Mental fitness component of functional fitness: seasonal variations in Russian national floorball team

Postgraduate student A.A. Dolgoborodova2
Dr. Med., Professor A.B. Gudkov1, 2
PhD, Associate Professor A.V. Bykov2
PhD A.V. Demin2
1Northern State Medical University, Arkhangelsk
2Northern (Arctic) Federal University named after M.V. Lomonosov, Arkhangelsk

Keywords: female floorball players, situational/ personality anxiety, mental stress, extraversion, sport psychology.

Background. Floorball is ranked among the most young, popular and fast progressing sports the world over [1], with the competitive success in this discipline known to largely depend on the mental/ emotional control qualities and skills [7, 8, 10], albeit the ways to excel them still remain underexplored.

Objective of the study was to analyze the seasonal fitness variations with an emphasis on the mental fitness component in the Russian women’s national floorball team.

Methods and structure of the study. We randomly sampled for the study the 18-35 (25.1±5.6 on average) year old (n=17) Masters of Sports from Arkhangelsk city qualified for the Russian women’s national team as attackers and defenders. The sample was tested in the competitive, transitional and training periods over a season by the following tests.

(1) The Eysenck Personality Questionnaire modified by Y.L. Khanin was used to obtain the state and trait anxiety rates in the sample by 20 state anxiety- and 20 trait anxiety-specific questions (40 in total), with the low, moderate and high anxiety levels rated by 30 minus, 31-45 and 46 plus points, respectively [3]. Since the test system excludes the ‘poor’ and ‘good’ rates unlike many other systems, we believe that it is more objective and checkable by repeated tests.

(2) The T.A. Nemchin Nervous and Mental Stress Test offered in 1981. The mental stress means, as provided by Nemchin, the anxiety, discomfort and fears triggered by a potential failure or other negative situation – responded by certain readiness for action. The test rates the mental stress by a set of criteria to classify the stresses into low, moderate and high ones [6].

(2) The Eysenck Personality Questionnaire that offers scales to assess the three major dimensions of personality (extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism) plus a 9-question Lie Scale. We applied versions A and B of the latter that imply repeated tests and provisions against the last responses being memorized [6]. Many analysts rank this test among the core for the modern psychology as highly beneficial for the teamwork building and mental/ emotional control purposes. The test data were grouped and analyzed by the Wilcoxon matched pairs test to produce median (Ме) values and 25–75 (Q1–Q3) percentile intervals.

Results and discussion. An analysis of the state anxiety test rates found the statistically significant differences between the competitive versus transitional and competitive versus training periods: see Table 1 hereunder. On the whole the state anxiety was tested widely variable over season to peak in the competitive period and fall in the regular training time.

Table 1. Women’s floorball team mental fitness test data by periods

Tests

Competitive period (CP)

Transitional period (TP)

Training period (TRP)

р1

р2

р3

Me (Q1–Q3)

Me (Q1–Q3)

Me (Q1–Q3)

State anxiety

39,00

(33,50 – 46,00)

31,00

(29,00– 36,00)

31,00

(26,50 – 39,00)

0,002

0,016

0,57

Trait anxiety

40,00

(33,50 – 41,50)

38,00

(31,50– 40,50)

32,00

(28,50 – 40,00)

0,38

0,042

0,020

Mental stress

39,00

(36,50 – 50,00)

34,00

(31,50 – 38,50)

35,00

(32,00 – 36,50)

0,004

0,001

0,50

Neurotism

12,00

(10,00 – 16,50)

11,00

(6,00 – 13,00)

8,00

(6,50 – 11,00)

0,032

0,004

0,079

E/I

15,00

(11,00 – 17,00)

16,00

(14,00 – 17,00)

16,00

(14,00 – 18,50)

0,447

0,097

0,193

Note: р1, p2 and p3 refer to the CP versus TP, CP versus TRP and TP versus TRP rates, respectively; E/I means extraversion/ introversion rates

The state anxiety was tested to reach its maximums by the end of the competitive period apparently due to the natural accumulation of mental stresses. The state anxiety was rated moderate on the whole albeit the top quartile run into the high anxiety segment – to give us the reasons to assume that the athletes were exposed to high mental stressors detrimental to their working capacity – including the hard, high-intensity and high-speed physical work associated with functionality shifts [4]. The team, however, was able to fully recover by the middle of the transitional period as demonstrated by the relatively low anxiety test rates. By the regular training period time the sample was tested with some growth of the anxiety rates – that may be interpreted as the positive mental stress typical for the hard trainings geared to reach the peaking sport form.

The above findings were substantiated by the T.A. Nemchin Nervous and Mental Stress test that showed the highest disharmony in the mental and physical statuses of the sample, with the above-diagnosed meaningful differences between the competitive-period data array and the other two ones. The neurotism test rates on the Eysenck scale also confirmed this finding.

The seasonal situation was somewhat different for the personality anxiety which was found to meaningfully differ in the training period from the two other periods. It should be mentioned that the trait anxiety is the acquired personality quality when the person responds excessively to many imaginary dangerous situations by anxiety and fairs. The trait anxiety may be tested by the cases of expressed measurable anxiety for some time period [9].

Anxiety rates in sports may fall for a variety of reasons that in the psychological domain may include progresses in self-confidence, self-control skills, willpower etc. As reported by some other researchers, anxiety rates tend to fall with the growing intensity of the trainings – for the reason that a prudently designed and managed training process helps drain the internal stressors, facilitates the physiological and mental processes, vents the excessive emotions by giving a safe path to the individual aggressiveness, improves the self-control skills etc. [2].

The relatively high trait anxiety rates in the competitive period may be due to the actual performance being short of expectations and, hence, the individual self-confidence and self-esteem, with the person trying to respond by accommodating to the standards of and demands from the surrounding and, as a result, getting more and more vulnerable.

The transitional period trait anxiety was also tested higher than the regular training trait anxiety that may be due, as we believe based on the prior studies, to the relatively low physical activity. It is the period when the athletes avoid any physical work to effectively recover and, therefore, their fitness naturally falls in many aspects. Physical activity is known to be indispensable as one of the mental conditioning tools of high integrating and harmonizing benefits for the internal mental control mechanisms and systems.

On the extraversion/ introversion (E/I) scale of the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, most of the team was tested as extraverts with no changes over the test season – that means that such individuals are easy going in communication, confident in unexpected situations, and prone to a productive cooperation. As was found by some studies, highly skilled athletes are tested with extraversion more often than the others [5]. Since the sample was dominated by Masters of Sports and most of them were tested to be extraverts, we may assume that extraversion is one of the reasons for the good psychological climate in the team of facilitating effect on the teamwork on the whole and the combinatory tactics in particular.

Conclusion. Based on the test data, we found that the physical and mental stressors and the relevant imbalances may be mitigated by a prudent scheduling of the training, competitive and rehabilitation processes with a special emphasis on the latter. The mental stress tolerance may be improved by special high-intensity mental conditioning sessions, particularly in the top-ranking competitions and precompetitive trainings. The study data and analyses may be beneficial for the coaching crew of the Russian women’s national floorball team, particularly for the trainings prior to the top-ranking competitive events.

References

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Corresponding author: stas5i@yandex.ru

Abstract

The study reports and analyzes the seasonal functional fitness variation with an emphasis on the mental fitness component in the Russian women’s national floorball team. Thus the state anxiety was found to widely vary over season with falls in the transition periods from competitions to the training cycles. The trait anxiety variation patterns were different: the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire in the extra-/ introversion rating domain found domination of extraverts in the team. Based on the test data, we found that the physical and mental stressors and the relevant imbalances may be mitigated by a prudent scheduling of the training, competitive and rehabilitation processes with a special emphasis on the latter. The mental stress tolerance may be improved by special high-intensity mental conditioning sessions, particularly in the top-ranking competitions and precompetitive trainings. The study data and analyses may be beneficial for the coaching crew of the Russian women’s national floorball team, particularly in the precompetitive training periods prior to the top-ranking events when the mental conditioning components are in top priority.