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Importance of Stress Management in Athletics


Stress can be defined in many ways. Stress is a harmful physical and emotional response that occurs to an individual when the requirements of an activity exceed the capabilities and needs of the individual. ( www.ilo.org)

It can also be defined as “the emotional, cognitive, behavioral and physiological reaction to aversive and noxious aspects of work, work environments and work organizations. It is a state characterized by high levels of arousal and distress and often by feelings of not coping.” (www.tcd.ie)

In relation to sports and specifically athletics it can be defined as a physiological reaction to aversive and noxious aspects of athletics and environments i.e. excessive pressures or the demands placed on them.

Causes of Stress for Athletes

There are a different types of stress that affect different athletes from different walks of life. This can be subdivided into two that is personal and situational.

  • Here are some of the personal causes of stress
    • Cognitive anxiety, which includes worry, and uncertainty,
    • Somatic anxiety this includes movement changes in the perceived physiological stimulation
    • Behavioral anxiety this involves peoples behaviors.
  • Situational is related to the events and uncertainty. An athlete may feel burdened when entering into real action.

Effects of stress on an athlete

The physiological reaction of athletes to threats or pressure prepares them for intense physical activity of athletic. This can be observed through changes of the heartbeat and inhalation pace. In the body, there will be the diversion of more blood to the muscles than to other organs. The result is the release of adrenaline-raising levels of glucose and free fatty acids in the bloodstream to provide greater energy (www.personal.psu.edu )

Importance of stress management

Stress can be positive or negative. Under normal circumstances, athletes should be able to find new balances and responses in their reactions to events. Such stress cannot be said to be negative, as it will act as a motivational factor. “A moderate level of stress can be an important motivational factor and can be instrumental in achieving a dynamic adaptation to new situations. If health is considered as a dynamic equilibrium, stress is part of it. There is no health without interaction with other people and with the environment. Only excesses of stress are pathological.” (International labor organization).

In athletics, therefore stress normal and necessary. What should be avoided is intense, continuous or repeated which a person is unable to cope with, or if support is lacking, stress then becomes a negative phenomenon, which can lead to physical illness and psychological disorders. In a work context, it often results in inadequate adaptation to situations, people, and failure to perform at an optimal level.( International labor organization ).


International labor organization (2007). Web.

Penn state, stress management. Web.

Trinity College Dublin (2006) student counseling services. Web.