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Relationship between internal and external acute stressors and coping style.

Acute (short term) stress is a common experience in competitive sport; numerous interactions exist between the athlete's actions and environmental demands under highly competitive conditions. Sample acute stressors often experienced during the contest include receiving a penalty from the referee, arguing with a teammate, committing mental or physical mistakes, experiencing an injury, a cheating opponent, and being reprimanded by a coach (Anshel, Kim, Kim, Chang, Kook-Jin, & Eom, 2001; Crocker, 1991; Ntoumanis & Biddle, 1998). Excessive levels of stressors can have a negative impact on the athlete's physical, mental, and emotional well-being, as well as the situational outcome to which he or she is exposed (Anshel, Brown & Brown, 1993). As Selye's (1974) original conceptual stress framework indicates, stress can be either destructive (i.e., distress) which can harm health, general well-being, and performance, or constructive (i.e., eustress) which can promote health, general well-being, and performance. The athlete's conscious use of cognitive and behavioral techniques to best manage distress, not eustress, is called coping.

Coping with sport-related stress, particularly of an acute (short-term) nature, refers to a set of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses consciously applied to situations perceived by the person as stressful. Coping is also defined as an active and dynamic process concerned with a person's conscious attempt to reduce the intensity or frequency of a stimulus or event perceived as stressful or threatening under either sport or non-sport conditions (Lazarus, 1999).

Understanding the coping process in competitive sport has gained more popularity in recent years (Nicholls & Thelwell, 2010), although this area remains understudied. Results of existing published research has indicated that the failure to cope effectively with stressful events is negatively reflected in emotional, cognitive, and somatic factors (Dugsdale, Eklund, & Gordon, 2002), and that regardless of the athlete's skill level, poor coping skills increase muscular tension, distract the athlete from concentrating on the task at hand, and consequently, negatively affect sports performance (Anshel et al., 1993). Coping does not necessarily mean that the athlete's response to stress effective and can inhibit performance. For example, the failure to cope with acute stresses in a sport contest is negatively reflected in the emotional, mental, and physical status of an individual (Dugsdale et al., 2002). In addition, poor coping skills increase muscular tension and elevate negative affect (Anshel et al., 1993). Krohne and Hindel (1978) found that poor coping skills distract the athlete from concentrating on the task at hand. Thus, further investigation on the factors that contribute to effective coping is needed in competitive sport.

One way in which coping has been studied in the sport psychology and general psychology literature is the concept of coping style. Coping style is a disposition that characterizes an individual's tendency to respond in a predictable manner when confronted as a function with selected personal and situational conditions (e.g., Anshel, 1996; Endler & Parker, 1990; Roth & Cohen, 1986). According to Krohne (1996), "coping style reflects a consistent manner when dealing with stressors across time and situations" (p. 185). Thus, coping style is a disposition that reflects or characterizes an individual's tendency to respond in a predictable manner when confronted with certain types of situations, such as the degree of perceived stress intensity or perceived control (Hock, 1993).

Coping style has been studied under various conceptual frameworks. One particularly popular framework in sport psychology is approach and avoidance. Krohne (1993, 1996) and Roth and Cohen (1986), for instance, dichotomized coping style into approach, also called engagement, sensitization, vigilant, attention, or active coping, and avoidance, also called non-vigilant, repression/desensitization, passive, disengagement, or rejection. An approach coping style has behavioral and cognitive features. Examples of behavioral-approach coping includes initiating direct action, increasing one's efforts, and attempting to methodically initiate a coping strategy in a preplanned manner. Cognitive-approach coping may include mental strategies such as planning, pre-cueing, cueing, analyzing, and catastrophizing, the latter of which is not usually effective (Anshel & Sutarso, 2007).

Avoidance coping style, on the other hand, may also be sub-divided into behavioral and cognitive sub-dimensions. Behavioral-avoidance coping includes physically turning away from stressors, seeking social support from teammates or friends, or engaging in another task, sometimes related to achieving a particular goal. Cognitive-avoidance coping may include ignoring, discounting, or psychological distancing (Endler & Parker, 1990). Thus, it is important to examine approach and avoidance coping in sports contests because evidence shows that coping style is moderately consistent across different situations. The approach-avoidance coping framework has direct implications in sport.

An athlete, for instance, may cope with the stress of receiving a penalty, using either a "positive" strategy (e.g., seeking information about the penalty) or a negative one (e.g., arguing the call). The application of avoidance coping in sport is evident when an athlete who receives a penalty "discounts" the call by labeling it "unimportant" or concludes that the referee was wrong (Anshel & Wells, 2000 a,b; Gaudreau, Blondin, & Lapierre, 2002; Krohne & Hindel, 1978). The extent to which different sources of acute stress and situational factors mediate the athlete's coping style has received very limited attention by researchers. One such mediator is the athlete's cognitive appraisal.

Cognitive appraisal is a process that determines the ways in which an event, condition, or stimulus are perceived and the resources and coping options that are available (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). In competitive sport, situation-based factors shape athletes' cognitive appraisals and their subsequent choice of specific coping responses (Anshel, 2001). For example, Gan and Anshel (2006) reported that athletes can appraise a stressful situation either positively (e.g., "I am in control of the situation") or negatively (e.g., "I feel uneasy about what would happen next"). One form of cognitive appraisal that has been received extensive attention by researchers is called perceived controllability.

Perceived controllability, based on perceptual control theory (PCT, Power, 1973), is a self-regulation strategy to determine or to initiate behavior. Sport psychology researchers have examined perceived controllability based on different attributions of control. For instance, Gan and Anshel (2006) found that perceived controllability was a function of the extent to which an individual believes that the outcome of an event can be attributed to internal (personal) or external (situational/ environmental) sources. Bandura and Wood (1989) found that individuals who believe the environment is controllable on matters of importance to them are more motivated to exercise fully their personal efficacy and more likely experience success than people who perceive situations as largely uncontrollable.

Empirical evidence has shown that perceived controllability of a stressful situation influences an individual's choice of coping strategies and, thus, is a mediator of coping (Forsythe & Compas, 1987). For instance, athletes who perceive situations as controllable (e.g., pre-contest emotional control) use different types (i.e., emotion-focused) of coping strategies rather than problem-focused coping strategies. Athletes should elicit approach coping strategies (e.g., confrontation, problem-solving, positive reappraisal, accepting responsibility) when situations are perceived as highly controllable (e.g., dealing with making a physical error), whereas individuals tend to apply more avoidance coping strategies (e.g., ignoring, discounting, distancing, escaping, shifting attention, engaging in another task) when situations are perceived as uncontrollable (e.g., verbal abuse by opponents, as was found by Anshel and Wells (2000b). Anshel and Sutarso (2007) found that perceived controllability predicts athletes' coping responses in highly intensive sport situations.

The present study recognizes the need to more fully understand both the source of stress and the coping process in competitive sports. The conceptual framework in this study reflects the recommendations of Anshel and Sutarso (2007) and Nicholls, Polman, Levy, Taylor, and Cobley (2007) who state that further research is needed with athletes to examine the approach and avoidance coping framework in response to acute stress. In particular, this study examined the extent to which sources of acute stress in sport, classified as internal (i.e., stressful situation caused by the athlete) or external (i.e., stressful situation not caused by the athlete), and cognitive appraisal, using the perceived controllability framework, predict approach or avoidance coping style among Saudi Arabian college (elite) athletes.

One internal factor that mediates the coping process, that is, the athlete's response to experiencing stressful events is sources of acute stress (Anshel & Sutarso, 2007). For example, Anshel and Sutarso (2007) categorized sources of acute stress into performance-related stressors (e.g., receiving an unfair call from referee, playing in pain after being injured, receiving negative comments from others, an opponent cheated without being caught). Coach-related stressors, on the other hand, included arguing with coach, coach disapproval, and being treated unfairly by a coach. The current study, therefore, examined the extent to which sources of acute stress were classified as internal (i.e., stressful situation caused by athlete) or external (i.e., stressful situation caused by other than athlete), and the extent to which these stressors can predict the athlete's coping style, in this study, categorized as approach and avoidance.

Grouping sources of acute stress using common criteria will ostensibly improve generalizations about appropriate coping behavior following a group of stressors, provide a measure of behavior over a number of events, increase stability coefficients, predict coping responses, allow researchers and practitioners to design more effective coping interventions, and teach athletes to respond to similar categories of stressors (Anshel & Sutarso, 2007). Ostensibly, the result is to reduce the information load during the coping process. There has been a virtual absence of research in the sport coping area among athletes from Saudi Arabia.

The purposes of this descriptive study, then, were: (a) to identify sources of acute stress in sport contests, in which stressors were ranked based on their intensity level, (b) to identify sources of acute stress in sport contests, in which perceived stress were ranked based on the level of the athletes' perceived controllability, (c) to identify the athletes' coping style in response to these stressful situations, (d) to investigate the relationship between acute stress' intensity and athletes' perceived controllability to stress, (e) to determine the relationship between stress intensity of acute stress and coping style in sport contests, and (f) to investigate the overall relationship between stress intensity, perceived controllability, and coping style. Two hypotheses were tested. For internal stressors, perceived controllability would be negatively influenced by perceived intensity, and positively associated with the athletes' coping style, categorized as approach or avoidance. For external stressors, perceived intensity would be inversely related to perceived controllability, which in turn would predict coping style.

Method

Participants

Participants in the present study consisted of 378 male students enrolled in the College of Physical Education & Sport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Athletes who competed in this college program were considered at the elite level. Years of experience was not ascertained. Eight participants were excluded from this study due to incomplete data. The age of participants ranged from 17 to 32 yrs. (M= 21.25; SD = 2.75). Different sports were represented in this study, including soccer (63%). volleyball (20.8%), basketball (3.8%), handball (2.7%), track and field (2.2%), tennis (1.4%), table tennis (2.4%), swimming (1.1%), and "other" (2.7%).

Instrumentation

Survey development.

The survey ascertained the link between types of stressful events experienced by athletes during the contest, their cognitive appraisals of these stressors, and their coping style following these stressful events to predict the athletes' coping style as a function of the type of stressful event and the athletes' appraisal of that event. The inventory, called the Sport Stress Appraisal Coping Style Survey (SSACSS), included three sub-dimensions, sources of acute stress, cognitive appraisals, and coping style and was sent to coaches representing different sports in Saudi Arabia (S.A.).

Sources of acute stress. Items (n=22) were derived from validated questionnaires published in the sport psychology literature (e.g., Anshel & Delany, 2001; Anshel, Jamieson, & Raviv, 2003; Anshel & Sutarso, 2007). The data set consisted of players' ratings of 22 items based on the most frequent stressors that they experienced during sport competition.

As recommended by Anshel and Sutarso (2007), sources of acute stress were categorized as internal (7 items) and external (7 items). Internal stressors were defined as an event perceived as stressful that was caused by the athlete. Items for internal stressors included "made a technical mistake-foul (e.g., block opponent, push opponent)," "argued with teammate," "I had the chance to score, but I did not," "argued with referee," "made a strategic mistake (e.g., wrong pass, reacted poorly)," "exposed to physical injury," and "argued with opponent." External stressors, on the other hand, were defined as stressful situations caused by factors unrelated to the athlete's actions (e.g., spectators, teammates, opponents, referees, coaches) or by the environment (e.g., weather, equipment). Items for external stressor included "Received verbal abuse from spectators," "Opponent cheated but was not caught by referee," "The referee called an 'unfair' penalty against me," "Opponent dominated the game play," "The coach reprimanded me," "Teammate ignored me," and "Opponent scored goal or point." Both of these groups of items measured the athlete's perceived intensity of stressful situations using a Likert scale ranging from 1 (not at all stressed) to 5 (extremely stressed), respectively.

Appraisal items. The inventory consisted of 12 appraisal items that were adapted from selected previously validated scales that measured perceived controllability experienced during the sport contest among college age athletes. Perceived controllability was examined using a 5-level Likert type scale ranging from 1 (very low) to 5 (very high). These scales included the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS; Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983), the Perceived Control of Internal States Scale (PCOISS; Pallant, 2000), and the Perceived Control Questionnaire (PCQ; Skinner, 1995; 1996).

Coping items. Items (n= 22) measured coping styles used by athletes directly after experiencing stressful situations during sport contests. The items were adapted from previous validated sport coping scales, including the Coping Questionnaire (COPE; Carver, Scheier, & Weintraub, 1989), the Coping Style in Sport Survey (CSSS; Anshel et al., 2000), and the Coping Strategies Interview (CSI; Anshel, 2002). These coping style items were categorized as approach and avoidance, each sub-categorized to reflect the athlete's actions (behavior coping) and thoughts (cognitive coping), as identified by Anshel (2002), and later modified by Anshel and Sutarso (2007).

The coping items included two items for approach-behavior coping (i.e., "I performed an action," "I became aggressive"), two items for approach-cognitive strategy (i.e., "I focused on an appropriate solution," "I tried to analyze what went wrong"), two items for avoidance behavior coping strategy (i.e., "I walked away from the situation," "I reduced my effort in solving this situation"), and two items for avoidance cognitive coping strategies (i.e., "I did not take it seriously," "I remained calm"). Coping items were used to measure participants' coping style after appraising each stressor using a 5-level Likert scale ranging from1 (not at all like me) to 5 (always like me).

Inventory Translation Procedure

The SSACSS was translated into the Arabic language through a systematic procedure as described by Brislin, Lonner, and Thorndike (1973). First, the English language version of the inventory was translated into Arabic language by an expert translator living in the U.S. Next, both Arabic and English language versions were sent to an English professor, also located in the U.S., who was bilingual in English and Arabic. The researcher also provided assistance to the translator in clarifying some terms and concepts in the sport coping area. The English version of the SSACSS was reviewed by two professors who were familiar with the sport coping literature. Slight modifications in the inventory were completed that related to changes in wording. The researcher also tested both Arabic and English versions of the SSACSS to determine the length needed to complete the survey (M = 8 min).

To examine the ability of Arabic athletes to comprehend the survey, the SSACSS was distributed to 30 volunteer Arabic male student athletes attending several universities in the U.S. and who shared the same characteristics with the actual sample as skilled athletes competing in different sport types. The researcher asked the Arabic participants to recommend changes in word content or to note if any items did not apply to their sport. Internal consistency and reliability of the inventory were calculated. Cronbach's alphas indicated that stress items reached an acceptable reliability level (r = 0.76, standardized item alpha = 0.76), whereas controllability items were somewhat less reliable but acceptable (r = 0.69, standardized item alpha = 0.66). Reliability for the coping items was acceptable (r = 0.74, standardized item alpha = 0.73).

Procedure

Each participant received a package that included a cover letter, consent form, a demographic questionnaire, and the SSACSS. This package was sent to the Research Center at the College of Physical Education & Sport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (S. A.) where it was administered by a faculty member. The SSACSS assessed sources of acute stress, appraisals, and coping styles among college student athletes which they commonly experienced during the sports contest in S.A. All students volunteered for the study and were informed that they could withdraw from completing the inventory without penalty. The IRBs from two universities located in S.A. and in the southeastern U.S., respectively, approved this study.

Participants rated seven items of stressful situations based on their perceived stress intensity experienced during contest. For example, two stressors were rated at the highest perceived stress intensity, "exposed to physical injury" and "argued with referee." An additional two items were rated as the lowest perceived stress intensity level, "made a technical mistake/foul" and "made a strategic mistake."

Six cognitive appraisal items were also rated by athletes based on their perceived controllability (PC). Highest rated items were "I felt helplessness on my physical ability" and "I felt disturbed in my thoughts." The lowest controllable items were "I felt capable to control my physical reactions" and "I felt capable of organizing my thoughts." Cognitive appraisals of perceived controllability for external stressors were computed based on the perceived controllability level of the stressors. Highest perceived controllability items were "I felt capable to organize my thoughts," and "I felt capable to keep my stressful feeling under control." The lowest controllable perceived stressors were "I felt nervous and didn't know what to do" and "I felt helplessness about my physical ability."

For coping style, top rated items indicated that athletes employed high approach/low avoidance coping (e.g., "I performed an action," "I focused on an appropriate solution"). Athletes also applied low approach/high avoidance coping (e.g., "I became aggressive," "I walked away from the situation") in response to the internal source of stress model. For external sources of acute stress (see Table 2 for descriptive statistics), the athletes rated "teammate ignored me," and "the referee called an 'unfair' penalty against me" as the most intense perceived stressors. The least perceived intense stressors were "received verbal abuse from spectators" and "the coach reprimanded me."

Results

Inventory Psychometrics

Cronbach's alpha determined item consistency for the SSACSS. Alphas for internal stressors were .75 for perceived intensity, .74 for perceived controllability, .74 and .78 for approach and avoidance coping styles, respectively, and .76 for external stressors. Alphas for external stressors were .80 for perceived intensity, .83 for perceived controllability, and .78 for coping style. Statistical results using multiple regression indicated satisfactory construct validity.

Analyses for Internal Stressors (IS)

A simple linear regression was conducted to examine the relationship between IS and PCI. Results of the regression analysis revealed a low and non-significant relationship, b = -.022, p = .499. IS explained a relatively small proportion of variance in PCI, [R.sup.2] = .0012, F (1, 368) =.457, p = .50. In addition, perceived controllability for internal sources of stress (PCI) was directly related to coping style for internal stress (CSI). Results of the multiple regression analysis revealed a significant positive relationship between PCI and CSI, b = .208, p < .001. PCI explained a relatively small proportion of variance of CSI, [R.sup.2] = .0196, F (1, 367) = 11.662,p<.001.

The extent to which perceived intensity of internal sources of stress (IS) would be related to coping style (CSI) was examined with multiple regression analysis. Results indicated a significant positive relationship between IS and CSI, b = .386, p < .001. CSI explained about 15% of the variance in IS, [R.sup.2]= .208,17 (1, 368) = 96.50,p < .001.

In addition, multiple regression analysis was used to examine the relationship between perceived intensity of internal sources of stress and coping style (CS-I) Results indicated a significant positive relationship between IS and CSI, b = .39, p < .001. IS explained 22% of the variation on CSI, [R.sup.2]= .217, F (2, 367) = 55.48, p < .001. See Table 1 for descriptive statistics for internal sources of acute stress.

Analyses for External Stressors (ES)

A simple linear regression was used to test the relationship between external sources of stress (ES) and perceived control (PC-E). Results revealed a positive relationship between ES and PCE, b = .089, p = .021. ES explained a small amount of the variance in PCE, [R.sup.2] = .014, F(l, 368) =5.36, p = .02. Multiple regression analyses was used to determine the relationship between PCE and CSE. Results revealed a significant positive relationship between PCE and CSE, b = .267, p < .001. Results of a partial correlation analysis when controlling for PCE indicated that perceived intensity for external stressors was significantly related to coping style (b=.20, p<.01). PCE explained 5% of the variance in CSE, [R.sup.2] = .047, F (2, 367) = 14.84, p < .001.

Multiple regression analysis, testing the relationship between ES and CSE, indicated a significant positive relationship, b = .202, p < .001. ES accounted for 4% of the variance in CSE, [R.sup.2]= .040, F (1, 368) = 15.164, p< .001. Multiple regression analysis also indicated a significant positive relationship between ES and CSE, b = .178, p < .001. ES explained about 3% of the variance of CSE, [R.sup.2]= .032, F (2, 367) =15.287, p < .001. See Table 2 for descriptive statistics for external sources of stress.

Discussion

Two mediation models were used to examine the intensity of internal and external sources of acute stress, cognitive appraisal (perceived controllability), and approach and avoidance coping styles. It was hypothesized that, for internal stressors, perceived controllability would be negatively influenced by perceived intensity, and positively associated with the athletes' (approach or avoidance) coping style. For external stressors, perceived intensity would be inversely related to perceived controllability, which, in turn, significantly predicts coping style. Of particular importance were the findings that perceived controllability mediates the association between stress intensity and coping style. Results of this study supported the contention that cognitive appraisal is a function of the intensity of a particular acute stressor. For example, high perceived stress intensity (IS) was related to low perceived control (PCI) after experiencing a stressful event during the contest. In addition, perceiving the stressor, "exposed to physical injury," as highly intense was inversely related to low perceived control over the stressful situation, "I felt disturbed in my thoughts." Thus, sustaining an injury during the contest, perhaps not surprisingly, was highly disruptive to positive thinking. In other related studies, Anshel (2002), Anshel et al. (2001), and Kaissidis and Anshel (2000) found that athletes who experienced relatively higher intense stressors (e.g., being injured, making mistakes, experiencing pain, coach reprimand) were more likely to report lower perceived control appraisals (e.g., helplessness, pessimism) than perceiving less intense stressors.

Another general finding from this study was the relationship between athletes' appraisals of stressful events and their coping style. The results indicated that perceived control (PCI) was significantly related to the athletes' coping style (CSI) for internal sources of acute stress. In particular, the athletes tended to use a high approach/low avoidance coping style under conditions of high perceived control. In addition, the athletes tended to use a high avoidance/low approach coping style after experiencing low controllable situations. For instance, athletes who appraised items such as "I felt capable to control my physical reactions," "I felt capable to organize my thoughts," or "I felt capable to keep my stressful feeling under control" with an appraisal of high perceived control tended to use an approach rather than an avoidance coping style. This finding supports the notion that coping style is a function of perceived control following stressful situations, which has been confirmed in previous sport coping studies (Anshel & Delany, 2001; Anshel et al., 2001; Gan & Anshel, 2006).

These results are consistent with past literature (Anshel, 2012; Roth & Cohen, 1986) indicating that approach coping is more effective in conditions in which athletes feel in control of the situation (e.g., making an error, planning a new contest strategy, using cognitive strategies to manage anxiety). The results of the current study confirmed earlier findings by Kaissidis and Anshel (2000) that perceived high control is significantly related to an approach (i.e., active) coping style in response to game stressors. Less controllable situations, however, were significantly related to an avoidance (i.e., passive) coping style. The current findings also supported results of the Louvet and Genty (2004) study who found that high-level soccer players apply more approach than avoidance coping strategies after maintaining emotional control in a stressful situation. Taken together, the present results imply that assisting athletes to manage their stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions should include ways to use proper appraisals of the stressful event, perhaps as a function of the athletes' perceived control of the situation.

Another factor that plays a major role in shaping an athlete's personality and values, and may contribute in predicting his or her coping style, is culture. Culture is clearly a mediating variable in the sport stress coping literature (Anshel & Kaissidis, 1993; Anshel & Puente-Diaz, 2005; Hoedaya & Anshel, 2003). Saudi Arabia is a society that highly relies on social support. This may partly explain the tendencies of the Saudi Arabian athletes in this study to apply an approach rather than an avoidance coping style after experiencing stressors of different intensities. In particular, these athletes applied an approach coping style in both positive (e.g., "I performed an action") and negative forms (e.g., "I became aggressive") after experiencing stressors perceived as highly intense. Following low intensity stressors, however, the athletes preferred an avoidance coping style (e.g., "I remained calm").

The results also showed a positive relationship between ES and PCE. One explanation for this finding may be that the college athletes in this study perceived high intensity stressors as highly controllable. This was shown in a previous study by Anshel et al. (2001), who found that athletes perceived a high level of control even under threat conditions (e.g., being criticized or reprimanded by the coach). The researchers concluded that the type of appraisal varied as a function of type of stressful event.

It is possible that a Saudi athlete, perhaps embarrassed after experiencing an external source of stress (e.g., "Received verbal abuse from spectators"), is more likely to maintain the proper emotional state, as shown by the strategy, "I felt capable to keep my stressful feeling under control." Unlike internal stressors, external stressors usually require the athlete's immediate attention and are rarely ignored. Internal stressors, on the other hand, allow athletes to make a choice whether to expose or hide his or her emotions in public (Anshel, 2012).

Somewhat surprising, however, was a positive relationship between ES and CSE.

One possible explanation for this outcome could be the unique characteristics of Saudi Arabian athletes with respect to the way that they appraised a highly stressful event. The Saudi college athletes in this study may have used challenge appraisals following external sources of stress. In turn, the athlete may have felt more energy and made a greater effort in using an approach, rather than an avoidance, coping style in response to highly intense external stressors. For example, these athletes tended to apply approach coping (e.g., "I tried to analyze what went wrong") in response to a high intensity stressor, such as "The referee called an '"unfair"' penalty against me." The athletes also used an avoidance coping style (e.g., "Teammate ignored me") under external stressors perceived as low intense (e.g., "I did not take it seriously").

Results of the partial correlation analysis confirmed that perceived intensity for external stressors (ES) was significantly related to coping style (CSE) when controlling for perceived controllability (PCE) of external sources of stress. Participants showed strong tendencies to apply an approach coping style (e.g., "I focused on an appropriate solution") in high pressure situations (e.g., "The coach reprimanded me") irrespective of the level of perceived stress controllability. In support of the current findings, Anshel and Kaissidis (1997) found that Australian basketball players' perceived stress was significantly correlated with approach coping, and negatively correlated with avoidance coping. In another study, Anshel and Wells (2000a) reported that basketball competitors use more avoidance than approach coping style, such as not thinking about the stressor, or mentally distancing oneself from stressors perceived as mildly intense. Thus, the results showed greater use of approach coping in response to stress perceived as highly intense. Following a cognitive appraisal of low perceived stress intensity, however, athletes employed greater use of an avoidance coping style following an external stressor, a finding consistent with the present study.

This study was not without limitations. For example, the Saudi Arabian athletes in this study competed in different types of sport and, therefore, may not have experienced the same stressors (e.g., team vs. individual sports, open-skilled vs. closed skilled sports). The athletes also differed as a function of past experience, which may have influenced their cognitive appraisal (i.e., perceived control) and coping style. In addition, all participants in this study were from one demographic area in Saudi Arabia and represented one culture. Finally, because the inventories used in this study were generated in the U.S., culture (i.e., Saudi Arabia) may have mediated the athletes' responses. Inventories that are generated specifically for the research sample are needed in future research.

Implications

The results of this study confirmed that grouping sources of acute stress into internal and external categories might predict an athlete's coping responses, improve generalization about the athlete's appropriate coping response, either over time or following a number of similar stressful events, which provide implications for effective stress management (Nicholls & Polman, 2007). Another implication is that cognitive appraisal, specifically perceived control, mediates the relationship between perceived intensity of an acute stressor and the athlete's coping style. The athletes reported higher perceived controllability after experiencing relatively more intense internal, rather than external, stressors. The influence of moderating variables, including cross cultural comparisons, age, sport type, gender, and type of acute stressor should be studied further in attempting to explain and predict the coping process in competitive sport.

AHMED MANSOUR ALSENTALI

King Saud University

Mark H. Anshel

Middle Tennessee State University

Address correspondence to: Mark H. Anshel: Department of Health and Human Performance, Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37132, USA. e-mail: Mark.Anshel@mtsu.edu

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Table 1
Summary of Descriptive Statistics of Internal Sources of Stress
Model *

Variable                                              M      SD

Perceived intensity (1)
  Made a technical mistake-foul                      2.22   1.11
  Argued with teammate.                              2.67   1.14
  I had the chance to score, but I did not           2.69   1.23
  Argued with referee                                2.84   1.21
  Made a strategic mistake                           2.34   1.13
  Exposed to physical injury                         2.91   1.28
  Argued with opponent                               2.83   1.22
Perceived controllability (2)
  I felt capable to control my physical reactions    2.79   1.19
  I felt helplessness on my physical ability         3.62   1.14
  I felt capable to organize my thoughts             2.94   1.21
  I felt disturbed in my thoughts                    3.52   1.08
  I felt capable to keep my feeling under control    3.09   1.18
  I felt nervous and didn't know what to do          3.11   1.20
CoDine stvle (3)
  I performed an action                              3.01   1.25
  I became aggressive                                2.44   1.22
  I focused on an appropriate solution               3.00   1.15
  I tried to analyze what went wrong                 2.81   1.18
  I walked away from the situation                   2.52   1.21
  I reduced my elfort in solving this situation      2.52   1.27
  I did not take it seriously                        2.67   1.16
  I remained calm                                    2.65   1.31

* N = 370. Lower mean scores represent less stress intensity (1),
less perceived control, (2), and less likelihood of using an approach
or avoidance coping style.

Table 2
Summary of Descriptive statistics of External Sources of Stress Model

Variable                                                M      SD

Perceived intensity (1)
  Received verbal abuse from spectators                2.58   1.21
  Opponent cheated not caught by referee               2.67   1.21
  The referee called an "unfair" penalty against me    2.10   1.35
  Opponent dominated the game play                     2.97   1.15
  The coach reprimanded me                             2.62   1.24
  Teammate ignored me                                  3.15   1.17
  Opponent scored goal or point                        2.88   1.10
Perceived controllability (2)
  I felt capable to control my physical reactions      2.84   1.26
  I felt helplessness on my physical ability           2.48   1.11
  I felt capable to organize my thoughts               3.10   1.16
  I felt disturbed in my thoughts                      2.54   1.07
  I felt capable to keep my feeling under control      2.90   1.18
  I felt nervous and didn't know what to do            2.47   1.08
Coping style (3)
  I performed an action                                2.72   1.30
  I became aggressive                                  2.60   1.18
  I focused on an appropriate solution                 3.03   1.10
  I tried to analyze what went wrong                   2.10   1.08
  I walked away from the situation                     1.97   1.16
  I reduced my effort in solving this situation        2.92   1.17
  I did not take it seriously                          2.78   1.19
  I remained calm                                      2.74   1.31

Note: N = 370; 1,2,3 = same scale interpretation used in Table 1.
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Author:Alsentali, Ahmed Mansour; Anshel, Mark H.
Publication:Journal of Sport Behavior
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Date:Dec 1, 2015
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