Managing Anxiety in Female Adolescent Non-elite Competitive Gymnasts During Skill Acquisition

When discussing anxiety in sport, gymnastics is often mentioned (Chase, Magyar, & Drake, 2005), as research has found that high-level female gymnasts exhibit higher anxiety levels than that of similarly skilled athletes in other sports (Kolt & Kirkby, 1994). While a career in gymnastics provides a strong foundation for positive physical, cognitive, and psychosocial self-development, the manifestations of anxiety during skill acquisition can decrease perceived physical competency and enjoyment, and decrease or prevent task performance, thus disrupting participation-motivation and continuity of gymnastics. If an athlete is unable to manage the psychological and physical responses of excessive, chronic stress stemming from anxiety, burnout could develop (Smith, 1986), causing gymnasts to retire early from the sport (Martin, Polster, Jackson, Greenleaf, & Jones, 2008). Literature supports that while anxiety is particularly disadvantageous for gymnasts, strategies can be used preemptively and simultaneously for the management of anxiety. Unfortunately, athletes, coaches, and parents lack reasonable or immediate access to interventions when in practice. The purpose of this project is to a) explore research and theories concerning contributing factors and effects of anxiety, b) gather research-based interventions and coping strategies, and c) create informative brochures for athletes, coaches, and parents in effort to promote healthful continuity of gymnastics. Management of anxiety may ultimately motivate affected athletes to continue gymnastics, thus supporting positive self-development through sport and maximum fulfillment of athletic potential in female adolescent non-elite competitive gymnasts.