An exploration of the experience of fear and its impact on performance in NCAA divers
Fear is a basic human emotion that can have numerous impacts on athletes seeking to achieve performance excellence. The level of physical risk within sport can also influence athletes’ experiences of fear. Within springboard and platform diving, divers can commonly face fear of injury and performance anxiety (Highlen & Bennet, 1983; McGregor & Abrahamson, 2000; Post, Simpson, Young, & Parker, 2014), which can be either detrimental or beneficial to performance (Buckley, 2016; Eysenck, Derakshan, Santos, & Calvo, 2007; Post et al., 2014). Understanding the experience of fear in its full context is important to successfully manage fear within sport. Utilizing Consensual Qualitative Research methodology (Hill, 2012), the current study examined the experience of fear in 10 collegiate divers through semi-structured interviews at two time points. Findings indicated that fear was an inherent part of the sport of diving, and an underlying cause of fear was consistent uncertainty over the dive’s outcome. Experience of fear varied across time points based on factors including divers’ social influences, dive-specific factors, and setting. Divers viewed fear as predominantly negatively impacting performance; however, benefits were also addressed. Generally, strategies for coping with fear were seen as unique to the individual, though participants highlighted the importance of accepting fear as part of the sport and committing to executing dives. This study offers practical implications to sport psychology practitioners, coaches, and divers seeking to successfully work with fear in diving.
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