Stress – and the ability to cope with it – can enhance or mitigate the success of students. Prolonged stress can lead to feelings of helplessness and depression along with poor academic results. Athletes face additional challenges because they must perform under pressure during games and maintain good nutrition habits throughout the season.

Two Sides of Stress

  • Stress can be positive: it triggers the release of hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline which enable athletes to reach another level.
  • If the “fight or flight” response is controlled, it can lead to emotional outbursts or panic during pressure situations.

Student-Athlete Stressors

  • Academic or Athletic Performance
  • Relationships (Friendship or Romance)
    • Bad relationships can cause stress or stress can lead to isolation and estrangement that can threaten existing relationships.
  • Poor Nutrition
    • Fast food and snacks exacerbates mental and physical well-being.
    • Poor eating habits worsen during periods of intense pressure.


  • Sleep or eating disorders
  • Increased anxiety
  • Reduced alertness
  • Depression or withdrawal

Coping Skills

  • Emotion Focused Coping (E.F.C.) includes emotional support, denial, venting, and disengagement.
  • Problem Focus Coping (P.F.C.) includes planning and preparation, active coping, self-efficacy.
  • Adolescents are more likely to practice E.F.C. because it is a more instinctive reaction.
  • Taking ownership of the problem and looking for solutions is more effective in both the short and long term.

Coach Intervention

  • Coaches should counsel students to practice P.F.C. and suggest strategies.
    • Skills for teams and individual student athletes include making self-efficacy statements, take problems one step at a time, performance oriented goals, and mental visualization.
    • Breathing and centering exercises and focusing on the specific execution of a skill can help during game situations.
  • It may be necessary for a health profession or friends and family to intervene in cases of severe stress.


  • Struthers, C. W., Perry, R. P., & Menec, V. H. (2000). An Examination of the relationship among academic stress, coping, motiviation, and performance in college. Research in Higher Education , 41 (5), 581-92.

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