Self-control and stress-coping strategies in sports

Фотографии: 

PhD L.A. Belozerova1
PhD, Associate Professor E.A. Bragina1
PhD I.A. Semenova1
PhD, Associate Professor I.A. Semikasheva1
1Ulyanovsk State Pedagogical University named after I.N. Ulyanov, Ulyanovsk

 

Keywords: sports, athletes’ mental qualities, self-control skills, stress-coping behavioural strategies.

 

Introduction. In recent years, a quantum leap has been made in sport psychology in the study of athletes’ personality [5]; but the overwhelming majority of research works present the studies within the framework of certain specializations [for instance, 3, 6], studies of the personality of athletes as a single social group are very rare [in particular, 7].

The most relevant, yet one of the insufficiently studied aspects is the role of sports in building of mental health self-control skill as a personality trait in athletes. Self-control is the athlete’s ability to voluntarily influence own emotional, physical and internal responses, nature of competitive behaviour self-control. Certain self-control manifestations are always specific, as they are determined by the peculiarities of athletes’ activity and their immediate surroundings [6]. At the same time, continuous use of specific methods leads to development of a separate special personality trait. Another virtually unexplored issue is the problem of formation in sports of not merely stress tolerance, but also stress-coping strategies to overcome stressful situations of different nature [2].

The main thesis of the study is that athletes can use the qualities acquired in sports in other spheres of their life: "Differentiation of common and specially developed mental qualities within the athletes’ personality pattern does not appear to violate its uniformity. Nor does it mean that these qualities become irrelevant in other spheres of the athletes’ life upon retirement from sports, even if they are not related to sports... According to the positive transfer principle, common and specially developed mental qualities, improved during sports activities, remain effective in other spheres of life of former athletes..." [7]. We assume that regular sports occupations develop in the athletes effective self-control skills and constructive behaviour in stressful situations.

Objective of the study was to conduct a comparative analysis of the self-control skills and stress-coping strategies in students of the faculty of physical culture (representatives of mass sports: Candidate Masters of Sports and high-class athletes) and non-sporting students of pedagogical universities.

Methods and structure of the study. The experimental group (EG) was made of 23 male students and 18 female students practicing sports on a regular basis. The reference group (RG) involved non-sporting students of the pedagogical university: 20 girls and 20 boys aged 19 years on average.

The study of the level of development of regulatory processes in the subjects (planning, modeling, programming, performance rating scales) and their individual typological features of self-control (flexibility and independence) was carried out using the "Behaviour Self-Regulation Style" methodology by V.I. Morosanova [4]. The planning rating scale (Pl) shows the level of formation of conscious planning skills, feasibility, attention to details and sustainability of plans. The performance rating (PR) scale characterizes the subjects’ level of development and adequacy of self-evaluation and performance and behaviour ratings. The prediction rating scale (Pr) analyzes the level of manifestation of the need to think through the ways of their actions and behaviour to achieve set goals. The modeling rating scale (M) makes it possible to determine the level of formation of individual views of the system of significant external and internal environments, the degree of their awareness, attention to details and adequacy. The flexibility rating scale (F) shows the level of self-control flexibility, i.e. the ability to reorganize the self-control system depending on current external and internal environmental conditions. The independence rating scale (I) characterizes regulatory autonomy, the ability to independently plan and monitor own activities and behaviour. The general self-control level rating scale (GSCL) is a generalized indicator which helps determine the level of formation of an individual conscious self-control system.

The stress-coping abilities were tested by the S. Hobfoll’s [8] SACS method adapted by N. Vodopyanova and Y. Starchenkova [1]. The questionnaire reveals the degree of manifestation of various coping strategies: cautious actions (CA), social joining (SJ), seeking social support (SSS), antisocial actions (AsA), aggressive actions (AgrA), instinctive actions (IA), indirect actions (IndA), assertive actions (AstA) and avoidance (Av). These strategies are characterized as prosocial - asocial, active - passive and can be direct or indirect. To determine the degree of constructiveness of behaviour, we calculated the general constructiveness index (CI) according to the ratio of active prosocial strategies to passive and asocial ones [1].

Results and discussion.  The statistical analysis of the data obtained using the BSRS methodology based on the Mann-Whitney U-test reveals significant differences in the GSCL, PR and I values in all study groups, except for the female and male athletes’ groups, as well as significant differences in the flexibility values in the EG (F) and EG (M) in favour of the former (Table 1).

 

Table 1. Mann-Whitney U-test values in terms of BSRS methodology (* – p≤0.05; **– p≤0.01)

Analyzed parameters

GSCL

PR

Pl

Pr

М

F

I

EG (F) and EG (M)

168.5

197

197.5

 168.5

197.5

129*

137*

RG (F) and RG (M)

117.5*

132.5*

197.5

141

184

196.5

85**

EG (F) and RG (F) 

89.5**

122.5*

133

151

132

133

93.5**

EG (M) and RG (M)

130.5**

143.5*

178

163

161

177

155*

EG and RG

428**

571.5**

790

 694.5

740

812.5

468**

 

The qualitative analysis of the findings found the subjects of all groups to have a high level of self-control, total absence of "weak" points (≤4 indicators) and virtually smooth profiles, which indicates the harmonious development of all studied self-control features. As noted by the author of the method, "the subjects with the high general level of self-control are characterized by awareness and interconnected relationships in the overall structure of individual control of regulatory links. Such subjects are independent, flexible and adequately react to changing conditions; they set and achieve their goals consciously, for the most part" [4]. In the EG, most students with the high GSCL are characterized by the stable self-control skills and high values ​​in terms of all indicators (≥7). Three EG students with the high GSCL have a rather low prediction index (Pr=4), which is compensated by the developed feasible planning skills, adequate performance evaluation and rather high flexibility.

With the average values of GSCL, the individual style features become more pronounced, however, the expressed "weak" points are rare: relatively lower values are observed in such parameters as PR, I and F (but not lower than 5 points). A slight decrease in the processes of performance evaluation and flexibility is compensated by the developed planning skills. And it is only with the low values of GSCL when the style features of self-control become apparent.

At the same time, the subjects with the low GSCL were found to have common "weak" points in self-control - planning and prediction. In general, GSCL in both of the groups significantly correlates with their ability to plan, evaluate their performance, with their flexibility and independence. It was only the RG females who did not demonstrate any significant correlation between GSCL and independence, but this result is beyond the scope of the current study and cannot be discussed here.

According to the comparative analysis of the stress-coping strategies among the RG and EG females the RG subjects are much more likely to commit instinctive actions, seek to avoid conflict situations and decisive actions, tend to set aside emerging problems. The EG females were found to have a higher degree of manifestation of prosocial behaviour – they tend to make social contacts in stressful situations (Table 2). Thus, the EG females use more constructive stress-coping strategies (they have higher CI values), which significantly distinguishes them from the RG females.

Unlike the RG males, those of the EG use passive strategies (cautious actions and avoidance) much less often and tend to resort to assertive behaviour, giving a public voice to their interests and intentions. In general, the group of athletes was found to have more pronounced SJ strategy and assertive actions (AsA), with the passive coping strategies being less frequent. As a result, the CI is significantly higher in the EG (Table 2).

 

Table 2. Mann-Whitney U-test values in terms of SACS method (*– p≤0.01)

Parameter

Study groups

 

Coping strategy

Behaviour strategy

EG(F) and EG (M)

RG (F) and RG (M)

EG (M) and RG (M)

EG (M) and RG (M)

EG and RG

Prosocial

SJ

123

84*

44*

179

481*

Prosocial

SSS

97.5*

57*

104

199.5

637

Asocial

AsA

122.5

111.5*

136

208.5

696

Asocial

AgrA

161

180.5

172

159.5

660,5

Direct

IA

136.5

38.5*

48.5*

179

687

Indirect

IndA

83.5*

93.5*

148

152.5

623,5

Active

AsA

66*

68.5*

116

129*

546,5*

Passive

CA

59*

67*

120

85.5*

466.5*

Passive

Av

92.5*

100.5*

50.5*

117*

379,5*

CI

193

164

54*

92*

353*

 

The correlation analysis found the GSCL to significantly correlate with the strategy of seeking social support - in all groups except for the male EG, as well as a significant correlation between the GSCL and avoidance strategy in the sporting females and the GSCL and cautious actions strategy in the RG males. Thus, the self-control skills, as demonstrated by the results obtained, are not unambiguously related to certain behavioural models: the style of self-control - optimal or rather low - can be realized in stressful situations using different coping strategies.

Conclusion. We found the systemic sporting practices to significantly improve the athletes’ self-control skills, and also to develop the ability to use active prosocial strategies to cope with stressful situations - seeking social support and assertive behaviour. However, the lack of a significant correlation between other specific coping strategies and the general self-control level in both of the study groups suggests that coping behaviour seems to be based on the mechanisms that cannot be unequivocally explained by the self-control mechanisms.

 

References

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Corresponding author: bragina24@mail.ru

 

Abstract

In modern sport science a high priority is being given to the studies of self-control skills viewed as the individual ability to control own emotional, physical and internal responses. It should be noted that many issues of the sport stress control and coping strategies are still virtually unexplored. The study was designed to test the assumption that the systemic sporting practices help develop self-control skills and constructive stress-coping strategies viewed among the best personality qualities for the sport careers. The study data were used for a comparative analysis of the self-control skills and stress-coping strategies in sporting students (qualified Candidate Masters of Sports and high-class athletes) versus their non-sporting peers aged 19 years on average. The study data and analysis showed the sporting students making high progress in the self-control and stress-coping strategies development aspects.