Consequences and antecedents of debilitative precompetitive emotions

Consequences and antecedents of debilitative precompetitive emotions

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ARTICLE IN PRESS

PSFR-376; No. of Pages 15

Psychologie française xxx (2016) xxx–xxx

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Original article

Consequences and antecedents of debilitative precompetitive emotions Les conséquences et les antécédents des émotions précompétitives dysfonctionnelles S. Laborde a,b,∗, F. Dosseville a, S. Wolf c, T. Martin d, M. You e a

UFR STAPS, EA 4260 IOA, university of Caen, Caen, France Department of performance psychology, institute of psychology, German sport university, Cologne, Germany c Department of health and social psychology, institute of psychology, German sport university, Cologne, Germany d INSERM ERI 27, university of Caen, Caen, France e EA 3918 CeRReV, university of Caen, Caen, France b

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history: Received 7 August 2013 Accepted 20 May 2016 Available online xxx Keywords: IZOF Noncompetitive stressors Case study Interviews Qualitative methodology

a b s t r a c t The consequences and antecedents of debilitative precompetitive emotions were examined in two studies. Study 1 explored the relationship between debilitative precompetitive emotions and coping effectiveness. Thirteen players from a semi-professional women’s handball team filled out a diary concerning stress, emotion, and coping before and after eight competitions. Debilitative precompetitive emotions were linked negatively with coping effectiveness, as well as with subjective individual performance and objective team performance. Study 2 sought to understand the noncompetitive antecedents of debilitative precompetitive emotions. We interviewed nine players from those who participated in study 1. The main themes that emerged were the coach and the transition to elite status. According to this multi-methodological, in depth analysis, issues related to the coach and the transition to elite status lead athletes to experience precompetitive emotions that they appraise

∗ Corresponding author. Deutsche Sporthochschule (DSHS), institute of psychology, Am. Sportpark Müngersdorf 6, 50933 Cologne, Germany. E-mail address: [email protected] (S. Laborde). http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psfr.2016.05.002 ´ e´ Franc¸aise de Psychologie. Published by Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved. 0033-2984/© 2016 Societ

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as debilitative to performance. These emotions were then linked to lowered coping effectiveness and decreased performance. ´ e´ Franc¸aise de Psychologie. Published by Elsevier © 2016 Societ Masson SAS. All rights reserved.

r é s u m é Mots clés : IZOF Facteurs de stress non compétitifs Étude de cas Entretiens Méthodologie qualitative

Les conséquences et les antécédents des émotions précompétitives dysfonctionnelles ont été examinées au cours de deux études. La première étude a exploré la relation entre les émotions précompétitives dysfonctionnelles et l’efficacité du coping. Treize joueuses issues d’une équipe semi-professionnelle de handball ont rempli avant et après huit compétitions un carnet ayant pour but de recueillir leurs perceptions liées aux émotions, au stress et aux stratégies de faire face. Les émotions précompétitives dysfonctionnelles étaient liées négativement avec l’efficacité des stratégies de faire face, de même qu’avec la performance individuelle subjective et la performance de l’équipe. La seconde étude avait pour but de comprendre les antécédents non compétitifs des émotions précompétitives dysfonctionnelles. Nous avons réalisé neuf entretiens avec des joueuses ayant participé à l’étude 1. Les thèmes principaux qui ont émergé furent l’entraîneur et la transition amateur–élite. Ces éléments ont conduit les joueuses à ressentir des émotions précompétitives qu’elles ont estimé dysfonctionnelles par rapport à leur performance. ´ e´ Franc¸aise de Psychologie. Publie´ par Elsevier © 2016 Societ ´ ´ Masson SAS. Tous droits reserv es.

Attaining and sustaining an individually optimal emotional state when going into a competition is crucial for athletes to achieve top performance (Hanin, 2000). According to Hanin (2007), to optimize precompetitive emotional states, it is important to know how emotions develop (i.e., their antecedents) and how they influence performance (i.e., their consequences). While precompetitive emotions’ antecedents and consequences have mainly been studied separately in previous research, this paper aims to explore both aspects simultaneously using a multi-methodological and in depth analysis, within a semi-professional women’s handball team. In sports, there are two main theories to explain the relationship between emotions and performance: cognitive-motivational-relational theory (CMRT; Lazarus, 2000) and the individual zone of optimal functioning (IZOF; Hanin, 2000). From our point of view, investigating antecedents and consequences of emotions at the same time is best achieved when combining both approaches. According to CMRT (Lazarus, 2000), emotions develop as the response to an individual cognitive appraisal process, in which a situation or event is judged in terms of (a) its importance for personal well-being (primary appraisal), and (b) the perceived prospects for successful coping with the situational demands, i.e., the stressor (secondary appraisal). According to Fletcher and Fletcher’s (2005) meta-model of stress, emotions and performance (see Fig. 1), the emotional response is then again appraised in terms of (c) its importance for the pending performance task (tertiary appraisal), and (d) the perceived prospects for successful coping with the emotional reactions themselves (quaternary appraisal). Combining this theory with the IZOF model helps to further understand what is happening next. The IZOF model postulates that emotional states ought not to be considered only with regard to their hedonic valence (i.e., positive or negative), but also with regard to their functional impact on performance (Hanin, 2000). Appraisal of emotion functionality is expected to depend on the “interaction (match or mismatch) between task demands and an athlete’s resources (available, recruited, and utilized)” (Hanin, 2007, p. 50). Following this appraisal, emotional states, through energy utilization and mobilization, are expected to either help (facilitative emotional states) or hinder (debilitative emotional states) performance (Hanin, 2000). Regarding the meta-model of stress, emotions and performance (see Fig. 1),

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Fig. 1. Illustration of the studies’ foci according to the meta-model of stress, emotions and performance. Adapted with permission from Fletcher & Fletcher, 2005.

this appraisal of emotion functionality, together with the initial emotional response, determines the overall emotional state, which in turn influences situational outcome (Fletcher & Fletcher, 2005). Due to the detrimental effect of emotional states that are appraised as debilitative for performance (e.g., Pensgaard & Duda, 2003), this paper focuses specifically on the antecedents and consequences of debilitative emotional states. Regarding debilitative emotions’ antecedents, even though they are the result of individual and subjective appraisal processes (Lazarus, 2000), some properties inside and outside the competitive situation appear to hold an increased potential for provoking stress and emotional reactions (Thatcher & Day, 2008). Among the most commonly reported competitive stressors are for instance making a physical error, being criticized by the coach, or being distracted by the crowd (Anshel, 1996). Whereas these and other competitive stressors have received much attention, little is known with regard to factors outside of the competitive situation, such as personal factors or factors inherent in the surrounding organizational structures, factors that might exert an ongoing influence across situations and competitions (Fletcher & Hanton, 2003). Noncompetitive stressors have been found to be more frequent and diverse than competitive ones (Hanton, Fletcher, & Coughlan, 2005). Further, findings have revealed that noncompetitive stressors might influence the precompetitive emotional experience through the appraisal process (Neil, Hanton, Mellalieu, & Fletcher, 2011). However, little is known about which noncompetitive stressors are likely to provoke debilitative emotions. Even if such appraisals differ across individuals, identifying common noncompetitive stressors is useful for the following reasons: at the theoretical level, such knowledge will support the theoretical framework of organizational stressors in sport (Fletcher, Hanton, Mellalieu, & Neil, 2010); at the applied level, it could allow for informed interventions addressing antecedents of debilitative precompetitive emotions more comprehensively. Regarding debilitative emotions’ consequences for performance, similarly, the exact mechanisms through which precompetitive emotional states operate remain yet to be fully explored. To explain the functionality of emotions, Hanin (2000) used the concepts of energy mobilization and utilization. However, although these terms convey an appealing idea, they do not really allow understanding the processes at stake. In one advance on the topic, Martinent and Ferrand (2009), using retrospective interviews, found five ways via which emotional states may be related to performance: by affecting (a) confidence, (b) sensations, (c) motivation, (d) concentration, and, (e) adaptation of behaviour to the constraints and characteristics of the situation. One aspect that is neglected here is coping, despite its intrinsic conceptual connection with emotions (Lazarus, 2000; Nicholls, Polman, & Levy, 2012) and its influence on performance (Haney & Long, 1995). Coping represents athletes’ cognitive and behavioural actions adopted in order to deal with the internal and external demands of a stressful encounter (Lazarus, 2000). Even if there is evidence that some coping strategies might be more

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effective for performance than others (Nicholls et al., 2012), the relationship between coping and performance is best understood when taking into account coping effectiveness (CE). CE represents the extent to which “a coping strategy, or combination of strategies, is successful in alleviating the negative emotions caused by stress” (Nicholls & Polman, 2007, p. 15). The meta-model of stress, emotions, and performance (see Fletcher & Fletcher, 2005; Fig. 1) postulates that the overall emotional state influences the situational outcome through coping. Recently, this mediating role of coping between emotions and outcome has received preliminary empirical support (Nicholls et al., 2012). Yet, more research is needed to understand the specific links between appraisals of emotion functionality, CE, and athletic performance. Considering the current gaps in the literature, the aim of the present paper is to further explore the antecedents and consequences of debilitative precompetitive emotional states. Within our first study, we focus on the consequences of emotions, investigating the relationship between appraisals of emotion functionality and athletic performance, with an emphasis on CE. In our second study, we focus on the antecedents of emotions, investigating which noncompetitive stressors elicit those emotions that athletes later appraise as debilitative to their upcoming performance. 1. Study 1 As illustrated in Fig. 1, the overall emotional state athletes experience prior to a competition facilitates or debilitates their subsequent performance (Hanin, 2007). One mechanism, through which emotions might operate, is by affecting coping (Nicholls et al., 2012). Nicholls et al. (2012) showed that pleasant and unpleasant emotions influenced the type of coping strategies used by athletes. More specifically, experiencing pleasant emotions was related to task-oriented coping, and unpleasant emotions to distraction- and disengagement-oriented coping. However, CE was not assessed explicitly in this study. Further, only emotions’ hedonic valence was considered, not their functionality. This relationship was examined in another study: Pensgaard and Duda (2003) showed that facilitative emotions were positively related to CE, which in turn was a positive predictor of objective performance. However, in this retrospective study precompetitive emotions were assessed after the competition, therefore after knowing the outcome, which obviously can constitute a bias. Accordingly, the aim of our first study was to investigate, whether the links between emotion functionality, perceptions of CE, and subjective performance (SP) as well as objective performance could be replicated if emotion functionality was assessed immediately before and perceptions of CE immediately after the competition. In accordance with previous studies (Haney & Long, 1995; Pensgaard & Duda, 2003), we hypothesized that: H1.

Debilitative precompetitive emotional states will negatively predict SP.

H2.

CE will positively predict SP.

H3. Debilitative precompetitive emotional states will negatively predict CE (due to the previous relationships expected with H1 and H2). The method we employed was a season-long in depth investigation of one women’s handball team. 1.1. Method 1.1.1. Participants This study was realized with 13 players (MAge = 23.9 years, age range = 18–31 years; playing experience: M = 8.7 years, SD = 2.8) of one semi-professional French women’s handball team. 1.1.2. Instruments A diary based on the one used by Nicholls, Jones, Polman, and Borkoles (2009) was employed in this study. 1.1.2.1. Precompetitive emotional states. To measure precompetitive emotional states, we used the list taken from the IZOF questionnaire (Hanin, 2000, p. 304–305). The purpose of the study was not to

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determine the IZOF of the players; the list was rather used to record players’ current emotional states. In line with the original presentation of the IZOF (Hanin, 2000, p. 304–305), two lists of emotionrelated adjectives were displayed, representing two main valence categories: positive (e.g., peaceful) and negative (e.g., angry). In addition, there was space at the end where players could fill in their own adjectives for both. For each emotional state, the players were instructed to indicate (a) its intensity on a Likert scale from 1 (not at all) to 10+ (very strong), and (b) its functionality, that is, whether they judged this emotional state to be either facilitative (“+”) or debilitative (“–”) with regard to their upcoming performance. 1.1.2.2. Coping effectiveness. To measure CE, the players were provided with a list of eight commonly reported competitive stressors (e.g., making a physical error; Anshel, 1996). For each stressor, players indicated whether they experienced it during the preceding game or not. In addition, players were provided with five empty spaces where they could list their own stressors encountered during a game. They were then asked to indicate in another empty space how they attempted to cope with each stressor they encountered and rate their perceived effectiveness of the coping strategies used on a Likert scale from 1 (not effective) to 4 (very effective). 1.1.2.3. Subjective performance. To measure SP, at the end of the diary, players were asked to selfevaluate their performance on a Likert scale from 0 (very poor) to 10 (excellent). 1.1.3. Procedure Permission to conduct the study was granted by the Ethics Committee of the lead researcher’s university. The data-collection took place for eight games throughout the team’s regular season (i.e., one per month), before and after each of the eight competitions. 1.1.4. Data preparation For each game we selected the data of those seven players who displayed the longest playing time (i.e., at least 75% of the official time). Then, in order to compare precompetitive emotional states of the seven players, the intensity-scores of facilitative emotional states on the one hand and of debilitative emotional states on the other hand were summed. To shed light on the influence of debilitative emotions, an emotion functionality ratio (E–/E+) was computed by dividing the total of debilitative intensity by the total of facilitative intensity. The use of a ratio was favoured over considering facilitative and debilitative emotions independently to better explain interaction effects between facilitative and debilitative emotions (Hanin, 2007). The IZOF is usually displayed visually on a graph where the intensity of emotions is plotted, on the side for (positively and negatively valenced) dysfunctional emotions, and in the middle for (positively and negatively valenced) functional emotions. The IZOF usually looks like an iceberg, meaning the intensity of functional emotions in the middle of the graph being substantially higher than the intensity of dysfunctional emotions on the sides of the graph. The ratio we use in this study is a way to go further than visual display and to integrate this relationship into statistical analyses. With regard to CE, a mean-score for each player was calculated for each competition. Finally, because we were dealing with a team sport, performance was operationalized as game outcome according to the following rule: won = 3 points; draw = 2 points; lost = 1 point. The variable was given the name game result. In addition, we took into account game location, coded 1 for home and 2 for away. 1.2. Results Descriptive statistics are shown in Table 1. The correlation matrix is shown in Table 2. Results indicate that the ratio E–/E+ was significantly correlated with CE (r = –.55, p < .001), and game result (r = –.31, p = .010). SP was linked neither to game result (r = .14, p > .05), nor to game location (r = –.12, p > .05). CE was linked with SP (r = .61, p < .001), game location (r = –.28, p = .035), and game result (r = .39, p = .003). The first regression analysis (H1) indicated that game result and game location at step 1 did not significantly predict SP, F (2, 53) = 0.559; p > .05, yet the ratio E–/E+ predicted 27% of SP variance,

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Table 1 Descriptive statistics of study 1. Variable

E+ M SD E– M SD Ratio E–/E+ M SD Coping effectiveness M SD Subjective performance M SD Game result Score team Score opponent Game location

Game 1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

61.00 45.01

63.29 25.83

50.86 37.72

44.50 32.58

64.79 30.33

49.43 20.83

41.57 21.91

53.14 31.68

37.79 17.75

27.43 18.07

44.00 16.81

34.00 11.93

19.07 10.97

43.79 20.60

42.00 28.77

23.93 19.83

1.11 1.12

0.60 0.62

1.91 2.01

1.94 2.12

0.33 0.16

1.02 0.50

1.37 1.10

0.53 0.47

2.72 0.96

3.22 0.21

2.15 0.83

1.93 1.02

3.14 0.86

2.62 0.61

2.59 0.63

3.07 0.74

3.43 2.14 1 21 31 2

4.86 1.68 3 30 22 1

3.14 2.11 1 25 30 2

3.71 2.21 1 21 28 2

5.14 1.46 3 31 25 1

4.43 2.07 1 25 28 2

2.71 1.11 3 27 22 1

4.14 1.57 3 22 20 2

E+: total of facilitative emotion intensity; E–: total of debilitative emotion intensity; game result: won = 3 points, draw = 2 points, lost = 1 point; game location: home = 1, away = 2. Table 2 Correlation matrix for study 1.

1. E+ 2. E– 3. Ratio E–/E+ 4. Coping effectiveness 5. Subjective performance 6. Game result 7. Game location

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

– –.26 –.65** .36** .51** .06 –.07

– .54** –.20 –.37** –.30* .17

– –.49** –.55** –.31* .20

– .61** .39** –.28*

– .14 –.12

– –.78**



Correlations reflect aggregated values across all eight games. E+: total of facilitative emotion intensity; E–: total of debilitative emotion intensity. * p < .05. **

p < .01.

F (3, 52) = 7.684; p < .001. The second hierarchical regression analysis (H2) indicated that game result and game location at step 1 did not significantly predict SP, F (2, 53) = 0.559; p > .05, yet CE predicted 35% of SP variance, F (3, 52) = 10.738; p < .001. The third hierarchical regression analysis (H3) indicated that game result and game location predicted 12% of CE variance, F (2, 53) = 4.808; p = .012, and the ratio E–/E+ predicted an additional 15% of CE variance, F (2, 53) = 11.668; p < .001. In total, game location, game result and the ratio E–/E+ predicted 27% of CE variance. At this stage, our results indicated that the ratio E–/E+ significantly predicted SP and CE, and CE significantly predicted SP. Because we argued in our introduction that debilitative emotions would influence SP through CE, we now ran a mediation analysis to investigate whether the mediational role of CE between debilitative emotions and sport performance could be supported empirically. For this purpose, we used the PROCESS SPSS custom dialog box1 provided by Hayes and Preacher (for detailed information, see Hayes, 2013). This custom dialog box allows inferences regarding indirect effects using percentile bootstrap confidence intervals. The ratio E–/E+ was entered as the predictor

1

Last version to be found on http://www.afhayes.com.

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(independent variable), CE was entered as a potential mediator, and SP was entered as the dependent variable. Game result and game location were entered as covariates. Based on a 10,000 sampling rate, the results from bootstrapping revealed a significant indirect effect for CE as a mediator (ab = –.53, SE = 0.17, 95% CI = –.88 to –.18). 1.3. Discussion This first study was aimed at improving our understanding of the influence of debilitative precompetitive emotional states on CE, which was in turn supposed to influence SP. Our findings replicated the retrospective results of Pensgaard and Duda (2003) to a certain degree. First, similarly to Pensgaard and Duda’s (2003) study, objective result was positively linked with CE. In addition, it was also linked negatively with the ratio E–/E+. In both studies, one can argue that CE ratings may have been influenced by objective results of the competition. However, the other relationship found in our study between objective results and precompetitive emotional functionality has a different impact. The ratings of emotional functionality were obtained before the start of the game, and to the best of our knowledge, it is the first time that this relationship was not measured retrospectively as in other studies (e.g., Pensgaard & Duda, 2003). Second, concerning the influence of precompetitive emotion functionality on SP, Pensgaard and Duda (2003) found that debilitative emotions were a significant negative predictor of SP (R2 = .13). In our study, the ratio E–/E+ negatively predicted 27% of SP variance. These links between precompetitive emotion functionality on the one hand, and objective and SP on the other hand, obtained in a prospective fashion, provide further evidence for the IZOF model (Hanin, 2000), that precompetitive emotional states influence sport performance. Third, Pensgaard and Duda found that positive facilitative emotions and negative facilitative emotions were linked to CE (r = .31 and r = –.28 respectively), however a similar relationship was not found with debilitative emotions. Similarly in our study, only facilitative precompetitive emotions were significantly related to CE (r = .36). Our findings showed that the ratio E–/E+ predict negatively 15% of CE unique variance, which suggests debilitative precompetitive emotions might act in interaction with facilitative precompetitive emotions and supports the view of investigating the ratio rather than both states separately (Hanin, 2007). Finally, concerning the influence of CE on SP, Pensgaard and Duda found that CE was a significant positive predictor of SP (R2 = .17). In our study, CE was found to positively predict 35% of SP variance. One important aspect to underline is that in our study the hierarchical regression analyses results were obtained after controlling for game result and game location. This means for example, that athletes were not only rating their coping efforts as effective if the outcome of the game was positive. Finally, with the mediation analysis our results provide support for CE being a mediator between the ratio E–/E+ and SP, depicting thus one of the underlying mechanisms through which precompetitive emotions might influence sport performance. It is possible that facilitative emotions positively influence CE through adequate energy mobilization and utilization, as hypothesized by Hanin (2000). Conversely, it is possible that debilitative emotions negatively influence CE through resource depletion. Baumeister and Heatherton (1996) assumed that to regulate psychological responses, individuals only have a limited pool of resources to control all emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. Depletion of this self-regulation strength in one area (e.g., worrying about the emotional state) is assumed to trigger performance depletion in another areas (e.g., adequate coping behaviour). Summarizing, our empirical results give additional evidence to the link shown in Fig. 1, which depicts coping as connecting the overall emotional state and situational outcome. As our findings are in line with the predictions of the IZOF model, we provide tentative empirical support for using the ratio E–/E+ as a statistical way to reflect the visual display of the iceberg on the IZOF graph, and as an added value in comparison to investigating debilitative and facilitative precompetitive emotions separately. Despite its new findings, this study has some limitations. At the theoretical level, as the approach to manage emotions, we used coping, which focuses on negative emotions, rather than the emotion regulation framework (Gross, 1998), which addresses both positive and negative emotions. In addition, we acknowledge that emotions are dynamic in nature, and that the ones experienced during competition might vary from those experienced before competition (Martinent & Ferrand, 2009). Another aspect is that we investigated emotion functionality by asking the athletes to indicate a + or – sign next to

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each emotion. It could have been beneficial to use a Likert scale like the one that was originally used for anxiety by Jones and Swain (1992) and that was later extended to other emotions, for example by Martinent, Nicolas, Gaudreau, and Campo (2013). Finally, it needs to be acknowledged that the study was correlational in nature and no inferences regarding cause and effect can be made. In summary, in the first study we showed that appraisals of emotion functionality are related to both CE and individual SP as well as objective performance at the team level. However, we did not address which factors might lead an athlete to appraise a certain emotional response as facilitative or debilitative to performance. Especially within a complex team sport environment like the one we investigated, a multitude of factors innate to but also aside from a particular competition might be of importance when players judge their initial precompetitive state in terms of its functionality to performance. We designed our second study to further investigate this question. 2. Study 2 We now turn our focus towards those factors that initially elicit the emotional response, the subjectively perceived stressors (cf. Fig. 1). Whereas the relationship between precompetitive emotions and factors of the competitive situation has been explored elsewhere (e.g., Hanton & Jones, 1995), the current study focuses on noncompetitive, that is, organizational and personal stressors (Fletcher & Hanton, 2003). Organizational stressors in sport performers were categorized by Fletcher et al. (2006, p. 336) into five broad areas: (a) factors intrinsic to the sport, (b) roles in the sport organization, (c) sport relationships and interpersonal demands, (d) athletic career and performance development issues, as well as (e) organizational structure and climate of the sport. Personal stressors are the issues not directly related to the sport organization, i.e., work/school and family (Fletcher & Hanton, 2003). Even though these factors surpass the confines of a specific precompetitive situation, they still act as antecedents and influences of precompetitive emotions (Neil et al., 2011). As documented earlier (cf. Fig. 1), the overall precompetitive emotional state is linked to personal coping and performance outcomes and, if predominantly debilitative, may impair these processes. However, not all noncompetitive stressors necessarily lead to an emotional experience that is perceived as debilitative to performance. First, the appraisal of the stressor might differ between individuals and within individuals across situations (Fletcher et al., 2006). Second, because athletes appear to be able to reappraise an initially negative emotional response as performance-facilitating and hence avoid decrements in their actual performance outcome (Neil et al., 2011). Accordingly, the aim of our second study was to investigate specifically which noncompetitive stressors precede those precompetitive emotions that athletes later unanimously appraise as debilitative to their upcoming performance. Because limited information on these links exists (cf. Neil et al., 2011), we adopted a qualitative interview methodology. 2.1. Method 2.1.1. Participants This study was realized with the same women’s handball team that participated in study 1. It was anticipated that the athletes’ prolonged engagement would result in their familiarity with the intricacies and terminology of the competitive stress process, as well as their improved relationship to the research-personnel. Out of the initial 13 players who participated in the first study, nine athletes volunteered to also be interviewed for the second study, while four declined the interview. In addition, the team’s head coach (male, 22 years with this team), as well as one staff member (male, physical trainer, 1 year with this team) were approached to gather background information. Data were kept confidential and participants’ anonymity was protected. 2.1.2. Materials All athlete-interviews followed the same semi structured interview guide, based on Fletcher and Hanton (2003). As stated in its introduction, the interview guide’s aim was to “know more about the noncompetitive stressors that [the athletes] might encounter and that [they] think might make [them] experience emotions before the game that [they] appraise as having a debilitative effect on subsequent performance.” The interview guide was worded to allow players to discuss any area of their

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sport experience that they felt important. In addition, specific probes were targeted at the contexts of (a) training (e.g., “Could you tell me about the team’s mental preparation for the competition?”), (b) environment (e.g., “Could you tell me about travelling to and from games?”), (c) personal elements (e.g., “Could you tell me about your diet?”), (d) leadership (e.g., “Could you tell me about the coach’s style of coaching?”), as well as (e) the team itself (e.g., “Could you tell me about the support between teammates?”). The coach- and staff-interviews were kept informal and were largely based on the researchers’ field-notes. 2.1.3. Procedure To avoid any interference with competition, all athlete-interviews took place during the participating team’s mid-season break. The interviews lasted between 25 and 102 min (M = 54 min) and took place in the faculty facilities of the lead researcher. The interviews were administrated by two researchers, the first and fourth authors, both of which are experienced in qualitative methodology. Guidelines for qualitative research by Patton (2002) were followed. All players interviews were audio-taped and transcribed immediately, yielding 179 single-spaced pages. Subsequently, the transcripts were analyzed separately by the two interviewers, using both inductive and deductive content analytical procedures. The deductive part of the analysis relied in particular on previous work on the same topic (Fletcher & Hanton, 2003; Hanton et al., 2005). As documented by previous research (e.g., Thelwell, Weston, & Greenlees, 2007), the advantage of combining inductive and deductive content analyses allows the integration of existing knowledge and structures, while simultaneously emphasizing the specificity of the data and the uniqueness of the solution it yields. Finally, all interviews were reread by the entire research team and checked for appropriate development and placement of raw data into higher order themes. 2.2. Results The results are organized according to the two main themes that emerged from the data (i.e., the coach and the transition to elite status) to illustrate how noncompetitive stress is represented within this particular team, and how these themes relate to each other. Direct quotes are provided in the text where appropriate. Participants are identified by numbers to illustrate the variety of responses. Further, stemming from the coach and staff-interviews, additional background information is given to illustrate participating athletes’ unique context. Because it is beyond the scope of this paper to elaborate all 31 sources of stress, we have focused on those considered as fundamental for this specific team. However, all the stressors categories mentioned by the interviewees are presented in Fig. 2, with the frequency across players indicated. 2.2.1. Theme 1: coach The coach was found to be the backbone of the club. He had started with the club 22 years ago and meanwhile had taken it from the sixth league to the third. It turned out that the coach controlled everything in the club. 2.2.1.1. Relationship between coach and team captain. The first unique element that characterized the team is that the coach was married to the team captain. This relationship was found to bias many things for the team. First, the coach was perceived to be unfair regarding the captain, as Player 8 (P8) said: “Okay, some years ago she was the best of us, but that is not the case anymore, and she has no particular leadership skills. Other players could aspire to this role as well.” Indeed, the captain found it difficult to manage both roles, wife and captain, at the same time. She did not hesitate to answer the coach in a very aggressive tone, thus setting a bad example for the other players. This situation led to the problem of the players not trusting the captain, as P7 said: “We all imagine how it works when they [captain and coach] are together; she tells him everything that has been said by the team.” Interestingly, the coach himself recognized that this situation was tough and admitted that it should be different after the captain had retired.

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9 - Not fulfilling captain's role 7 - Coach unfair with game choices concerning the captain 7 - Coach unfair in captain's choice 5 - Captain communication with coach

Relationship between coach and captain

8 - Negative feedback 7 - Pressure at last training 7 - Coach close-minded 7 - Coach communication 5 - Conflict coach–player

Coach’s style

8 - Coach being late 5 - Players being late

Coach being late Coach

9 - Coach not delegating 8 - Coach omnipresence 6 - Desillusionment

Coach not delegating

3 - Pressure on performance 3 - Selection unclear 2 - Relations with Team B

Selection process

9 - Teammate injury 9 - Athlete’s negative attitude 9 - Lack of social cohesion 9 - Separate cliques within the team 6 - Individual goals 5 - Lack of teammates’ support

Team atmosphere

6 - Watch Team B game 4 - Equipment

Competition environment

9 - Restricted staff 7 - Staff competence

Staff

6 - Financial differences 6 - Result pressure 3 - Family life 3 - Professional life

Player status

Transition to elite status

Fig. 2. Noncompetitive stressors, study 2. Themes (right), categories (middle), and stressors (left), as well as frequency of noncompetitive stressors mentioned in study 2.

2.2.1.2. Coach’s style. The coach had a very authoritarian style of coaching. Most players perceived the coach as giving only negative feedback: “He never says anything when we are doing well,” said P5. The players found him quite close-minded: “He never listens to your arguments, and he always wants to have the last word” said P2. Regarding his communication, it appears that he did not use the best strategy for being listened to by the players: “He always shouts. At the end, you don’t even

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pay attention to what he’s saying, and then you can miss important things” said P8. This authoritarian style was perceived as highly problematic by the players. 2.2.1.3. Coach being late. The players complained that the coach always had the tendency to be late. He lost credibility among the players and their motivation suffered. The coach said: “I’m not a professional coach. I’m a teacher at the University, and I have two children. Players don’t understand that.” When asked whether he understood that players could be disturbed by these delays, he answered: “I have a different conception of time, Mediterranean, I would say. For me, it’s not a problem to arrive late; the players should be responsible and start the session by themselves.” Instead, however, the players themselves also began to arrive late, as illustrated by P4: “At the beginning I was ready on the field 10 minutes before the start of training, and now usually I’m still at home at that time. If we arrive late, we have to pay into a penalty fund, but we prefer to pay rather than to be bored and wait for the coach.” 2.2.1.4. Coach being omnipotent. As mentioned, the coach was omnipresent, and all decisions went through him: “It is hard to talk to any staff member because the coach has got control over everything” said P3. In contrast to previous years, in the season under investigation, a strength and conditioning trainer had been hired and was highly welcomed by the players. The coach also found the involvement of the conditioning trainer valuable, but regarding his control over the staff he just said: “When the staff is in charge of something and they don’t do it correctly, in the end, I have to take the phone and do it all by myself again.” 2.2.1.5. Selection process. Five days prior to each game, the coach announced which players of the team would be playing in the upcoming competition (Team A) and which would be helping out the club’s second team (Team B) instead. Generally, seven athletes are set to be a consistent part of Team A, whereas the remaining players are selected on a game-to-game basis. The players concerned by the selection process found that the coach put a lot of pressure on them when they played on Team A: “On the field we are afraid of making a mistake because if we do so, we know that the coach will substitute us for this game and will not select us for the following one” said P5. They also found the selection process unclear, because the coach never attended any of their competitions when playing for Team B: “You can’t judge someone only on statistics; you could do a good job for the team and not have good statistics at all” said P5. The coach had one rule: “I never justify my selection choices. Because if I did, the players would always say: remember why you didn’t pick me last time, and this is not true anymore.” And regarding watching a Team B match: “Very simple, while my wife [the captain] is watching Team B with the other players before the competition [when playing home, Team B matches always precede Team A matches], I am in charge of the children at home. But we have a weekly meeting with the coach of Team B in order to establish the selection.” 2.2.2. Theme 2: transition to elite status The second theme that emerged was the team’s transition to elite status. At the point of datacollection, the team was competing in the third national league. This was the highest level ever achieved by this team, and it had been competing in this league for the past 4 years. The objective of the team for the current season was to access the second league. This means they had to finish at least second in their group of 12 teams and win the qualification game against the second-placed team of the other group. In the third league, players are not classified as professional players, but they earn money playing handball. They either get a fixed salary or a bonus according to competition results. However, usually the players have a family to care for or a professional life outside of handball, or they are students at a university. Hence the athletes interviewed in this study could be considered semi-professional, and this had implications for their stress experience. 2.2.2.1. Staff. First, all the players, without exception pointed out the team’s limited staff. As mentioned above, they recently welcomed the arrival of a strength and conditioning trainer. However, they felt, they further ought to be accompanied by a physiotherapist during the games in case one of them got injured and have a staff member join and manage the team during travel. “It would be

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great if someone were there with us to take the equipment, the balls and such, and to show us where we have to go: the hotel, the gym. Just to be in charge of everything at the competition,” said P9. The coach on the other hand was very critical on this topic: “The young players idealize the high-level; they act like princesses and want to have someone as a servant during the competitions; I am very critical of that because a high-level does not mean autonomy for the player, and I am totally against that because then players are totally unable to deal with daily life, and when their career ends, they are totally lost.” 2.2.2.2. Competitive environment. Second, the players reported two stressors regarding the environment of the competitions. First, players on Team A felt forced to watch Team B’s game before their own competition. Having the players watch Team B’s game was intended to bring the athletes closer together, and it was indeed appreciated by Team B players, who felt supported. But Team A players did not like it, because they felt it disturbed their concentration. Not surprisingly, the coach noted, “I have tested several things to build cohesion between the players before the game, and it seemed that nothing had a significant impact on the competition.” Second, the team’s home gym was perceived as inappropriate, as illustrated by P3: “Our local gym is too small, the walls are very close to the goals, and then we always have to adapt when playing away.” Indeed at the point of data-collection a project for a new gym was under way. 2.2.2.3. Unequal player status. On the road to becoming elite, the status of the players also had changed. They reported financial differences, pressure to get results, and adjustments in their family and professional lives. However, regarding handball-related income, substantial differences between the individual players were reported, with some athletes having a fixed salary and others a successrelated bonus. The players with families found it difficult to combine parenting with playing: “The last training on Fridays is the most difficult for me because I always think that I should be spending this time with my kids,” said P7. Those who had a professional life besides handball also faced problems: “When I arrive at training at 20 h, I’m already tired because of my working day. Then, training ends at 22 h, and I know that I have to get up early to go to work again the next day, so it becomes more and more difficult to combine the two,” confessed P1. 2.2.2.4. Team atmosphere. The atmosphere of the team was found to be problematic. The perceived lack of cohesion seemed to be a result of the transition to elite status, as the coach had observed: “When I started to coach the team, we had two training sessions a week. The players were happy to go out together. Now, we train almost five times a week, and I can understand that they don’t want to spend more time together. Moreover, some have a family life or a job and know what responsibilities mean, whereas the youngest ones are still in their student life, going out and having fun all the time.” Consequently, there were two separate cliques within the team: the “old players” who had spent more than 5 years together in the club, and the “young players” who were students and had just joined. This divide was reinforced during travel, where players had to ride in two minibuses and automatically separated themselves into cliques. The coach acknowledged this and said that it was due to financial constraints. This lack of social cohesion also became apparent before competitions: “Now, with the invention of MP3 and DVD players, we don’t talk to each other before the game” said P3. To summarize, the main stressors mentioned by the players as antecedents of debilitative precompetitive emotions were the coach and the transition to the elite level. Both of which are acknowledged as important and potentially disturbing factors in competitive sports, as we discuss it in the next section. 2.3. Discussion The aim of study 2 was to further understand the noncompetitive stressors (i.e., organizational and personal stressors) that were assumed to lead to precompetitive emotions appraised as being debilitative for the upcoming performance (see Fig. 1). Consequently, a qualitative interview methodology was employed, the results of which yielded two main themes of stressors, the coach and the transition to elite status.

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The first main theme addresses the relationship between the coach and his athletes. The coach–athlete relationship is defined as “a situation shaped by coaches’ and athletes’ interconnected feelings, thoughts, and behaviors” (Jowett, 2009, p. 164). This relationship is central in sport and if harmonious, the coach–athlete relationship has been found to lead to better athletic performance (Jowett & Cockerill, 2003). However, if not harmonious, the coach–athlete relationship may constitute a stressor and impair athletes’ well-being. Congruently, past research (e.g., Fletcher & Hanton, 2003) has documented the coach being an often reported stressor among competitive athletes. The results of the present study now indicate that the coach might also play a role in relation to athletes’ precompetitive emotional states. Considering the behaviour of the coach in this team in detail, several issues were reported as having lead to emotions that were later appraised as debilitative to performance. For example, it is concurrent with previous literature (Anshel, Jamieson, & Raviv, 2001) that players report high-level of threat if a coach behaves highly critically towards them. Moreover, the fact that this team’s coach is married to the team captain constitute an unusual relationship within the team (Jowett & Meek, 2000), but appears to have never been openly addressed and therefore lead to tension among the players concerning the coach’s decisions. The other main theme emerging from the results addresses the transition to elite status, something that every player striving for high-level performance in sports has to face sooner or later (Wylleman & Reints, 2010). Transitions in general are often found to be stressful for athletes, and more specifically when these concern their move from sub-elite to elite levels (Bruner, Munroe-Chandler, & Spink, 2008). Among the players we interviewed, one of the main concerns actually was to reconcile the increasing demands of their sport with the other aspects of their lives (e.g., family, work, school). These findings are in line with Stambulova (2010), who reported the main challenge for athletes during these career transitions is to cope with a variety of demands related to practice, competition, communication, and their life in general. Our main concern was to report both the athletes’ and the coach’s point of view as fairly as possible. In the discussion, we tried to address these issues so both sides could find a benefit to our analysis. However, even if we tried to limit this influence by further reading of the data and by discussion between authors, we acknowledge that the background information gathered from the coach might have played a role in the interpretation of the data. In summary, in the second study we showed that even if the specific appraisals of these factors might differ across individuals, the coach and the transition to elite status can be considered common stressors of the particular women’s handball team investigated and hence antecedents of those emotions that are later appraised as debilitative towards the upcoming performance (cf. Fig. 1). 3. General discussion By focusing in depth on one specific team, our aim in this paper was to further understand debilitative precompetitive emotions in their consequences and causes. Study 1 showed that debilitative precompetitive emotions were linked negatively with CE, as well as with subjective individual performance and objective team performance. The link between debilitative precompetitive emotions and CE was still significant after controlling for objective performance. Associating emotion functionality, assessed prior to the game, with CE, assessed after the game, and showing that this relationship was not dependent on the team’s performance, constitutes a step forward in explaining how appraisals of emotion functionality might influence performance. Study 2 showed that even across individual players on one team, factors like the coach and his behaviour, as well as the transition to elite status were perceived as common noncompetitive stressors that lead athletes to experience precompetitive emotions that they later appraise as debilitative to performance and that, as a consequence, impair coping and performance. From a methodological standpoint, it appears the chosen qualitative in depth analysis was particularly apt to uncover the particular antecedents of debilitative precompetitive emotions present in a specific team. From an applied perspective, a similar approach might help identify such stressors in any given team and consequently help tailor an intervention specifically targeting these issues rather than applying standard stress management methods. Similarly, a psychological skills training pro-

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gram aimed at optimizing precompetitive emotional states should not only focus on the competition at hand, but should also consider the noncompetitive environment. 4. Conclusion The combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches emerged as particularly useful during this research project. However, due to the case study-like nature of this research, we cannot generalize these findings to other athletes or teams. Still, at the theoretical level we would like to highlight that our analyses shed further light on the relationships among antecedents and consequences of debilitative precompetitive emotions (see Fig. 1), and researchers are encouraged to use such multimethodological approach when aiming to understand those phenomena in the future. Disclosure of interest The authors declare that they have no competing interest. References Anshel, M. H. (1996). Coping styles among adolescent competitive athletes. 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