Psychological skills, state anxiety and coping of South African rugby players : a cognitive perspective / Pieter Kruger
Objectives: The main objective of the research in this thesis was to investigate the psychological skills, state anxiety and coping of senior rugby players in South Africa. Methodology: The first manuscript (Chapter 2) was a literature review that investigated whether the coping model suggested by Moos and Shaefer (1993) could be applied to investigate the interaction between various psychological factors involved in the coping process, within a sports context. The model was evaluated by examining the relevant factors, including the environmental system, personal factors, life crises and transitions, cognitive appraisals and coping responses, as well as the general health and well-being of individuals. The manuscripts presented in Chapters 3, 4 and 5 made use of a cross-sectional design to assess the constructs central to the stated aims of the study. The participants in this research project were from the following teams during the 2003 and 2004 seasons: South African Super 12 teams (Stormers, Bulls, Cats and Sharks); South African provincial teams (Free State Cheetahs, Gauteng Lions, North-West Leopards and the Falcons); South African club rugby teams (North-West University 1st team, Tswane University of Technology 1st team, Kimberley Combined Forces and the Leopards amateur club team). The players were psychometrically evaluated in the week leading up to an important game (usually 2-3 days before the game). The number of players included in this study was 139 Super 12 rugby players, 106 provincial rugby players and 95 club rugby players, resulting in a cumulative total of 340 senior rugby players. The Athletic Coping Skills Inventory-28 (ACSI-28) was used to evaluate the players' psychological skills (manuscripts 2, 3 and 4). The Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (CSAI-2) was used to ascertain the state anxiety of the rugby players (manuscript 3) and a biographical questionnaire (compiled by the researcher) was used to gather demographical and biographical information of the players (manuscript 4). Results and conclusions of the individual manuscripts: - Manuscript 1 concluded that there were substantial literature findings that supported and explained the influence of the different psychological factors that form part of the Moos and Shaefer (1993) coping model regarding the coping abilities of athletes. It appeared that this model could potentially be applied in a sports context to clarify the factors influencing the coping process of athletes. - The results in manuscript 2 reported significant differences between the psychological skills of the Super 12 and club rugby players on four of the seven ACSI-28 subscales. No differences, however, could be found between Super 12 and provincial rugby players. The research further concluded that no statistically or practically significant differences in psychological skills could be found between forwards and backline rugby players or between the different positional groupings (props, hookers, locks, loose forwards, inside backs and outside backs) in senior South African rugby. - Manuscript 3 concluded that senior South African rugby players with high levels of psychological skills experienced lower levels of state anxiety, and that they interpreted the state anxiety that they experienced as more facilitative to their performance. This might suggest that rugby players with high levels of psychological skills could generally cope better with the challenges of competitive rugby. Rugby players with high levels of psychological skills also experienced higher levels of self-confidence and interpreted their self-confidence as more facilitative to performance. - The results in manuscript 4 suggested that certain prior experiences and a number of sports-specific perceptions could have an influence on the psychological skills of rugby players. However, the only biographical variable that appeared to be a common denominator between the high psychological skills groups on all three levels of rugby were the players' perceptions regarding their own abilities to do optimal psychological preparation before a game. The research could not indicate the direction of the interaction between prior experience, cognitive perceptions and psychological skills, but acknowledged the strong association between these factors and the levels of psychological skills of South African senior rugby players.
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