Anxiety- Practical Implications from Research
Whilst anxiety may generally be seen as a negative emotion, there is increasing evidence to suggest that anxiety could actually enhance performance. Therefore, practitioners must remain sensitive to the individual athletes meaning of anxiety (i.e. does it help or hinder performance?) and where appropriate, encourage athletes to become more willing to be anxious, accepting it as a natural part of competition and an indicator that they’re doing something of importance to them. This may begin to enhance the athlete’s feelings of control and ultimately their ability to cope with and use anxiety to aid performance. Additionally, key individuals in the athlete’s environment such as coaches, parents, sport psychologists and other role models could help to reinforce these values.
Furthermore, practitioners could also work closely with coaching, management staff and other key individuals to help create an environment that offers greater opportunity for mastery of skills rather than solely focused on winning. Whilst this may be difficult in higher levels of sport, the creative practitioner may be able to subtly develop some of the themes of a mastery climate whilst acknowledging the key role of results.
By being aware of the meaning of anxiety to the athlete and also the impact of the environment on anxiety, practitioners may begin to provide a more holistic service rather than one solely concerned with anxiety regulation or reduction through mental skills training.
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