Coping styles relationship with type of sport

Por: Roberta Antonini Philippe.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Competitive athletes face varied stressful situations. In fact, coping with events that elicit anxiety and other unpleasant feelings is a part of participation in competitive sport. Athletes must use appropriate coping skills to deal with stress in order to enhance performance (Madden et al., 1990; Gould et al., 1993). Besides gender differences, some authors have investigated the differences between elite and nonelite athletes, athletes competing in individual and team sports (Yoo, 2001). Differences regarding the type of sport, however, have not been analyzed. The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether the type of activity has an influence on coping.


A total of 80 athletes (44 men and 36 women) participated in the study. They competed in four different sports, triathlon, running, swimming and weightlifting, respectively. Their mean age was 23.1 years (SD = 4.0).

The French version of the Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations (CISS) (Endler, Parker & Rolland, 1998) was used to assess coping styles.


Analysis of variance revealed significant differences between men and women on Task-focused coping (p<.05). Men had a higher mean score on Task-focused coping than women.

A significant difference in the avoidance scale between weightlifters and triathletes, weightlifters and runners, and weightlifters and swimmers was also found, with weightlifters having the lower mean score (p<.05).

Discussion/ Conclusions

Our results are in part congruent with the literature showing that men and women may cope with stress in different ways.

Concerning the type of sport, our results can be explained by the characteristics of the activity. Weightlifting is an anaerobic activity where the effort is very short but intense.  Moreover, the weightlifters often practiced in a small group. We can compare our result with Yoo’s study (2001) showing that athletes in individual sports exhibited higher Avoidance coping scores when compared with team athletes. Athletes who are not required to effectively interact with each other tend to avoid or detach themselves from the sources of stress.

As The Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations assesses dispositional (trait) coping, we can suppose that the use of selected coping techniques are also a function of personal factors.

It seems important in future studies to compare different sports’ characteristics, such as anaerobic vs. aerobic, and to take into account the culture surrounding the sport activity that can influence the use of coping.



[1]. Endler, N. S., Parker, J. M. A., & Rolland, J. P. (1998) Manuel l’inventaire CISS. Paris: Les Editions du Centre de Psychologie Appliquée.

[2]. Gould, D., Eklund, R. C., & Jackson, S. A. (1993) Coping strategies used by U.S Olympic wrestlers. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 64, 83-93.

[3]. Madden, C. C., Summers, J. J., & Brown, D. F. (1990) The influence of perceived stress on coping with competitive basketball. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 21, 21-35.

[4]. Yoo, J. (2001) Coping profile of Korean competitive athletes. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 32, 290-303.





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