An Innovative vision in Sport training

COMPETITIVE ANXIETY: Can it become a positive resourse?

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Anxiety state arises as a result of the assessment of the situation experienced at that time. The situation and the personal characteristics of the athletes are involved in the development of it.

Two forms of anxiety, state and trait (Spilberger, 1966) are distinguished. While state anxiety arises from exposure to a specific situation (point), the trait denotes the individual’s tendency to react by increasing their anxiety levels (degree of anxious personality). Thus, in the same situation (competition), state anxiety will be different depending on how much anxious personality the athletes possess. The more anxious (trait) the person is, he/she will tend to perceive as more threatening situations and therefore develop a higher intensity of anxiety (state) (Hanton, S., 2002).

There is an optimal level of anxiety for each person (Jokela & Hanin, 1999), in which anxiety acts as an adaptive factor increasing the likelihood of achieving a good performance. Being out of this optimum level can become a weakening factor that contributes to the decrease of athletic performance. Therefore, considering anxiety as an important modulator of sports performance, we will analyze different mechanisms that can alter the levels of anxiety.

What criteria does the athlete use to judge success? When does the player believe that he/she has achieved success? These questions have different answers depending on what the target set by the players is. Thus, those who have their goal directed towards the TASK will evaluate as successful performances when the learning of new skills and activities is present. This athlete will experience success in terms of improvement and enjoyment. Instead, when the athlete´s goal is oriented to EGO, the criteria for judging success is focused on demonstrating superiority over other athletes, the opinion of others, as well as public praise. These factors are too important for them. In this case, anxiety is related to the perception of their abilities when compared to others. While the perception of their abilities is high, they will be less likely to experience anxiety, because they believe they will succeed in demonstrating their skills (Abrahamsen, F., 2007).

Is Competitive Anxiety harmful in Sports Performance? Elite athletes interpret their anxiety symptoms as facilitators (Jones, Hanton & Swain, 1994). Apparently self-confidence may act protecting them against the potential debilitating effects of anxiety. Athletes with high self-confidence have low concern about the errors, showing a better adaptation to the competitive environment. In contrast, in the absence of self-confidence, the intensity of competitive anxiety increases and the situation is perceived as out of control, which ends up weakening the performance (Martinet, 2007).

The player is not isolated, but immersed in an environment made up of parents and coaches, which creates a certain MOTIVATIONAL CLIMATE. This environment can encourage improvement, learning and mastery (MASTERY CLIMATE), or it can emphasize the assessment of capacity and competition with other players (PERFORMANCE CLIMATE) (Abrahamsen, 2007). Not only are the motivational climate and the orientation to the goal interrelated but so is the level of anxiety (Cervello, 2002). While the goal orientation towards the EGO is directly related to the intensity of the perceived anxiety, the task orientation is related to self-confidence. The MOTIVATIONAL CLIMATE in which the athlete is exposed influences him/her towards a particular goal orientation and therefore to anxiety or to self-confidence. Both the MOTIVATIONAL CLIMATE which is focused on PERFORMANCE and the goal orientation which is focused on the EGO are directly related to levels of anxiety. Researchers (Abrahamsen, 2007) revealed that the MOTIVATIONAL CLIMATE seemed to be more influential on performance anxiety than the player´s own goal orientation to achievement, which shows the great influence of parents and coaches on the anxiety of the athletes.


Competitive anxiety does not always act as a negative factor in athletic performance. High self-confidence helps it to be transformed into an adaptive element facilitator.

The goal orientation of the player can promote anxiety or self-confidence, as it is directed toward the ego or toward the task, respectively.

The motivational climate created by parents and coaches, on one hand influences the player towards a particular goal orientation. On the other hand, it is associated with an increase in the levels of anxiety when it is focused on performance.


Low or high levels of competitive anxiety will always be present. To make this anxiety favorable to our performance, it must be accompanied by high self-confidence.

How can I increase my self-confidence?

1- Evaluating:

– Both the skills I already have and the incorporation of new ones,

– The effort and energy put into the work, either during the training or the match.

2- I consider success when I improve some of my skills, although the result was a defeat.

3- Being aware of what I feel in each moment, so I can assess whether my state helps or hurts me. If I think it is not correct, I can modify it. how? By changes in breathing, visualizations and modifications of the internal dialogue.


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