Competitive Stress

The indisputable essence of sport is competition. The whole social and pedagogical activity in the service of sport has as a major objective the moment of “confirmation of efficiency” in the competition. Everyone knows that in most situations the competition has the gift of ambitioning the competitors. The phenomenon is of a social psychological nature and it is a opportunity to bring people together and constructing relationships, based on similar beliefs and experiences.

But from the athlete side, the stress factors involved are huge and needed to be consider in order to understand the whole experience.

Both requirements, external and objective, as well internal, like self-exigencies (aspirations, desire to excel, achieve a great performance, gain) form a complex stressful experience, that puts the entire psycho-behavioral system in a state of tension, mobilization of energy resources and defense. Sport Performance, especially high professional performance in sport, it is by definition a stressful activity, because of the work put in training – by duration and intensity, by the amount of sacrifices they impose on the athlete; contests – through the high emotional level and motivational, individual and social engagement, plus social relationships – that sport generates.

All of this produces muscular tension, strain, mental tension, claiming physical and mental efforts of adjustment and balance. Unlike training, the competition has a very high emotional load that leads the psycho-behavioral system to a limit. I will recall here a minimal list of stressors, that determine performance and the state of mind of an athlete:

  • External requests: cold, to warm, timezone differences;
  •  Internal solicitation: enormous efforts of muscle movement ;
  • Psychological intellectual- emotional- requests: decisions in uncertainty and crisis of time, reactions to failure or success, maximum voluntary effort;
  • Psychosocial solicitation: criticism from leadership and press, or family and close friends, spectators’ appreciation;
  • Regulatory restrictions.

All these factors are reflected in the athlete psychic system , either at the level of full awareness or subconscious, by determining the adaptive and defense responses that a good organized scientific training will focus on for effective competitive conduct. The challenging situations of the competition can be intense or less intense and in relation to the athlete’s mental capacity, with his competitive experience and the level of aspiration. However, they are generating psychic tensions, mostly expressed in the emotional, but with an echo over the whole psychic system.

Fatigue also has an important role in determining the capacity of effort especial for adolescents. Research has shown that athletes’ fatigue is manifested by: feeling tired; there is a sign of reducing the ability to understand the more abstract problems, limiting the possibilities of generalization, comparison, performing summation, association, memorization; disturbances of attention.

The emergence of these difficulties creates an imbalance between the difficulty of the task to be fulfilled and the voluntary effort required for it, which leads to the overestimation of the interested functions and necessitates the restructuring of the mechanisms of adaptation to the effort. This restructuring has as a consequence a series of subjective and objective psychological phenomena: feelings of personal insufficiency, depression, irritability, restlessness, apathy, changing school behavior, restless sleep.

In conditions of fatigue, the functional capacity of the visual, auditory, kinestezic-motor and cutaneous analyzers is reduced, which makes the reactions to the stimuli that interest these analyzers have a longer latency period.

The most important causes of fatigue are:

  • the intensity and duration of the effort;
  •  reduced recreation in sleep pattern;
  • prolonged extra scholar activities;
  • reduced sleep ;
  • poor health status;
  • inadequate working conditions and family life;
  • over-learning.

The stress tolerance depends to a large extent to some particularities of our nervous system (strength, balance and mobility of the cortical processes), and the temperamental peculiarities. Researchers believe that stress resistance depends on a certain complex of psychophysiological factors. Horn (1992) asserts that a combination of anxiety, impulsivity and increased emotional reactivity can lead to a high probability of distress reactions. Other studies have highlighted that the intensity of emotional stress in prestart situations is correlated with the need for success or the tendency to avoid failure.

Interesting is that sometimes last-minute mobilization, when there is nothing to lose, all physical, technical and psychological resources strike back, in a last effort, and the athlete, or team win an unexpected success.

This ONE THING  mobilization is more valuable than anything in that moment.

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The published material is the author’s opinion and meets the accepted scientific standards at the time of publication, but science is constantly changing and therefore HumanPerformancePsychology.com can not guarantee that the information is complete, current, or error-free; the material is not and does not substitute for medical and psychological consultation; so use this material for information only and not for self-diagnosis or self-treatment – if you have any doubts about your health – contact your doctor and psychologist.
*For other questions – ask the author.
*The material presented may be further modified.

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