Stressors and Expected Performance of Soccer Athletes: The Role of Sport Confidence and Cognitive Appraisal

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Catarina Morais Research Centre for Human Development, Faculty of Education and Psychology, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Porto, Portugal

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Clara Simães School of Nursing, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal
Health Sciences Research Unit: Nursing (UICISA: E), Nursing School of Coimbra (ESEnfC), Coimbra, Portugal

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A. Rui Gomes Psychology Research Centre, School of Psychology, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal

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Beatriz M. Gonçalves Psychology Research Centre, School of Psychology, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal

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This study aimed to provide a framework for how athletes evaluate stress before a competition and how stress relates to cognitive appraisal, sport confidence, and expectations of performance. Participants were 327 youth male athletes, aged 15–19 years (M = 16.90; SD = 1.00), who competed in the Portuguese National Football League and completed a questionnaire 24–48 hr before their match, using the critical incident methodology. Results revealed that opponents were the main source of stress for athletes and that the more athletes stress about their opponents, the more they tend to perceive the situation as threatening (and less challenging), the lower their perceptions of coping and sport confidence which, in turn, predicted lower expectations of individual and collective performance. In sum, perceiving the stressful situation as either a challenge or a threat predicts young athletes’ sport confidence and, consequently, expected performance when dealing with stressful competitive situations.

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