Champ or Chump?: Challenge and Threat States During Pressurized Competition

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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The present research examined the immediate impact of challenge and threat states on golf performance in both real competition and a laboratory-based task. In Study 1, 199 experienced golfers reported their evaluations of competition demands and personal coping resources before a golf competition. Evaluating the competition as a challenge (i.e., sufficient resources to cope with demands) was associated with superior performance. In Study 2, 60 experienced golfers randomly received challenge or threat manipulation instructions and then performed a competitive golf-putting task. Challenge and threat states were successfully manipulated and the challenge group outperformed the threat group. Furthermore, the challenge group reported less anxiety, more facilitative interpretations of anxiety, less conscious processing, and displayed longer quiet eye durations. However, these variables failed to mediate the group–performance relationship. These studies demonstrate the importance of considering preperformance psychophysiological states when examining the influence of competitive pressure on motor performance.

Lee J. Moore, Mark R. Wilson, Samuel J. Vine, Adam H. Coussens, and Paul Freeman are with the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, St Luke’s Campus, Exeter, Devon, UK.