We would be naive to think that stress does not exists in most of our daily lives as well as in our athletes’ lives. The naive part of this aspect is that we throw our athletes into highly pressurized situations without the tools to develop their coping and resiliency. We spend countless hours on technical, tactical, and conditioning aspects but not as much on the mental development. More so, we would be naive to think that our volunteer coaches are equipped to deal with the stressors of sport – it is new to them as well and they are the models our athletes will look to when our proverbial “back is against the wall”. Today’s sporting world (right or wrong) is full of stress from amateur sport to professional. The stress aspects are there and there is a need to start developing the models/theories for our athletes to cope and work through these areas? Stress is ok, because humans have the potential to cope with it contrary to thoughts that it is a bad thing – it is part of development and performance.

For instance when an athlete approaches me stating they are stressed, the following models/theories are at the forefront and can be used in devising management skills for the athlete to use. Integrative coping and more specifically task orientated coping revolves around preparation strategies, self-talk and visualization.

Cognitive appraisal: Situational Interpretation

  1. Primary appraisal: Evaluation of what is at stake.
  2. Secondary appraisal: Evaluation of what can be done.

Types of stressors: Three categorizations

Acute vs. Chronic Stressors

  • Chronic stress: Occurs over long time periods.
  • Acute stress: Occurs over short time periods

Expected vs. Unexpected

  • Expected stressor: Can plan or prepare for
  • Unexpected stressor: Not anticipated

Competitive vs. non-competitive

  • Competitive stressor: Experiences prior to, during, or after competition
  • Non-competitive stressors: Sport-related but not directly part of competition

Coping

Cognitive and behavioural efforts to manage specific external/internal demands that tax or exceed a person’s resources (Lazarus, 1991).

  • Purposeful effort that include thoughts & actions.
  • Management skills: Routine behaviours that prevent stress from happening.

Integrative Coping

  • Task-oriented coping: Deals directly with stress source and resulting thoughts and emotions.
  • Disengagement-oriented coping: Strategies to disengage from the process.
  • Distraction oriented coping: Strategies to focus on internal and external stimuli that are unrelated

Stress is very relevant in today’s sporting world, however coaches and athletes are less equipped to work through it because experience and knowledge to enhance our mental startegies are limited. However, if athletes can develop their ability to cope with stress they are more likely to develop an ability to work through pressure when it arises.

References:

Crocket, P. E. (2016), Sport and Exercise Psychology: A Canadian Perspective. Toronto, ON: Pearson.