Perceptions of male high school student athletes: Pressures to succeed

Kelly Ann Wood (2004)

Male high school athletes' perceptions of pressures to succeed, coping strategies, and preferred sources of support were examined using an integrated framework of achievement motivation and attribution constructs. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation related to self-worth and internal and external attributions of pressure directed the inquiry. Interviews with participants ( N = 8) were analyzed using a modified consensual qualitative research method (Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997). Definitions of success included achieving goals, having interest in current activities, and balancing adolescent tasks. Determinants of success included experiencing happiness, reaching process goals, and achieving positive outcomes. Work ethics and values, particularly personal effort and learning, were identified as tasks for achieving success. Six participants spoke of successful events, revealing an optimistic outlook and satisfaction with their experiences. Nonetheless, participants reported several pressures to succeed, including academics, athletic demands, and student athlete principles (i.e., leadership and preparedness). Participants gave internal, external, and integrative attributions for their pressures. Internal attributions included the athletes' personal expectations. External attributions included the demands of stockholders (i.e., parents, teachers, coaches, and teammates). Integrative attributions combined internal and external attributions. With regard to pressures, participants expressed feeling overwhelmed and irritable. They referred to insights, worries, and/or hindsight, such as looking back at an experience and wishing better performance. Behavioral reactions included approach, avoidance, and assertiveness. Emotion-, avoidance-, problem-, and/or appraisal-focused coping strategies were reported. Participants were open to receiving assistance from stockholders, including social and emotional support, academic tutoring, and meeting with athletic role models. Only 2 participants said they would go to guidance counselors or psychologists. The participants' reluctance to seek psychological help led to the question of how psychologists can take a more active role in high school athletics. Potential roles of psychologists in community outreach and education for the benefit of high school athletes are discussed. Findings unique to the study in comparison to other studies on student athletes included the following: a greater degree of internal attributions for success as well as for failures; a dominant theme of the importance of personal effort; and positive help-seeking attitudes.