Performance-related fear experiences, coping and perceived functional impact on highly skilled athletes
ABSTRACT Melina Puolamäki, 2013. Performance-related fear experiences, coping and perceived functional impact on highly skilled athletes. Master’s Thesis in Sport and Exercise Psychology. Department of Sport Science, University of Jyväskylä. 68p. Three types of experiences are distinguished in sport: emotional states (state-like), emotion patterns (trait-like), and meta-experiences or attitudes towards one’s experiences (Hanin, 2004). Most emotion research has traditionally focused on the study of anxiety and its impact on athletic performance. Although unpleasant emotions have been assumed harmful for performance, previous research on anxiety (Hanin, 2000) and anger (Ruiz & Hanin, 2011) has indicated, that they can also be beneficial. However, the impact of fear, another stress-related emotion, is still unclear. This study examined experiences of fear in a purposive sample of 12 (N = 12) high-level sport competitors (4 male, 8 female; age M = 19, SD = 2.8). They were involved in alpine skiing, cheerleading, diving, figure-skating, gymnastics, ice-hockey, karate, and snowboarding, competing at national or/and international level and having achieved good results at major competitions (i.e., national, Nordic, European, and World Championships). An interview guide was developed to examine the content of athletes’ experiences of fear, coping strategies and perceived functional impact on performance. Deductive and inductive content analyses were used to analyze the data: deductive content analyses used the categories of the IZOF model (cognitive, affective, motivational, bodily, motor-behavioral, operational and communicative; Hanin 2000, 2007) and inductive content analyses were used to identify the emerging themes. The most common experience was fear related to risky motor tasks. Fear of failure was also important to the athletes. High intensity of fear was perceived as harmful for performance; however, most athletes reflected positive perceptions of beneficial effects upon performance. For instance, fear was reflected to enhance concentration. The findings are in line with earlier IZOF-based studies, providing support for the notion of optimal and dysfunctional performance-related fear. ...
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