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Benjamin James and David Collins

A qualitative investigation was conducted to identify sources of stress and the self-presentational mechanism that may underpin them during competition. Twenty athletes described factors they perceived as stressful during competition. Content analysis revealed eight general sources of stress, including significant others, competitive anxiety and doubts, perceived readiness, and the nature of the competition (e.g., importance). Two thirds (67.3%) of all stress sources appeared to heighten the athletes’ need to present themselves in a favorable way to the audience. Factors that increased perceived likelihood of poor personal performance lowered the athletes’ ability to convey a desired image to their audience. Social evaluation and self-presentation was also identified as a general source of stress in its own right. These findings suggest that (a) these athletes were sensitive about the impressions people form of them during competition, and (b) stress responses maybe triggered by factors that primarily influence the self-presentational implications of performance.