Jones, G., & Hanton, S. (1996). Interpretation of competitive anxiety symptoms and goal attainment expectancies. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 18, 144-157.

Competitive swimmers (N = 91) were assessed for the intensity and direction of their cognitive and somatic anxiety responses one hour before an important race. Scales examining outcome, performance, and process goals were completed at that time. Swimmers (N = 45) who set all three types of goal were divided into positive and negative/uncertain goal expectancy groups.

For outcome goals, 33 Ss were positive and 12 were negative; for performance goals, 26 were positive and 19 negative, and for process goals, 34 were positive and 11 were negative. The groups did not differ on cognitive and somatic anxiety scores but positive expectancy groups did regard their anxiety as being more facilitative than did the negative group. Most swimmers set more than one type of goal.

Implication. Competitive anxiety is not always debilitative. Coaches should promote that anxiety states have useful energies that can be directed toward performance in a facilitative way. Both somatic and cognitive anxieties need to be interpreted positively. Athletes need to be taught how to interpret them that way.

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