Tournament-related anxiety in professional female tennis players : an application of the transactional model of stress and coping
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Purpose: The purpose of this dissertation will be to identify a conceptual model to describe the stress and coping process among a group of elite female tennis players during a high stakes performance situation. The Transactional Model of Stress and Coping (TA model) served as the theoretical basis for this dissertation. Structural equation modeling was used to analyze the indirect effect of social support, dispositional coping, coping strategies, tennis ability and cognitive appraisal upon competitive state anxiety. Significance of the investigation: The WTA Tour, the governing body of professional tennis, has identified the priorities of promoting career longevity, development of a balanced athlete, the attainment of a profitable career for its athletes and protecting the TOUR's most valuable commodity, athlete health (AEC Report, 1995). The findings of this investigation serve to guide future interventions for managing stress and coping among elite athletes. This is one of the first investigations with this under-studied population and therefore, contributes to the available body of knowledge in stress and coping among elite athletes. Methods: Ninety-four female tennis players responded to the Competition Questionnaire during a high stakes athletic competition. Questions addressed dispositional coping strategies, current coping strategies as well as perceived competitive state anxiety and perceived sense of social support. Measurement models were used prior to construction of sub-models based upon TA model theory. Goodness of fit was assessed with significant path scores retained to construct a final conceptual model. Findings: The Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 was supported as a measure of competitive state anxiety. A parsimonious measure of primary appraisal and secondary appraisal was found for this elite group of athletes. Results yielded support for the strong effect of primary appraisal upon increased competitive state anxiety. In addition, both social support and secondary appraisal demonstrated a significant effect with lower competitive state anxiety. Tennis ability as measured by current rank did not have a significant effect upon appraisal, coping strategies nor competitive state anxiety. Conclusions: Based upon these results, a variation of the TA model as constructed within this investigation was found to be relevant for this elite group. The constructed conceptual model can be used to guide current and future interventions by health care practitioners that interact closely with these athletes during high stress competitive events. Implications for future interventions with this population include the need for enhancement of challenging appraisals and the need for restructuring of threatening appraisals. Though caution must be used when generalizing results, findings add to the body of knowledge regarding this under-investigated population. Future investigations could focus upon replication of results, investigation regarding the function of social support and the comparison of specific coping strategies used by subsets of athletes within this population.