Stress and coping among female athletes


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University of Alberta post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Katherine Tamminen reviews some of stressors female athletes experience and how those can be dealt with coaches and sport psychologists.

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  • Some studies have suggested that males use more direct action in dealing with stress while women use more emotion-focused coping.In other areas of research (for example coping with college exams), women use more social support and emotion-focused coping. This includes expressing feelings, avoiding the situation (avoiding studying, not thinking about it). Men were more likely to use problem-focused coping (thinking about solutions and ways of controlling the situation).However in a review of literature, Miller & Kirsch (1987) suggested that women used more problem-focused coping strategies than men, which included obtaining assistance and seeking information. One of the problems this research highlights is that in the past, asking people ‘do you seek support or help from others’ might be a problem-focused or an emotion-focused coping strategy.
  • If men and women report the same stressors, then gender differences in coping should disappear
  • Study examining interpersonal stressConducted with adolescent swimmers, did not assess outcomes (e.g. adaptive/maladaptive coping)Men used more aggression overall (not for any specific stressor), and women used more cognitive restructuring to deal with referees.No differences in: active coping, acceptance, disengagement (withdrawal), venting emotions, mental disengagement, self-controlling activities.
  • Pay attention to general mood, body language, and subtle cues from the athlete.
  • Stress and coping among female athletes

    1. 1. Stress and Coping Among Female Athletes<br />The Elite Female Athlete: Putting Evidence into Practice<br />Katherine Tamminen, PhD<br />
    2. 2. Why stress and coping?<br />Coping in sport is important for:<br />Goal attainment & positive affect (Gaudreau, Blondin, & Lapierre, 2002)<br />Elite performance environments (e.g., Holt & Dunn, 2004; Nicholls et al., 2005) <br />Injury rehabilitation (Smith, Smoll, & Ptacek, 1990)<br />
    3. 3. Stressors are perceptions about demands that are “taxing or exceeding one’s resources”<br />Coping is a process<br />cognitive and behavioural efforts to manage appraised stressors<br />(Lazarus, 1999)<br />
    4. 4. Types of Stressors in Sport<br />Chronic stressors <br />Acute stressors<br />Interpersonal stressors (coaches, teammates)<br />Competitive Stressors (referees, opponents)<br />Organizational stressors (scheduling, travel, financial costs of competition)<br />
    5. 5. Female collegiate volleyball players<br />(Holt, Berg, & Tamminen, 2007)<br />
    6. 6. Women’s National Soccer Players<br />(Holt & Hogg, 2002)<br />
    7. 7. Differences between men and women?<br />
    8. 8. Differences in stressors?<br />More stress associated with interpersonal relationships (peers, parents, coaches?)<br />Greater personal investment in interpersonal success<br />High levels of worry and distress over peer relationships<br />
    9. 9. Differences in coping?<br />Men<br />Women<br />Venting emotions<br />Active coping<br />Avoidance <br />Problem-focused coping?<br />Social support, help-seeking<br />Increased effort<br />Emotion-focused coping<br />Problem-focused coping?<br />
    10. 10. Socialization Hypothesis<br />Men and women are socialized to deal with stress in different ways<br />Men<br />Women<br />Deny problem or avoid it to conceal emotions<br />Solve problems, confrontation<br />Express emotions<br />Seek support from others<br />(Hoar, Crocker, Holt & Tamminen, 2010; Hoar, Kowalski, Gaudreau, Crocker, 2006; Ptacek, Smith, & Zanas, 1992)<br />
    11. 11. Structural Hypothesis<br />Men and women cope differently because they perceive different stressors (which require different coping strategies)<br />If men and women reported the same stressors, then gender differences in coping should disappear<br />
    12. 12. Research findings: More similarities than differences?<br />No difference in the ‘amount’ of coping<br />Gender differences for some coping strategies when dealing with specific stressors:<br />Women used more seeking social support to deal with coach or own behaviour as stressor)<br />NO differences found for using social support to deal with coaches, peers, referees, or family.<br />“Gender differences are not robust across sources of interpersonal stress”<br />(Hoar, Crocker, Holt, & Tamminen, 2010)<br />
    13. 13. Research findings<br />All athletes use coping strategies which include:<br />increasing effort<br />suppressing competing activities<br />active coping<br />self-blame<br />Women used more seeking social support for emotional reasons & more increased effort<br />Men did not use more problem-focused coping<br />(Crocker & Graham, 1995)<br />
    14. 14. Research findings<br />Coping among female collegiate volleyball players: <br />Stressors were hard to predict<br />Effective coping = using a combinationof coping strategies<br />(Holt, Berg, & Tamminen, 2007)<br />“To reach high competitive levels, athletes must use a repertoire of problem-focused coping strategies to actively change or manage a demanding environment to achieve success.” <br />(Crocker & Graham, 1995, p.332) <br />
    15. 15. Suggestions for Coaches<br />Be aware that female athletes may appraise more interpersonal stressors (and you might be one of them!)<br />You play a role in exposing athletes to stressors (e.g., expected vs. unexpected stressors)<br />Sharing your experiences about coping with stressors can be helpful for your athletes. <br />
    16. 16. Helping Athletes Think About Coping<br />Identify stressors <br />What are you currently doing to cope with stress? <br />Are these strategies effective? Adaptive?<br />Explore options for coping with athletes:<br />Encourage them to reflect on their past experiences<br />“What have you done in the past to deal with this kind of situation?”<br />
    17. 17. Adaptive Coping<br />Maladaptive Coping<br />Avoidance<br />Disengagement/ withdrawal<br />Rumination<br />Resignation (giving up)<br />Aggression<br />Problem focused:<br />Approach strategies<br />Situation control(figure out what the problem is)<br />Positive self-statements<br />Emotion focused:<br />Minimization (e.g., “it’s not that bad”)<br />Short-term avoidance (distraction/recreation)<br />Cognitive restructuring<br />Seeking support<br />
    18. 18. Thank you!<br />Katherine Tamminen, PhD<br /><br />