Performance related experiences and coping during races: A case of an elite sailor

A. Nieuwenhuys, Y. Hanin, F.C. Bakker

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    Objectives: To show that describing and structuring athletes' subjective experiences during competition can be instrumental and supplemental in better understanding the implementation of their coping strategies. Design: A single-case study. Methods: Based on the theoretical framework of the Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) model, two semi-structured interviews were conducted with an elite sailor about his experiences in a very good and a very bad race. Procedures involved (a) recall of subjective performance-related experiences; (b) distinguishing of experiences into situational (state-like) experiences, relatively stable patterns of (trait-like) experiences, and meta-experiences; (c) identification and composite sequence analysis (CSA) of processes of awareness, acceptance, and action; and (d) a social validation interview. Results: The participant's description of his performance-related experiences during both races showed the presence of all three levels of experience. Race descriptions included 13 situations in which the participant specifically recounted the implementation of coping strategies. CSA showed that coping strategies were related to existing meta-experiences and that these meta-experiences were, in turn, related to the awareness of experienced situational states. In a reaction to the interview, the participant said that he was positively surprised about the central role that meta-experiences played in his performances and told to have obtained many new insights that he immediately wanted to integrate in his training program. Conclusions: Results provide initial support for the idea that meta-experiences (1) are instrumental and additional in explaining and predicting the impact of experiences on performance; (2) determine an athlete's perception and choice of coping strategies; and (3) should therefore be a major target for interventions. Further research is needed in order to replicate and extend the present findings as well as to explore practical implications. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)61-76
    JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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