Anxiety and sport : time to ask what rather than why
Approaches to the study of anxiety in sport have tended to rely on the use of questionnaires to assess levels of competitive anxiety. The development of the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (Martens et aI., 1982) has according to Jones (1995) led to considerable research investigating the relationship between anxiety and sport performance. Study 1 reported here utilised the CSAI-2 with an additional directional scale to examine individual differences and competitive state anxiety in sport. Results revealed that there were no significant differences (p<.05) between three achievement levels of competitive swimmers (n=89) for intensity scores, however, significant differences were found for cognitive anxiety and somatic anxiety directional scores across levels. Further, unexpected correlations between CSAI-2 intensity and directional scores for several items, highlighted the importance of considering individual differences in the interpretation of anxiety symptoms. Study 2 was based on Davidson and Schwartz's (1976) Matching Hypothesis which claims that interventions, to be effective, must be matched to the individual's dominant mode of experiencing anxiety. Female high level skaters (n=15) were assigned to a control group (n=5), a cognitive anxiety group or a somatic anxiety group based on interview data, CSAI-2 scores, coach reports, and performance at a simulated competitive event. Results revealed that there was no support for the Matching Hypothesis, and that greater attention should be devoted to using methods that allow for a more individualised approach to understanding anxiety in sport. A diary-based methodology incorporating Watson and Tellegen' s (1985) concept of mood, was employed in study 3 with high level Netballers (n=8) and Super League Rugby League Referees (n=8), to examine the relationships between anxiety, mood and sport and other life events for a 4 week period. Results suggested that this methodology can be used to allow data to be analysed ideographically and from an inter-individual basis as well, and helps to place sport anxiety into a broader context in relation to other mood states and life events. Finally, study 4 further developed the use of the diary based methodology by investigating the relationship between mood, anxiety and performance in International Student Rugby players (n=Il). Whilst no clear relationship was found between anxiety, mood states and match performance scores, several interesting findings revealed that much more could be achieved by re-directing focus at what anxiety means to an individual both before and after sport performance. The findings from the diary-based studies are discussed in terms of the need to address the meaning of anxiety in sport, in part, by drawing on the approach taken within existential-phenomenological psychology.