The influence of negative emotions such as anxiety on athletes’ preparation and performance has been studied extensively. The focus of this review is on more adaptive approaches to competition such as the experience of positive emotion and beneficial perceptions of emotion. Evidence on the antecedents and adaptive consequences of positive emotions is reviewed, and implications for research and practice in a sport context are suggested. We focus on the cognitive appraisal of challenge as a significant antecedent of both positive emotion and beneficial perceptions of emotion. A theoretical model of beneficial and harmful perceptions of emotion is presented which incorporates appraisals of challenge, coping expectancies, and valence (positive vs. negative) of emotion. Research that supports the model is reviewed, and implications for research, coaching, and training in the sport context are suggested.
The authors are with the School of Psychology, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Stuart Rd., Bedford Park, Adelaide 5001, South Australia.