ANXIETY IS NOT AS INFLUENTIAL AS OFTEN THOUGHT

Lundqvist, C., Kentta, G., & Raglin, J. S. (2006). Elite junior national skiers and swimmers do not report facilitative precompetition anxiety responses. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 38(5), Supplement abstract 1745.

"Some sport psychology researchers contend that precompetition anxiety research must establish whether anxiety symptoms are perceived as debilitative and or facilitative for performance (i.e., direction) in addition to measuring anxiety intensity. There is evidence that elite athletes interpret similar mean anxiety intensity levels as more facilitative than non-elite athletes, unfortunately these results were derived by examining total scores of anxiety intensity and direction separately rather than matching direction responses with intensity scores for individual anxiety items". This study examined the relationship between anxiety intensity and direction scores of individual items in young elite and sub-elite athletes under the following hypotheses; 1) the distribution of direction scores will not differ across the reported intensity scores, and 2) elite athletes will report a higher percent of items as facilitative for performance than sub-elite athletes. Ss were elite (N = 18) and sub-elite (N = 43) junior cross-country skiers (17.6 1.1 yrs) and elite (N = 13) and sub-elite (N = 12) junior swimmers (16.9 2.0 yrs). Approximately 45 minutes before competitions identified as being important, all Ss completed a directional modified version of the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 Revised.

Intensity and direction scores were unequally distributed in both the skiers and swimmers. Further examination indicated that out of all anxiety items identified as facilitative, 71% were rated at an intensity score of "Not at all" (i.e., absence of anxiety). The merged sample of elite athletes in both sports identified more anxiety items as facilitative compared with the sub-elite athletes (49.4% vs. 35.6%), but only 5.2% of the facilitative responses in each sample referred to an intensity level of moderate or high anxiety. These results indicate that anxiety items were rarely identified as facilitative at any intensity level. In swimmers and skiers, both the elite and sub-elite athletes were more likely to identify anxiety items identified with some level of intensity as debilitative.

Implication. "Based on the present findings in which anxiety intensity and direction were analyzed item by item, it is concluded that previous research has overstated the importance and frequency of self-reported facilitative anxiety in athletes". Anxiety is often over-emphasized in both sports.

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