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The relationship between psychological skills usage and competitive anxiety responses

journal contribution
posted on 06.10.2016 by David Fletcher, Sheldon M. Hanton
OBJECTIVES. To investigate equivocal findings within the literature addressing the relationship between competitive anxiety responses and psychological skills. Intensity (i.e. level) and direction (i.e. interpretation of intensity as facilitative or debilitative) dimensions of competitive state anxiety and self-confidence were examined in performers with different levels of psychological skills usage. DESIGN. Cross-sectional design assessing psychological constructs during competition. The independent variable was psychological skill usage (“high” and “low” groups) and dependent variables were competitive. METHOD. Non-elite competitive swimmers (N=114) completed a modified version of the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (CSAI-2) which examined both intensity and direction dimensions prior to racing. Following the event these participants completed the Test of Performance Strategies (TOPS) which measures psychological skills usage. Based on the TOPS scores the swimmers were dichotomised using post hoc median-split into high and low usage groups for certain psychological skills. RESULTS. MANOVAs revealed significant differences in the CSAI-2 scores between the high and low usage groups for the skills of relaxation, self-talk and imagery. ANOVAs indicated significant differences on all CSAI-2 subscales for relaxation groups, and differences on cognitive intensity, somatic direction and self-confidence for self-talk groups, and self-confidence for the imagery groups. CONCLUSIONS. Non-elite swimmers, in contrast with previous research examining elite swimmers (Hanton, S. & Jones, G. (1999a). The acquisition and development of cognitive skills and strategies: I. Making the butterflies fly in formation. The Sport Psychologist, 13, 1–21), primarily use relaxation strategies to reduce and interpret their anxiety intensity levels as facilitative, relying minimally on other psychological skills.


This research was supported by funding from the Sports Science Department of the Amateur Swimming Federation of Great Britain (ASFGB).



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Published in

Psychology of Sport and Exercise






89 - 101


FLETCHER, D. and HANTON, S., 2001. The relationship between psychological skills usage and competitive anxiety responses. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 2 (2), pp.89-101.


© Elsevier


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