I found a good precise article looking at stress and sports titled Stress Appraisal: Challenge vs Threat By Phin Naughton. It is only 650 words in length, but goes over some great academic findings with stress. While these concepts can’t be easily quantified, they just can’t be ignored. Here are some of points I found the most interesting.
In a research synthesis, Arnold & Fletcher (2012) identified that organisational-related stressors encountered by sport performers are related to: leadership and personnel (e.g. performance feedback), cultural and team (e.g. communication), logistical and environmental (e.g. selection), and performance and personal (e.g. injuries).
A quick look at the different stresses and athlete may experience. A coach/team can try to minimize these stresses to keep his players at peak performance.
Still, according to Lazarus & Folkman’s (1984) transactional theory of stress, it is an individuals’ appraisal of Situational relevance to well-being that potentially leads to a stress appraisal, rather than the situation itself. Such appraisals may be classified as either a challenge (a positive connotation) or threat (a negative connotation).
A player can have a positive or negative response to a stress such as an injury. Do they continue on playing through it or wait until they are 100% before coming back.
In a cross-sectional analysis with a range of elite athletes, Dugdale et al (2002) found that unexpected stressors were appraised as more threatening than those that were expected during competitive performances.
In baseball, I see this being mentioned with a player being comfortable. Does a player have to hit 4th in lineup or do they stress out if it is different? Does a reliever stress out closing the 9th or would prefer to pitch the 8th?
Furthermore, Kaiseler et al (2009) demonstrated that athletes high in ‘mental toughness’ perceived stressful events as a challenge, something that can be influenced, acted upon and capable of overcoming.
Mental toughness means a player can handle stress, mainly unforeseen challenges, and meets them head on.