In the present article, we analyzed the role of self-control strength and state anxiety in sports performance. We tested the hypothesis that self-control strength and state anxiety interact in predicting sports performance on the basis of two studies, each using a different sports task (Study 1: performance in a basketball free throw task, N = 64; Study 2: performance in a dart task, N = 79). The patterns of results were as expected in both studies: Participants with depleted self-control strength performed worse in the specific tasks as their anxiety increased, whereas there was no significant relation for participants with fully available self-control strength. Furthermore, different degrees of available self-control strength did not predict performance in participants who were low in state anxiety, but did in participants who were high in state anxiety. Thus increasing self-control strength could reduce the negative anxiety effects in sports and improve athletes’ performance under pressure.
Chris Englert and Alex Bertrams are with the School of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, University of Mannheim, Germany.