Year

1994

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Department of Psychology

Abstract

The purposes of this study were to examine sources of stress in sport and investigate the ways in which psychological dispositions and situational appraisals influence the cognitive and behavioural responses of basketball referees and players to acute stress. The study consisted of three parts. In study I, 64 Australian and 75 Greek basketball referees completed a survey to ascertain the sources of acute stress experienced during a game. Results showed cross-cultural and age differences in the referees' perceived intensity of stress. Higher degrees of stress were experienced by adolescent compared to adult Australian referees, and by Australian compared to Greek referees. Among the most stressful incidents during officiating for all groups were "Making a Mistake, Threats of Physical Abuse, Experiencing an Injury, Presence of My Supervisor," and "Verbal Abuse by Coaches."

Study II examined the approach and avoidance coping responses of basketball referees during three acute stress situations (i.e., Making a Mistake, Aggressive Reactions by Coaches or Players, and Presence of Important Others) as identified in study I. The consistency of the subjects' coping responses across the three stressful situations as a function of their appraisals and selected psychological dispositions was also examined. Psychological inventories administered to 133 Australian and 163 Greek officials measured self-esteem, optimism, and general coping style. In addition, a situation-specific Coping Style Inventory (CSI) for acute stressors was developed for this study. Findings indicated that referees exhibited consistent coping styles across the selected situations. Significant cross-cultural differences were found in the referees' personal dispositions and coping responses, but not in their situational appraisals. Specifically, Greek referees scored higher than their Australian counterparts in monitoring and lower in blunting. Also, Australian basketball officials employed significantly more approach strategies than Greeks in all three stressful situations. Older referees reported higher than their younger counterparts. Gender differences were evident in the referees' perceptions of stress and in the use of avoidance coping. Female referees were significantly more stressed than males in the stressful situation "Aggressive Reactions by Coaches or Players." Male referees, as compared to females, used more avoidance coping when "Making a Mistake" and when "Experiencing Aggressive Reactions by Coaches or Players." The prediction of referees' coping behaviour based on their personal dispositions was moderate for approach and low for avoidance coping style, and increased significantly when situational appraisals were added to the regression equation. Specifically, personal dispositions explained 14% of the variance in approach coping responses of Australian referees and 23% for Greek, while situational appraisals added 8% and 12% for Australians and Greeks, respectively. Personal factors accounted for 11% of the variance in the avoidance coping responses of Australian referees and 5% for Greeks, while situational appraisals added 11% unique variance in the prediction of avoidance coping for Australian basketball referees, and 4% for Greeks

In study III, a similar psychological profile, which included comparisons between male and female, elite and non-elite subjects, was derived for 190 Australian basketball players. Results showed that basketball athletes varied their coping responses across situations. Significant gender differences were evident in subjects' personal dispositions, situational appraisals, and coping responses. Specifically, male basketball players reported higher self-esteem levels than females. At the non-elite level, male basketball players were more stressed than their female counterparts. Male players utilised significantly more approach coping strategies than female when "Missing a Lay-Up or an Easy Shot." The prediction of athletes' coping behaviour based on their personal dispositions was moderate for approach and low for avoidance coping style, but increased significantly when situational appraisals were added to the regression equation. Specifically, personal dispositions explained 7% of the variance in approach coping, while situational appraisals contributed 16%. On the other hand, personal dispositions accounted for 5% of the variance in players' avoidance coping responses, whereas situational appraisals accounted for 7%. Finally, perceived stress was positively correlated with approach and negatively with avoidance coping strategies. These findings suggest that cultural and individual differences exist in personal dispositions, situational appraisals, and coping styles of basketball players and referees. They also indicate that avoidance may be a more adaptive coping style than approach in reducing stress of sport participants. The study has implications for teaching sport participants cognitive and behavioural strategies to cope with acute stress more effectively. Future stress management programs should consider personal and situational characteristics in fostering the coping process in sport.

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