Coping with stress is an important element in effective functioning at the elite level in sports, and fear of failure (FF) is an example of a stressor that athletes experience. Three issues underpin the present preliminary study. First, the prevalence of problems attributed to FF in achievement settings. Second, sport is a popular and significant achievement domain for children and adolescents. Third, there is a lack of research on FF in sport among this population. Therefore, the objectives of the study were to examine the effects of FF on young athletes and to find out their coping responses to the effects of FF. Interviews were conducted individually with nine young elite athletes (5 males, 4 females; ages 14–17 years). It was inferred from the data that FF affected the athletes’ well-being, interpersonal behavior, sport performance, and schoolwork. The athletes employed a combination of problem-focused, emotion-focused, and avoidance-focused coping strategies, with avoidance strategies being the most frequently reported.
Sam S. Sagar, David Lavallee, and Christopher M. Spray
Michael W. Passer
The competitive trait anxiety of 316 male youth soccer participants was assessed prior to the start of a season. Players' performance expectancies, anticipated affective reactions to success-failure, expectations of criticism for failure, performance- and evaluation-related worries, perceived competence, and self-esteem also were recorded. The responses of players in the upper (n = 79) and lower (n = 84) competitive trait-anxiety quartiles indicated that, as predicted, high-anxious players expected to play less well and experience greater shame, upset, and more frequent criticism from parents and coaches in the event of poor performance. Even when these expectancies were controlled, high-anxious players worried more frequently than low-anxious players about not playing well, losing, and being evaluated by parents, coaches, and teammates. No between-group differences existed in players' self-perceived athletic competence or in their ability as rated by coaches. Competitive trait anxiety was weakly related to self-esteem. The findings support the general hypothesis that fear of failure and fear of evaluation are significant sources of threat in competitive-trait-anxious children.
Sam S. Sagar and Joachim Stoeber
This study investigated how aspects of perfectionism in athletes (N = 388) related to the fears of failure proposed by Conroy et al. (2002), and how perfectionism and fears of failure predicted positive and negative affect after imagined success and failure in sports competitions. Results showed that perfectionistic personal standards showed a negative relationship with fear of experiencing shame and embarrassment and a positive relationship with positive affect after success, whereas perfectionistic concern over mistakes and perceived parental pressure showed a positive relationship with fear of experiencing shame and embarrassment and with negative affect after failure. Moreover, fear of experiencing shame and embarrassment fully mediated the relationship between perfectionistic concern and negative affect and between coach pressure and negative affect. The findings demonstrate that fear of experiencing shame and embarrassment is central in the relationship between perfectionism and fear of failure, and that perfectionistic concern about mistakes and perceived coach pressure are aspects of perfectionism that predict fear of experiencing shame and embarrassment and negative affect after failure.
Miranda P. Kaye, David E. Conroy, and Angela M. Fifer
This study compared the fear of failure and perfectionism constructs by analyzing their latent structure as well as their motivational antecedents and consequences. College students (N = 372) enrolled in physical activity classes completed a battery of questionnaires assessing fear of failure, perfectionism, approach and avoidance motivational temperaments, and 2 × 2 achievement goals. Structural equation modeling revealed that responses were best summarized by two correlated factors representing perfectionistic strivings and concerns. Avoidance temperament was positively associated with both forms of incompetence avoidance; however, approach temperament was positively related only to perfectionist strivings. Perfectionistic concerns were positively related to the adoption of mastery-avoidance and performance-avoidance goals and negatively related to the adoption of mastery-approach goals. Perfectionistic strivings were positively associated with both approach goals. These results indicate that strivings to avoid incompetence can be distinguished with respect to their latent structure, temperamental antecedents, and motivational consequences.
Daniel F. Gucciardi, John Mahoney, Geoffrey Jalleh, Robert J. Donovan, and Jarred Parkes
Although there is an emerging body of research that has examined perfectionistic clusters in the general population, few studies have explored such profiles in athlete samples. The purposes of this research were to explore perfectionistic profiles within a sample of elite athletes and the differences between them on key motivational variables. A sample of 423 elite athletes (179 males, 244 females) aged between 14 and 66 years (M = 25.64; SD = 8.57) from a variety of team (e.g., rowing, hockey, baseball, rugby) and individual sports (e.g., cycling, athletics, triathlon, gymnastics) completed a multisection questionnaire including measures of sport perfectionism, motivation regulation, achievement goals, and fear of failure. Cluster analyses revealed the existence of three perfectionism profiles, namely, nonperfectionists, maladaptive perfectionists, and adaptive perfectionists. Subsequent analyses generally supported the robustness of these perfectionism profiles in terms of differential motivational orientations (achievement goals, fear of failure, and motivation regulation) in hypothesized directions. Overall, the differences in motivational orientations between the three clusters supported a categorical conceptualization of perfectionism.
Amber D. Mosewich, Kent C. Kowalski, Catherine M. Sabiston, Whitney A. Sedgwick, and Jessica L. Tracy
Self-compassion has demonstrated many psychological benefits (Neff, 2009). In an effort to explore self-compassion as a potential resource for young women athletes, we explored relations among self-compassion, proneness to self-conscious emotions (i.e., shame, guilt-free shame, guilt, shame-free guilt, authentic pride, and hubristic pride), and potentially unhealthy self-evaluative thoughts and behaviors (i.e., social physique anxiety, obligatory exercise, objectified body consciousness, fear of failure, and fear of negative evaluation). Young women athletes (N = 151; M age = 15.1 years) participated in this study. Self-compassion was negatively related to shame proneness, guilt-free shame proneness, social physique anxiety, objectified body consciousness, fear of failure, and fear of negative evaluation. In support of theoretical propositions, self-compassion explained variance beyond self-esteem on shame proneness, guilt-free shame proneness, shame-free guilt proneness, objectified body consciousness, fear of failure, and fear of negative evaluation. Results suggest that, in addition to self-esteem promotion, self-compassion development may be beneficial in cultivating positive sport experiences for young women.
Daniel Gould, Thelma Horn, and Janie Spreemann
This investigation was designed to assess perceived sources of stress in junior elite wrestlers. Wrestlers (N = 458) participating in the United States Wrestling Federation Junior National Championships rated the frequency with which they typically experienced 33 sources of stress before competitions. Descriptive statistics revealed that performing up to one's ability, improving on one's last performance, participating in championship meets, not wrestling well, and losing were identified as major sources of stress. Factor analytic results showed that the 33 sources of stress loaded on three factors, including: fear of failure-feelings of inadequacy, external control-guilt, and social evaluation. Multiple regression analyses revealed that both wrestler trait anxiety and years of wrestling experience were significant predictors of the fear of failure-feelings of inadequacy factor, while trait anxiety also was found to be a significant predictor of the social evaluation factor. Although both the most and least frequently experienced sources of stress were identified in this investigation, it was concluded that large individual differences existed in perceived sources of stress. In addition, the need for replicating and extending these findings with other samples was emphasized.
Paul Wylleman, Paul De Knop, Joke Delhoux, and Yves Vanden Auweele
Academic background, consultation processes, and training and support were assessed with semistructured interviews among 18 sport psychology consultants (60% of total membership) of the Flemish Society of Sport Psychology. A total of 61% of consultants were trained as clinical psychologists, most with limited sport psychology background. Assessments revealed that interpersonal relationships skills and communication (63%) and fear of failure (55%) were the most common concerns, whereas stress management (54%), enhancement of relationship and communication skills (31%), and visualization and goal setting (31%) were used in interventions. Recommendations for enhancing the development of applied sport psychology in Flanders include specialization in sport psychology at the academic level, continued sport psychology consultation training, and a better coordination between sport psychology consultants and the world of sports.
David E. Conroy
The multidimensional, hierarchical model of fear of failure (FF) has gained popularity in sport; however, the unique meaning of lower-order fears of failing in previous research may have been obscured by the hierarchical structure of the model. The present research aimed to establish the unique psychological meaning of lower-order fears of failing. Samples of recreational athletes (N = 440) and female varsity intercollegiate track and field athletes (N = 71) completed measures of multidimensional fears of failing, self-talk while failing, 2 × 2 achievement goals, and contextual motivation. Partial correlation analyses revealed unique patterns of relationships for each lower-order FF score with the external measures of self-talk, achievement goals, and contextual motivation. Fears of experiencing shame and embarrassment appeared to be at the heart of dysfunctional aspects of FF, whereas fears of having an uncertain future evidenced some uniquely adaptive components.
Joe D. Willis
Sport-specific motive scales were developed for power, achievement, and fear-of failure. Pilot testing resulted in 80 Likert-type items for the three scales, which were administered to 764 males and 253 females. Subjects were junior high to college level athletes representing 17 sports and 22 schools or colleges. Item analysis further reduced the number of items to 40. Alpha reliabilities for the three scales ranged from .76 to .78, whereas test-retest reliabilities after 8 weeks were .69 to .75. Evidence of content, criterion-related, and construct validity was presented. All scales were found to be relatively free of social desirability bias. It was concluded that the use of the scales was justified when confined to the study of groups and for research purposes only.