Prestart emotional states of professional athletes (case study of MBC "Dinamo", Moscow)


Associate Professor, PhD E.G. Babich
Professor, Dr.Sc.Psych. E.A. Petrova
PhD D.V. Savchenko
Associate Professor, PhD N.V. Belyakova
Russian State Social University, Moscow

Keywords: emotions, sport psychology, prestart emotional state, basketball.

Introduction. Sport in the modern world is not only physical loads an athlete is subject to during training and competition, but also high psychological stress. The athlete performs in extreme situations, he needs to adapt to them, learn how to cope with them, otherwise he will never win. A sufficient gamut of feelings, emotions and thoughts start to disturb the athlete long before the competition. Many specialists in the field of sport argue that the instability of athletes’ performance indices is a direct consequence of their emotional states during competition [1, 2, 5, 7]. Therefore, coaches consider emotional preparation of athletes for competition to be one the main objectives of their work. It is necessary to relieve emotional stress by isolating the athlete from stressful emotions wherever possible, i.e., improve his/her psychological reliability and safety [3, 8]. Thus, mental conditioning of athletes consists specifically in their reconditioning and rehabilitation of the abilities that will help them in the unpredictable stressful situations occurring during competition.

Consideration of the emotional components requires certain corrective amendments made to athletes’ activity. Athletes, who monitor own behavior, are able to determine which particular emotional state they experience. They cannot excite emotions at wish, just as they can control their behavior, attention, or movements. It is known that conation does not affect the emergence and preservation of a certain feeling. It is difficult enough to suppress or stop own emotions, but it is possible to slightly keep emotional expressions down (for example, to keep down pride, conceal fear). In order to suppress the emotions emerged, one needs to make more sustained efforts, or there is a need in the modifications of objective conditions that trigger emotions, change of own attitudes to certain events. Often, the athlete is not always able to fully realize what emotional states or feelings he/she experiences.

Objective of the study was to determine the features of prestart emotional states in professional athletes.

Materials and methods. The study was conducted among the players of the youth men's basketball team "Dinamo MBC 2", Moscow, consisting of 23 people.

To study the prestart state features we used the selected methods. The prestart stress level was analyzed using the "Spielberger’s test-inventory" modified by Yu.L. Hanin. Next, we used the questionnaire of volitional self-control (hereinafter - VSC) by A.G. Zverkov and E.V. Aidman. Lastly, we applied the technique of "Differential emotions scale" (hereinafter - DES)" by K. Izard (adapted A.B. Leonova version) [2, 7].

It should be mentioned separately that the fast time of execution of these techniques by the subjects was taken as one of the selection criteria, since the pre-game schedule of athletes prevented us from implementing too much time-consuming techniques.

The measurement of physiological indices in the subjects consisted in the pulse frequency measurement. We relied on the method described in V.R. Malkin’s paper [4]. This study was divided into three stages of measurements:

1) Before exercise

2) 30-40 min before the game

3) 5-10 min before the game

During the survey, team coaches helped take the pulse rate. All the data obtained were entered in tables and diagrams.

Psychological examination of basketball players before important competitions is associated with a number of difficulties: little time allotted for the examination, difficulties in communication with athletes who are possibly casting their actions on the court at this very moment. However, if the key points are highlighted correctly and the stimulation methods are selected accurately, this survey can be productive both for a psychologist and an athlete.

Results and discussion. The examination data revealed that athletes’ heart rate increases at the approach to the game, in addition, the difference between its extreme values increases.

The average heart rate value before exercise is equal to 56.5, and the difference between its extreme values is approximately equal to +- 3.5. The meeting, at which the team learns the game plan, lasts 30 minutes. During this discussion of their actions and counteractions against the opponents, players visualize the future game and own actions. We can say that at this point the exposure of stress factors on athletes starts, as with the visualization of own actions during the game, their anxiety increases against the background of their fear to make a sour game. The mean value here increases to 84.3, the difference increased, too, by +-5. If we consider the extreme values ​​of heart rate, we will get +-6.

5 minutes before the game, the average value for pulse rate equaled 102, spread of values amounted to +-9, and if we add the extreme values – +-12.

Based on the data obtained using the methodology "State-trait anxiety inventory" (Spielberger’s inventory), it was noted that in seven basketball players (30%) trait and state anxiety was at the optimal level. It was found that this level of anxiety may correspond to the state of combat readiness of athletes.

We detected the low level of state anxiety in three team members (13%); however, their trait anxiety was within the normal limits. In this case, we can state that athletes lack the game mindset, which is probably associated with their unwillingness to play this game or low importance of the game for them at the given moment. Perhaps, the low level of anxiety arises from the long and anticipatory pre-game stress, as a result of which we can observe prestart apathy.

Thirteen team members (56%) have high values of state anxiety. At the same time, in most of them this index of trait anxiety is within the normal range, or slightly above normal. In this case, we need to mention strong prestart jitters, which may negatively affect the game. Based on the degree of anxiety, this state can be attributed to start fever.

According to the "DES" technique, most athletes demonstrated high rates of interest as the predominant emotion. We can say that they are in anticipation of the upcoming game. Joy that manifested itself in seventeen team members (74%), outstands, too. High or close to high indicators of fear were registered in thirteen players (56%), which may indicate pre-start jitters, but these values are not critical. On other scales the indicators are within the normal range.

Having compared the results of the "VSC questionnaire" with the norm on the scale of persistence, we can state that ten basketball players (43%) drew the high points, which testifies to sufficiently high motivation, ability to concentrate and consciously mobilize to perform the necessary actions to achieve the set goals. There is one marginal outcome value that may speak of athletes’ "addiction" to the purpose and inability to maintain the behavioral flection during mobilization. Too strong addiction to the outcome can negatively affect the game and result in the conflicts with other players.

On the persistence scale, we registered normal values in seven athletes (30%). There can be displays of anxiety and sometimes abrupt behavioral change, it gets difficult to maintain concentration, conscious performance of own duties on the court, or as they say in sports "being fully on the field", grows complex.

The remaining six players (27%) were observed to have such pronounced qualities as insecurity, hypersensitivity, increased behavioral flection. On the self-control scale, nine athletes (39%) drew high points. This testifies to the good possession of oneself and own emotions, high self-confidence, which helps athletes lose fear of the unknown, prepare for new discoveries. Their main quality is their inner peace that can be protected from emotional outbursts. There are no extreme values.

Fourteen people drew low points on the persistence scale, they may possess two main negative qualities: impulsivity and conservatism. Impulsivity prevents from making more efforts to perform the task when something goes wrong, on the contrary, its display can be destructive for all the past achievements of the team in the game. Conservatism is a controversial position, however, more and more coaches and sport psychologists adhere to the opinion that its display has only a negative impact on the result demonstrated by the entire team. In professional sport, when future opponents prepare for the game, they try to learn each other’s interaction, in such a situation players may rely only on their ability to search for the new solutions in the course of the game, and the use of the same interactions and ways of completing the tasks can only drive the team into a "well-placed tactical trap". Eleven athletes (47%) have high scores on the VSC scale, which is typical of emotionally mature, self-determined and independent people. Such people realize their intentions in accordance with the plan, they are able to distribute own energy to achieve the objectives, they monitor the events in the game. There is a socio-positive trend, these players actively cooperate with partners, are willing to sacrifice own game performance for the sake of their team's success.

The points scored by twelve people (53%) were below normal. The instability of intentions and impulsivity make players act unpredictably at the crucial moments of the game. Sensitivity to external stimuli may also interfere with pursuing the goal. We can also observe lack of self-confidence, which may prevent athletes from realizing their potential by 100% from the start of the game.

Conclusion. The study revealed that athletes’ trait and state anxiety is influenced by the emotions displayed, and the indicators of volitional regulation of behavior are related with the anxiety demonstrated by the subjects.


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