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Gender differences in coping with endurance sport stress: are men from mars and women from venus?

Participation in extreme endurance events such as marathons and ironman-length triathlons has the potential to place endurance athletes under intense physical and psychological stress. Being able to effectively cope with these unique stressors is an important part of success for endurance performers. Sport psychology researchers have begun to examine how athletes appraise and cope with stressful demands across a variety of sports (Crocker, 1992; Crocker & Graham, 1995; Giaccobi & Weinberg, 2000, Hammermeister & Burton, 2001; Holt & Hogg, 2002; Ntoumanis & Biddle, 2000) even though information on the appraisal and coping patterns of endurance athletes remains limited (Hammermeister & Burton, 2001). Furthermore, a paucity of research exists investigating how gender moderates the stress process in endurance sports (Crocker & Graham, 1995). While gender may only be one of a number of individual difference variables that impacts how athletes cope with competitive stress (Anshel, 1996; Giacobbi & Weinberg, 2000; Ntoumanis & Biddle, 2000), it is important for sport psychologists to identify whether males and females appraise and cope with stress in similar ways. Moreover, if gender differences are apparent in either appraisal or coping patterns, coaches and other practitioners may use this information to expand athletes' coping repertoires to help maximize their ability to cope with competitive stress more successfully. Thus, the primary purpose of this manuscript will be to examine gender differences in appraisal and coping among endurance athletes.

Lazarus 'Model of Stress

Recently, researchers have begun to utilize Lazarus' (1991; 1999; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) cognitive-motivational-relational model as a conceptual framework for better identifying how athletes cope with competitive stress (Crocker & Graham, 1995; Hammermeister & Burton, 2001; Hoar, 1999). According to Lazarus' model, stress is a complex cognitive evaluation that includes three principal components: primary appraisal, secondary appraisal and coping resources. Primary appraisal is the process of assessing the impact of the situation on one's physical and psychological well-being. Although Lazarus' model specifies that there are four types of primary appraisal (i.e., benefit, challenge, threat, and harm/loss), threat is the primary appraisal category most directly related to competitive anxiety in sport (Lazarus, 1991, 1999). Thus, for this investigation into how endurance athletes appraise and cope with competitive stress and anxiety, primary appraisal was operationalized as threat.

Secondary appraisal, which normally, but not always, occurs temporally following primary appraisal, is the cognitive evaluation concerned with what the individual can do to handle appraised threat. Blame/credit, future expectancies, and perceived coping potential are the major components of secondary appraisal. Control over being able to reduce or eliminate the source of threat is highly related to all three of these components. Competitors must have control over sources of threat for blame/credit to be assigned. If control over the source of threat does exist, blame is generally assigned or credit taken. Coping potential is also highly related to control, with problem-focused coping (PFC) mechanisms used more frequently if control is high and emotion-focused coping (EFC) strategies predominatly employed when performers believe little can be done to reduce or eliminate the source of threat (Lazarus, 1999). With future expectancies, the future appears to be brightest when control is high and gloomiest when control declines. Consequently, the secondary appraisal component that most directly impacts competitive anxiety appears to be control over threat sources (Lazarus, 1999), prompting secondary appraisal to be operationalized as perceived control in this study.

Lazarus and Folkman (1984) defined coping as "a constantly changing cognitive and behavioral effort to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person" (p. 141). Lazarus and Folkman also make a distinction between problem-focused and emotion-focused coping. Problem-focused coping refers to cognitive and behavioral efforts used to minimize distress by reducing or eliminating the source of threat, whereas emotion-focused coping involves strategies used to regulate emotional arousal and distress, even if the source of threat remains unchanged. Lazarus (1999) emphasized that individuals need to have requisite coping skills and the ability to use them when needed. Moreover, he suggests that PFC and EFC strategies should both be used in most stressful situations, although PFC strategies should be most salient in situations in which athletes have higher levels of control over reducing the sources of threat, and EFC strategies should be used most prominently in low control situations.

Appraisal and Coping in Sport

Applied researchers have believed for many years (i.e., Orlick, 1986) that the development of cognitive skills to cope with competitive stressors is an important part of success in sport. Research has also confirmed that different types of stressors (e.g., making a physical performance error, dealing with officials' bad calls, or receiving unpleasant input from coaches or fans) required the use of different coping strategies (Matheny, Aycock, Pugh, Curlette, & Cannella, 1986). The sport literature also suggests that competitive sport performers prefer problem-focused coping strategies (e.g., planning, increasing effort, maintaining a task focus), rather than emotion-focused ones (e.g., relying on emotional social support, positive reinterpretation; Ntoumanis & Biddle, 2000). In a study of 377 athletes on a variety of sub-elite and elite teams, Crocker and Graham (1995) reported that competitive athletes found PFC strategies more effective than EFC strategies in dealing with performance challenges.

Furthermore, a significant portion of the sport coping literature supports the concept that different coping strategies should be employed to deal with different types of stressors (Gould, Eklund, & Jackson, 1993; Gould, Finch, & Jackson, 1993; Madden, Kirkby, & McDonald, 1989; Madden, Summers, & Brown, 1990) or across different types of competitive events (Anshel, 1996; Bouffard & Crocker, 1992; Crocker & Isaak, 1997; Hoar, 1999; Ryska, 1993; Williams & Krane, 1992). For example, Gould and his colleagues (1993) interviewed 20 members of the 1988 U.S. Olympic wrestling team in an attempt to assess their efforts to cope with stress experienced during the Seoul Olympics. Wrestlers in this study reported facing a great deal of adversity throughout the Olympic Games and employed a variety of coping strategies to deal with those problems, including: (a) thought control strategies (i.e., blocking distraction, perspective taking, positive thinking, coping thoughts and prayer); (b) task focusing strategies (i.e., narrow, more immediate focus and concentration on goals); (c) behavioral-based strategies (i.e., changing or controlling the environment and following a set routine); and (d) emotional control strategies (i.e., arousal control and visualization). These findings suggest that coping efforts are not limited to particular strategies nor single approaches to dealing with a particular stressor, but rather coping is a dynamic, complex process involving any number of strategies that are often used in combination. A subsequent study (Gould, Finch, et al., 1993) drew similar conclusions about the coping strategies of national champion figure skaters, although none of those studies independently measured appraisal along with coping.

Gender Differences in Appraisal and Coping

While the importance of individual difference variables has been highlighted in previous studies, few conclusions can be gleaned from this body of research regarding the impact of gender on the appraisal or coping process. In one of the few studies examining gender effects in the realm of competitive anxiety, Krane and Williams (1994) confirmed gender differences on the CSAI-2 for somatic anxiety and self-confidence, but not cognitive anxiety. However, most sport-related research on coping and appraisal has not assessed gender effects (e.g., Bouffard & Crocker, 1992; Crocker, 1992; Madden, Summers, & Brown, 1990), even though identification of gender differences could dramatically impact how sport psychologists go about teaching coping skills to athletes. In one of the few sport studies, Madden, et al. (1989) found that a small sample of female cross-country runners used more emotion-focused coping strategies than did their male counterparts. Moreover, research using community populations has shown that women are more likely to seek social support and to use emotion-focused coping strategies than are men (Ptacek, Smith, & Zanas, 1992; Stone & Neale, 1984).

These studies are consistent with socialization models that predict that sex role stereotypes and role expectations predispose men and women to respond differently to stress (Ptacek et al., 1992). Women are socialized to predominantly use EFC strategies to deal with stress, whereas men are taught to utilize more PFC approaches to coping (Crocker & Graham, 1995). Crocker and Graham (1995) did find some evidence that males and females cope differently with performance related stress. In their study, females reported higher use of the EFC strategy, seeking social support, even though no support was found for the hypothesis that males would use higher levels of problem-focused coping. One difficulty in drawing conclusions from these data was the failure to have the athletes in this study report how they coped with a common performance stressor. Without a single competitive event as a common focus producing a consistent level of performance stress, it is difficult to evaluate if differences in coping are due to gender differences or to differences in type or amount of reported stress.

The question regarding whether men and women cope with stress in similar ways remains largely unanswered. Thus, the purpose of this investigation was to assess whether male and female endurance athletes exhibit differential appraisal (e.g., perceived threat and control) and coping profiles. The exact hypotheses to be tested include: (a) males and females will differ on perceptions of both cognitive and somatic anxiety, (b) gender differences will be evident on primary appraisal variables, (c) males and females will perceive secondary appraisal variables differently, and (d) gender differences will be demonstrated on how performers cope with competitive stress.

Method

Participants

In order to establish gender differences in the appraisal and coping process for endurance athletes, a broad sample of endurance sport performers was identified, including: 184 triathletes, 69 distance runners, and 65 cyclists. The mean age for men in the total sample was 33.8 years (SD = 9.9) and 36.9 years (SD = 8.0) for women.

The triathlon sample included 114 athletes who competed in a major ironman-length (i.e., 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle, 26.2-mile run) triathlon and 70 athletes who competed in a major half-ironman (i.e., 1.2-mile swim, 56 mile-cycle, 13.1-mile run) triathlon, both held in the Pacific Northwest. The triathlete sample was composed of 153 males and 31 females, with ages ranging from 20 to 66 years and a mean age of 35 years (SD=8.59). The triathletes' skill level ranged from professional athletes (i.e., top 10 finishers) to mid-pack, age-group competitors. The sample of distance runners was comprised of 69 runners who competed in marathon (i.e., 26.2 miles) or half-marathon (i.e., 13.1 miles) races in the Pacific Northwest. The distance runners sampled included 49 males and 20 females, with a mean age of 38 years (SD=8.86). Runners ranged in skill level from elite athletes (i.e., top 10 finishers) to mid-pack, age-group competitors.

The cycling sample included 65 cyclists who participated in one of three separate United States Cycling Federation (USCF) sanctioned races in the Pacific Northwest with distances ranging from 25 to 66 miles. Cyclists included 60 males and 5 females whose ages ranged from 13 to 49 years, with a mean age of 28 years (SD=8.68), and they varied in skill from Category 1 (i.e., best in the U.S.) to Category 5 (i.e., entry-level) racers.

Although our sample accurately reflects the gender distribution in each endurance race, discrepant group sizes (262 males, 56 females) presented problems in making valid inferences about gender differences. Thus, prior to conducting any analyses to test for gender differences, equality of variance, skewness, and kurtosis were assessed for all dependent variables. These preliminary analyses revealed normal distributions for all dependent measures and equality of variance across male and female samples. Furthermore, a separate analysis (replicating all of the statistical tests in these results) was conducted with a randomly selected sub-sample of 56 males to go along with the 56 females comprising our sample. Results of this analysis with equal gender distribution mirrored the findings reported below with a male sample four times larger than our female sample. Thus, the entire sample was retained for further data analysis despite the widely discrepant sizes of gender groups.

Measures

Five instruments were used in this investigation to assess gender differences in coping profiles, including: the Endurance Athlete Demographic and Background Questionnaire, the Coping with Endurance Sports Questionnaire, the Perceived Threat to Competitive Endurance Goals Inventory, the Perceived Controllability of Competitive Endurance Goal Threats Inventory, and the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2.

Endurance Athlete Demographic and Background Questionnaire (EADBQ). The EADBQ was designed by Hammermeister and Burton (2001) to assess basic endurance athlete demographic information. The EADBQ uses an open-ended, completion format to assess sex, age, years of experience for that endurance sport, ability level, and previous personal performance in the same or a similar race (Hammermeister & Burton, 2001).

Coping with Endurance Sports Questionnaire (CESQ). Hammermeister and Burton (2001) developed the CESQ by modifying the COPE inventory (Carver, Scheier & Weintraub, 1989) to assess coping strategies that performers use to deal with potentially stressful situations in endurance events such as ironman triathlons. The COPE is comprised of five 4-item subscales measuring different aspects of problem-focused coping, five 4-item subscales assessing different dimensions of emotion-focused coping, and three 4-item subscales measuring maladaptive coping strategies. The COPE or its subscales have been used extensively in sport coping research and have demonstrated acceptable reliability and validity (e.g., Bouffard & Crocker, 1992; Crocker & Graham, 1995; Crocker & Isaak, 1997; Hoar, 1999).

In developing the CESQ, five of the COPE subscales (i.e., acceptance, restraint coping, behavioral disengagement, denial, and alcohol/drug use) were not included because they were thought inappropriate for this sample of athletes about to compete in rigorous endurance competitions. The remaining 40 items comprising 10 subscales were rewritten slightly to make them suitable for an endurance population while retaining as much of the conceptual intent of each item as possible. Finally, Hammermeister and Burton (2001) added two subscales to assess additional coping strategies (i.e., association/dissociation and confidence development) that were believed to be important for helping endurance athletes cope with stress. Participants responded to CESQ items on a four-point Likert format from I (didn't do at all) to 4 (did a lot).

Because of the exploratory nature of this study, alpha coefficients of greater than .60 were used as the standard for acceptability for individual subscale inclusion. Previous studies have identified the .6 standard as an acceptable level of reliability for subscales with fewer than 5 items (Amorose & Horn, 2000; Smith, Smoll, Schutz & Ptacek, 1995). Alpha coefficients for the CESQ ranged from .60 to .93 (see Table 1). One subscale, confidence development displayed an unacceptable alpha coefficient of less than .60 and was not retained for subsequent analyses.

Perceived Threat to Competitive Endurance Goals Inventory (PTCEGI). The PTCEGI was developed by Hammermeister and Burton (2001) to assess perceived threat, a key component of Lazarus' cognitive-motivational-relational model, particularly for threats posed to endurance athletes' competitive goals. The PTCEGI consists of three subscales, environmental threat, race strategy threat, and race performance threat (Hammermeister & Burton, 2001). All items had a common stem that asked "How much threat or endangerment do you perceive the following factors pose to your competitive goals?" Participants then rated each of the 13 items (e.g., "going out too hard and dying" or "weather too hot and/or dehydration problems") on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (almost none) to 7 (almost totally). Alpha coefficients for the PTCEGI subscales in this study ranged from .61 to .68 with a mean of.64.

Perceived Controllability of Competitive Endurance Goal Threats Inventory (PCCEGTI). The PCCEGTI was a companion instrument to the PTCEGI and consists of three subscales: low, moderate, and high control (Hammermeister & Burton, 2001). The PCCEGTI used the same 13 items as the PTCEGI with a different stem that allowed for assessment of perceived controllability. The PCCEGTI stem asked "How much control do you perceive you have over reducing or eliminating the threat that each of the following factors pose to your competitive goals?" Participants then rated the 13 items (e.g., "not pushing yourself hard enough and having too much left" or "losing your race focus or running someone else's race") on a similar 7-point

Likert scale used for the PTCEGI. One subscale, moderate control, displayed an alpha coefficient of .55 that was deemed unacceptable for use in further analyses, whereas the other two PCCGTI subscales had acceptable reliability for this study, with alpha coefficients ranging from .80 to .87.

Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (CSAI-2). The CSAI-2 is a reliable and valid sport-specific measure of cognitive and somatic state anxiety and state self-confidence in competitive situations (Martens, Burton, Vealey, Bump & Smith, 1990). The CSAI-2 is comprised of three 9-item subscales measuring cognitive state anxiety, somatic state anxiety, and state self-confidence. Each of the 27 items of the CSAI-2 is rated on a 4-point Likert format ranging from 1 (not at all) to 4 (very much so), yielding subscale scores that range from 9 to 36. Alpha coefficients for CSAI-2 subscales for this study ranged from .79 to .86.

Procedure

Race organizers and/or directors were contacted prior to the competitions to obtain data collection approval. Various strategies were used to solicit participants and collect baseline data. Both triathlons and running events had mandatory check-in one or more day's prior to competition. The full/half marathons and half-ironman triathlon registered competitors the day before the race in a large exposition hall where exhibitors marketed commercial products to the participating athletes, whereas the ironman triathlon held a two-day expo. Booths were set-up at each expo where participants were solicited and those endurance athletes who agreed to participate in the study signed informed consent statements and completed the CESQ PTCEGI, PCCEGTI, and EADBQ. Completion time for these scales was approximately 20-minutes. Participants were asked to complete the baseline questionnaires based on how they were currently feeling and coping as well as the coping strategies they expected to use leading up to and during the endurance competition. Two of the cycling events did not have check-in the day before the event, so baseline data for those races was collected as early race morning as possible. One of the cycling events had mandatory check-in the day before the race, and cyclists who agreed to participate in the study were then administered baseline questionnaires by the race director.

Anxiety is a negative consequence of stress, particularly threat appraisal, so the CSAI2 was administered pre-competitively to obtain a measure of pre-race stress for each endurance performer. Pre-competitive state anxiety data was collected using multiple methods. Halfironman triathlon participants were given the CSAI-2 race morning, either at the race headquarters or at the race start. Many competitors completed the CSAI-2 on a bus transporting them from the race headquarters to the race start. Other race performers were given the CSAI2 when they completed baseline data and were told to complete the form as close to race start as possible. Respondents returned completed CSAI-2 questionnaires at designated drop-off points near the race start. Competitors who forgot their CSAI-2 forms were able to fill out another copy at the drop-off sites race morning. CSAI-2 forms were completed 2.1 hours to 30 minutes prior to start of each race, with a mean completion time of 55 minutes prior to race start. Overall, 71% of all competitors who completed baseline questionnaires also completed the CSAI-2 prior to the race and were included in the final sample.

Results

Because age was found to have a significant effect on the stress variables of interest (Wilks' Lambda = .87, F (11,257) = 3.56; p = .0001), subsequent MANOVA analyses were conducted utilizing age as a covariate.

Four separate MANCOVA's were then conducted to examine gender differences on the key stress variables: competitive anxiety (somatic and cognitive), threat (environmental, race strategy, and race performance), control (high and low control), and coping (positive reinterpretation, religion, emotional social support, dissociation, humor, planning, instrumental social support, active coping, suppression, association, and venting emotion). Significant MANCOVA results were then followed up with a forced entry discriminant function analysis to determine which variables best discriminated between genders. Guidelines suggested by Pedhazur (1982) were employed to interpret the discriminant function coefficients.

Gender Results for Competitive State Anxiety and Threat.

Multivariate analysis of covariance results confirmed no gender differences in competitive anxiety, Wilks' Lambda = .99, F (2, 287) = 1.83;p =. 16, and MANCOVA results also revealed no significant main effects for gender on perceived threat, Wilks' Lambda = .99, F (3,302) = 1.30;p = .27.

Gender Results for Perceived Control

The multivariate main effect for perceived control was significant, Wilks' Lambda = .97, F(2, 301) = 5.18;p = .006, eta squared = .03. Post hoc discriminant function analysis results shown in Table 2 revealed that low control discriminated between genders better than did high control.

Gender Results for Perceived Coping.

Multivariate analysis of covariance results revealed significant main effects for coping resources, Wilks' Lambda = .89, F (11,276) = 3.23; p = .0004, eta squared =. 11. Post hoe discriminant function analysis results revealed that seven CESQ subscales, positive reinterpretation, emotional social support, dissociation, instrumental social support, suppression of competing activities, association, and venting emotions, best discriminated between males and females (see Table 1). Males used suppression of competing activities and association more than did females, whereas females employed positive reinterpretation, emotional social support, dissociation, instrumental social support, and venting emotions more than did males.

Discussion

This investigation was one of the first to explore how males and females appraise and cope with the stress of endurance competition using Lazarus' (1991; 1999; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) stress model as a conceptual framework. The model suggests that anxiety is a consequence of negative perceptions of stress, and stress is a complex cognitive evaluation that is the product of perceived threat, perceived control, and coping resources. Utilizing a highly ecologically valid sample, this investigation evaluated differences in how males and females appraised and coped with stressful encounters prior to endurance competitions when they reported similar levels of threat and responded with similar amounts of competitive anxiety.

Surprisingly, MANCOVA results revealed no gender differences on competitive state anxiety. This result differs from the previous findings of Krane and Williams (1994) who found gender differences in both somatic state anxiety and state self-confidence. Similarly, no gender differences were found in this sample for perceived threat, suggesting that males and females may have been threatened to a similar degree by the stress of endurance competition and responded with similar levels of state anxiety. Previous gender and coping research (Crocker & Graham, 1995; Ptacek et al., 1992) has been limited by the inability of researchers to identify a common stressor for all performers to ensure that competitors were experiencing comparable levels of performance stress, thus making conclusions regarding differences in coping problematic. In this study, both genders appear to be threatened to the same degree by similar types of threat, and exhibited similar levels of cognitive and somatic anxiety in response to those threats, making assessment of gender differences more straight forward.

Interestingly, MANCOVA results did show that gender differences do exist during the secondary appraisal process, with low control discriminating better between males and females than did high control. These findings suggest that, even though the types and degree of threat are similar for both genders, females perceive less control over environmental threats than do males. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the effect size for perceived control was low, suggesting that caution should used in generalizing these results to other situations and populations.

Most importantly, results confirmed differential coping profiles for males and females despite comparable threat and anxiety levels. Three EFC strategies, positive reinterpretation, emotional social support, and dissociation significantly discriminated between genders, with females using the three EFC strategies more than did male endurance performers. Three PFC techniques also demonstrated significant gender effects, with males reporting higher use of suppression of competing activities and association and lower use of instrumental social support than did female endurance competitors. One maladaptive coping strategy also significantly discriminated between males and females, with females reporting greater use of venting emotions compared to males.

The results of this study are consistent with socialization research (Ptacek, et al., 1992) which suggests that sex role stereotypes and role expectations predispose men and women to cope with stress differently. Women are socialized to use more emotion-focused coping strategies, particularly seeking emotional social support, while men are socially reinforced for using more problem-focused approaches to coping. This study provides clear support for that hypothesis, with the lone exception being females greater use of instrumental social support compared to their male counterparts. Although superficially this finding seems contradictory, instrumental and emotional social support were highly correlated in this sample (r = .62), suggesting that the two types of social support were probably viewed similarly by endurance participants, primarily as an EFC strategy.

Contribution to the Coping Literature

This investigation makes several unique contributions to the stress and coping literature. First, ecological validity for these results was high because data was collected on-site before major endurance competitions. Not only did this ensure higher levels of stress directed toward a common competitive stressor, but it promoted more accurate recall of the coping strategies employed. This protocol is a major advance over previous retrospective studies that asked participants to focus on any stressful competition over the past month(s) and report how they coped with that event.

Second, this investigation is one of the first in the competitive sport literature to concurrently measure appraisal and coping. Clearly, Lazarus model predicts a reciprocal relationship between appraisal and coping, confirming that accurate assessment of coping must take appraisal into consideration. Thus, results of previous research that has not concurrently measured appraisal are potentially contaminated because it is impossible to conclude whether coping differences identified in these studies are due to different coping predispositions or merely a reflection of performers' divergent appraisal of the situation.

Third, instruments were developed and employed in this study that seem to reliably and validly assess primary and secondary appraisal for endurance performers. Not only was this study one of the first to assess appraisal, but it did so with instruments designed to have ecological validity for endurance competitors.

Finally, these results further confirm that the Lazarus model provides a useful framework for investigating stress and coping with endurance sport populations. Gender differences do seem to moderate the coping process. Lazarus (1999) suggests that in low control situations, emotion-focused coping mechanisms should predominate, whereas in events where control is high, problem-focused coping should be preferred. The coping patterns of participants in this study mirrored these predictions closely, with females seemingly perceiving less control and using predominantly EFC strategies, whereas males believed they had more control and made greater use of PFC mechanisms.

Practical Implications

From a practical point of view, several interesting implications stand out for both researchers and practitioners. First, applied coping researchers should take note that differences may exist in how males and females deal with the stress of competitive endurance sport, suggesting that researchers should routinely check for gender differences. Furthermore, results of this study highlight the need for research that identifies the antecedents of gender differences. Previous research suggests that these differences may be due to the socialization process (Ptacek, et al., 1992). However, the exact antecedents remain poorly defined and warrant further attention. The impact these differences may have on other important psycho logical variables such as athletes' motivation to participate and perceived enjoyment also merit additional investigation.

The results examining the relationship between secondary appraisal and preferred coping strategies revealed that the Lazarus model is indeed an effective framework for understanding the stress and coping process. Practitioners should take note that perceptions about the controllability of specific threats could have important implications for athletes' use of coping strategies, with lower control situations prompting athletes to prefer use of EFC strategies and higher control situations allowing athletes to make greater use of PFC techniques (Lazarus, 1999). Females in this sample reported lower control over threat perceptions than did males, which may partially explain their preference for EFC strategies. Moreover, coaches and other practitioners may find it helpful to expand athletes' coping repertoires, particularly making greater use of PFC strategies with females and EFC techniques with males, to maximize performers ability to cope with competitive stress more successfully.

Study Limitations

Several limitations to this study should be addressed. First, while alpha reliability coefficients were adequate for all scales used in this exploratory study (i.e., most over .70) several of the subscales demonstrated lower alpha coefficients (i.e., .60 - .70), most notably for the planning, active coping, and suppression subscales. The low alpha coefficients suggest that internal consistency differences may partially account for gender effects. Future research should address the need for more reliable instrumentation in examining how males and females appraise and cope with competitive stress. Additionally, low eta squared values were found on several analyses, most prominently the MANCOVA assessing gender differences on control. Even in light of significant MANCOVA results, these values suggest that there may be intervening variables contributing to some of the gender differences found in control and coping. The use of more sophisticated instruments should aid future researchers in capturing more explained variance from this particular model. Finally, while accurately representing gender distribution across the events sampled, discrepant group sizes were evident in this study. Future studies should aim for more equal gender distributions to insure fewer problems related to making valid inferences about gender effects.

Conclusions In summary, this study is one of the first to report gender differences in coping with endurance stress in sport research. Utilizing a highly ecologically valid sample, this investigation showed male and female endurance athletes tend to appraise competitive stress in similar ways, yet their preferences for coping exhibited many differences. Readers, however, should note that these results are preliminary. Previous research (Anshel, 1996; Giacobbi & Weinberg, 2000; Ntoumanis & Biddle, 2000) suggests that there are likely a number of variables (e.g., personal, situational, environmental) that impact how individuals appraise and cope with competitive stress. While this investigation points strongly to gender being an important individual difference moderator of the coping process, it is likely one of many important factors that impact how athletes deal with stress in sport.
Table 1
Discriminant Analysis Results for Male versus Female
Endurance Athletes on Eleven COPE Subscales.

 Males Females
 (n=262) (n=56)
CESQ

Subscales M SD M SD

Emotion Focused

Positive Reinterpretation 16.0 3.5 16.8 3.0
Religion 8.5 4.5 9.3 5.0
Emotional Social Support 10.4 3.7 12.1 3.9
Dissociation 13.2 4.2 14.4 3.8
Humor 11.6 4.1 12.3 4.3

Problem Focused

Planning 13.9 2.7 13.6 3.0
Instrumental
Social Support 11.4 4.0 12.3 4.3
Active Coping 11.3 2.9 10.9 2.7
Suppression
Other Activities 13.5 3.1 12.8 3.5
Association 15.5 2.6 14.8 2.6

Maladaptive

Venting Emotions 8.9 3.1 10.6 3.3

CESQ Discriminant
 Alpha Structure
Subscales Coefficient Coefficient

Emotion Focused

Positive Reinterpretation .80 .30
Religion .93 .19
Emotional Social Support .81 .55
Dissociation .79 .32
Humor .82 .16

Problem Focused

Planning .65 -.19
Instrumental
Social Support .81 .40
Active Coping .60 -.13
Suppression
Other Activities .67 -.30
Association .71 -.34

Maladaptive

Venting Emotions .72 .59

Table 2
Discriminant Analysis Results for Male and Female
Endurance Athletes on Two Control Subscales.

 Males Females
 (n = 262) (n = 56) Discriminant
Control Structure
Subscales M SD M SD Coefficient

Low Control 32.02 11.5 37.80 9.0 .99
High Control 19.07 7.8 18.91 7.0 -.002


Authors' Acknowledgement

The authors wish to thank Dr. Scott Melville for his input on this manuscript.

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Jon Hammermeister, Ph.D.

Eastern Washington University

Damon Burton, Ph.D.

University of Idaho

Address Correspondence To: Jon Hammermeister, Ph.D., 200 PEB Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA 99004.
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Publication:Journal of Sport Behavior
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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