A competitive pole vaulters’ ability to cope with stressful situations during competition is crucial for optimal development. Therefore, the ability to cope under these circumstances is essential for creating a strong mental capacity that leads to competitive success.
PURPOSE: To quantify athletic coping skills of competitive high school pole vaulters.
METHODS: Following written informed consent, 59 high school pole vaulters completed the Athletic Coping Skills Inventory (ACSI; Smith et al., 1995): coping with adversity (COPE), peaking under pressure (PEAK), goal setting/mental preparation (GOAL), concentration (CONC), freedom from worry (FREE), confidence and achievement motivation (CONF), coachability (COAC), and a composite score referred to as personal coping resources (PCR). Data were grouped by skill level (novice, intermediate, advanced), gender, and academic classification (upperclassmen, lowerclassmen).
RESULTS: MANOVAs (Wilks’ Lambda) indicated no significant main effects across skill level (F14,100=1.146; p=0.329), and academic classification (F7,51=1.524; p=0.180), but indicated a significant main effect by gender (F7,51=2.575; p=0.024). Univariate analyses (mean±SD) indicated that males responded higher in PEAK (7.81±3.146 vs. 5.82±2.736; p=0.013) than female athletes, whereas females responded higher in COAC (9.75±2.703 vs. 8.26±2.683; p=0.038) than males. Although no significance, there was a trend for upperclassmen to respond higher in COPE, PEAK, GOAL, CONC, CONF, COACH and PCR.
CONCLUSION: Although findings may have been influenced by limited sample size, coping skills among this group reflected subnormal response when compared to normative values across other athletic populations. At this early stage of mental and physical development, it is imperative that coaches devote time to the psychological challenges these athletes will face during competition. Further research is warranted assessing challenges from larger populations, as well as to determine the efficacy of athletic coping skills interventions.