Coping with pre- and in-event fluctuations in competitive state anxiety: A longitudinal approach

Eubank, M., and Collins, D. orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7601-0454 (2000) Coping with pre- and in-event fluctuations in competitive state anxiety: A longitudinal approach. Journal of Sports Sciences, 18 (2). pp. 121-131. ISSN 0264-0414

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The direction of anxiety - the positive or negative nature of competition-related cognitions - is an important distinguishing variable that accounts for significant individual differences. However, very little is known about the pre- and in-event patterning of the construct, specifically how it changes over time. The aims of this study were to establish the extent to which the direction of anxiety is a dynamic or stable longitudinal response to stress and whether this patterning appears to be related to coping. Pre-event, state anxiety intensity and direction data were obtained from 22 youth sport participants in two training and two competition environments within the same season, with the in-event anxiety and coping data being obtained from the 'high-stress' competition condition. The predispositional coping strategies of the participants were assessed by use of the trait version of the 'COPE' scale. The findings revealed significant differences in the patterning of anxiety direction between and within the facilitative and debilitative groups. This was accompanied by distinct qualitatively and quantitatively reported differences in the strategies of coping adopted by each group. Facilitators appeared to use problem- and emotion-focused coping characteristics in response to stress, whereas debilitators appeared limited in their use of coping constructs. Conceptually, the direction of anxiety would appear to be a mechanism that may, in itself, exist as a strong indicator that effective coping is taking place.

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