May 29

Psychology of the Young Athlete: Stress-Related Maladies & Remedial Approaches

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I discovered this Abstract while surfing the Internet. The article presents a theoretical framework for understanding the stress process, the conceptual model of stress specifies relations among situational, cognitive, physiological, and behavioural factors. Each of these basic components of the model is assumed to be influenced by personality and motivational variables.

At the situational level, stress involves the balance or imbalance between situational demands and the resources available to deal with them. However, these situational factors affect the person primarily through the intervening influence of cognitive processes. Among the most important of these processes are appraisal of (1) the situational demands, (2) available personal and social resources, (3) the possible consequences of failure to meet the demands, and (4) the perceived meaning of the consequences.

A reciprocal relation exists between cognitive and physiologic processes; the nature of the appraisals influences the level of physiologic arousal that is likely to occur, and arousal, in turn, influences the ongoing appraisal process through physiologic feedback mechanisms.

Finally, the behavioural component of the model includes the person’s learned behaviour tendencies, task-relevant skills, and social skills. Personality and motivational individual difference variables are important; they influence the kinds of situations to which people expose themselves, how they appraise themselves and the situations, how they react physiologically, and how they customarily respond at the behavioural level.

With respect to the consequences of stress, mounting evidence suggests that a significant number of young athletes experience adverse psychological, behavioural, and health-related effects. In fact, because of anticipated stresses, some children decline to participate in the first place. Competitive stress detracts from the enjoyment of sports, causes performance impairment, and contributes significantly to the dropout rate in youth sports. Evidence also indicates that competitive stress can cause loss of sleep and put youngsters at greater risk for sustaining athletic injuries.

Although extremely high levels of stress are experienced by a minority of young athletes, the level of stress elicited by youth sports is generally no greater than that found in other achievement-oriented activities in which children participate. The conceptual model of stress not only provides a framework for identifying sources of stress but also suggests intervention strategies designed to reduce stress in youth sports.

In this article, consideration has been given to prominent situational demands that contribute to competitive stress and to various approaches for counteracting the stress-inducing factors. Specifically, measures may be instituted that decrease situational demands associated with winning and losing, organization and administration of sport programs, coaching roles and relationships, and parent roles and responsibilities.

Young girl sadly leaning against a diving board











Smoll, F. L., & Smith, R. R. (1990). Psychology of the young athlete. Stress-related maladies and remedial approaches. Pediatric Clin North America, 37(5), 1021-1046. October.

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