Boxers’ personality qualities versus psychosomatics rating in different competitive situations

PhD, Associate Professor I.P. Grekhova1
PhD, Associate Professor M.E. Guzich1
1Surgut State University, Surgut

Keywords: competitive performance, stress, motivation rate, personal agenda, emotional and psychosomatic conditions.

Background. Mental conditioning aspects and systems applicable in sports have long been subject to special attention and studies. It is commonly acknowledged by many analysts [1] that modern sports have come to the point where the leading athletes are virtually evenly matched in many physical, technical, tactical and other qualities and, hence, their competitive success increasingly depends on their key mental qualities and psychological factors. This opinion of the sport theoreticians is shared by many sport celebrities. As stated, for instance, by Olympic Champion Vladimir Vasin, ‘modern sports are not about material incentives only, they are mostly about psychology’ [2]. This key aspect of an athletic training and performance is being studied by the sport psychology that emerged only a few decades ago and since then has been on the rise as verified by the biannual European and World Sport Psychology congresses and conferences, multiple sport psychology periodicals and the growing demand for services of the sport psychologists by the leading sport world nations.

One of the core missions of this science is to help coaches and athletes to design and manage the mental conditioning component of the athletic training process for the individual/ team success. Many sport psychologists give nowadays a growing attention to the effects of competitive stressors on mental health since it is widely acknowledged that ‘competition is always a stage of emergency’ for body and mind [4] and, hence, the physical and mental responses to the competitive stressors need to be comprehensively studied. The popular ingenuous assumptions on the adrenaline bursts being healthy and beneficial for the extreme competitive performance have not been verified by practical studies in fact. As stated, for example, in study [7], ‘actual correlations between stresses and performance patterns were found more complicated that it was assumed before’, with the performance found to depend on a wide range of factors including the individual qualities and skills and many sport-specific aspects.

Objective of the study was to find correlations of some personality qualities (success motivations, stress tolerance rates etc.) with psychosomatic health rates in different sport situations.

Methods and structure of the study. The Surgut State University’s Developmental Psychology Department runs psychosomatic health studies of the local (Khanty-Mansi Autonomous ‘Yugra’ Area) athletes with a special emphasis on the sport-specific competitive stressors [3]. Sampled for the study purposes were 30 boxers having 3+ years-long sport records split up into two Experimental Groups (EG): EG1 (n=15) composed of qualifiers for the top-ranking seasonal competitions; and EG2 (n=15) of those who failed to qualify for them. The groups were tested to rate (1) individual stress tolerance; (2) psychosomatic health/ disorders; (3) individual success motivations; and (4) correlations of the individual stress tolerance, psychosomatic health rates and the success motivations; followed by a comparative analysis of the group test data.

Study findings and discussion. The individual stress tolerance test [6] (test 1) found 87% and 40% of EG1 and EG2, respectively, highly exposed to stressors (i.e. tested with a low stress tolerance); with 6.5% and 60% of EG1 and EG2, respectively, diagnosed with a threshold (marginal) stress tolerance – meaning that they are at risk of a breakdown (nervous burnout) with a further growth of stress. It should be underlined that only 6.5% and 0% of EG1 and EG2, respectively, were tested with a high stress tolerance. Therefore, the first test showed most of the athlete’s energy costs (regardless of the competitive event ranking) being actually claimed by the efforts to balance the mental state heavily off-balanced by the competitive stressors.

This situation could not but tell on the boxers’ psychosomatic health as we believed, and the goal of test 2 under the study was to test the individual psychosomatic health/ disorders by the Giessen Complaint Questionnaire [5]. The individual psychosomatic health test found mean, high and no psychosomatic health complaints in 47%, 12% and 41% of EG1 and 13%, 20% and 27% of EG2, respectively, with the mean complaints covering all 4 test criteria, and high complaints related to 2 out of 4 test criteria. Difference of the EG1 versus EG2 psychosomatic health test data arrays was found meaningless, with empirical U = 0.217. The psychosomatic health test data may be interpreted as indicative of some stressors being of both off-balancing and mobilizing effect on the athletes – such as the activation stressors that mobilize the relevant psychosocial motivations [9] including those associated with the competitive events.

The individual success motivations were tested under the study by test 3 based on the T. Ehlers’ Success Achievement Motivations Questionnaire. The success motivations in EG1 were tested 20% low, 40% mean-to-high and 40% optimal; and in EG2 40% low, 27% mean-to-high and 6% optimal. The test data may be interpreted as indicative of the group averages being within the optimal success motivation range, with the intergroup difference tested meaningless. This finding may be explained by the fact that the individual success motivations may be ranked with fairly stable personality qualities that may not be easily undermined by the actual competitive experiences.

The final stage of the study was intended to find correlations of the individual stress tolerance, psychosomatic health rates and success motivations. A correlation analysis of the EG1 test data showed strong direct correlations of the absolute values of the above variables, with Pearson's linear correlation coefficient rxy=0.974 for the stress tolerance rates, psychosomatic health rates and the success motivations. The EG2 test data showed low correlations of the subject values, with the Pearson's linear correlation coefficient estimated at rxy=0.183 – that may be interpreted as indicative of the insignificant connections in the group stress tolerance rates, psychosomatic health rates and success motivations.

The above findings give reasons to believe that competitive challenges are perceived by the athletes as something more than another stress factor – as believed by some analysts and coaches. It may be assumed that EG1 tends to associate the events with some personal values and goals when analyzing their challenges and potential benefits, with the relevant effects on the actual hierarchy of individual motivations and, hence, the competitive performance. As a result of such transformation, the combined personality and individual performance rates may be described, as provided by A.N. Leontyev, by a sort of upturned pyramid standing on the key motivation for success in the high-ranking competitive event. The EG2 test data may be interpreted in this context as short of such key motivation/ value system, with every athlete having his own hierarchy of motivations for everyday trainings and current competitions in context of the individual personality qualities and agendas. This may be the reason for the poor correlations of EG2 stress tolerance rates, psychosomatic health rates and success motivations versus the high correlations in EG1.

Conclusion. The study data and analyses provide further evidence to disprove the popular technique-centered approach to athletic trainings with competitions widely perceived as a formal registration of the results achieved in the training process. The study found differences in perceptions of the training and competitive processes by the athletes as manifested by the tested stress tolerance rates, psychosomatic health rates and success motivations. The finding underlines once again the need for a high-quality psychological support service in every stage and situation of an athletic career; and offers prospects for further research of the personality qualities versus individual performance in a variety of training and competitive processes and environments.


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Objective of the study was to find correlations of some personality qualities (success motivations, stress tolerance etc.) with psychosomatic health rates in different sport situations. Sampled for the study purposes were 30 boxers split up into two Experimental Groups (EG): EG1 (n=15) composed of qualifiers for the top-ranking seasonal competitions; and EG2 (n=15) of the boxers who failed to qualify for the latter. Both groups were tested for the stress tolerance, psychosomatic health and individual success motivations using the Holmes and Rahe Stress Tolerance and Social Readjustment Test (‘stress scale’); Giessen Psychosomatic Complaint Questionnaire; and the T. Ehlers Success Motivations scale. The study tested the both EG being exposed (regardless of the competitive standings and performance) to the uncertainty-related stressors and facing a variety of somatic problems. EG1, however, showed a strong correlation of the test rates versus the EG2 tested with little if any correlations thereof.