations with other people, job pressures and deadlines, speaking or entertaining in public are among the many potential sources of stress. (Spielberger, 1979).
The most commonly applied higher-order classification in sport psychology distinguishes between coping strategies that intend to directly address a situation that induces the stressful experience (i.e., problem-focused coping, sometimes also called task-oriented) and strategies that intend to regulate the emotional response or to cognitively reappraise the situation (i.e., emotion-focused coping) (McClure, 2000). This broad classification is based on a process-oriented perspective of coping in which coping is viewed as an inherent, simultaneous part in the transaction between environment and person and is defined as: "constantly changing cognitive and behavioural efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person" (Cooper & Palmer, 2000).
Importantly, problem-focused and emotion-focused coping have often mistakenly been treated as two distinct phenomena. Problem-focused coping is one where an individual seeks to change a stressful situation, such that the individual gains control over it and can resolve it successfully (Savickas, 2001). On the other hand, emotion-focused coping is one where the individual attempts to control his own strain response instead of the stressor. This may involve distracting his own self, taking medicines or other substances for reducing the emotional reaction or discussing the situation with a friend or family. Both these coping approaches are useful in handling stress and related strains. However, problem-focused coping is considered the effective of the two (Lennard, 2001).
Even though the view of coping as a process is the most widespread approach within sport psychology research, other researchers contend that athletes possess different coping styles that predispose them to use a preferred set of coping strategies across a variety of situations or, alternatively, over time but in similar situations (Dominelli, 2004). As Lazarus suggests, to fully understanding a surfer’s (athlete’s) choice of a certain coping strategy, one needs to understand the individual's personal meaning and appraisal of the situation, which will in turn be dependent on his or her personality. Surfers and athletes are also likely to differ in their ability to cope in a flexible manner across situations as a result of individual differences in cognitive processes such as the ability for complex thinking (Savickas, 2001).
2.5 Competitive Anxiety in Sports
Even if athletes respond differently to competitive situations perceived as stressful, increased levels of anxiety are a fairly common emotional response that could lead to detrimental effects on performance. Thus, the study of the anxiety response in competitive situations has received much attention within sport psychology literature. Within this field of research, the constructs of arousal and state anxiety have often been used relatively synonymously. Although these constructs are often highly related, they should be distinguished conceptually because of the different implications they have for both theory and assessment (Arent & Landers, 2003; Krane, 1992; Woodman & Hardy, 2001).
In the literature, arousal has often been described with a number of labels such as activation, “psyched up”, mental readiness, energy mobilisation and excitation (Zaichkowsky & Takenaka, 1993). Moreover, arousal is commonly discussed within the construct of motivation, involving an energising function that physiologically places the individual in a state of readiness and directs the behaviour and mind to the goal or task at hand (Lavallee, Kremer, Moran, & Williams, 2004). Whereas arousal has generally been treated as one-dimensional in nature, it has also been argued that not only physiological, but also behavioural and cognitive, components are involved (Weinberg, 1989). In line with this notion, Gould and Krane (1992) defined arousal as a “general physiological and psychological activation of the organism that varies on a continuum from deep sleep to intense excitement” (p.121). Other definitions with more direct focus on physiological responses, for example “the organism’s phasic physiological response to environmental stimuli” (Hardy, Parfitt, & Pates, 1994, p.328) have also been applied in sport psychology research. Theoretical explanations of the impact of arousal on sports performance suggest that arousal might display either a direct or indirect effect. The direct impact occurs as a consequence of arousal, altering the athlete’s access to cognitive and physiological resources, whereas the indirect effect influences performance by the athlete’s interpretation of physiological symptoms as either positive or negative (Hardy, 1996; Hardy et al., 1994). It should be noted that arousal could affect performance either positively or negatively, depending on the intensity level and the nature of the skill or task. Thus, fine-motor skills (e.g., golf putting) requiring control of unwanted muscle activity and precision, or task that require a high degree of concentration or decision-making (e.g., open skilled), will tolerate merely low levels of arousal before performance is negatively affected. In contrast, gross motor skills (e.g., weight lifting) or task with lower decision demands (e.g., closed skilled) will benefit from increased arousal levels and, thus will tolerate higher levels of arousal before performance is impaired (Landers & Arent, 2001).
2.5.2 Competitive state Anxiety
Early sport psychology researchers were predominantly interested in the arousal construct, but more recent research has frequently focused on state anxiety in preference to arousal. State anxiety is generally regarded as an unpleasant emotional reaction related to stressful situations, in which the arousal component is one inherent element (Woodman & Hardy, 2001). An important distinction between arousal and anxiety is that anxiety involves interpretation of the situation as threatening, whereas arousal is unrelated to any such interpretations (Hammermeister & Burton, 2001). Moreover, anxiety has been suggested as a better predictor of the performance outcome than arousal when the tasks are of a more complex nature and contain a higher cognitive load (Arent & Landers, 2003)
The current most dominant view of state anxiety is to treat it as a multidimensional construct that, apart from the trait-state distinction, also is separated into a cognitive and somatic sub-dimension (Jones, 1995; Martens, Burton, Vealey, Bump, & Smith, 1990; Woodman & Hardy, 2001). This perspective was adopted from anxiety research in educational and clinical psychology, whereby the two research disciplines independently found evidence for the distinction of state anxiety as a cognitive (worry) and somatic (emotionality) component (Davidson & Schwartz, 1976; Liebert & Morris, 1967). Based on test-anxiety research in educational psychology, the cognitive element of anxiety was labelled as “worry” and was defined as individuals’ cognitive concerns and negative self-expectations, worry about the situation and possible consequences. The somatic component was instead referred to as “emotionality” and defined as the individuals’ perceptions of physiological and affective elements of anxiety, including indications of autonomic arousal and unpleasant symptoms such as tension and nervousness (Liebert & Morris, 1967; Morris, Davis, & Hutchings, 1981). In the clinical literature, a distinction was instead made between “cognitive anxiety” (i.e., conscious awareness of unpleasant feelings about oneself or external stimuli, worry and disturbing visual images), “somatic anxiety” (awareness of, for instance, blushing, increased heart rate and muscular symptoms), and “attentional disturbances” (Davidson & Schwartz, 1976). Even though test anxiety research and clinical research each labelled the cognitive-somatic distinction a bit differently, the cores of the sub-dimensions were rather similar. The constructs of cognitive anxiety/worry and somatic anxiety/emotionality were further proposed to display co-variation in stressful situations and were therefore not viewed as totally independent constructs (Morris et al., 1981).
Cognitive anxiety, in particular, is suggested as being associated with antecedents of threats against the self (e.g., self-presentation threats), whereas somatic anxiety is suggested as linked to antecedents (e.g., environmental stimuli) that elicit increases in autonomic arousal (cf. Burton, 1998; Wilson & Eklund, 1998; Woodman & Hardy, 2001). For example, athletes generally respond with increased state anxiety in situations in which competition is viewed as important for the athlete and the outcome is perceived as highly uncertain (Martens et al., 1990a; Raglin & Hanin, 2000). A premier antecedent to state anxiety in these situations is the perception of threat (e.g., worry of failure or of negative social evaluation) (Hammermeister & Burton, 2001). Building on work by Lazarus and colleagues (Lazarus, 1999; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) and applying it more specifically onto sports situations, Cerin, Szabo, Hunt, and Williams (2000) further underline the complexity involved. They suggest that the interplay between variables such as (a) demands, constraints and opportunities within the competitive situation, (b) temporal and stable situational and personal factors (e.g., age, gender, experience, a variety of personality dispositions, the nature of the sport), and finally (c) the athlete’s appraisal of the situation and coping behaviours, are all important variables to consider in order to understand the athlete’s emotional responses and subsequent behaviour (Cerin et al., 2000).
2.6 Anxiety/stress and Performance
Precise identification of the relationship between stress and performance has proved elusive. This elusiveness has been at least partly due to a general lack of precision in defining and distinguishing between key concepts such as arousal and anxiety. The relationship between anxiety and performance has attracted much research. The origins of this work can be found in the early study of arousal and performance, in which anxiety generally was regarded to be present when arousal states were high (Weinberg, 1989). Although theories such as Drive theory (Hull, 1943; Spence & Spence, 1966), the inverted-U hypothesis (Yerkes & Dodson, 1908) and Reversal theory (Kerr, 1977) all have contributed to the understanding and development of the field, their original focus was aimed at the relationship between arousal and performance – and consequently not at anxiety and performance.
2.6.1 Inverted-U Theory
Inverted-U hypothesis derived from the work of Yerkes and Dodson (1908), which is a hypothesis applied to sport, which states that performance improves as arousal levels increase up to an optimum point, beyond which it deteriorates. Although arousal and anxiety are not seen as synonymous, they are taken as being interrelated – hence the hypothesis is often used to predict the effects of competitive anxiety on performance (Graydon, 2002). In practice, this means that a little excitement and stress associated with competition or performing in public can have a positive effect, but a situation that is too stressful is detrimental. Both of which depend upon the assumption that the stress-performance relationship can be explained as a function of changes in a very general arousal system. In particular, a considerable amount of research effort has been expended on the investigation of the inverted-U hypothesis (e.g. Klavora, 1978). The findings from this research have been equivocal but more importantly, a situation has been created in which terms such as stress, arousal and anxiety have been used interchangeably in many cases. (Jones, 1993)
Despite looking at arousal, anxiety and stress as separate topics; it can be found that they are closely related. Essentially, there are two components, the physical and the psychological, and it is the psychological or cognitive aspect of arousal that can have the most damaging effect on performance. Nevertheless, individuals differ in their basic anxiety levels (trait anxiety), just as they differ in their response to demands. The key factor is how the individual perceives the demand, and knowledge of cognitive techniques can help alter or modify negative perceptions and consequently improve performance.
During the last decade, researches have directed ever greater attention to the process and results of human crowding. According Stokols, 1972, studies on crowding have uncovered a great many antecedent conditions, psychological responses, and consequences of crowding. Karlin, 1978, have suggested that any of three events can evoke the label “crowded”: congestion with resource scarcity; inability to control interpersonal interaction; and extremely close physical proximity to others (Karlin et al.,1987). There is other further suggestion that the presence of large numbers of others be added to this set of events, as this factor is most often associated with label “crowding” (Altman et al.,1980).
3.1 Aims of the Study
The literature suggests that high levels of anxiety could obstruct performance and decision making in athletes and Surfers in particular. Therefore, the aim of the present research project was to examine the relationship of psychological components of state and trait anxiety in surfers and swimmers. Swimmers were deemed a suitable choice because they are engaged in activities similar to those of Surfers but without the additional stressors of dealing with waves and weather. This was done by using the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (CSAI-2d) questionnaire (Jones & Uphill, 2004) to obtain quantitative results.
Research has also supported that the need to not only assess anxiety intensity but also athlete’ positive or negative interpretation of anxiety symptoms. Some concerns have also been expressed, for example that anxiety could be confounded with more beneficial performance states or that facilitative directional ratings merely express the belief that the symptoms will be beneficial (Burton & Naylor, 1997; Jones and Uphill, 2004). These concerns suggest the need to further investigate athletes’ perceptions of the state in order to increase the conceptual clarity of anxiety construct. Qualitative studies have recently increased in number in anxiety research (Hanton & Connaughton, 2002; Hanton et al., 2002; Hanton, Mellalieu, & Hall, 2004), but qualitative research that investigates in depth what athletes perceive as discriminating between debilitative and facilitative interpretations of anxiety symptoms, in terms of intensity and emotional valence, is still limited. Furthermore, the distinctive experience of competitive events in surfing which symptoms associated with anxiety and stress had been perceived as debilitative and facilitative to performance was investigated using in-depth interviews.
Ten competitive swimmers from a local swimming club in Plymouth Life Centre (mean age = 20.0 years, mean years of experience = 5.0) and ten competitive surfers from Student Surf Tour (mean age = 20.9 years, mean years of experience = 13.4) volunteered as participants in this study. Their selection was based on the level of their experience and their availability.
In this study Sport Anxiety Scale (SAS; Smith, Smoll, & Schutz, 1990) was used to measure the participants’ sport-specific multidimensional cognitive and somatic trait anxiety. The inventory consists of 21 questions and three subscales: somatic anxiety, worry, and concentration disruption. The three-factor structure was recently confirmed in another study, by Dunn, Wilson, and Syrotuik (2000), who also found good internal-consistency coefficients for this questionnaire (ranging between r = .88 and .69). Finally, the SAS has shown satisfactory test–retest reliability (r = .77; Smith et al.). The modified version of the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (CSAI-2; Martens et al., 1990), the CSAI-2d (Jones & Uphill, 2004), was used to measure the participants’ intensity of state anxiety, as well as its direction (facilitative or debilitative). The CSAI-2d consists of three subscales, cognitive anxiety, somatic anxiety, and self-confidence, and is a self-administered questionnaire consisting of 27 items rated on a 4-point Likert scale (with 1 representing not at all and 4 very much so). Scores can range from 9 to 36, with higher scores indicating higher intensities of cognitive and somatic anxiety, as well as higher levels of self-confidence. Satisfactory validity and reliability have been reported for the CSAI-2, with internal-consistency estimates ranging from .76 to .91. In this study, the used of CSAI-2d version, which has a second column assessing whether participants experienced the individual items as either facilitative or debilitative (direction of anxiety). The scores in this column could range from –3, very negative, to +3, very positive. Total scores could range from -27 to +27, with more-positive scores indicating a facilitating effect and negative scores a debilitating effect. Internal-consistency reliability estimates for the facilitative–debilitative measure range from .72 to .83 (Swain & Jones, 1996).
A regional level Devon ASA Regional Swimming Championships competition in Plymouth Life Centre was selected as the testing venue for the swimmers. Likewise, surfers were tested while participating in Student Surf Tour competition in Watergate beach on 1st-3rd of Feb, an event that attracts successful local and regional surfers at diverse skill levels. The participants completed the SAS and CSAI-2d questionnaires before a free surf/training and the CSAI-2d again before the competition. The questionnaires were given to the participants about 20 min before the training session and about 45 minute before the competition. The nature of the study was explained to the participants after they had completed each of the questionnaires.
For surfers after competing heats, each surfer was selected for individual interview. They were given 20 minutes rest time before the interview begun. The interview structure was based on semi-structured interview guide which include: (1) Information, instructions and definitions of the constructs under study, (2) questions about the respondent’s characteristics and athletic career, (3) questions about anxiety responses perceived prior to the qualification heats, and (4) questions about previous experiences of debilitative and facilitative anxiety symptoms. All interviews were approximately thirty-forty minutes in length, and were tape recorded for further data analysis of the content. Data analysis was conducted following guidelines suggested by Côte, Salmela, Baria, and Russell (1993) and Tesch (1990)
4.1 Results from Questionnaire
Correlations for the competitive surfers and swimmers were first calculated separately among the trait-anxiety and the anxiety-intensity subscales. For the swimmers the somatic-anxiety and worry subscales of the SAS were found to be correlated with all three subscales of the CSAI-2d (correlations between .56 and 72) during both the competitive situation and the training situation. However for the surfers, only the worry subscale of the SAS was significantly correlated with cognitive state anxiety (r = .59) and self-confidence (r = –.65) during training, and concentration disruption, with self-confidence (r = –.67) during competition.
Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was conducted to examine whether there were differences in the amount of anxiety between the swimmers and surfers. Significant main effects for sport (Wilks’s Lambda = .763, p < .001) and condition (Wilks’s Lambda = .709, p < .001), but no interaction (Wilks’s Lambda = .955, p < .332), were found. Follow-up univariate analysis of variance (ANOVA) exposed the main effects between the surfers and swimmers for cognitive anxiety intensity (p < .001) and somatic-anxiety intensity (p < .001) but not for self-confidence intensity (p = .39). That is, surfers had overall lower levels of cognitive- and somatic-anxiety intensity than did the swimmers. Furthermore, both surfers and swimmers experienced higher levels of somatic-anxiety intensity (p < .001) and less self-confidence (p < .001) during competition than in the training situation. Cognitive-anxiety intensity approached significance (p = .06).
The MANOVA examining the direction of anxiety (whether it was perceived as facilitative or debilitative) again showed important main effect to sport (Wilks’s Lambda = .872, p = .015) and condition (Wilks’s Lambda = .898, p = .047) but no interaction (Wilks’s Lambda = .965, p = .446). The univariate ANOVA revealed that for sport there was a significant difference between the swimmers and the surfers for somatic anxiety (p = .04) but not for cognitive anxiety (p = .24) or self-confidence (p = .16). Surfers, in this respect, found their levels of somatic anxiety more facilitative than the swimmers did. With regards to the situations (training vs. competition), a significant difference was found only for self-confidence (p = .007), not for cognitive (p = .27) or somatic (p = .26) anxiety. Both surfers and swimmers perceived higher levels of self-confidence to be more facilitative before competition than before training.
4.2 Results from Interview
All the surfers that interviewed had experienced a state of anxiety interpreted as debilitative to performance, which was described as deep symptoms of both cognitive and somatic anxiety. Debilitative somatic responses involved stomach discomfort but also symptoms such as extremely tense or stiff body and sensation of teeth falling out of the mouth or the legs going numb. Symptoms of debilitative cognitive anxiety included worries, doubts or fear about performance (e.g., worry of becoming tired during the heats, doubts about their physical conditions or the consequences of performing a manoeuvre poorly). Debilitative anxiety symptoms were consistently regarded as highly unpleasant and undesirable symptoms with powerful consequences (e.g., making the athletes throw up or become mentally inaccessible) and generally resulted in decreased performance. One surfer had managed to perform well even though perceiving intense debilitative anxiety symptoms, which was a result of extensive pre-competition preparations and an ability to focus attention on the strategy of winning the heat. On the other hand, none of the surfers could recall any time when intense symptoms associated with anxiety had interpreted as facilitative. A facilitative state of anxiety was instead as low to moderate levels of cognitive anxiety, somatic anxiety, or both. A crucial balance of a higher degree of positive states (e.g., confidence/motivating or energising thoughts) than anxiety symptoms was also emphasised. This facilitative state was generally described with labels such as being “psyched up”, “worried in a positive way”, “eager to perform big manoeuvre”, “focused on the task” and “confident”.
As predicted, the competitive environment increased the intensity of somatic anxiety and decreased the level of self-confidence in both the swimmers and the surfers, whereas cognitive-anxiety intensity was not significantly different. Surfers, however, had generally lower intensities of cognitive and somatic anxiety than did the swimmers, and they interpreted somatic anxiety as more facilitative to their performance. Finally, whereas the somatic and worry components of trait anxiety were correlated with all scales of the CSAI-2d for the swimmers, only the worry subscale was correlated for the surfers with cognitive anxiety and self-confidence during training, and concentration disruption, with self-confidence during competition.
It is generally believed that competition is a more anxiety-provoking environmental situation than regular training sessions. Therefore, it was not surprising to find that somatic and cognitive state-anxiety intensities were generally higher and self-confidence lowers in the competitive situation than in the training situation.
Surfers were generally lower in cognitive and somatic anxiety than the swimmers.
Woodman and Hardy (2001) recently suggested that although somatic anxiety is a useful physiological index of anxiety, it is of little relevance in explaining the relationship between arousal and performance. The findings of the present study would urge caution in making such an interpretation. Not only did competition result in a significant increase in somatic anxiety intensity in both groups, but there were also differences in the interpretation of the anxiety between the swimmers and surfers. The surfers, in this respect, viewed somatic anxiety as more facilitative to performance. An explanation for this difference could be the years of experience the participants had in their respective sports. Surfers in this study had participated significantly longer in their sport than the swimmers. Previous studies (Jones & Swain, 1995) have shown that experienced athletes generally perceive anxiety as more facilitative and less debilitative than their less experienced counterparts.
Described debilitative and facilitative anxiety symptoms differed considerably with regard to both intensity levels of anxiety and valence of emotional experiences. Thus the results from the interviews do not support the traditional view that similar symptoms of anxiety are interpreted as either debilitative or facilitative. Only partial support was found for the theoretical view that perceived ability to cope and a positive view of goal attainment discriminates between debilitative and facilitative interpretations of similarly intense symptoms associated with anxiety (Jones, 1995). Instead, the facilitative state appears to be a result of that coping successfully has decreased anxiety symptoms to a lower, and therefore controllable, level. Thus, coping and mental preparation may not only be of importance for emotional regulation but also for choosing beneficial attention strategies. Future research should strive to identify and separate symptoms, in terms of associated intensity and emotional valence, which truly indicate anxiety versus conceptual distinct emotions or beneficial states. This would benefit both the theoretical understanding of the constructs and the possibility to assess them more reliably.
The findings of the interview are also in line with previous results, and a “state with facilitative interpretations of anxiety symptoms” was described, for example, as being “psyched up”, involving energising/motivating thoughts, or being characterised by a perception of challenge, readiness and eagerness to perform. Anxiety symptoms were also mentioned as part of this state, but when the intensity levels were accounted for the symptoms showed to be less intense than, for example, self-confidence and positive thoughts simultaneously perceived. In contrast, debilitative symptoms of anxiety were described to constitute a highly unpleasant, uncontrollable and undesirable state that involved intense levels of both cognitive and somatic anxiety symptoms.
The results also show that surfers had generally lower levels of state anxiety than the swimmers which could be related to their individual trait-anxiety levels. For both groups higher levels of worry (trait) were associated with higher levels of state cognitive anxiety during training. One the other hand for the swimmers, worry and somatic trait anxiety were also associated with higher levels of somatic anxiety and lower levels of self-confidence during training. Furthermore, somatic and worry trait anxiety were associated with all three components of state anxiety during competition. On the other hand, for the surfers, only concentration disruption was associated with self-confidence during competition. These results show a close relationship between trait and state anxiety for the swimmers but not for the surfers. One reason for this observation could be that surfers had generally lower levels of trait anxiety for all three subscales and therefore would react to stressful or anxiety-provoking situations differently than the more trait-anxious swimmers. This observation is partly supported by the finding that, overall, surfers had lower levels of state anxiety and a facilitating interpretation of somatic anxiety. This finding could be regarded as desirable for surfers. As stated before, surfers have to make critical decisions while exercising and performing at high intensities. It could be argued that high trait anxiety is a serious disadvantage for surfers, whose behaviours and decision-making capabilities would be negatively influenced by this personality trait. Swimming, on the other hand, is a sport that happens in a more stable, controlled, and closed environment. It is generally suggested that people with personality tendencies such as neurosis or introversion are less likely to engage in such activities. Because of the higher functioning of their reticular-activation system and a hyper visceral brain, such people would be expected to react to stressful situations with higher emotional reactivity (Eysenck, 1992; Zuckerman, 1979). Thus, debilitative or facilitative interpretation of somatic symptoms will likely be a function of whether the perceived intensity levels of symptoms indicating arousal are viewed as adequate when related to the nature and demands of the athletes’ sport. Although this study did not explicitly investigate differences in personality characteristics between swimmers and surfers, it might well be that the sport of competitive surfing demands some significantly different personality trait than competitive swimming. Perhaps competitive swimmers do not have the right temperamental skills to become successful surfers.
It should be noted that this research does not intend to account for emotional responses, for example, when athletes participate in easy competitions. In such instances, anxiety will most likely be absent and experiences indicating an under-aroused state, such as being “too relaxed”, “too calm” or “overconfident” could instead be perceived as detrimental to performance. Nor is it claimed that the model is exhaustive; it should rather be viewed as a clarification of some conceptual distinctions that thus far have been discovered in research. Hence, future research is encouraged to further explore and elaborate on the proposed model, and one topic of particular relevance is further separating and more carefully exploring distinct components of what the model labels as “negative” and “positive” emotions.
It can be concluded that support for the conceptualisation of “facilitative interpretations of anxiety symptoms” is presently weak. On the other hand, the results of the present study support the idea that the direction of anxiety should be measured along with the intensity of anxiety. The interpretation of our anxiety symptoms appears to be an important factor for future functioning. The surfers were found to have different trait-anxiety and state-anxiety profiles than the swimmers in this study. The surfers had a “favourable” relationship between trait and state anxiety and lower levels of somatic and cognitive state anxiety and interpreted somatic anxiety as more facilitative. The findings indicate advantages for surfers who participate in their sport to be able to perform at the highest levels of their ability. In order to make the correct decision under pressure while physically performing at high intensities would be problematic if one were highly anxious and on the other hand, if there is no or very little anxiety, it would make the athlete to lose interest and not perform well. To date, research presented in the literature also suggests that this trend, in which not only anxiety but also positive emotions are accounted for, is a beneficial gateway for the further development of a sound knowledge base of athletes’ emotional responses to competition.
High levels of anxiety are a common response to stressful competitive sports situations, and are known to deteriorate athletic performance. The results of anxiety are reported as an unpleasant emotional state associated with perceptions of situational threat. The studies in this dissertation considered primarily psychometric, methodological and conceptual issues of relevance for the study of anxiety and sports performance by investigating competition related anxiety in competitive surfers and swimmers. The participants completed the SAS (Sport Anxiety Scale) and 27-item CSAI-2d (Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 directional) before a training/free surf sessions and again the CSAI-2d before the actual completion begin. The surfers were then later interview for further qualitative results. The findings imply that the competitive surfers were found to have lower levels of cognitive and somatic anxiety than competitive swimmers. Both swimmers and surfers were found to have lower levels of self-confidence but higher levels of somatic anxiety before a competition than training/free surf session. This research also found that higher levels of somatic anxiety to be more facilitative in surfers than the swimmers did. In both groups, it can be seen that higher levels of self-confidence were more facilitative before competition than before training. The differences between state and trait anxiety relationship for both swimmers and surfers were observed. It is found in the research after interviews of the surfers, which lower levels of cognitive and somatic state anxiety in surfers and their interpretation of somatic anxiety (coping) during competition would benefit their performance and decision making.
Keywords: Competition, Somatic anxiety, Trait anxiety, Cognitive anxiety, Performance, CSAI-2d, Coping
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