Sources And Effects For Competitive Sports

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Stress is inherent in competitive sport where athletes invest so much time and energy in their long and arduous pursuit of optimal performance. (300-page document) The identification of the demands (stressors) endured by athletes is detrimental in the “understanding of competition stress, as it provides insight into the factors that instigate cognitive, emotional, and behavioural responses, which, consequently, influence performance.” (Article 1) It is therefore important for researchers to consider how individuals respond in relation to the stressors experienced within competitive sports.

Due to the overwhelming nature of the competitive environment, extensive research has been conducted into the underlying stressors endured by sport performers. (article 1) Studies have focused on identifying the demands (stressors) encountered by athletes alongside “the appraisals and/or coping strategies employed by athletes when experiencing stressors and examining the subsequent emotional response to appraisals and competition in general.” (Article 1) The primary aim of the study was to examine the competition stressors encountered by elite and non-elite sport performers. The secondary aim was to compare the frequency of reported stressors between elite and non-elite athletes.

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Twelve athletes were contacted and invited to participate in the study. The participants ranged in age from 19 to 56 years. Six of the participants met the criteria for elite standard as they had competed at major national and international championships. The remaining six participants were of non-elite status, with standards ranging from district to university level.

An interview guide was strategically developed to explore the stressors experienced by performers in the hour before competition. The guide contained two main sections: performance stressors and organisational stressors. Within performance stressors, subsections covered topics relating to “physical preparation, mental preparation, technical preparation, tactical preparation, injury, goals, performance problems, pressure, self-presentation, and opponents.”(Article 1) The organisational stressors section focused on topics surrounding “the coach, team-mates, competitive environment, and external factors such as media and time demands.” (Article 1)

The results identified the top five performance stress sources: “preparation, injury, expectations, self-presentation, and rivalry”. Preparation most frequently related to “inadequate physical preparation” and “inappropriate technical preparation”. For instance, the performers reported feeling uneasy when lacking information on their opponent (formation and capabilities) prior to the game. This meant they were unable to pre-analyse and prepare. The risk of sustaining an injury was identified as a main concern to athletes, especially when competing with a current injury. Expectations were divided into two categories, internal expectations (stressors the performer places on her/his self) and external expectations (stressors stemming from an external source). An example of an external expectation could be a team player praising an individual on his/her performance the week prior and expecting the same performance the following match. Commonly raised themes within self-presentation were players “image” and “physique”. Players felt pressured to conform to a particular image. Rivalry was a heavily cited stressor among all participants. This stemmed from the unknown abilities of “new opponents” and the known abilities of exceptional players.

The top five organisational stress sources: “factors intrinsic to the sport, roles in the sport organisation, sport relationships and interpersonal demands, athletic career and performance development issues, and organisational structure and climate of the sport”. Factors intrinsic to the sport refer to issues relating to the environment and the organisation of that environment (for instance, poor weather conditions). Roles in the sport organisation refer to a sense of responsibility/role in the team and time management. For example, if the top player/caption is performing remarkably well, the other players are motivated to perform exceptionally well also. He/she fears playing poorly as it could ultimately result in subconsciously demotivating the entire team. This could potentially leave the captain feeling extremely pressured to constantly play extraordinarily well each game. This is extremely unrealistic and impractical. Sport relationships and interpersonal demands were viewed as a significant stressor for athletes prior to competing. For instance, unresolved disagreements between teammates were encouraged to be set aside as to not negatively impact on the performance of players. Athletic career and performance development issues relate to position security, income, funding and selection. Organisational structure and climate of the sport most frequently related to the competence of team management.

The results showed that the total numbers of performance and organisational stressors were similar between the elite and non-elite groups.

The above study inspired me to explore the sources and effects of competitive sports further, by interviewing a football athlete. The subject was a 13-year-old male. I was curious to see the comparison between adult and child performers. The subject was asked to identify the demands/stressors he endures. Stress sources listed include fear of failure, feeling threatened by a strong opposition, fitting in, anxious that injury would affect performance, external expectations from coach, peers, parent and position security. These stressors were alarmingly similar to the adult performer study as majority of the demands/stressors were extremely alike. This is incredibly concerning as children should not be confusing worth with performance.

I then went on to ask my interviewee what the effects/repercussions are (both positive and negative) of these stressors. He began by listing the physical symptoms which included increased heart rate, high blood pressure and vigorous sweating. Other physical symptoms which weren’t mentioned include headaches, upset stomach (including diarrhea, constipation and nausea), chest pain, insomnia, frequent illness, nervousness/shaking and sweaty hands/feet. The interviewee was then asked to list any other consequences of stressors/demands (other than physical). He stated poorer performance,

Stressors are subsequently distinguished as either chronic or acute in nature. If the stressor appears to be relatively persistent, such as a performers poor relationship with his/her coach, this is an example of chronic stress. Consequences related to chronic stress may include “poor performance, burnout and the athlete’s eventual withdrawal from competitive sport” (300-page document) In contrast, feeling victimized by an opponent’s aggression or a close game score are examples of acute stressors. Repeated exposure to acute stress may lead to a decline in overall performance, demotivation, burnout and ultimately chronic stress. It is vital for researchers to comprehend the process of coping with acute and chronic stress in competitive sport to ultimately establish a list useful coping strategies athletes can implement.

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Sources And Effects For Competitive Sports. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from
“Sources And Effects For Competitive Sports.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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Sources And Effects For Competitive Sports [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2024 Jun 16]. Available from:

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