For student-athletes, optimism leads to success

Posted on Sunday, March 1, 2015

Participation in competitive sports is often considered a great way to maximize the development of children and teens.  However, according to a recent study, the benefits are greater for some than for others. A research team led by Patrick Gaudreau of the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa has determined that certain personality traits influence the academic and athletic experiences of student-athletes involved in competitive sports. More specifically, they have discovered that certain stress management techniques help student-athletes derive greater satisfaction from their athletic and academic pursuits.   

“Student-athletes who are optimistic tend to be better at managing stress. They change their negative thinking, pace themselves appropriately, get help and advice when needed, use relaxation techniques and analyse stressful situations logically,” explained Professor Gaudreau.

The study results showed that when optimistic student-athletes imagine their future, they are confident in their ability to meet their personal goals. Consequently, they are more likely to achieve these goals, despite the stress generated by school and competitive sports, thanks to the effective stress management techniques they apply in both their athletic and academic lives. As a result, optimistic student-athletes manage to experience greater satisfaction both in sports and at school.

In this study, which will be published in Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 185 high school-aged participants completed questionnaires designed to measure their levels of academic and athletic satisfaction. All the students participated in some form of extracurricular competitive sport at the provincial level.

“This study shows that sports federations, coaches and athletes themselves should focus on developing stress management techniques in order to enhance the academic and athletic experiences of student-athletes,” said Professor Gaudreau.

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