PERFORMANCE-RELATED FEAR EXPERIENCES, COPING AND PERCEIVED FUNCTIONAL IMPACT ON HIGHLY SKILLED ATHLETES Melina Puolamäki Master s Thesis in Sport and Exercise Psychology Spring 2013 Department of Sport

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PERFORMANCE-RELATED FEAR EXPERIENCES, COPING AND PERCEIVED FUNCTIONAL IMPACT ON HIGHLY SKILLED ATHLETES Melina Puolamäki Master s Thesis in Sport and Exercise Psychology Spring 2013 Department of Sport Sciences University of Jyväskylä ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to show my gratitude to all whom it may concern: without the help of many people, I would have not been able to finish the journey I had started. First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to my supervisor Dr. Montse Ruiz, who patiently guided my research by giving valuable advice, information and support when I needed it. Her expertise in the area of emotion study in sports paved the way for me to develop my ideas. I also thank Heidi Luukkonen for her participation in the process, as well as emotional support, and my husband Anssi Puolamäki who was kind enough to use his expertise on language issues. I would like to thank Mäkelänrinne sport high-school and vice-principal Simo Tarvonen for assisting me in the referrals of coaches and participants. Also, the coaches deserve a warm thank you for introducing my research to their athletes. Many personal friends of mine took part in the hunt for participants as well, thank you all. Special thanks go to the athletes for participating in my study and sharing their experiences with me. Last, I would like to express my gratitude to my husband and family who gave me something indispensable: time that I needed. Without the help of taking care of Niklas, this work would not have been completed. And of course, Niklas, thank you for being my son. ABSTRACT Melina Puolamäki, 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. Keywords: perceived functional impact, IZOF model, performance, fear-related experiences/ meta-experiences TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT 1 INTRODUCTION PERFORMANCE RELATED STATES The IZOF model Conceptualization of emotions: the cognitive-motivational-relational theory Emotion-performance relationships Conceptualization of fear Fear experiences in sports PURPOSE OF THE STUDY METHODS Participants Interview guide Procedure Data analysis RESULTS Experiences of fear in sport settings Domains of fear Fear related to risky motor tasks Fear of failure Description of fear-related performance state Metaphoric descriptions of fear Coping strategies Perceived functional impact of fear DISCUSSION REFERENCES APPENDICES 4 1 INTRODUCTION In the area of sport psychology there has been a growing interest towards the study of emotions and their relation to athlete performance. This is understandable, as we all have seen time and time again that pure physical talent seldom determines who wins. As athletes need to perform at their best in stressful competitive situations, understanding what is going on in the mind is vital knowledge for both the coach and the athlete him- /herself. Studying emotion in the context of sport offers a unique view to emotionperformance relationship. Through more conclusive understanding of emotion in highlevel sport conditions and a more thorough description of the effects of this complex relationship, more effective regulation strategies can also be developed. My interest in studying fear in sports wells from personal experiences as a coach. When working with young athletes, a problem we faced over and over again was how emotional responses should be handled when teaching frightening new tasks. As a coach I felt uncertain trying to support the athlete struggling with strong emotional stress caused by fear. As fear is a major factor within certain sports (for instance gymnastics), there is a strong need for evidence-based comprehension of what we are actually talking about when discussing fear in sport surroundings. Research on the topic is scattered and missing a broader view. In addition, in order to address sport-related fears properly, athletes and coaches need to be aware of the ways in which fear can have an impact on athletic performance. The issue of fears can have far-reaching effects on athletes careers. Coaches are now forced to use different kinds of rules of thumb, or coping with fear can totally be on the athletes own hands. Even with the best of intentions, it is possible that maladaptive ways of coping are both being used. For the purpose of building an overall understanding of sport-related fear, the study group involved participants among sports where fear is commonly experienced. The theoretical basis of the study follows the framework of IZOF model (Hanin, 2000, 2007), a sport specific framework designed to embrace athlete s subjective experiences as a viable source of information, the first-person descriptions of these experience, and personal meanings of the situations. The descriptions of fear-related experiences and meta-experiences are studied in all five performance-related states including form, content, intensity, time, and context. The main focus, however, concentrates on the form 5 dimension, which introduces the seven basic ways in which performance-related states can be manifested (cognitive, affective, motivational, bodily, motor-behavioral, operational and communicative). Secondly, special attention is given to the functional impact of fear. Traditionally, emotion research in sports has focused on anxiety (for example Hanin 1986; Hanin, 1995; Jones, 1995; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) but recently anger and its impact to athletic performance have shared more public interest as well (Robazza & Bortoli 2007; Robazza, Bertollo, & Bortoli, 2006; Ruiz & Hanin 2004a, 2004b, 2011). Especially the IZOF model (Hanin, 1997, 2000, 2007) based research has revealed results of beneficial impacts of emotions which have been considered negative. The findings of athletes experiences of fear extend earlier research on negatively-toned emotions and provide both scientific knowledge and practical implications. The study provides a unique view to athletes experiences and attitudes of fear and enhances understanding of the subject. Results of the study should raise athletes and coaches awareness of personal performance affecting inner states and emotions and understanding of fear. In turn, the suggested practical implications for enhancing athletes coping and deeper understanding can help avoiding unnecessary sources of fear. The theoretical framework for the current study, IZOF model, is introduced in the next section, where a description of the IZOF model is presented and evaluated in terms of current research knowledge. Emotions and their relations with performance follows next, focusing on themes related to fear and other negative-toned emotions. Before the research questions are placed, the studies of fear in sports are summarized. 6 2 PERFORMANCE RELATED STATES 2.1 The IZOF model 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). The Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) model by Hanin (1997a, 2000, 2007) focuses on patterns, structure and functions of idiosyncratic emotional experiences of athletes (or teams) in high-performance situations. Originally, the model was developed to study anxiety (Hanin, 1978, 1986, 1989, 1995), but recently it has been used to investigate other performance-related emotions like anger (Ruiz and Hanin 2004a, 2004b, 2004c, 2011) as well. In contrast to other sport specific frameworks, the IZOF model approaches athletic performance from a multilevel standpoint, and for that reason succeeds in avoiding criticism of being too limited. Based on the model, the descriptions of the performance state include five dimensions, which are form, content, intensity, time, and context. The dimensions of form, content and intensity are used to describe the structure of the athletes subjective experiences, whereas time and context conceptualize the dynamics of the experiences. The complete description of performance-related state exists in the form dimension, which introduces the seven basic ways in which performance-related states can be manifested (cognitive, affective, motivational bodily, motor-behavioral, operational, and communicative; Hanin, 1997, 2000, 2007). More recently Hanin (2010) has separated an eight modality as its own component of a psychobiosocial state. This volitional modality originates from the motivational component but refers to a more specific state of persistence and determination (Hanin, 2010). In the current research, modalities of motivation and volition have not been separated. The emotional content is conceptualized within the framework of four global emotion categories derived from two factors: hedonic tone (pleasure-displeasure) and functionality (optimal-dysfunctional). The four emotion categories include pleasant and functionally optimal emotions (P+), unpleasant and functionally optimal emotions (N+), pleasant and dysfunctional emotions (P-), and unpleasant and dysfunctional emotions (N-). The impact of emotional intensity on athletic performance is individual, and even negatively toned emotions such as anger have been found to possess beneficial effects on 7 performance (Ruiz & Hanin, 2011). In close relation to intensity Hanin (1997a, 2000, 2007) presents the zone principle, which describes the relationship between the perceived intensity of optimal and dysfunctional emotional states, and becomes evident in the quality of the performance. The IZOF model suggests best performance is most likely to occur when emotional intensity is within a previously established optimal zone, and worst performance is likely to happen when emotional intensity is within dysfunctional zones. As a whole, intensity has a strong impact on athletic performance. According to the IZOF model, the specific optimal or dysfunctional effect of a particular emotion (or its components) in the performance process is functionally manifested in the athlete s recruitment of resources through generating the appropriate amount of energy (energizing versus de-energizing effects), as well as in efficient utilization of available resources (organizing versus disorganizing aspects) (Hanin, 2000, 2007). Time dimension reflects the temporal pattern of the athletes emotional experience before, during and after the performance. And finally, the context dimension presents the influential environmental characteristics including situational (e.g. practice or competition), interpersonal and intragroup situations. Hanin (2003) has also presented qualitative analysis of the tools (data collection techniques for assessment of idiosyncratic emotion content). Concerning the methodology, different options to measure emotions include aggregated scales with most frequently selected items, idiographic emotion profiling and more holistic approaches, like different types of interviews, metaphor-generation method and narratives. According to Hanin (2003) most of data collection techniques focusing on the content of subjective experiences have relied on self-report measures. Typically, the emotion stimulus list includes both positive and negative emotions. However, fixed content is found somewhat limited to produce a comprehensive picture on athletes idiosyncratic subjective experiences. Instead, the individualized emotion profiling method aims at determining the subjectively meaningful positive and negative emotions based on the analysis of individual s past performance history and significant emotional experiences (Hanin, 2003). Compared to aggregated scales, the difference lies in the fact that athletes themselves are asked to generate individually relevant emotion words to best describe their optimal and dysfunctional positive and negative emotions. Interviews have been used in structured and in-depth forms, where they can produce detailed information on 8 emotional experiences. However, interviewing has also been often restricted in pilot studies to form labels to generate idiosyncratic stimulus list or standardized emotion scales. The metaphor-generation method (Hanin & Stambulova, 2002) produced selfgenerated metaphors, on the other hand, have been found to enhance understanding about athletes inner states and interaction with the environment. The instrument was developed to identify self-generated metaphors and interpretative descriptors of feeling states prior to, during, and after best ever and worst ever competitions (Hanin & Stambulova, 2002). Lastly, exploring self-stories, narratives, by athletes and coaches have been able to describe concrete situations and related thoughts and responses encountered in special competitive settings (Hanin, 2003). The IZOF model appears to hold external evaluation well. For instance, the discrimination power of the IZOF model between successful and less successful athletes was evaluated in meta-analysis of 19 studies, with 146 effect sizes and 6387 participants from 1978 to 1997 (Jokela & Hanin, 1999). The meta-analysis revealed fairly good empirical support for the IZOF anxiety model. In addition, both the accuracy of precompetition anxiety measures and anticipatory value were supported by the analysis. The predictive validy and functionality of the IZOF model has also been tested in longitudinal studies (for example see Syrjä, 2000) and it has been compared with other perspectives (for example see Hagvet & Hanin, 2007; Lazarus, 2000; Robazza, Pellizzari, Bertollo & Hanin, 2008). In those studies, merits of the IZOF model have been noted. Furthermore, with the extensive evidence base, the IZOF model provides applied implications for practitioners. The IZOF model has been developed for high-achievement setting, but more recently it has been expanded to exercise surroundings (for example see Robazza & Bortoli, 2005). However, research is still scarce. In summary, the IZOF model provides a broad, evidence based structure, which accommodates a wide range of idiosyncratic, individually relevant and task-specific emotions related to successful and unsuccessful performances. Based on the strong evidence base, especially in studying negatively-toned emotions, the framework was chosen to explore yet another negatively-toned, performance-related emotion: fear. In this study the approach has been used in both, gathering information and guiding the analyses. 9 2.2 Conceptualization of emotions: the cognitive-motivational-relational theory Emotion process concern whether there is a clear, personally significant relational content, an appraisal of personal harm, threat, challenge or benefit, the potential for action readiness and physiological changes (Lazarus, 1991c, pp822). In the cognitivemotivational-relational theory (Lazarus, 1991b), relational points out the basic idea of emotions dealing with person-environment relationships involving harms and benefits. Motivational highlights the personal relevance of goals, and the fact that emotions and moods as reaction are part of the adaptation process when encountering these everyday goals. Lastly, cognitive refers to the personal knowledge and appraisals of the ongoing event. According to Lazarus (1991a, 1991b, 1991c), a single emotion contains multiple different components: (1) Cognitive appraisal triggers multiple simultaneous emotional responses. (2) Subjective experience is most likely to be recognized, since it represents the affective state the emotions create. (3) Thought-action tendencies, on the other hand, are urges to think or react in certain ways. (4) Internal bodily changes are physiological responses, especially the ones involving changes in autonomic nervous system. (5) Facial expression includes muscle actions that move facial landmarks. The sixth and final component (6) contains the actual responses triggered by the emotion. These responses include for instance reactions and coping. Lazarus (1991b) states that efficient theory of emotion should include general propositions about the emotions process and offer specific propositions of individual emotions as well. In order to describe the cognitive determinants of a specific single emotion, knowledge of appraisal patterns is needed. In cognitive-motivational-relational theory (Lazarus, 1991c), two different kinds of appraisals are presented: (1) Primary appraisals concern the individual stakes a person possesses towards certain encounters (for example, the main competition of an athlete s career typically equals high stakes). Stakes are an absolute, since an emotion cannot develop without personal relevance. Primary appraisals include goal relevance, which deals with the issue of what is at stake and the importance of that goal. Goal congruence, on the other hand, concerns whether the encounter is evaluated harmful or beneficial. Goal content or type concerns what type of goal is at stake and helps to differentiate between different emotions. (2) Secondary appraisal concerns the options and prospects for coping (Lazarus, 1991c, pp827) (for example, locus of control and the expected ways to achieve it). Like the primary appraisals, Lazarus presents three decisions of secondary appraisals: Blame or credit depends on whether the individual attributes 10 responsibility for the harm, threat or benefit and the extent of the control of these actions. Coping potential is based on the evaluation whether the person-environment relationship can be influenced for the better. Lastly, future expectations deal with determining expectations on what is thought to happen in terms of change. In the cognitive-motivational-relational theory (Lazarus, 1991c), core relational themes (cognitive causes that trigger emotions) are presented as a way of identifying the individual value (relational meaning) that specific emotions hold to a person. Here, Lazarus (1991c) demonstrates fifteen different emotions a
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