What is stress?

        Stress in sport is an important factor for sportspeople to overcome because at times the competitions and matches can become too much for them.

Stress is known in a person when they form tension mentally and physically and have gone into a state of strain or suspense. Stress is anything that can cause a person react invariably, however each person responds differently to stress.

        However stress should not be deemed as a negative aspect of life, this is because it can provide sportspeople the mental and physical energy to motivate them to go out and perform.

Types of Stress

        There are two types of stress these are known as Eustress and Distress.

Eustress is known as the better stress, the stress which provides us mental and physical energy which leads us in a direction to move forward and get things done. It also provides us with a sense of fulfilment and happiness when being challenged mentally or physically.

        For a footballer Eustress can be felt in an international game when they are singing the national anthem with a stadium full of 70,000 fans chanting it with them, this can provide the footballers great fulfilment knowing and having that feeling of all of those people behind them to do well.

        Eustress in footballers can be felt right throughout all levels when their team scores a goal, this provides all of the teams players a sense of direction and energy to go on and win the game, this Eustress is necessary for footballers as this is what motivates players to win games the feeling of fulfilment.

        Distress is known as the bad stress it can provide performers with a sense of discomfort, which can then lead to illnesses and even worse depression. Distress is at the state when the performer or person has come to the point when they have too much stress, for a long period of time distress can seriously damage a person’s health by causing coronary heart diseases, high blood pressure, ulcers, impotence, substance addiction, mental health problems even to the extent of suicidal tendencies.

Distress in football can seriously affect their confidence within the game and their performance however it does depend on the experience, the importance of the competition, the quality of the opposition and the size of the crowds.

        All of this can affect the footballer by causing them to “freeze” in the game, this is known as when a footballer avoids receiving the ball, dribbling the ball, striking the ball and just general interaction in play. This is because when footballers are stressed they do not have the motivation or fulfilment to perform or carry out the desired actions.

Responses to Stress

        With stress there are three types of responses an individual can carry out, these are:

  • Physiological
  • Psychological
  • Behavioural

Physiological Responses

In psychology physiological responses to stress relate to how an individual reacts to stress, a common quote used is the “fight or flight” response, so if an individual feels someone is behind them when walking home in the dark, our body will react by initiating the “fight or flight responses” The responses could either be to run as fast as possible to get home or to turn around and investigate what is going on behind them.

Symptoms of stress can be:

  • An increased heart rate
  • Faster breathing
  • Headaches
  • Butterflies in the stomach
  • Tightness of chest and pains.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Continuous colds and illnesses.
  • Muscular aches and strains.
  • Persistent sweating.
  • Skin irritations or infections.

For a sports performer this could relate to them when they are entering a intensifying moment in their game like a penalty kick; they begin to sweat more, their heart rate increases, which could increase their blood pressure making their muscles tense up. The players who opt not to take a penalty this is their physiological response to this stress by choosing to walk away and not take a penalty, the players who choose to take a penalty are physiologically responding to the stress by opting to arise above the stress of taking a penalty, however they could still go through the symptoms of stress which may be the reason why some players miss scoring penalties.

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Psychological Responses

        This is a response caused by the individual interpreting the stressor after recognising it, for an example when an individual is about to sit an important exam they’ll begin to get butterflies and nervous they then interpret exams as something they don’t like or something which the individual is not good at and doesn’t provide a positive feeling.

        However if the same questions in the exam were given to the individual in a non exam environment, that individual would probably feel less tense and able to produce better results.

Symptoms for psychological responses to stress are:


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