Distractions and Coping Strategies of Elite Decathletes during Their Most Memorable Performances

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Gregory A. Dale Winthrop University

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The decathlon is a unique track and field event with a storied history in the annals of track and field. Yet, little has been written in the sport psychology literature about the decathlon and the experiences of its participants. The purpose of this study was to describe the experience of elite decathlon participants during their “most memorable performance.” Participants were seven decathletes who have competed at the national and international level. Each athlete had previously scored 8,000 points or more (the standard for excellence in the decathlon) in at least one competition. Because of its emphasis on the participant as the expert, phenomenological interviews were conducted with each participant and transcripts were content analyzed. Two major themes emerged from the interviews: (a) distractions and (b) coping strategies. These themes along with their corresponding subthemes are discussed in relation to other coping research in the sport psychology literature.

The author is with the Dept. of HPE at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC 29733.

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